Thursday, July 17, 2014

Create Random String in InfoPath Form


     A question came up in class this week during our SharePoint 2010 InfoPath and Workflow Deep Dive.
     How do we create a random string in InfoPath?  The background is that one of the students wants to use an InfoPath form for access requests.  The form would submit to a SharePoint Library which would then e-mail the approver.  A confirmation code would be created by the form and forwarded to the user once the request was approved.
     Well, unfortunately there is not a function that will allow us to magically create a random number so we're going to have to put some effort into creating a pseudo random string.

SharePoint Site Provisioning and Governance Assistant Free Edition 5-minute Feature Video


Aaron Wood, our Manager of Software Engineering and Support, created a 5-minute video to highlight the features you get with SPGA Free Edition.

(FYI, there is truly no "catch" with SPGA Free Edition.  We would like to see more companies benefiting from automated SharePoint site provisioning (with proper governance) and have decided to adopt a "Freemium" model from here on out with the product.  If the Free Edition features are all you need, then you can install and use the product on-premises with free permanent license key(s), forever.  And yes, you can run it on multiple servers in a farm.  And yes, we do sell annual support agreements, for professionally-staffed ticket-based technical support, for those companies that desire to have paid support on the Free Edition.)

Here is the video:


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Using SPGA’s Governance Features – Automating Change Requests, such as Adding Users to SharePoint Groups



The letters SPGA stand for Site Provisioning and Governance Assistant. There is certainly a lot of governance that is covered in the initial site provisioning process, such as always having proper approvals, and having the sites stamped out to your exact specifications each time without failure. To paraphrase something SharePoint MVP Dan Holme said at SPC 14:

If a policy isn’t enforced by the technology, it’s not a policy, it’s a guideline.
 
This is exactly what SPGA does, it uses technology to enforce your governance standards. While most purchase SPGA for its ease of site provisioning, while maintaining those governance standards, what about activities that occur post-site creation (i.e. end user change requests)?
The single most important post-site creation item that comes to mind for most organizations, would be adding users to groups. If you care about governance in your environment, you probably have some policies regarding who gets access to what. If you allow your users access to maintain their own groups, how is the technology enforcing those policies? It’s probably not, so they are just guidelines.

Here are a few top benefits of using SPGA to manage your group membership:
  • Your SharePoint environment will be more secure than ever because you can now easily ensure that you’ll never have unauthorized access to a site
  • For the first time ever, you can use approval workflows to approve security modifications.
  • You can finally answer the previously unanswerable question, “how did user X get access to the HR site?” 
This article will detail how to create a SPGA Request Profile, for adding users to groups on their site.
Besides the governance process mentioned above, I’ll give you two more benefits of using SPGA to add users to groups. First, how many times are your SharePoint administrators called because a site owner has removed their own access to the site trying to modify permissions? I’ve been there, I know it happens. Managing permissions in SharePoint can be complicated to those that don’t manage permissions frequently.

Monday, July 07, 2014

SharePoint Site Provisioning and Governance Assistant (SPGA) Free Edition - Installation and Demo Video


A couple of weeks ago, we released the Free Edition of SharePoint Site Provisioning and Governance Assistant (SPGA 2010 and 2013).  You can read about it here if you missed the announcement.

We also recorded the webinar that we recorded last week about the new product.  Here is a 30 minute excerpt that we uploaded to YouTube that gives you a quick overview of the product and an actual installation and usage demo.  The live demo starts 3 minutes and 10 seconds into the clip:


Friday, June 20, 2014

Synchronizing SharePoint Managed Metadata with External Business Data


The primary gap in SharePoint 2010 and 2013 Managed Metadata Service Application is the lack of ability to synchronize the Term values in a Term Set with an external business data source (No, you can't do this with the out-of-the-box Business Connectivity Services feature).

For example, if you could automatically on a schedule, synchronize a Vendors Term Set with the Vendor names that exist in your Purchasing system's database, this would allow you to:

  1. Assign the appropriate Vendor name to a SharePoint document, such as a contract, that relates to that vendorAs I noted in my article earlier this week, assigning metadata values to documents in SharePoint can really improve findability of documents.  (If Vendor names is not the best example for your organization, how about Customer names, or Product names, or Facility names, etc?)
  2. Rely on the existing business process to keep the Term values up-to-date because the external system (Purchasing system in this case) is maintained by the appropriate individuals that handle that part of the business.

Enterprise-ready SharePoint Self-Service Site Collection Creation for FREE


In previous posts, I discussed the pain involved with creating new site collections in an enterprise environment.  There was a tease in my last post about a free solution for this.  We've been excited about this for several months and it's finally here.  Site Provisioning and Governance Assistant - Free Edition is now available from PremierPoint Solutions.

Enterprise ready SharePoint self-service site collection creation for free
SPGA Free fills all the deficiencies with both manual site collection creation and SharePoint's self-service site creation

With SPGA Free, administrators define the types of sites available for request, along with other optional parameters, such as who to assign as site collection administrators, where the site goes in your farm, and which quota template should be used.  Those optional parameters can also be directed by the information completed in the request form if you choose.  Your users have a place to easily fill out a form and start the process.  Standard SharePoint approval workflows may be used to ensure proper approvals are obtained prior to provisioning.

This is very exciting news for SharePoint administrators.  Best of all it is completely free, and you can get it installed, configured, and provisioning sites in less than an hour.  

I really think this could be a real game changer for SharePoint administrators and users everywhere.  Give SPGA Free a try and let us know what you think.

SPGA Free Edition Quick FAQ
  • Where do I get more information on the new free edition of SPGA?
  • What is the difference between the SPGA product PremierPoint Solutions has sold for years and this new free edition?
  • How can I get support?
    • SPGA Free has a full set of documentation, including articles, to help you in installing, configuring, and using the product - click here to view.
  • What if my company requires or desires a formal support contract for this product?
    • You do have the option of utilizing PremierPoint Solution's professionally staffed support engineers to receive the same level of support available with the Premium Edition of SPGA.  Click here for more information on obtaining formal support.
  • I'd like to use the free edition to start.  What if I decide to upgrade to Premium or just want to try the premium edition out at some point?
    • The installer is the exact same.  The features that are active are based on your license key.  So you may start with the Free Edition, and then trial or purchase the Premium Edition and simply update your license key.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Enterprise Ready Self-Service Site Creation


In my previous article, What process do you use to provide new SharePoint site collections to your users, I made mention of SharePoint's out-of-the-box self-service site creation process not being an enterprise ready solution.  This is a widely accepted opinion for very valid reasons. 

Working as a SharePoint Administrator, and with other administrators, there are two main reasons self-service site creation is not a viable enterprise solution.  The first is lack of approvals.  There should be someone, or some team, that ensures the request makes sense for your SharePoint environment.  Without approvals, there is no way to do so.  Everyone I have worked with required some sort of approval process, usually a business owner over an area and an IT approval as well.  You don't want the approval to become a bottleneck, just a brief stop along the way that ensures the integrity of your SharePoint environment.

How Much Value is Your Organization Getting From SharePoint Managed Metadata? – and, My Top 5 Benefits


SharePoint Managed Metadata Term Store ToolI can remember sitting in the session at SPC 2009 in Las Vegas where the Microsoft Program Manager in charge of the SharePoint 2010 Managed Metadata Service Application proudly proclaimed that Managed Metadata was the best new feature of SharePoint Server 2010.  Normally, I don’t care for braggarts, but after seeing how the features worked and how good it was, I really felt like this guy truly had a license to brag on himself and his team.  They did a great job!

We will soon be coming up on five years of organizations having the opportunity to take advantage of the benefits of Managed Metadata.  How much value has your organization got out of this feature set?  Have you even started to use it yet?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

What process do you use to provide new SharePoint site collections to your users?


SharePoint Site Collection Creation Process can be frustratingA better way to create SharePoint sites is a topic that has been around as long as SharePoint itself.  There are many pain points to the process that any SharePoint administrator, and user for that matter, go through.  Let’s just start off by making the assumption that you want a little more control than what self-service site creation offers.  Some SharePoint experts have commented that self-service site creation in SharePoint is not an enterprise ready solution My next my post will go into more details on that topic and offer a solution that is enterprise ready, but in this post I’d like to share some of the problems from my experience and give our readers a chance to chime in. 

So let’s discuss what you do based on the above assumption that you require something better than SharePoint’s out-of-the-box self-service site creation.  

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Customizing SharePoint Log in For ExCM - Part 2 HTML Edits


In the first part of this series, we showed you how to make a copy of the default SignIn.aspx and copy it into a new folder for editing purposes. We also showed you how to change the text from "Sign in using Windows Authentication" to "ACME Employees Click Here To Sign In." We have many customers that would like to further customize the screen to more closely match their companies' branding. Using this guide, you too should be able to customize the sign-in screen with graphics, links and finishing touches to truly personalize your sign-in page.