We are very excited to introduce this week’s Friday Feature— @John White! John is CTO and co-founder of UnlimitedViz, a SharePoint and Business Intelligence services provider and ISV. With over 20 years of IT experience, John has been an MVP Office Servers and Services since 2011.
Tell us a little bit about where you work and your role in the organization:
I'm the CTO and co-founder of UnlimitedViz. We originally started out as a SharePoint and Business Intelligence services provider, but have been transitioning over the past few years into an ISV. Our tyGraph line of product now makes up well over half of our business. My role is to provide technical leadership and architecture for both our products and our services. I also get to play a crucial role in marketing, and community outreach. I'm quite lucky, in that I get paid to do what I love to do
This month’s Tech Community theme is End-User Adoption. How do you handle the skeptics/’sticks in the mud’? Can you share any best practices for encouraging end-user adoption?
There's nothing wrong with skepticism, I think its healthy. True skepticism prevents us from taking things at face value, and the best answer for it are facts. If users can't see value immediately, we need to be able to demonstrate the value of a platform in order to overcome this skepticism, or resistance to change. After all, if I can't see the value in doing things differently, why would I bother? Several of our products have been built to do precisely this, to show the actual value of Office 365 and Yammer networks.
How have disruptive technologies like cloud computing, mobility, big data and the IoT impacted your work as a CTO? Is there anything that keeps you up at night?
The only thing that keeps me up at night is being able to keep up with the rapid pace of change. Cloud computing allows for very rapid iteration and innovation, and just when you feel that you have something mastered, it changes. In my role I need to understand multiple technologies, their relationship to each other, and the value that they all bring to the table. These changes also sometimes mean re-evaluating fundamental architectural decisions.
Thankfully, the problem also brings its own cure to a point. These modern platforms also allow us to innovate rapidly, and our smaller size allows us to respond to changes in the market very quickly. For someone with a short attention span like me, this is just about the perfect environment!
You’ve been in IT for over 20 years, which adds up to a lot of changing technology throughout your career. What resources do you use the most to stay up to date? How do you keep up with new technologies and updates?
Well, coffee is a wonderful resource! Seriously, this really is a challenge. Being an MVP helps a great deal in that we often are alerted to upcoming changes, so even when we don't know what to watch for, we often know when to look. The community is a great source of information on the personal level. On a day to day basis, I subscribe to updates from many Microsoft blogs, including the SharePoint, Power BI, Flow, PowerApps, and all of the SQL related blogs. I watch both Twitter and Facebook pretty regularly as well. Many in the community are personal friends, and it's incredible how much I actually get from Facebook.
The Microsoft Tech Community is less structured and more detailed source for much Microsoft technology, particularly tech from the Office group, and official events round out the Microsoft sources. I also try to catch the Windows Weekly netcast on the TWiT network every week, and subscribe to a number of other tech netcasts including the Microsoft Cloud Show with Andrew Connell and Chris Johnson, and Todd Klindt's SharePoint Admin netcast.
How has your approach and perspective on technology changed as you’ve move into more strategic roles?
I suppose that the biggest change in focus is from how things work, to how things work together. You also need to be ready to rethink assumptions on a regular basis. This can be a difficult thing to do. Once you've invested a great deal of time and energy into a technology, it's very difficult to just discard it, but that's very often what's necessary.
Over the course of my career, I've been a Novell Netware CNE, and a Lotus Notes PCLP, and during both of those phases, I probably held on a little too long ignoring the shifting stands, to my detriment. I've learned from that too. I remain a SharePoint MVP, but when the Business Intelligence workload began moving away from SharePoint, I embraced it and decided to understand the new platforms fully. These days, I likely spend more time looking at a Power BI workspace than I do a team site.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone starting their career in IT, what would you tell them?
If there's one thing that's served me well over the years, it's the fact that I'm never satisfied knowing what something does - I need to know how it does it. Once you understand how things work, the details often just fall into view. When you learn something new, always try to learn it to the point that you can teach it to others. And above all, always keep an open mind, and listen to others. Nobody has a monopoly on good ideas. Finally, be nice to people on the way up. You'll likely meet them again on the way down. That's