Thoughts on the Salem™ Certified Practitioner Online Course

It’s been a while since I’ve completed a course for SharePoint, generally sourcing new knowledge myself from where ever I can get it. I recently however had the great opportunity to undertake the Salem™ Certified Practitioner online course and thought it worthwhile jotting down my thoughts on both the content and the course itself. In the interests of full disclosure it’s important to note that I was given this opportunity complementary for my contributions to the SharePoint community, particularly my writings around Governance in SharePoint, however it in no means came with the promise of a favourable (or any) review so I can assure you the following is written with an open and unbiased point of view.

I first came across Salem™ as a company when I stumbled across Step By Step Search Engine Optimization for SharePoint Internet Sites while reviewing existing material for my own series on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for SharePoint Sites. I was highly impressed that a lot of the content that I already knew and wanted to communicate through my writings was so well structured into a complete and sequenced approach to implementing the topic – its a book that I’ve recommended to a number of people already. It motivated me to read through all 150 pages of SharePoint Governance & the Seven Pillars of Wisdom (which it now seems is only available through taking the practitioner course) that I came across during my readings for the Governance series I mentioned previously – this again left me highly impressed with the methodical approach to the topic.

It’s therefore no surprise that I now find out that the whole premise behind the name Salem™ is that it represents a Structured and Logical Enterprise Methodology to approaching SharePoint implementations. To be honest it couldn’t have come at a better time for me personally – I was consuming a lot of great information but was struggling to identify how it could all be applied at a client (read: sell the ‘complete’ message rather than always approaching tasks with a specific focus). All of the presentations in this area tend to focus on a specific topic (for instance governance, adoption) which while they all have merit tend to be harder to sell to an organisation individually.

I’d go as far as saying that was the most valuable take away I received from completing the course. Even though Salem™ is a great delivery methodology and logical in its approach, more importantly it serves as a vehicle to sell the story of approaching SharePoint implementations as a complete and business-focused programme of work.

I found the framework itself to be very solid. From looking at it initially it wasn’t obvious how all the pieces would fit together, however after taking the course I’m comfortable that every piece to the puzzle is justified and covers the wide breadth of what SharePoint has to offer as a platform.

Salem™ is essentially broken up into 15 different business service modules which are often inter-related and positioned in the framework diagram for specific reasons. While I’d love to be able to show the diagram to better explain the process, you’ll have to take the course yourself to see how succinctly it encapsulates a complete body of work. The modules are divided into different channels which also have a logical separation, supported by a number of layers which remove the focus of technology and supporting concepts from the business services themselves (while still emphasizing their importance to the ‘whole’) – allowing you to focus in on a particular service and break them down through various workshops.

As you can probably tell, i’m quite a fan of the framework and find it hard to fault, so i’ll turn my attention to the course itself and the certification it enables. I’d highly recommend if you have an interest in these topics that you take the course yourself and discover what it has to offer.

There is a bunch of information regarding the course which is worth a look if you have an interest in taking it or finding out a bit more about what it is all about. The Genius! website has a short synopsis and video which explains what the course will contain (it is the introduction video to the course so you get a feel for what the video material will be like, and if you have super human eyes you may even be able to gain a sneak-peak into what the Salem™ diagram will end up looking like!) while if reading is more your thing then take a look at the course summary at The Independent which contains a great deal of information.

I found the course content to be well structured in terms of breaking up a huge amount of information into consumable parts. Most sections within the course contain an introduction text, slides, a video and associated study reading material – you’re then required to take a short multiple question test. I did have a number of suggestions to improve the overall aspects of the course (for instance including contextual notes in the slides, not providing the answers to the tests until they’re passed and explaining why particular answers within the tests were right or wrong) which was all taken on board and thoroughly explained – some was even already known and in the process of being adjusted. From what I could gather the small number of improvements I could see were already well on the way to being improved before I had mentioned them which is testament to the quality of the course in that it will continually improve.

I found the length of the course suitable – it covered off the information you needed to know in enough forms for it to sink in. I was also highly motivated at the start to consume the information which never faded throughout, also testament to the quality of the content. I’ve read that the course is meant to take roughly 40 hours however I managed to do it in less than half of that (granted I had already read the Governance book which shaved some time).

The one thing I did find is that the course left me craving more – particularly its minimal focus on breaking down each individual business service into separate workshops. Of course this is where the Master course comes in so it’s no great surprise this is the case – but i’d just warn that you should be prepared for the same desire and/or strongly consider purchasing one of the packaged course offerings for a cheaper price! I’m looking forward to the opportunity of completing both the Master course and the Presenting the Salem™ Framework Workshop Masterclass in the near future.

After completing the course you’re granted full membership of the World Association of SharePoint Business Strategists. I love the idea of the group and particularly as a way of grouping like-minded individuals, disseminating information and providing a code to work by, however i’m unconvinced such a group should be associated with one particular proprietary framework and also feel it would be given further significance if it was backed by Microsoft themselves. Those points aside, I admire the entrepreneurial mindset that identified the gap in the market and filled it initially and still consider myself a proud member!

If you’re left with any doubt about the quality of Salem™ then it’s worth having a read of Gartner’s Competitive Landscape: Microsoft SharePoint Consulting and Implementation Services, North America and Western Europe. While it is discussing it in the context of consulting services, it does give a strong insight into how a company like Gartner rates the framework itself. For another opinion on the Salem™ Certified Practitioner Online Course you can have a listen to Dell’s Simon Farquharson discuss his experiences with the course.

So that about covers it. I’d be happy to answer any questions anyone has about the framework or the course itself, and i’m sure Ian himself would be more than happy to do so as well going by how generous he has been with his time and replies to the questions I had – so feel free to fire away.