Back to the roots: A look at the SharePoint Architect's Planning Guide book (Packt Publishing)

Back to the roots: A look at the SharePoint Architect's Planning Guide book (Packt Publishing)

I’ve spent much of my career in Microsoft’s collaboration & modern workplace tools and services. Having started with SharePoint Team Services and SharePoint Portal Server 2001, I had over a decade of fun with both on-premises, hybrid, and cloud deployments on most aspects of SharePoint. In 2012, I completed the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) program on SharePoint to understand the products and capabilities more deeply. I still have a t-shirt from that time.

Since then, I’ve moved to the Microsoft Azure and security space and spent time tinkering with architectures, deployments, troubleshooting, and advisory work. Now and then, I reflect on those 10+ years I spent in a slightly different community than what Azure is today. To be honest, I’ve lost track of what is happening with SharePoint these days – I see the occasional product announcement and feature pop up but never have the time to dig deeper.

Until this week, I had a chance to focus on Patrick Tucker’s latest book, SharePoint Architect’s Planning Guide. It was released in August this year, and at 276 pages, it’s formidable – even if I’m reading and reviewing it through a digital copy!

Book structure

The book has four parts, each with many chapters.

Part 1 looks at how we went from SharePoint Farms to the cloud. It also covers migration options and the essential architect’s guidance for SharePoint Online.

Part 2 looks at SharePoint Online and its integration with Microsoft 365 through Microsoft 365 Groups and governance. This part also includes aspects of the Power Platform and other collaboration tools in the cloud.

Part 3 is focused on SharePoint Online information architecture – Hub Sites, metadata, and such. This also includes security and more in-depth governance capabilities.

Lastly, part 4 is about change management and adoption. ProSci ADKAR is, of course, a prominent topic here.

Diving into the content

The intended audience for the book is perhaps someone like me – a battle-hardened SharePoint admin or architect who needs to move on with the times. There is so much folklore and previous history with SharePoint that it’s an almost insurmountable task to get up to speed by reading Microsoft Docs diligently. The more I read the book, the more I got the feeling that I should have had this book some years ago when I was ramping up on all things SharePoint Online and the modern work capabilities of Microsoft 365.

I like that all screenshots and diagrams throughout the book are fresh and modern. This is a massive problem for all books and training content: the cloud moves forward so rapidly that a screenshot of today is legacy tomorrow. The first part of the book, moving us from legacy to modern with the cloud, is a nice trip down memory lane for me. There are bits and pieces I’ve forgotten and quite a bit of content I have not ingested previously. Each chapter also concludes with further recommended reading, which is an excellent gesture from the author.

I’m also especially delighted with the detailed description of the problem spaces, such as migration to the cloud. The numerous tools presented are cleanly laid out, and possible blockers for migration are highlighted.

It feels like an architect’s guide because there is much ground to cover, and it’s both high-level when needed and deep dives when necessary. I think this is what every architect working with tech needs to be capable of: having vast experience and knowledge while being able to dig deeper when the situation requires it.

As I have not kept tabs on SharePoint Online in recent years, I’m happy to see so many topics that I feel I’m at least vaguely familiar with. At the same time, I think that many of the past problems are not problems any longer in the cloud. This perhaps resonates with what I feel technical advisory and architecture design work is becoming: a lot of planning and communications before getting to the technical bits.

Reading through the book, I feel anyone with some SharePoint background can pick it up and digest it in their preferred order. Part 1 I would perhaps suggest and recommend to be read first in any case, and then you can hop around the chapters based on your needs.

The inclusion of modern capabilities of the cloud is a massive plus for the book. Besides SharePoint Online, organizations are now looking at Power Platform capabilities – such as Power Apps and Power Automate, often together with Dataverse – to bolster their productivity solutions. While these are massive topics, the clean and clear viewpoint on building solutions using connected resources makes it easy for anyone to pick up new ideas and guidance. Yammer, Microsoft Lists, and Microsoft Teams also get their time in the spotlight. The focus is still prominently on SharePoint, but I feel it’s crucial to understand that you often need a combined set of tools instead of just SharePoint.

The last part, which covers adoption and change management, is less about tech and the people. That’s probably my foible, so I was reading this part with great interest. This also covers ProSci ADKAR, a model for driving change initiatives within an organization. Perhaps something to head towards on your future SharePoint projects and deployments.

In closing

I truly enjoyed the book. It’s well-written and a joy to digest. For anyone working with SharePoint, especially as an architect or a lead consultant, I feel this book is a must-have!