Carol on SharePoint: Our New SharePoint Team Lead’s Perspective!


Carol, SharePoint Team Lead
for Entrance Software
1-13-2012

I’ve always been a lover of all things technology related, but in 2006, when I first learned about SharePoint, drive for efficiency with technology became an ever increasing part of my life.  This software first caught my attention because a close friend was consulting for the 2003 version, and by the time SharePoint 2007 was released, I became instantly hooked. The ease with which it empowered the end users of an organization to manage their own content immediately impressed me.  Up to that point I had been mostly a technology consumer. And coming from the medical community, where I was routinely asked to remember (no exaggeration) 20 different user names and passwords, the concept of single sign on seemed revolutionary!

It wasn’t long before I completely jumped feet first into SharePoint consulting full time, initially getting my feet wet with simple collaboration portals and quickly moving onto intranet solutions and eventually the full blown enterprise content management solutions where I enjoy spending most of my time today.  Seeing the evolution of the product from 2007 (I often like to ignore earlier versions) to 2010 has been exciting.  Microsoft SharePoint truly offers companies a cost effective and extremely flexible portal solution to begin providing a centralized place for capturing employee knowledge via collaboration and documentation. Not to mention enhancing fundability via a robust search feature, while simultaneously lowering the total cost of ownership for the IT department and organization as a whole!

I see this SP software as a Swiss army knife of Information Technology solutions, because it can be so many things for any one organization, and while it does most things well, with a little customization or addition of a third party tool/feature it can quickly become a powerhouse for business intelligence, social collaboration, enterprise content management, physical asset management, e-discovery and/or web content management.

2010 features I’m particularly excited about include the content type hub, the ability to manage millions of documents in a single library, managed metadata, metadata driven navigation, document sets, multi stage records disposition, remote blob storage and the improved business connectivity services.  I hope to blog more about these new features in the coming months.

Entrance Software has made its footprint on the application development market and I plan to help them build on their impression in the SharePoint market. I bring experience from hundreds of previous implementations to the table, along with my strong background in enterprise content management from both the private and government sector.  I look forward to mentoring my team of experts, growing our SP practice and helping Entrance become an industry leader in SharePoint 2010.

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SharePoint Mobile – The now (and the future) of professional collaboration!

Matthew Pearson
Matt, SharePoint Consultant for
Entrance Software
January 11, 2012

Consistent observation:

If a person is idle for more than 5-10 seconds, the odds are very high that they will produce a mobile device of some kind and bury their attention in it.  My point?  Mobile devices are here to stay and growing ever more quickly.  In fact, Flurry.com found that in June 2011, consumers spent 81 minutes per day on mobile apps compared to 74 minutes per day web surfing!

SharePoint content can also be served to mobile applications, and not just Windows Phone, but also on other mobile operating systems, such as Apple’s iOS (iPhone, iPad) or Android.  The said software provides the following mobile features:

  • Data views which are optimized for viewing on mobile devices
  • Ability to open Microsoft Office documents using Office Web Apps
  • Mobile MySites
  • Mobile Alerts (when list items change)

As with any system, getting value out of SP mobile features for your organization requires planning and forethought.  Security planning and education is key.  Professional security configuration will allow you to access your data, and proper education will empower your users to secure data, should their device be lost or stolen.  You wouldn’t want your Personally Identifiable Information left unsecured someone else’s mobile device, would you?

Now is the time to get started with mobile, and actually if you haven’t you’re too late. Mobile capabilities are the future, and the next release of SharePoint will almost certainly promise even more capability.  Perhaps even full blown mobile apps built on the Microsoft “Metro” user interface will be available, bringing the even more share point functionality to your mobile device.

Mobile devices are a great tool for productivity and communication from just about anywhere, add the power of Microsoft SharePoint to your mobile device and knock-out tasks anytime, anywhere!

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Knowledge is Power – Keep yours.

Matthew Pearson
Matt, SharePoint Consultant for
Entrance Software
December 20, 2011

Every company has ‘that guy’ who you go to when you need information about ‘x’. But then ‘that guy’ moves on and suddenly a wealth of knowledge goes with him. Good companies have strategies and methods for capturing and retaining knowledge capital. Great companies use state-of-the-art tools to guarantee that their strategies achieve practical results. Knowledge should be pro-actively gathered, and then made searchable and accessible to all levels of your organization. Use one of the most powerful, flexible and user-friendly tools available: SharePoint 2010 Wiki!

Hawaii – land of pineapples, Pearl Harbor, surfing, beautiful beaches, and the source of the term “Wiki”.  For those who aren’t aware, the Hawaiian term ‘Wiki, Wiki’ translates to ‘quick’ and has been attached to the relatively new form of information sharing known as a Wiki. Ask anyone who is engaged in post-graduate studies where they find their inspiration: I would argue that a large percentage of the time Wikipedia is involved in this process, even if JSTOR or other official article archives are their stated references.

Wikis were specifically developed for efficient and accessible information gathering and sharing. So Microsoft naturally included a
Wiki library with its SharePoint product.  It’s searchable, collaborative and effective, but I rarely see it implemented properly. When I do see it implemented, it’s unknown and unused. Except that guy in the basement – he loves it!

Making a Wiki successful in your organization relies on buy-in from the entire organization.  If only one or two people are contributing to your Wiki, you’re not maximizing value and ‘that guy’ is going to get away before you know it!  Encourage everyone in your company to share what they are best at in wiki form.  It will not only become a place to search for easy information, it will be a place for you to track your employees’ knowledge, some of which you might otherwise not have even known they had.

The true value of buy in for a company wiki is that it levels the organizational playing field. Experts are found at every level of
the company. When that knowledge is shared, it empowers users and retains the organization’s intellectual property.

Once your SharePoint Wiki is in place, everyone knows where to go for information. Hours of time that would have been spent trying to find ‘that guy’ are replaced with a simple SharePoint search.  Increase your employee’s impact on the company as a whole, create permanent knowledge-building in a centralized, protected location and ensure organizational stability.  Foster a new level of information sharing in your organization that is low-cost, easy to use, searchable, and of course ‘wiki, wiki’! Believe us, SharePoint will be your new ‘that guy’.

Your knowledge: in one place, searchable, easily digested and collaborative.

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SharePoint and E-mail: Never lose an attachment again, right out of the box.

Kyle Barnhart

Kyle, SharePoint Consultant
for Entrance Software
12-9-201

It’s incredible that we’re now over a decade into the 21st century and e-mail—a standard that was first developed and implemented in the 1970s—still reigns as the king of business communication. Invoices, meeting invitations, contracts, and automated alerts are just a few of the critical items that might be sitting in your Outlook inbox right now. Interestingly enough, you can manage all of those things using SharePoint 2010, though I would not suggest dumping your Exchange server outright in favor of this software.  Instead, I’d like to talk about some e-mail-enabled features of SP 2010 and how you can use them together to get the most out of you SharePoint deployment.

 

Anyone with a little bit of the SP software experience knows that one of its most powerful features is its out-of-the-box e-mail alert capability. But in case you’re not familiar, the SP 2010 software allows you to enable e-mail alerts on any document library, list, or page in the system. This means that any time an item is added or changed in a library, or if a page is edited, you can receive an e-mail alert letting you know what has changed, when, and who changed it. I’ve personally seen this feature used in a variety of different ways, from organization-wide e-mail alerts on announcement lists to group-wide alerts on project pages and Wikis. The fantastic thing about SP’s out-of-the-box alerts is that they are simple for any SP
user to set up and manage.

 

Alerts don’t have to be instantaneous, either. SharePoint 2010 alerts can also be configured to deliver all of a day’s alerts as a digest message. That ability comes right out of the box, too. Additionally, Share Point workflows can be used to achieve even more customized alert messages. For example, can you imagine opening your inbox in the morning and being greeted with the following SP software alert:

 

Good

 

Morning, David!

 

 

 

You have three outstanding invoices to approve.

 

Click here to visit the SharePoint

 

invoice library and approve the invoice for payment.

 

 

 

Thanks,

 

 

 

YourCompany’s SharePoint Server

 

With SharePoint 2010, automated alerts like those can be configured to be sent on a regular schedule, or any time an item is added to a list, using a SharePoint workflow that identifies the name of the user, the number of outstanding tasks, the URL of that user’s task list, and more.

 

One of its primary roles in an organization is to cull the use of e-mail attachments. Any business that relies heavily on e-mail-attached documents is setting itself up for massive problems down the road. If living documents are sitting in an employee’s inbox, what happens when that employee gets sick or can’t access their inbox?  For businesses not using this sofyware, losing access to attached e-mail documents and not sharing those documents across the organization can lead to lost time, lost information, and a lack of transparency.

 

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Herding your Flock to SharePoint

Matthew Pearson
Matt, SharePoint Consultant for
Entrance Software
December 5, 201
It’s safe to say that Microsoft SharePoint is a framework which lies in the technical arena.  I would like to argue that its success, however, often lies in a psychological realm – winning the hearts and minds of your target audience.  Forcing SP solution on an unwilling audience is an uphill battle that will be lost and perhaps salvaged only by imposing ugly consequences on those that resist.

It has been my observation that the human condition is such that we do not like being told what to do; think “Declaration of Independence,” written over 235 years ago.  Contrarily, when we are gently guided to the same conclusion on our own accord, we develop a more thorough understanding of the “why” behind the “do.”  We then ultimately support the directive that we have been given with more enthusiasm and a sense of ownership.

When considering a SharePoint solution within your organization, I highly recommend involving your stakeholders from the very beginning.  Let them generate a list of problems to which the SP framework may lend a solution, gather their vision of the end state, and let them offer solutions. Allowing your end-users to identify issues and participate in the envisioning phase of problem solving builds a sense of ownership, generates a desire to see the vision through to completion, and will ultimately increase the probability of a successful and well-received implementation.

Once the problems and high-level designs have been identified, constructing the solution within the SP framework becomes a much simpler process and the end product that much more valuable.  Returns on your investment with this software will be rich in terms of productivity and your employees’ sense of value to the organization.

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Event Receivers – add compelling functionality to your SharePoint

Kenny McGarvey

Kenny, SharePoint Consultant
for Entrance Software
November 30, 201

Event receivers are a great tool for expanding SharePoint from its baseline functionality. When used correctly, it can help with everything from data validation and security to automatically triggering custom functiontionality. The uses are endless. For example it can help automatically push key, chosen information out to other databases based on user actions. Imagine automatically notifying accounting that a new invoice has been created, and then push the latest version of that invoice to everyone it affects, in real time.

 

Event Receivers are a core method to produce these results. They are a great middle ground between what the SP software provides out of the box and creating a custom web part. Event receivers allow
you to execute custom .NET code when an event occurs in your SP site.
Since the software exposes many different events it allows for limitless customization
and integration using event receivers.

 

  • Input Automation: Expedite data entry within your SharePoint libraries by
    automatically populating the fields within a list. Allow your users to input
    invoice number, customer ID, or company name, and the event receiver does a
    lookup (to an external database, web service, or even another SP list)
    and fills out the remaining fields.
  • Process Automation: Any action or process that can be done in SP software can also
    be executed via code. An event receiver could start a workflow, create/delete
    any SharePoint entity, upload files from a network drive, or email a list as an
    Excel spreadsheet.
  • Data Integrity: The last thing you want in your lists is messy or
    invalid data. An event receiver could catch the item inserted/updated events,
    and verify that all the fields are valid and well formatted.
  • Database & List Communication: This software does a great job of pulling information from
    many different sources and placing it in lists and dashboards. Event receivers
    can be used to push data and updates from SP software back to external
    databases, web services, or another SP list. This is also a great way
    to log changes made to items within a list.
  • Email Processing: Out of the box SharePoint can receive emails and deposit it
    within a list as a new item with the following fields: Sender, Subject, Body,
    etc… With event receivers you can go even further and parse the content of
    the email. Imagine if you could send purchase orders directly to your SP
    site and the event receiver transforms the email to SP item with all
    the fields populated (purchase order number, customer information, product
    details, and prices).

 

Event receivers are a great tool to allow you to customize
SP to meet your needs, automate processes to increase productivity, and
improve integration among this software and existing systems.

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Managing a SharePoint Migration

Kyle Barnhart

Kyle, SharePoint Consultant
for Entrance Software
11-23-201

There’s a popular phrase in science and engineering that
I’ve always loved: “Garbage in, garbage out.” It’s used to impress upon system
developers that even the best code or software solution can’t create good
information from bad input. And the same applies for robust, enterprise
software solutions like SharePoint 2010. Though this software is an intuitive
product with lots of features to make collaboration, automation and
centralization possible, it’s only as good as the data you bring into it. So
before moving to the SP platform, it’s important to properly manage
your migration and not bring any garbage with you.

 

For instance, migrating to this software is the perfect time to
assess your organization’s data retention policy. How many weeks, months, and
years need to pass before your data is no longer “living?” How many old documents—untouched
for years—are currently bogging down your organization’s ability to find good
information?  Experienced SharePoint consultants can help you separate the
old from the new and plan a retention policy that can be built right into
SharePoint
! Old or static documents can be moved to and flagged based on
retention policy rules, keeping the most relevant data and information in front
of your users.

 

SP migrations are also the perfect opportunity to
turn “garbage” documents into Share Point gold by converting Excel spreadsheets
into a list. Consider a classic example that I see all the time when
helping my clients move to this software: The IT Assets spreadsheet. Most
businesses assign their respective employees assets that must be tracked in a
single place—usually an Excel spreadsheet held onto by an office manager. But
you could just as easily track that information in a share point list that
contains all of the metadata for a given IT asset. By tracking this in a
SP list rather than a flat file on a shared drive, you get the
advantage of tracking changes to each invidious asset, the ability to sort and
filter the list, an extended history of who was assigned each item, and more!

 

Not only can old “garbage” data bog down your users—it might
actually lead to a less-efficient Share Point solution. Certain types of
files—like executable files and large files—can actually affect the performance
of your software farm if not properly integrated and configured. Likewise,
having to support non-friendly files can lead to bad design when it comes to
the layout and topology of your farm. That’s why it’s very important
to trust your SP software installation to SharePoint professionals.

 

SharePoint 2010 is made to streamline your business data and
files and make collaboration a snap. In order to really create a worthwhile and
powerful SP solution, you need to make sure you’re controlling the
amount of “garbage in” by utilizing content types, lists, retention
polities and design best practices to their fullest extent. And as professional
software consultants, we’d be happy to help!

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Happy Thanksgiving! SharePoint Thanksgiving at Entrance Software.

We love to eat at Entrance, and with all the foodies around, we decided to have a potluck Thanksgiving today! When the idea first started the rounds as an email, our SharePoint team went, “Oh no, we don’t want a thousand turducken jokes clogging our inboxes!” So before we were done laughing about various combinations of turf-critter, Matt, our quick-thinking military man had made a SharePoint Thanksgiving Potluck list.

Here’s the list:

Turkey Day SharePoint List

And here’s our feast:

Thanksgiving Feast at Entrance Software (facilitated by SharePoint 2010!)

If you were actually looking for content about SharePoint, see our most popular articles, or here’s a suggestion!

http://sharepointconsultants.net/the-role-of-custom-sharepoint-development/

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Records Management in SharePoint

Matthew Pearson
Matt, SharePoint Consultant for
Entrance Software
November 11, 2011

Do you know the value of your business records?  Does your business need to comply with federal regulations such as HIPAA or Sarbanes-Oxley?  Do you stand ready for an audit without pulling manpower from daily operational tasks to hunt through piles of unorganized information?  An often overlooked business process is that of records management, and understandably so.  Until an auditor or lawyer shows up at your door there is typically no immediate consequence of a poor file plan.

SharePoint has the features you need to build a comprehensive and effective file plan to suit your needs.  Listed below are some of these features:

  • Content Organizer: The records router can use metadata to route incoming documents to the right place in the hierarchical file plan.  For instance, it enables you to automatically enforce rules on content that is submitted, like “If a Purchase Agreement is tagged with Project Alpha, send to the Alpha Contracts subfolder and apply that folder’s retention policy to the item.”
  • Document ID: Every document can be assigned a unique identifier, which stays with the document even when it’s archived.  This allows records to be easily referenced by an ID no matter where the document moves.
  • Multi-Stage Retention: Retention policies can have multiple stages, allowing you to specify the entire document lifecycle as one policy (e.g. review Contracts every year, and delete after 7 years)
  • Per-Item Audit Reports: You can generate a customized audit report about an individual record.
  • Hierarchal File Plans: You can create deep, hierarchal folder structures and manage retention at each folder in the hierarchy (or inherit from parent folders).
  • File Plan Report: You can generate status reports showing the number of items in each stage of the file plan, along with a rollup of the retention policies on each node in the plan.
  • Taxonomy and Centralized Content Types: The archive will be a consumer of enterprise-wide taxonomies and content types, ensuring consistency and context transfer between the collaborative spaces and the archive.

Organizing your business records can provide an outstanding return on investment by spending less time organizing, storing, and retrieving information, allowing your workforce to do just that – work!  Combine this single feature of SharePoint with the many others it offers and you can see the outstanding value that a well-designed SharePoint implementation can provide to your business.

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SharePoint Branding

Kenny McGarvey

Kenny, SharePoint Consultant
for Entrance Software
November 4, 201

So, you have been taking advantage of all the features of SharePoint for several months now; running workflows, updating lists, and maintaining a vast document library. Some off-the-shelf webparts, a few custom made webparts, and a portfolio of slick-looking dashboards make up your SP site collection. So what’s the problem?

 

For one, out of the box the look and feel of Share Point is very Office-like; while it does look nice it probably does not reflect your company’s culture. It is also a fair assumption that the standard icon does not represent who you are as a business. What can you do? Create a custom theme. Themes in SP 2010 software are 100% CSS based, and all the elements that make up each page have a unique class/ID. This allows you to easily modify the appearance of your SP site (font, font size/color, menu colors, background, etc.), however; you cannot change the layout using a theme. So let’s go a few steps further.

 

Completely rebrand your SP site, but why would you want to do that? Well this idea goes really well with another idea; SharePoint as a public facing website. Unfortunately, branding a share point site is more complicated than branding any other website, and this is where a SharePoint consultant (like me) can really help. To see some great looking implementations of the software, check out this link: http://www.wssdemo.com/livepivot

 

Have you considered using the SP software for your public facing site? If not, why not? You and your colleagues are already quite familiar with using and maintaining a SP site. Why not use these new found skills to maintain your public facing website too. Company details, contact information, event, calendars, job postings, company news, and all other content could be easily managed by anyone within your company (imagine how much faster content updates could be deployed to your website). You already use this software to simplify internal management; why not improve communication to your potential clients and customers through a public facing SharePoint website?

 

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