TechFuse Recap–SharePoint No-Code Application


This is a continuation of my presentation from Benchmark Learning’s TechFuse.

My other presentation was on day two of the conference and dealt primarily with SharePoint and how organizations can rapidly create business applications using out of the box features or taping into other products.

Something that I always try to incorporate into my presentations in the “Crawl, Walk, Run” approach to doing No-Code Application building. As always I believe organizations need to work on the Out of the Box (OOB) features first and have those work for you before getting into third party tools or even getting into code. Examples of Crawl, Walk, Run approach include:

Crawl:

  • List and Libraries – use look up fields between objects
  • Content Types – Document Templates, Site Columns, Document Information Panel, OOB Workflows
  • Using built in Web Parts to display the appropriate information
  • Records Center or In-Place Records Management (SharePoint 2010)

Walk:

  • Connect Web Parts – help to filter information between web parts
  • InfoPath Forms/Forms Services – this includes connecting to content within SharePoint as well as using the User Profile service
  • SharePoint Designer – this includes Dataview Web Parts, custom workflows as well as in SharePoint Designer 2010 using Visio workflow diagrams to create a custom workflow
    Run:

  • Database Connections – Business Data Connection in SharePoint 2007 and Business Connectivity Service in SharePoint 2010
  • 3rd Party vendors – Nintex and K2 are two of the top companies who have products that can extend the ability of business applications
    In this sessions I primarily concentrated on the Crawl and Walk which ended up being great since a majority of the participants had not done must with SharePoint No-Code solutions.
    In my demo’s I concentrated on two ideas. First OOB using SharePoint Content Types with document templates and then moving to InfoPath with Form Services.

Between the two demo’s the one that had the more “Ummmmmmmm” factor was the use of document templates within SharePoint content types. More specifically how site columns when associated with a site content type can be used within a MS Word document as Document Fields. In the demo I was able to take the columns created and eventually add them into the Word document and fill out the necessarily information without having to add this into SharePoint after save or upload.

Within the InfoPath demo I created a form that was for project expenses and was able to connect to a SharePoint list that pulled necessary project information into the form. As a new project was created or removed the list would show me that information. I also talked about using Conditional Formatting with InfoPath to be able to display sections when needed or even using coloring to be able to format a specific color when a certain range is displayed.

All in all there were a lot of great comments/questions and overall a great event to speak at.

You can find my deck at SlideShare.

</don>

SharePoint Productivity Hub–In Depth


One of my favorite add-on to SharePoint from a on going training perspective is the Microsoft SharePoint Productivity Hub. This free product from Microsoft allows organizations to have a self-help for training.

Microsoft introduced the Productivity Hub back in SharePoint 2007. The hub took much of the content that on Microsoft Office and made it readily available within the SharePoint environment on a number of topics related to Microsoft products including SharePoint. Information was broken down into different products including:

  • Access
  • Excel
  • InfoPath
  • Internet Explorer
  • OneNote
  • Outlook
  • PowerPoint
  • Project
  • Publisher
  • Ribbon
  • SharePoint
  • Visio
  • Windows
  • Word

The solution also including:

  • Internal forums
  • Product Coaches can be designated
  • User can bookmark specific content for later use
  • A Learning Roadmap can created and displayed on the Product pages (one of my favorite tools)

So with the addition of SharePoint 2010 the Productivity Hub has been updated to include more up to date content. This includes Microsoft Lync and Microsoft SharePoint workspace. The 2010 version also includes content from the 2007 version of Office.

Some more specifics about the installation of the product. This training solution is a site collection for 2007 and a Sandbox Solution within SharePoint 2010. You can download the Productivity Hub 2007 and Productivity Hub 2010 directly from Microsoft. Included with the download is the base installation as well as content packs that will need to be added.

** Word of warning: It is important to carefully read the installation instructions for the different content packs since they do not all install the same way.

One of the drawbacks from the SharePoint 2010 version of the Productivity Hub is the lack of ability to use Office Web Application for displaying documents within the web browser. Luckily I found an excellent blog post by Dave Mihalik that talks about how to use this features within the Productivity Hub. Just make sure that you adjust the link tags to account for your URL hierarchy.

Another interesting variation was created by Avi Sujeeth that deal specifically with internal policies called the Policy Hub.

Hope this has been helpful!

***UPDATE***

If you are on SharePoint 2010 SP1 you will need to get the SP1 version of the Productivity Hub. If you do not have that and you try to install the RTM version on SP1 you will receive an error when trying to run the install.ps1 script. Get the SP1 version here. They also made adding the content to the Productivity Hub easier to download (less files) and add into the hub.

***ANOTHER UPDATE***

Also make sure that you have your current farm to not only SP1 but anything after the SharePoint 2010 August 2011 Cumulative Update. Otherwise for the SP1 version of Productivity Hub you will get a PowerShell error when trying to install.

</don>

Training Your SharePoint Site Owner


Over the last 4-5 years I have been fortunate to train many business user and IT personnel on how to utilize SharePoint. These include End Users, IT Pros, and Site Owners/Administrators/Power Users. In the scheme of things the last one is one of the most critical roles you will need in a successful implementation of SharePoint.

In an earlier blog post I talk about why I believe this is a critical role, but to paraphrase what said. Ultimately a SharePoint Site Owner will be a business user embedded in a department who understands that departments processes and content. This is an important concept to understand from the beginning of your SharePoint implementation and having them help with that implementation by bouncing ideas around will be very beneficial. They could potentially end up being the foundation of your internal Governance and SharePoint User Group.

When it comes to training these individuals it is important to keep in mind the training will be about a semi-IT related topic. Information will be centered around a web application with many more new terms and features than before to somebody who is a business person. In essence it will take time for them to assimilate and make sense of the information they are hearing. Here are some of my thoughts as to how to train your Site Owners.

  • Give your Site Owners a playground to practice in before and after the training. This can be a different site collection within the SharePoint Farm or even a development version. Anything that will replicate the look and feel of your production environment.
  • Start with the basics of SharePoint: Navigation, terminology, adding content, setting alerts, working with documents.
  • Move into semi-advanced topics: creating sites, lists, libraries with configuring document management features. You may want to introduce what a web part is and some basic configurations.
  • As they begin to understand what the product can do then get into advanced topics: Content Types, Site Columns, Metadata, Document ID’s (2010 version), etc.
  • Ultimately you will need to ensure that what you are teaching the Site Owner is within the scope of your SharePoint implementation. For instance, if you are using Office Web Application make sure to talk about the user impact of clicking on the link versus opening in the client.

After each of the training session make sure to give the Site Owner a chance to practice and work on their site. Give them support as they learn by doing and give them ways to refresh what they have learned. Here are some options:

The last thing I would like to mention is around the training itself. Some organization find they have internal staff that can do the training. Make sure they fully understand what features and functionality you are going to be using within SharePoint and the organization.

Another option is to find a Microsoft Certified Partner Learning Services (CPLS) for a specific course that will help give a hands on training for your Site Owners. You can find a local CPLS here on the Microsoft website. There are a handful of Microsoft courses that are out there. I am particularly partial to the Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Site Collection and Site Administration (50547) course since I co-authored the title.

I truly hope some of this information has been helpful and would love to hear your thoughts and comments on what you have seen around this topic. Thanks.

</don>

Content Query Web Part–Getting Around Always Changing XSLT


Recently I was working on a project where I was creating a Anniversary and Birthday web part and came across the need to show the Birthday not as the typical MM/DD/YYYY but as MM/DD and we did not get anybody riled because now the entire company know they are “52”!

The other issue comes around how SharePoint likes to display dates when using Content Query Web Parts (CQWP). Even though you probably set up the Date/Time field to only display Date when it comes across in a CQWP you will still get the time component zeroed out as you can see in the example below.

CQWPDate

The typical way to handle this would be to go in and modify the XSLT and not display this. There are plenty of resources that talk about that. However there are times when we may not have the time or experience to modify the XSLT. This is where calculated columns can come in very handy.

**Note: This ability to use a calculated column is available not only in SharePoint 2010 but also in SharePoint 2007.

To implement go into the list or library and create a new column. Name the column and make sure to select Calculated (calculation based on other columns).

CQWPColumn1

In the Formula section add the following syntax:

=TEXT([Date Column Name Goes Here],”mm/dd/yyyy”)

Leave all other options default and click on OK.

CQWPColumn2

Now when you go to the CQWP use the new text column instead of the older date column in the Fields to Display section and your information should display appropriately.

CQWPColumn3

Your finished product should look like this:

CQWPDateFinal

Resources:

So I found this resource to be beneficial when I was working on this. Enjoy!

MSDN – Calculated Field Formulas

The Benefit of Site Owners to SharePoint


As I consult with many organizations who are implementing SharePoint they are starting fresh not knowing what awaits them on this journey many of us call SharePoint. It doesn’t matter which version you are going to install: WSS 3.0, MOSS 2007, Foundation 2010, SharePoint 2010.  All of them require the same amount of work to implement. Usually this implementation falls upon the IT department, who are usually pretty good at implementation, however when they have completed the project the business is left with questions: “What is it?”, “How can I use it?” “What are we going to do now?”.

Part of a good SharePoint implementation is the use of governance. Within the SharePoint governance stack are many different plans and policies that need to be addressed:

  • Physical SharePoint Architecture
  • Support & Maintenance
  • Training
  • Security
  • Information Architecture
  • Document and Content Management policies
  • Communication
  • Roles
For a moment let us focus in on the Roles within SharePoint. Roles help to define the types of users that will be working within the SharePoint environment. This role information will also help to determine Security, Training and Communication within the organization. It also will help with Document and Content Management planning.

Within this Role matrix you will find (these are some of the most common ones, within certain organizations you may find different roles to be accommodated):

Role Description Required Skills
Business Owner Executive sponsor from the Business group that represents SharePoint to the executive time. Understanding of internal business structure, strategies and processes.
SharePoint Governance Board Governing body with ultimate responsibility for meeting the firm’s goals in regards to SharePoint. They will factor in internal and external governance influences. Understanding of the internal and external Governance details.
SQL Administrator Primary role is SQL management, backups and restore. SQL administration, monitoring, and backup and recovery.
Server Administrator Responsible for installation and maintenance of hardware infrastructure or virtualization platform specifically for servers where SharePoint is installed. Microsoft Server knowledge, monitoring, backup and recovery.
Networking Administrator Responsible for management of LAN and WAN for an organization including security, installations, monitoring, licensing backups and restoring. Network specific knowledge around routers, DNS, etc.
Domain Administrator Responsible for ensuring the domain is administered properly based on internal security and governance. This includes Active Directory. Microsoft Active Directory knowledge.
SharePoint Farm Administrator This technical position should be involved with the implementation and configuration of the portal solution but is most integral to the ongoing operation of the portal.  They will monitor performance, administer security rights, ensure backup and recovery plans are set, will configure site indexing/searching, and may be involved with end-user support. Network Infrastructure, IIS, Active Directory experience, and monitoring systems that ties into SharePoint.
SharePoint Business Analyst Hybrid IT/Business position that understands the features and capabilities of SharePoint and how they can be leveraged within the business. Will need to gather business requirements and translate them into business solutions. Works with the Governance Board, IT, as well as the business units. Thorough understanding of SharePoint features and functionality. Good understanding of business goals wants and needs. Skilled at needs assessment.
SharePoint Site Collection Administrator Primary role for ensuring that settings for the site collection are configured properly. They will has control all permissions and site creation within the SharePoint site collection. This role will also work within the guidelines of the Governance plan. This person should be somebody from the IT department. They will need a thorough understanding of SharePoint features and functionality.
SharePoint Site Owner Primary role is for ensuring that content for a SharePoint site is properly managed over time. The primary focus is implementing business focused solutions. Site features and functionality excluding site creation and permissions. Will also need to understand the business objects and goals.
SharePoint Contributor This role creates, owns and maintains the content published within SharePoint. Business processes and documentation.
SharePoint Viewer This role consumes content that is found within SharePoint.

Each one of these roles is extremely important in the overall scheme of a SharePoint deployment. But I would like make the suggestion that without proper representation by the business within the role of the SharePoint Site Owner the SharePoint implementation will flounder.

Within companies who are embarking on this SharePoint journey there seems to be different stages of understanding that the organization will go through, kind of like the different stages of grieving. They all exhibit these stages. They will first start out with the probing questions about SharePoint Site Owners and their role.
  • How much time out of the day will they need to allocate for this position?
  • What are they going to be doing?
  • Can they learn this on their own time?
  • Are they an Administrator (network or IT administrator)?
They then start defending why they shouldn’t have restricted permissions (not assigning permissions or creating sites) or allocate more than 2 hours a week for the position:
  • This will stifle their creativity! (I almost choked when I heard that one)
  • They just do not have that much time in their day to administer SharePoint
Ultimately they will break down and understand that this is a vital role within the organization. So what can we do to foster this growth of the SharePoint Site Owner?

Make sure they get the proper training they need.
Many of these new SharePoint Site Owners have never touch an application like SharePoint. Now you expect that to want to play with it and learn just because somebody said so. Through training they will come to understand how it works and how they can manage the site within their work schedule.

Show how SharePoint can help their day-to-day activities.
But showing how SharePoint can increase productivity if correctly implement and structured these new Site Owners will be your biggest allies when getting buy in from the business.

Make sure to listen to their wants and needs.
By giving this group an outlet to talk to each other and share best practices within your SharePoint environment the benefits will be long-lasting. This is a great reason for having an internal SharePoint User Group.

Have governance in place before they take the helm.
It is very difficult to ask somebody to step out of a Ferrari after they have around the track. Have many of your governance ideas and principles in place before the Site Owner take over. They include them in the discussions about continued governance within SharePoint.

Ultimately this role could make or break your SharePoint implementation. Give them what they need to be successful and they will help your through your SharePoint implementation.

Good luck!