SharePoint Conference 2012 – Advanced Dashboard Creation Using Excel, Excel Services, PerformancePoint and Apps for Office


Later on day 3 of the SPC12 conference I sat in a packed session with Kevin Donovan talking about some of the advances of SharePoint, Excel, and PerformancePoint. Kevin started by talking the different levels of Business Intelligence that are being move evident within today’s workplace. These include:

  • Personal Business Intelligence – using Excel and connecting to data (available On Premises and Cloud)
  • Self-Service Business Intelligence – create Excel and publish to SharePoint (available On Premises and limited Cloud)
  • Corporate Business Intelligence – authored using SharePoint, Excel Services, and PerformancePoint for the entire organization (available On Premises and very limited Cloud)

Kevin jumped into great advances within the Excel 2013 including:

  • Quick Analysis – right click on table to access and this gives you many tools to quickly analyze your information
  • Recommended Pivot Tables – when creating a Pivot Table this will bring in any other pieces of data, such as Power View and make them available
  • Timeline Slicer – similar to regular slicers except based on time
  • Power View – which is now included within Excel 2013 and not an add-in

Kevin continued to talked about some of the issues that arise when self-service Business Intelligence becomes more prevalent within organizations. People tend to start questioning the validity of the data and ask where it came from. Microsoft recently acquired an auditing product called Audit and Control Management server. This product will be able to audit changes make to spreadsheets, configure an custom alerts and even access historical information about the file. This will help with internal compliance and regulatory needs.

One of the newer tools that is available within SQL Server Data Tools (called BIDS previously) allows IT to bring in a PowerPivot set of data found within an Excel workbook and use within Analysis Services. This helps to move the presentation layer for the data from a Self-Service BI to Corporate BI mentality. Of course when the organization is ready to make the move.

From the Excel Services side for SharePoint 2013 there are a lot of new/improved features that have been plaguing this feature since SharePoint 2007. Field List/Field Well is the capability of tapping into data connection within the web browser to choose a dimension. This will negate the need to having to always open the client when working with your data. Another important feature is EffectiveUsername. This allows you to pass a username identity to Analysis Services which is set on the connection string. Ultimately it connects using the as the process identity for Excel Services and then uses the logged on user name to access the appropriate data.

Another thing that I always had a hard time with in SharePoint 2007 & 2010 was remembering what a named range/object was within the Excel spreadsheet. Now with Named Object View v2 we have the capability of choose these named ranged while in the browser and interacting with the information.

Kevin talked some about the new Microsoft App Store. This store is not just for Windows phone 8. Included in the App Store are applications that are created for use within SharePoint 2013 and Office 2013 products. For example, he highlighted an election map for the just recent election that allows you to see over time what happened for electoral and popular vote for the presidency. The Add Apps for Office can be found in the Insert Page of an Office 2013 product.

AppsForOffice

 

The Apps for Office currently out there are taking free data sets and creating a dashboard to help developer understand what is possible. These Apps can be created internally of your organization allowing you to tie into existing data sources. Once these Apps have been created they can be published to File Shares, the Microsoft Marketplace, or Corporate Catalogs within SharePoint.

The presentation moved to talked about changes within the PerformancePoint environment. Kevin started out by outline big picture some of the changes within this SharePoint 2013 service.

  • Themes – any theme that is applied to a SharePoint site will be carried over into the dashboard.
  • Dashboard Designer can now be initiated from the SharePoint ribbon.
  • Filter Enhancements & Filter Search – this feature allows you to drill down into information quickly, search for a specific piece of information within the filter and then bolds the hierarchy so you know which nodes you selected.
  • EffectiveUsername – is the same feature as within Excel and Excel Services.
  • Server-Side Migration – allows a dashboard or individual components within a Dashboard to be exported from one location and imported into another SharePoint location. The export/import will also allow you to include data connections and Excel spreadsheets that are associated to your dashboard. This can also be scripted by using PowerShell from the SharePoint server.
  • Dashboard Designer Authentication allows organizations to not only use Windows Authentication but also Forms Based Authentication when creating dashboards.

Overall I found this session to be very informative when it comes to using out of the box features to help deliver Business Intelligence information to the users. In the scheme of things the Excel/Excel Services components would be considered Crawl and some Walking. The PerformancePoint would probably start within the Walk and move into the Run phases for organizations with BI needs.

</don>

SharePoint Conference 2012 – Advanced Dashboard Creation Using Excel, Excel Services, PerformancePoint and Apps for Office


Later on day 3 of the SPC12 conference I sat in a packed session with Kevin Donovan talking about some of the advances of SharePoint, Excel, and PerformancePoint. Kevin started by talking the different levels of Business Intelligence that are being move evident within today’s workplace.

To read more of this blog post please click here.

</don>

SharePoint Conference 2012 – Advanced Dashboard Creation Using Excel, Excel Services, PerformancePoint and Apps for Office


Later on day 3 of the SPC12 conference I sat in a packed session with Kevin Donovan talking about some of the advances of SharePoint, Excel, and PerformancePoint. Kevin started by talking the different levels of Business Intelligence that are being move evident within today’s workplace. These include:

  • Personal Business Intelligence – using Excel and connecting to data (available On Premises and Cloud)
  • Self-Service Business Intelligence – create Excel and publish to SharePoint (available On Premises and limited Cloud)
  • Corporate Business Intelligence – authored using SharePoint, Excel Services, and PerformancePoint for the entire organization (available On Premises and very limited Cloud)

Kevin jumped into great advances within the Excel 2013 including:

  • Quick Analysis – right click on table to access and this gives you many tools to quickly analyze your information
  • Recommended Pivot Tables – when creating a Pivot Table this will bring in any other pieces of data, such as Power View and make them available
  • Timeline Slicer – similar to regular slicers except based on time
  • Power View – which is now included within Excel 2013 and not an add-in

Kevin continued to talked about some of the issues that arise when self-service Business Intelligence becomes more prevalent within organizations. People tend to start questioning the validity of the data and ask where it came from. Microsoft recently acquired an auditing product called Audit and Control Management server. This product will be able to audit changes make to spreadsheets, configure an custom alerts and even access historical information about the file. This will help with internal compliance and regulatory needs.

One of the newer tools that is available within SQL Server Data Tools (called BIDS previously) allows IT to bring in a PowerPivot set of data found within an Excel workbook and use within Analysis Services. This helps to move the presentation layer for the data from a Self-Service BI to Corporate BI mentality. Of course when the organization is ready to make the move.

From the Excel Services side for SharePoint 2013 there are a lot of new/improved features that have been plaguing this feature since SharePoint 2007. Field List/Field Well is the capability of tapping into data connection within the web browser to choose a dimension. This will negate the need to having to always open the client when working with your data. Another i mportant features is EffectiveUsername. This allows you to pass a username identity to Analysis Services which is set on the connection string. Ultimately it connects using the as the process identity for Excel Services and then uses the logged on user name to access the appropriate data.

Another thing that I always had a hard time with in SharePoint 2007 & 2010 was remembering what a named range/object was within the Excel spreadsheet. Now with Named Object View v2 we have the capability of choose these named ranged while in the browser and interacting with the information.

Kevin talked some about the new Microsoft App Store. This store is not just for Windows phone 8. Included in the App Store are applications that are created for use within SharePoint 2013 and Office 2013 products. For example, he highlighted an election map for the just recent election that allows you to see over time what happened for electoral and popular vote for the presidency. The Add Apps for Office can be found in the Insert Page of an Office 2013 product.

AppsForOffice

 

The Apps for Office currently out there are taking free data sets and creating a dashboard to help developer understand what is possible. These Apps can be created internally of your organization allowing you to tie into existing data sources. Once these Apps have been created they can be published to File Shares, the Microsoft Marketplace, or Corporate Catalogs within SharePoint.

The presentation moved to talked about changes within the PerformancePoint environment. Kevin started out by outline big picture some of the changes within this SharePoint 2013 service.

  • Themes – any theme that is applied to a SharePoint site will be carried over into the dashboard.
  • Dashboard Designer can now be initiated from the SharePoint ribbon.
  • Filter Enhancements & Filter Search – this feature allows you to drill down into information quickly, search for a specific piece of information within the filter and then bolds the hierarchy so you know which nodes you selected.
  • EffectiveUsername – is the same feature as within Excel and Excel Services.
  • Server-Side Migration – allows a dashboard or individual components within a Dashboard to be exported from one location and imported into another SharePoint location. The export/import will also allow you to include data connections and Excel spreadsheets that are associated to your dashboard. This can also be scripted by using PowerShell from the SharePoint server.
  • Dashboard Designer Authentication allows organizations to not only use Windows Authentication but also Forms Based Authentication when creating dashboards.

Overall I found this session to be very informative when it comes to using out of the box features to help deliver Business Intelligence information to the users. In the scheme of things the Excel/Excel Services components would be considered Crawl and some Walking. The PerformancePoint would probably start within the Walk and move into the Run phases for organizations with BI needs.

</don>

SharePoint Conference 2012 – SharePoint 2013 Upgrade Deep Dive


In the morning of SPC2012 day 3 I attended the SharePoint 2013 Upgrade Deep Dive by Sean Livingston. This was a part two by Sean who did an Overview on the first day of the conference. Sean started off by showing us a particularly interesting flowchart that depicted the Check Site Collection Health, Request Site Collection Upgrade, and Create Evaluation Site Collection components work.

 

Deferred Site Collect Upgrade Flowchart

 

Compatibility level is the successor to Visual Upgrade which was introduced in SharePoint 2010. Similar to what we saw in 2010, if a site is in SharePoint 2010 or 14 mode then it only has those SharePoint 2010 features. It is not until you upgrade to SharePoint 2013 or 15 mode you will be able to use the newer features. The compatibility level designation is only found on the site collection level and can be found within PowerShell at the following object level SPSite.CompatibilityLevel.

Because both exist it is possible to create both SharePoint 2010 and 2013 site collections. There are some exceptions to this because of deprecated features including:

  • Web Analytics
  • PowerPoint Broadcast
  • Work Group Templates

Also because of this split architecture it is important to note that when installing SharePoint Solutions you will also need to specify which environment this is deploying out to. Options for CompatibilityLevel include:

  • 14 – to install in the 14 directory
  • 15 – to install in the 15 directory
  • “14,15” – installs in both directories
  • “AllVersions” or “All” installs in both directories
  • “OldVersions” or “Old” installs in the 14 directory
  • “NewVersion” or “New” installs in the 15 directory

Another important component is wrapped around the ability for SharePoint 2013 for Site Collection Administrators to upgrade from SharePoint 2010 to 2013. To prevent all 30 Site Collection Administrators from upgrading all at once and taxing your memory and SQL IOPS there is a throttle in place. The upgrade queue will handle 10 upgrades per content database or 5 per web application. It is first come first server when it comes to upgrades. As the upgrades are processed there is a monitor that will allow you to check the progress: Queued, In Progress, Failed, or Success. This is accomplished by using the following command:

Get-SPSiteUpgradeSessionInfo -ContentDatabase -ShowProgress -ShowCompleted

It is possible to adjust the number of upgrades that the queue can handle, which is done at the web application level using the SPWebApplication.SiteUpgradeThrottleSettings.UsageStorageLimit or the SPWebApplication.SiteUpgradeThrottleSettings.SubwebCountLimit object model within PoSH. However a word of warning, only do this if you have an environment with hardware to handle the increase load. SharePoint PoSH also includes the capability of evicting an upgrade that is currently in queue. Also if you do not have Site Collection Administrators that will be doing the upgrade you can as a Farm Administrator run the Upgrade-SPSite for any of the site collections. This command will still honor the database throttling that has been established. The following command will add all site collections all at once:

Get-SPSite | upgrade-spsite -versionUpgrade –QueueOnly

Along with the upgrade throttling there is a Evaluation Site Collection throttling. As a reminder this is the capability of a SharePoint 2010 Site Collection to preview an upgrade to 2013. This create an “Evalulation” copy of the site collection. This process works with SQL server that supports Snapshots, otherwise it will use backup and restore. Besides the throttling, SharePoint 2013 also includes a timer job that will run to put up those in queue and process them. Because this is a copy of the site collection, it will take up more space in the database to ensure there is enough room to handle this overhead. There is also an expiration date of 30 days after creation. This can be changed using PoSH.

Another interesting component for SharePoint 2013 is that when create web applications, the default security is now going to be Claims. This was not true in SharePoint 2010. It is highly recommended that you use Claims since it is a more secure environment, but if you do not currently have Claims setup in your environment it is recommended that you upgrade to Claims prior to migration to SharePoint 2013.

All in all this was a very informative session on the inner workings of the SharePoint 2013 upgrade avenue. I know I will be using doing this more and more in the upcoming months.

</don>

SharePoint Conference 2012 – Search Driven Web Sites and Cross Site Publishing with SharePoint 2013


I was really looking forward to this presentation about Search driven web sites by Daniel Kogan primarily because of having multiple clients that we purposely had chosen an architecture that was a single site collection because of the need to display information quickly and without much development. I had also known that SharePoint 2013 had a new web part called the Content Search web part. Very practical applications!

Daniel started by talking why a search driven publishing model.

  • Primarily because of the site collection issue.
  • He also mentioned that the overall architecture does not really matter, for example SharePoint 2010 and 2013 have list thresholds. Now the content can be stretched across multiple lists and this should not matter.
  • This allows for more flexible and dynamic publishing
  • Separate storage and presentation which is something companies have been asking for
  • More efficient way of handling information

He went on to talk about some of the components of the new Search that help with this overall concept:

  • Content Search
  • Content Query
  • Term Content
  • Managed Navigation
  • Publishing Page

Along with these components the query can display basic information or a Query Rule can be applied. In a previous post I talked about Query Rules (a.k.a. Key Words) and how these can be connected to internal business rules. Query rules can also include related items and recommendations that can be displayed.

The building blocks of this solution include:

  • Content Search Web Parts
  • Display Templates
  • Query Builder
  • Query Rules
  • Content Catalogs
  • Managed Navigation

Catalogs is a new concept for SharePoint. More specifically it is found at the site or the library/list level. Once enabled this becomes the store for information and can be quickly displayed within the Content Search Web Parts.

Query within SharePoint 2013 has been created to help bring back many pieces of information or just 1 relevant piece of information (say a news article). This is what we call the Cross-Site Publishing component for SharePoint 2013.

Content Search Web Parts is the display component for the publishing information. This can use the Query Builder to whittle down the information needing to display. This Query Builder is a web based tool that makes it easy to create a Query string. SharePoint Farm administrators can also create queries and make them available. Once concern when using this web part is around how soon we will be able to see information once added into SharePoint. By using the continuous crawl information will be displayed relatively soon after adding into the environment.

Display templates utilize HTML and JavaScript to give different look and feels for the results. SharePoint 2013 already has multiple display templates already available. Organizations will need to understand HTML and JavaScript to be able to skin the results for their particular needs.

The SharePoint 2013 Term Store/Managed Metadata includes the capability of using information within the Navigation. The Term Store term set will need to be enabled to use with Managed Navigation. Once this has been enabled, the page hierarchy do not show up in the URL. These are replaced with the Term Store term hierarchy. For example you will not see Catalogs/Pages/Products/123xyz.aspx you could see category1/category2/123xyz.aspx. We could have used this for a couple of our SharePoint internet clients.

Because of the high use of Search within this scenario it will be quite important to make sure that search becomes a highly available service to build out the appropriate architecture. Happy searching!

</don>

SharePoint Conference 2012 – Search Architecture SharePoint 2013


This was the last session I attended on day 1 of the conference. The presenter started with an over view of how Search within the SharePoint 2013 environment has found some vast improvements with the incorporation of FAST search within all version of SharePoint. Many organizations did not use FAST in the SharePoint 2010 environment.

Many of the cosmetic features that FAST gave to the search results page included Visual Best Bets, preview image of documents, and PowerPoint click through. Now all of those features are included and have been expanded including Visual Refiners and Hover Panels to name the more noticeable features.

From a backend point of view organizations can use SharePoint 2013 and crawl Exchange 2013 for eDiscovery helping to consolidate how they are auditing and reporting. On the administration side there are a couple of new and change components. SharePoint 2013 has added continuous crawl to the already full or incremental crawls. This will allow those situations when information needs to be available within Search very quickly. The SharePoint 2013 search index is stored on the web front end and partitions can be added to quickly expand search. They have also changed the architecture of the index, moving from rows/columns to partitions and replicas. This makes it more efficient to store and replicating index content. The presenter also discussed the overall process with indexing. As an index starts, information is stored within memory in smaller sections, as these smaller sections are merged together and moved to the hard drive.

He then went to to talk about the capability of adding a custom columns into the refinement panel. For the most part these steps are similar to SharePoint 2010 however the Refinement Panel Web Part is much easier to configure to display the custom columns. The steps include:

  1. Create a custom columns in a list
  2. Crawler will need to find the new columns so implement an incremental crawl
  3. Setup mapping in Search Schema (change was called Metadata Properties in SharePoint 2010)
  4. Create a mapping to the new column and be sure to check the Refiner checkbox to include in the Refinement Panel
  5. Need to crawl for the new mapping by doing a full crawl
  6. Go to the Search Results page and edit the Refinement Panel web part

Another major change within Search is around Key Words. These are now called Query Rules and they are extremely powerful. By using an “action” term you can generate business rules. For example by using the action terms “slides” or “decks” this will equate to a PowerPoint slide deck. The search will display PowerPoint slide decks in the results. This feature can be found within the Search Service Application, or Site Collection Administration, or even at the Site level.

Another significant change within SharePoint 2013 and search is the inclusion of Web Analytics. This feature is now called analytics processing  and includes Analytics Reporting and can learn as SharePoint is used more and more. Along with this is the inclusion of Recommendation Processing that displays recommendations of related information based on physical clicks into pages.

All an all I was very impressed with the fact that Microsoft took the plunge and incorporated FAST into all of the platform. I can see how this can benefit any organization that wants to be able to use search to help with any of the SharePoint pillars: Intranet, Extranet, or Internet and not have to spend a lot on licenses.

</don>