We are kicking off the week by catching up with a bunch of MVPs at Microsoft’s MVP Global Summit in Redmond, WA. One MVP we’re keen to learn more from is Pieter Veenstra. Check out our recent interview with him below:
1E: Can you please introduce yourself and your business?
Pieter Veenstra (PV): I grew up in a little village in the Netherlands. After completing my studies I moved to the UK. Now 20 years later, I work as a Senior Consultant at Triad Group Plc.
For several years I have focused on delivering SharePoint solutions and in 2017 Microsoft recognized my community contributions and I became a Microsoft MVP in Office Servers and Services. In recent years my technology focus has shifted from SharePoint to the much wider Microsoft 365 offerings. My specialisms include Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Flow, and PowerApps. I frequently write about all these products on my blog SharePains.
Additionally, to the no/low code solutions, when needed I’m also comfortable building complex infrastructural systems. This often includes using a combination of hybrid, cloud and on-premises technology. Frequently these solutions include one of Triad’s specialisms, integrated mapping.
1E: Tell us a little bit more about Triad.
PV: Triad Group Plc is a company based in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire and Godalming, Surrey. At Triad we deliver IT solutions to both the public and private sector. Recent achievements include one of the first O365 apps to be deployed for the Houses of Parliament, as well as the introduction of a collaboration platform for a national firm of surveyors that includes innovative use of interactive maps and Microsoft Flow. Data just published shows that Triad is in the top 20 Digital Marketplace providers to Central Government. In addition to our highly experienced consultants providing solutions, Triad has approximately 300 independent IT specialists and associates on-site with our clients providing niche and interim resourcing.
1E: In an IT world moving to embrace ‘modern management’ and ‘bring your own devices’ – how have typical deployment and management strategies changed?
PV: From a development perspective, in the past organizations would ask us to make browser-based solutions that work for a certain browser and they would even specify certain browser versions for their solutions. Nowadays, it is a lot harder to specify which browsers and devices we need to be testing the solutions on. As collaboration has moved more and more outside your own IT infrastructure, any device might need to be supported.
I have found however that fewer and fewer organizations see the need for heavy interface customizations in Office 365. Or maybe they just accept that it is easier to manage solutions if you reduce the customizations.
From a management perspective, managing staff member’s devices have become a lot easier with tools like Microsoft Intune. With Microsoft Intune, it is so much easier to let people use their own devices without putting your own business at risk.
1E: What do you think the hot topics of 2018 are/will be?
PV: I think that Office 365 will grow and grow. Where we have seen many organizations move to Office 365, in 2018 I would expect to see more people pick up Microsoft Teams, PowerApps and Flow and expand their existing solutions. Recently I’ve seen a significant interest in migrated Workflows that have been developed in SharePoint Designer to Microsoft Flow. I see many people migrating these processes as a 1:1 technology change, however, this could mean that you would miss a major opportunity to improve the end user experience.
On top of the low coding solutions that I mentioned above, Microsoft is also pushing hard with their cutting-edge technology in Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Mixed Reality and Quantum Computing. It will be interesting to see how these game changers will make new things possible.
1E: What’s the best thing about being an MVP?
PV: Being able to get very close to the development kitchen at Microsoft must be one of the major benefits of being an MVP. Not just the opportunity of giving Microsoft feedback on their products before these products are released, but also the chance of giving my customers advice with the upcoming changes in mind. Of course, I can’t tell my customers what is coming up, but I can suggest the right direction that they should travel in.
For all the major new products that Microsoft has launched within Office 365, I’ve managed to build strong relationships with the Microsoft. This has put me in a position where I give Microsoft advice on product changes for Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Flow, and PowerApps.
1E: What’s the one recommendation you’d make to a company that’s just getting started with implementing something like SharePoint or Microsoft Teams?
PV: Too often these customers contact me after they got started and played around with Office 365. Where in on-premises versions of SharePoint it was possible to simply rebuild servers. In Office 365 you can do some things wrong only once. Resetting your tenant isn’t an option in most cases.
Microsoft Teams is an interesting one. Where a few years back, SharePoint was often the base of the intranets and therefore a central system within the organization. Now I see more and more Microsoft Teams becoming the in central portal into all systems. Then with applications such as Flow and PowerApps, it becomes a lot quicker to deliver solutions that connect other application’s data and implement critical business processes without the need for heavy development projects.
1E: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career?
PV: Do what you enjoy most, and success will follow!
1E: How do you stay abreast of the latest technology?
PV: This is a difficult question. I’ve never liked specializing in any specific technology. With Azure and Office 365 changing every day it is almost impossible to keep up. Building a network of people with similar interests helps a lot. When looking around on social media many of my MVP friends write about their findings. I pick up a lot of knowledge from them.
But a lot of the time I just try out new technology and then write about it on my blog “SharePains”. It is amazing how many people comment on my posts and often to point me in the direction of other new features within the Office 365 products.
1E: What’s something that you look forward to each year?
PV: From a technology perspective, I always like the big Microsoft events in the UK. In the past there was Evolution and now events like Tech Summit and Future Decoded.
In my personal life, I always enjoy the beach holidays in the summer. It doesn’t really matter where in the world, but a summer holiday has to have beach days.
1E: After googling Korfball obsessively, can you please give us an overview of what it is?!
PV: You’ve done your homework! I’ve played Korfball since I was about 10 years old. It is a sport that originates from the Netherlands and it is played worldwide. The game is played with both boys and girls in one team and this makes it the only truly mixed sport in the world.
With a basket (the Dutch word for basket is Korf) on a 3.5m tall post it is a real skill to throw the ball through the basket and score a goal. As the roles of attackers and defenders change regularly during each game you will find that you must be a real all-rounder to play to game well. This is a bit like the way that I approach my work in Office 365.
For more great tech advice, news, and #MVPBuzz, check out Pieter’s blog “SharePains”.