Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Souping up SharePoint Document Management


Until SharePoint came along, organizations basically had two choices to manage their documents: proprietary document management software, like Documentum and Open Text (for those of us with deep pockets), and file servers (for the rest of us). But, since SharePoint emerged onto the document management scene in 2003, all of that has been changing rapidly.

There is no question that SharePoint has filled that critical gap in the area of affordable document management. Still, there are significant capabilities missing from the SharePoint document management feature set that growing organizations need, and that those using high-end proprietary programs don’t want to give up in their quest to lower costs.

Here are some basic features that SharePoint really needs in order to shine as a document management platform:

  • Easy navigation from within all of the Microsoft Office programs (Word, Excel, etc.) to open and save files in SharePoint document libraries. A tree-view type of browse dialog that pops up on “Open and Save” is really what is needed. That tree-view dialog should allow the user to locate the appropriate SharePoint document library - ideally in any SharePoint farm, site collection or site that the user has security rights to
  • Full integration of Outlook with SharePoint sites and document libraries, in order to support easy drag-and-drop storage of emails in SharePoint – including capture of metadata
  • Consistent dialogs for metadata capture when storing a document in SharePoint, regardless of the client program being used
  • Preservation of metadata and version history on documents when they are moved from one library to another (using drag-and-drop or copy/paste)
  • Support in Adobe Acrobat and Reader for opening from, and saving to, SharePoint libraries
Really, all of these features are about either A) ensuring that the document management system enables users that work with documents day-in and day-out to be very productive, or B) making sure that the data associated with the documents is accurate and complete. These are just two basic, fundamental objectives of a document management system that SharePoint struggles with out-of-the-box.

Wouldn’t it be great if these features could be added to native SharePoint at an affordable price? The good news is that a software company in Australia, MacroView Business Technology, has been working tirelessly since 2006 to bring these features to SharePoint in the form of a professionally developed and supported, 100% native add-in named WISDOM Document Management Framework (DMF).

WISDOM DMF lifts SharePoint 2007 to the level of the world’s leading players in document management systems. It adds all the missing features I listed above plus many others. And, a WISDOM solution is usually about half the price (or less) of a comparable Documentum, Interwoven, Open Text, Oracle or IBM solution.

We’ve forged a partnership with MacroView, and are now a U.S. distributor and integrator of the WISDOM lineup of products. To see what WISDOM has to offer, check out the overview video below and the WISDOM DMF product page and WISDOM Message (for Outlook) product page on our website.

Training – Whose Responsibility Is It?


Think about these two questions for a moment: How did you get to your current position in your organization? How did you get to your current position in life? Seriously, stop and think about them for a moment before you continue reading.
You probably realized that your present position in your job and life is the result of the education you’ve received up to this point.
teacher_at_computer_and_blackboard Where did you get the education that brought you to this point? It probably came from a variety of sources. Some of it was formal classroom education—elementary through high school and maybe even college. Some of it was things you learned from reading books, trade publications, and even blogs like the one you’re reading now. Some of it was gained by watching others. Some of it was learned through trial and error as you had to solve problems in your life or career.
Where do you want to go next? Do you want a new position within your current company? or perhaps in another company? Do you want more income? Do you want new challenges? In what other areas do you want to grow? Well, I’ve got some news for you…
What got you here won’t get you there! You reached your current station in your career and life because of your current education. If you want to move to some other station, you will need to advance your education first. It is rare that we are given the opportunity to advance to a position where we can learn as we go—we usually need to be “knowledged-up” beforehand. Knowledged-up is my term for learning as much as you can about something—it’s like getting loaded-up, juiced-up, powered-up, or tuned-up except with information. :)
Who is responsible to make sure that you’re trained for advancement in career and life? Well, it depends. It depends on who wants you to advance. If your employer wants to advance, or your employer wants you to advance in an area for the good of the company, then it is the employer’s responsibility. But if you are the one who wants to advance, then it is your responsibility!

I recently had the privilege of working with a gentleman who contacted us asking for a unique type of consulting. The organization he worked for had an opening for a SharePoint Architect and he wanted the position. His company hadn’t asked him to fill the role, he decided that was what he wanted. The company had needs too: someone with the knowledge and expertise to take that area of the company to the next level--the company didn’t have a need to move this individual into the position. Likewise, the company you work for probably doesn’t need you to move into a better position.
This client was already successful in his current position. That provided a good foundation for him, but he realized that what got him to his current position wouldn’t get him this new position. He needed to get “knowledged-up” on a number of things in SharePoint before he would be ready to step into this new position that he wanted. Because of his existing good foundation, he was able to spend a dozen or so hours in web consultations with some of our subject-area experts to fill in the missing information he needed to be qualified for this position.
Needless to say, he got the job. He told us, “Thank you for you and your team's help over the past few weeks!  It put me over the edge in knowledge and confidence.
girl_at_computer_with_open_book What if your employer isn’t willing to seek educational opportunities for you and to pay for your education? This gets back to the question of whose responsible for your education. If you are the one who wants to advance, you will likely need to seek out your own educational opportunities. You may even have to pay for the education out of your own pocket. That’s what this individual did—he will make that up quickly though in the increased salary in his new position! It not only took him to a new position in his company, but also to a new position in his career and life.
What if your employer isn’t willing to give you time off for education? A few days of training can have a bigger impact on your overall life than a few days sitting on a beach during vacation. You may want to consider using a few vacation days to take a training class. Others may relax for a few days and then return to the same job, with the same salary, for several more years while you may take those same vacation days--spend them in a classroom, or even at home in an online class--and earn yourself a new position with a higher salary and exciting new challenges.
Do you need a new degree or specific subject matter education? In these economic times, organizations are more interested in what you can do help them solve particular business problems than they are in your general education. General business education isn’t bad, but businesses need people who can help them automate business processes, give them a strategic advantage through business intelligence, or help their teams collaborate more effectively. In most organizations this type of expertise is needed more than yet one more person with a masters degree. And the best news is this: it takes much less time and money to become proficient in  a narrow subject area than in general business.
Where can you find quality education that will allow you to move to the next level? My suggestion, of course, is our training right here at PremierPoint Solutions. If you’re looking to get started with SharePoint, you may want to consider our SharePoint classes. Also check out the free information in our SharePoint Workflow and SharePoint Extranet Resource Centers.
Regardless of your time or budget, you owe it to yourself to take control of your future and get the education you need. Who knows, after you select the class that is best for you, you may even be able to get your employer to pay for it! :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Being Picky Has Hurt a Lot of Companies When It Comes to SharePoint – Do you have any examples to share?




I think one of the reasons a lot of companies have had so much difficulty with SharePoint deployments and adoption over the past ten years is simply their “pickiness.”  I know this is true because I have seen it over and over again with my own eyes in my role as a consultant and trainer.
The kind of pickiness I am talking about is related to changing the software just because they would like for it to be a certain way or look a certain way.  To many people in enterprise environments this doesn’t seem wrong.  “We are big, we are important, we are complicated, and we have the development resources.  So, why shouldn’t we get it the way we want it?” 

What they aren’t thinking about is:

·         the additional costs that these changes cause during design and development

·         the opportunity costs related to the delay of getting the benefits from SharePoint until these changes can be properly made and tested

·         the opportunity costs related to the other, more important things their development resources could be working on which would benefit the company

·         (the biggest one of all, in my opinion) the hard costs or opportunity costs that result when three years down the road the company either A) can’t upgrade to the new version of SharePoint at all because they modified their existing version so much, or B) have to spend big again to handle a very difficult migration to the new version because they modified the existing version so much.
There is no doubt in my mind that as much as 50% of the organizations that implemented MOSS 2007 are still in this situation today.  MOSS 2007 was a marketing and sales bonanza for Microsoft.  The penetration of the product in the market was huge in the 2007–2009 timeframe.  But a big number of the adopters during that timeframe came out of an era where customizing enterprise software was what every large organization did.  It was unthinkable to try to use enterprise software like SharePoint out-of-the-box.  The prevailing thought was that “our requirements are just not that simple.”

I wish I had a nickel for every time I have had someone at a large enterprise tell me “our requirements are not that simple.” Nine out of ten times what is really going on is that their organization is so screwed up and complicated and the resistance to change is so great that they just start modifying the software to keep the peace in the company.
I can give you an example of this scenario (this one is from SharePoint 2010 – I couldn’t quickly find a MOSS 2007 environment to get one from, but in general, this kind of thing is even worse in MOSS 2007), and you can use my example to judge whether I would think of you as unnecessarily picky when it comes to SharePoint.

Example: Assume you have a site and have granted some users read-only permissions to the site.  You’ve enabled the publishing features on the site and discovered that your read-only users still see the Site Actions menu and the View All Site Content menu option:







This is simply how the software works out of the box.  There is really no harm in it – if you ask me.  Yes, the read-only user can click on the View All Site Content option and see the list of all objects in the site that they have read access to.  What problem does that cause?  I don’t see any.  Does the presence of the site actions menu and this option cause any clutter or confusion for those read-only users?  Maybe some people would say so, but what a minor issue to be concerned about in the grand scheme of trying to have a successful business!
Would this example be a deal breaker for you or your company?  Would you just “have to have this fixed” before you could roll out this site to users?  If so, I would probably think of you as unnecessarily picky.  If you were one of my employees, I would wonder if you are very good at seeing the big picture.  (Incidentally, here is one solution for “fixing” it.  And, if you implemented this solution it would just be one more thing you would have to take into account at upgrade time.)

As a society in the U.S., I think we have evolved into a very picky population of consumers.  Consumer product companies have fueled this fire with their marketing in their never-ending attempt to win the consumer and get a leg up on their competitors.  I think this mentality has spilled over into the workplace and is costing companies a lot of money – especially when it comes to their use of packaged software.  Why not just learn how to adapt to the software as it is instead of modifying it because you don’t like something about the way it comes out of the box?

Do you think I am nuts?  Do you have any good examples of companies that were too picky about SharePoint and it cost them down the road?  If so, I’d love it if you would share them in the comments section.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Getting Something Extra



I walked into an ice cream store in Georgia while on a road trip. It was a hot, dusty summer afternoon, and I was feeling parched and ready for something cool and refreshing.

I ordered a single-dip waffle cone. The lady turned around, took a normal size ice cream scoop, and began to cram ice cream into my cone until there was an orb about the size of a softball there. When she brought it to me, I said, “I’m sorry, but I just wanted a single-dip cone.” She responded, “That IS our single-dip cone.” WOW!

Then I tried the ice cream, and it was absolutely unbelievable. “We make it right here in the store,” she told me. They made an enthusiastic customer out of me in just one visit!

I would have been happy with just a “normal” single-dip cone with “normal” quality ice cream. But what I got was something extra – more ice cream and far more delicious than I expected.

Something extra!  Don’t you love it when that happens?

When our students attend our PremierPoint Solutions training classes, they tell us they feel like they’re getting something extra from us:

·         “Ricky gave us a lot of added information that might not normally be covered in this type of class.”

·          “Thank you. I got much more out of your training course than I expected. I will definitely recommend your company to others.”

·         “I expected to learn the ‘course content’ listed on the website, but throughout the course, I gained ‘above & beyond’ knowledge that is invaluable.”

·         “This was a great course! All of my specific needs were met within the first day. The second and third days were just icing on the cake!”

Ready to have YOUR expectations exceeded? Our instructors are ready and waiting to exceed them!

Browse our course catalog for that course that offers the skills you’re looking for. And don’t be surprised if you get more than you expected.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Reduce Administrator Workload Using Extranet Collaboration Manager for SharePoint 2010's (ExCM) "Site Sponsors" Feature




Extranet Collaboration Manager (ExCM) 2010 has the ability to greatly reduce the workload on your IT Department by implementing what we call “Site Sponsors.”  Site Sponsors can be either Windows or Forms Based Authentication (FBA) users, and are basically users with some elevated privileges who are capable of managing the Extranet Users for a given site.  Let’s take a closer look at Sponsorship and how it’s configured.

We access the Site Sponsors options under the “Extranet Management” menu located in Site Settings:


From that screen we can see any existing Site Sponsors as well as the options for managing them:

For this blog, we will create a new Site Sponsor.  Let's assume that the AMCE Corporation is a client of ours who uses our extranet to access information important to them.  We will create a new Site Sponsor, a user from the ACME Corporation, and make him responsible for managing all the ACME users who access our extranet.  This is an “extreme” example of Sponsorship (since this sponsor is outside the company), but I believe it illustrates the feature nicely. Now, let’s take a closer look at how Sponsorship is configured.  After “New Site Sponsor” from the ribbon, the screen below is presented:

First, I will select a user to be the Site Sponsor.  I will stick to using Extranet Users for the purpose of this illustration:

Next, we need to configure our Security Settings.  This is probably the least understood topic when using Sponsorship, so let’s take a close look at each area.  The first area is the “Associative Security Definition.”  These are the SharePoint Groups and/or Extranet Roles to which every user this Sponsor invites to the site will automatically be added.  In this example, I have created a role name “ACME Members” and added that Role to this site’s “Visitors” SharePoint Group.  By entering “ACME Members” in this area, every user that Timmy invites will automatically be added to the “ACME Members” Role and will therefore have basic read-only access since the Role has been added to the site’s “Visitors” group.

The next area is the “Optional Associative Security Definition.”  Any SharePoint Group and/or Extranet Role entered here will be presented as checkboxes to the Sponsor when he invites users to the site.  In this example, I have entered another Role I created named “ACME Managers” that has greater privileges than the “Members” Role because I have added it to the site’s “Owners” SharePoint Group:

Finally, we have the “Administrative Security Definition.”  This includes the Groups and/or Roles that the Site Sponsor can manage.  When we say “manage” in this situation, we are referring to specific permissions the Sponsor has been granted.  Here are the possible permissions that can be assigned:

All of these are checked by default, but you can customize them to your specific needs.  The best practice for the “Administrative Security Definition” is to add any Groups and/or Roles that appear in the first two Security Definition boxes.  This ensures that any user the Sponsor Invites, he can also manage:

Finally, we have the “Include Site Groups” option.  When this is set to “Yes,” any SharePoint Groups the Sponsor is currently associated with for the site will be included in both the Optional and Administrative Security Definitions.  For this example, I will select “No” in this area:






Now that we have successfully created a Site Sponsor, let’s log into our site as that Sponsor and invite a new user from the ACME Corporation.  Here are the new options that the new Sponsor sees when clicking “Site Actions:”


From here, they can both invite new users and manage existing users that they sponsor.  After clicking on “Invite Users,” we see this:

Notice the “Site Access” area.  As you can see, the “Optional” Security Definition appears here to allow the Sponsor to optionally add the new user to the Groups and/or Roles specified…along with the “Associative” Security Definition to which they will be added automatically (ACME Members in this case).

After clicking “Save,” the invitation is sent to the new user.  When they open it, here’s what they see:

After completing the registration, we can review it under the “Invitations” area of the Extranet Management menu.  Notice the “Sent By” and “Security Definition” areas:


So we can see that this invitation was sent by our new Site Sponsor, and that Jeremy was also added to the appropriate Security Definitions.

The last area we’ll review here is the “Manage Users” screen for the Site Sponsor.  After logging back in as my new Sponsor and clicking “Site Settings – Manage Users,” we see this:


From here, the Sponsor can do things like create new user (via invitation or manually), grant and remove access, change a user’s password, etc.  Notice that we see an additional user than the one we just invited.  This is due to the “Administrative Security Definition.”  The other user (Tony) is also a member of the ACME Members and ACME Managers Roles, so our new Sponsor can also manage him.

Site Sponsorship gives IT administrators the ability to offload basic extranet administration tasks to capable, responsible users, freeing up their time for important IT work, and reducing IT labor costs.