Sunday, October 28, 2012

"Find that niche of needs where you get the greatest satisfaction out of making a difference and then find the software or solution that solves that problem best."
Tiffany Songvilay, SharePoint BA and Solutions Architect

A former stand-up comedian, Tiffany Songvilay has spent the past 10 years as a business analyst and solutions architect (8 of those specific to SharePoint). She does everything in the custom development lifecycle except the development.

Her current passions include gamifying governance, designing audience-targeted training plans that include intuitive product UI, and strategizing search as an information architecture requirement. A wealth of information on the gap between business and the development team in addition to how to traverse the politics of dancing, catch one of her sessions at an upcoming SharePoint event or say hi at the SharePint that's sure to follow that event.

To learn more about Songvilay:'s services you can email her directly at or visit her website Volition Services.   Follower her on twitter @officeovereasy


Fair-Wright: If you could change a single practice in the way software is currently designed/deployed, what would that be?

Songvilay:  There seems to be this overarching attitude in IT that the users don’t know what they want. The users may not know what the technology does but they know where their productivity sinks are and they can communicate what they’d like to change. I think it’s a shame that technology is still being ‘pushed’ out to the users. “Here’s some tech. Modify your problem so this fixes it.” It’s backwards. We can probably solve your problems with the tech you own but it just seems so much harder to buy the tools before you identify what kind of machine you’re going to be working on. I would change the whole sales and deployment model that locks people into long-standing software commitments.

Fair-Wright: What inspired you to a career in technology?

Songvilay:  I love the pace of technology. I know a lot of people feel overwhelmed that they can’t possibly keep up with what’s new but I’ve found that by focusing on one product set (in my case SharePoint) that it is possible to deep dive throughout the lifecycle especially within an enterprise. Big companies move slow enough but they are always looking to the future which is a constant motivation to learn more and grow as a professional.

Fair-Wright: Who are your technology role models?

Songvilay:  As a woman in tech, I have to go with Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg. I still respect what Carly Fiorina did for HP and love that Meg Whitman is at the helm now. I’m inspired by companies who are promoting women into strategic roles and love being in an industry where that’s possible. My role models will always be the men and women who insist on a work-life balance that makes those top positions desirable for people with families and goals outside of work.

Fair-Wright: What was your best consulting project? Why was it the best?

Songvilay:  I loved the role I played when Energizer rolled out Office 2007 and SharePoint for the first time. They were the first enterprise to do it and they looked to me for guidance and support to be successful. It seems like there’s always either an existing process in place that everyone has to follow or projects that are being led by someone who already knows how they want things done. At Energizer, I was the expert and they trusted that my training method would work. And it did! They were my first big client after starting my own company and it was great validation that I’d made the right decision.

Fair-Wright: I love SharePoint. Are there any exciting new features or functions coming out in the next release?

Songvilay:  SharePoint 2013 has some enhanced records management functionality that my clients are looking forward to. Site-based retention is a big deal because SharePoint 2010 didn’t have a good way out of the box to delete a collection of records at the same time. eDiscovery is huge in this next release with the addition of a Case Manager Site Collection (eDiscovery Center template). eDiscovery now includes Lync, Exchange, and file shares and holds can be applied in Exchange. These were issues that required third-party tools or custom development in SharePoint 2010 so it’s nice to have these features available out of the box in 2013.

Fair-Wright: What advice would you give to someone interesting in becoming a BA or Solutions Architect?

Songvilay:  My best advice is to become an expert at a business process or a single solution. Software has gotten so big that it would be exhausting to try to know everything about one piece of software but we can focus on one business solution and commit ourselves to finding the best of breed solutions for our clients. Start with the users; not the software. Find that niche of needs where you get the greatest satisfaction out of making a difference and then find the software or solution that solves that problem best. And never pay for your own certifications. If a company isn’t willing to treat you right and take a risk on your professional development, then that role isn’t the right fit for you.

You can find Tiffany Sonfvilay on LinkedIn,  Twitter: @officeovereasy