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I have been part of the European Change Hero Roadshow this year, an event jointly run by Axceler, Knowledgelake and K2 aimed to help clients (and potential clients) understand how they can improve collaboration and manage change within their environments by leveraging SharePoint and 3rd party solutions.

Now I have completed my 3 events, I thought I would drop some thoughts into a post, as a reminder of the good times…

The format of the days is simple – a keynote, vendor sessions from each of the 3 vendors and then a final session from a partner talking about real-world scenarios. Compact, easily digestible and followed up by a nice lunch.

At each of the events I spoke at, the vendor sessions were largely the same, with different presenters coming through the doors dependent on geography and timing.

This week in Amsterdam we had Perry Gale, MD for EMEA from Axceler, Kevin Ells, VP of Marketing from Knowledgelake and Anthony Molyneux an SE from K2. Each of the speakers were highly experienced in their space and delivered great sessions that I’ve outlined below…

Kevin’s session focused on some great background into why organisations need improved classification, search and application interaction and then segued nicely into how Knowledgelake’s solutions could solve existing SharePoint out-of-the-box shortcomings and improve how users can manage their “paper and plastic” assets across the piece.

Some cool (although powered by video, so not “real”) demos showed the tight integration that the Knowledgelake products have with SharePoint (both on-premises and in the Cloud) and Microsoft Office (including some great Outlook integration) plus some great on-the-fly OCR capability that allowed users to lasso areas of on-screen documents to be OCR’d and passed to a query tool to perform lookups against list columns, providing a great (and BCS backended) tagging capability for almost any type of document (that has a content type) without the user ever needing to enter SharePoint. Very cool.

With clients ranging from 25 seat organisations scanning a few dozen documents a day, all the way up to multi-national organisations scanning 400,000 documents per day, the Knowledgelake product certainly seems to have something for everybody and the price points to match.

Sidebar – having recently worked on a project that used Fax technologies with a 50k documents scanned into SharePoint per day workload and understanding the amount of custom development and systems integration work over an extended period of time (2 years and counting the project has been running) that went into making this work, the implementation of the 400k per day solution in less than 6 months is impressive indeed.

Anthony Molyneux’s session from K2 was more demo heavy with an overview into the core K2 technologies, particularly their reusable functionality concept “SmartObjects”, which was then chased by an interesting demo of how a combination of configurable out-of-the-K2-box SmartObjects and core SharePoint functionality could be used to build out quite a sophisticated employee on-boarding application with no code and in a short space of time.

Clearly in the Petri dish of slick demo’s, building apps is going to be fast. It’s safe and laboratory-like so as long as the demo’ing user stays on-piste, issues will be few and far between and the demo will be fast. In reality, once a user of K2 gets their head around the design canvas and how the logical construct (expressions, operators, etc.) and workflow of K2 works, I can see that in a very practical sense, building sophisticated applications will be simple.

I’m not sure if this terrifies me or not, but if organisations employ proper patterns, practices and governance to their creation of application functionality within the framework then K2 provides a great capability that is genuinely empowering to organisations reluctant to build code-based custom solutions.

Perry Gale from Axceler took a different tack to the others by presenting in a more general context about collaboration as opposed to pitching Axceler product.

Perry is an industry veteran I know well (we worked together in a previous life) and he always bring interesting perspectives to concepts and his session this week was true to form, outlining the problem space associated to collaboration which he then span into some some high level recommendations for how organisations can improve their likelihood of effectively leveraging collaboration – no mean feat in 45 minutes.

Axceler clearly see the mobile and social revolutions as being their big bets for the future, with some interesting new products coming out of the hangar in the next year that focus heavily on providing metrics, analysis and predictions for platforms such as SharePoint, Yammer and Office 365 but also for other platforms (including non-Microsoft technologies) that organisations will utilise across their IT piece.

It will be very interesting to see how Axceler develop both from a product and an organisational perspective, they’re stepping into uncharted territory and their ability to innovate and then deliver will be challenged for sure. Personally, knowing Axceler as I do, their ethic, approach and people will make it work, but their success may depend on how ready the market will be for the coming revolution.

Overall, I enjoyed being part of the roadshow, learnt plenty from the guys at Axceler, Knowledgelake and K2 and had the opportunity to meet lots of great folk who all have the potential to be their organisations change hero.

I might even get the t-shirt!

more to follow…