Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Group hug!!

We feel your pain! The boss is pressuring you to maximize the return on your SharePoint investment, but in the same breath says the training budget has been cut. What's a developer/architect/information worker/IT admin/power user to do? Team up! SPTechCon is now offering a group discount for as few as three people from the same company! Put that together with the Super Early Bird discount (good through April 10), and you can save $550 per person off the full conference price! Now that's a recession-beater if I've ever seen one!

Check the registration page for details!

-- David

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

In the Community

First, AIM took the world by storm. Then MySpace, in tandem with Facebook. Now, it ’s Twitter. To quote an effusive colleague,
“EVERYONE is using it!”

But what is worthwhile? How can I separate the tweet from the chaff? (Sorry!)

Well, many SharePoint MVPs and other experts in the field are tweeting wildly even as I write this. Questions are getting answered, projects are progressing, and there ’s some funny stuff up there too.

To offer an entry point to all this, I humbly suggest following
“sptechcon” on Twitter. That ’s the Twitter identity for SPTechCon, and we follow (and are followed by) some of the best in the field who will also be presenting classes at our Boston conference in June. Consider it the aggregator of SharePoint Twitter-ers.

So read at your leisure. Decide who you think can bring the best information, and get involved. Bring your problems, insights and humor, and start following. Or be followed.

It’s more than fun. It ’s good business.

What do you think of the social networks? Is it worth your time? We ’d like to know!

—David Rubinstein

NearPoint for SharePoint

With the growth in SharePoint adoption has come an explosion of “underground” deployments: one-off projects done by small teams in an organization that result in important documents being left outside of existing archive, backup and recovery systems.

To address this, Mimosa Systems is bringing its NearPoint file archiving solution to SharePoint with additional capabilities for data protection and e-discovery. This is done through what Mimosa calls comprehensive capture.

“We can get everything,” said Scott Whitney, vice president of product management for Mimosa. “We don’t just look for document libraries. We get lists, websites, blogs, wikis, site collection and site hierarchy,” he said, itemizing some of the capabilities of NearPoint for SharePoint.

Users can capture everything from a farm level to site collection using the VSS backup technology, and then can get finer, item-level capture through the SharePoint Object Model, Whitney explained.

NearPoint for SharePoint also can perform block-level document versioning. SharePoint keeps full versions of each document, so even if only one thing has changed in the document, SharePoint retains the entire document. Using Microsoft’s Binary Data Compression technology, NearPoint for SharePoint compares the differences between versions and saves only the changed blocks. “This lower storage costs tremendously by getting a huge ratio of compression,” Whitney said.

At US$40 per user, NearPoint for SharePoint was designed to improve e-discovery by making search more comprehensive and by then locking down content. Whitney cited the legal “obligation to preserve” requirement that states that as soon as an organization anticipates litigation, it must preserve all content related to that issue.

“It isn’t always obvious where to invoke” that, so all documents must be locked down and deletion must be controlled to remain in compliance, he noted. “There is no mechanism for these steps in SharePoint,” he added.

--David Rubinstein

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mainsoft brings SharePoint, IBM Rational tools together

Microsoft-to-Java platform integrator Mainsoft has set its sights on SharePoint with today's release of Mainsoft Document Collaboration for Rational Jazz, software that connects IBM’s Rational Team Concert tool set with Microsoft SharePoint or IBM’s counterpart, Lotus Quickr.

Yaacov Cohen, the CEO of Mainsoft, explained that barriers between business stakeholders and IT teams still exist. “They’re using different tools,” he said. “Business users aren’t using the Rational tool set. They might use Office and SharePoint and Quickr, though.”

Cohen cited the case of a Web application development that needed to follow an organization’s guidelines for branding. The guidelines might be held in a PowerPoint slide deck, while the requirements and design template might be in Word documents, and the developers are working in the Rational tool set. Using Mainsoft Document Collaboration, a project manager could point developers to the PowerPoint guidelines with a link in the work order, Cohen explained.

“This gives the software designer a complete view,” Cohen added. “Business people want quick feedback. A development team could perhaps just show the UI elements of the Web application by posting their file on a SharePoint or Quickr site.”

Further, he pointed out, users can see who created or modified the documents, and by putting the documents onto SharePoint and using real-time chat enabled by Lotus Real Time, both development and business sides can look at and discuss the prototype.

Another initiative involves integrating SharePoint workflows with Jazz processes, so “a designer can’t complete a job task until the document is approved” on the business side, Cohen said. Future integrations are planned for IBM Rational Requirements Composer and Quality Manager.

Jazz is the foundation upon which Rational Team Concert is built, and it plays off the need to improve collaboration around an organization, said Brett Hansen of the IBM Rational team. “The world is making substantial investments in software to control costs, improve efficiency and meet customer needs. But many [software] projects don’t meet expectations. So how do we break down organizational and technical barriers that inhibit successful implementation of software?”

IBM will be reselling Mainsoft Document Collaboration in two editions: Express and Standard. Express costs US$4,250; Standard goes for $25,000, with the ability to scale from 50 to 250 developers, and includes workflow integration.

Additionally, IBM will offer support for Mainsoft Document Collaboration for its Jazz products under an agreement with Mainsoft.

--David Rubinstein

Friday, March 13, 2009

Tom Rizzo to Keynote

Microsoft's SharePoint director, Tom Rizzo, has sent in an e-mail saying "Sign me up!" to present the keynote at SPTechCon in Boston, so I have. Tom gave the opening keynote address at the first SPTechCon in Boston, and he provided a lot of good information about the upcoming SharePoint 14 release. Microsoft has pushed general availability back until 2010, and although Tom hasn't yet revealed to us the topic of his Boston keynote, I'm sure some of the work going into the next release will be discussed. More details to come as I get them.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

SharePointers: Working With Excel Services

By Nicola Young
Excel Services is a functionality of SharePoint Server Enterprise that allows you to display and interact with Excel workbooks. It sounds great, but how many of you are using the functionality? Many times when teaching classes or speaking with people at conferences, I get questions about just the basic functionality of Excel Services and how to use it. This article will clear up some of the misconceptions and point you towards some great links to learn how to use Excel Services, whether you are an administrator or a business user.

Why would you even want to consider deploying Excel Services? Excel Services allows you to do the following:
  • Allow users to view and interact with Excel workbooks in their browser without needing to open Microsoft Excel.
  • Protect proprietary information within the workbook.
  • Run the calculations on the server rather than the user’s PC, which should speed up the loading of large, complex workbooks (since the server will be loading the workbooks).
  • The ability to write custom applications against an Excel workbook.
However, Excel Services is not the ability to create workbooks or update existing workbooks. In order to create or update, the users will still need Microsoft Excel on their PC.

Once you decide to take the plunge and deploy Excel Services, here are some quick tips and links to get you started:
  • The document library storing the Microsoft Excel workbook needs to be added to the Trusted File locations. The setting for Trusted File locations is in the Shared Service Provider.
  • The Microsoft Excel workbook must be in the 2007 file format, .xlsx.
  • To render the workbook on a SharePoint page, add the Excel Web Access Web Part and configure the Web Part to be pointed at your desired workbook.
  • There is certain functionality from Excel that will not render in the browser, and certain functionality that will cause the workbook not to load. This link will provide details about this functionality. Please read this before designing your Excel Services solution. You may need to remove functionality from your Excel workbook before it will load correctly, and this will add time and effort to the project.
For more information on how to configure Excel Services, see Chapter 12 in “MOSS Explained: An Information Worker’s Deep Dive” by John Ross and Nicola Young, or my upcoming blog series on www.endusersharepoint.com.

Nicola Young is a SharePoint technologies consultant at SharePoint 911.

Monday, March 9, 2009

SharePoint "Superstar!"

We're pleased to announce that we're adding another half-day workshop, titled "Become Your Company's SharePoint SuperStar!" to the SPTechCon Boston program. It will be presented by endusersharepoint.com founder Mark Miller and his associate Paul Grenier. Here's the description:

Using the techniques shown in this workshop, you will be able work a little black magic on some basic interface problems without help from IT or access to the SharePoint server.

Here are a few things you will be able to do at the conclusion of the workshop:

  • Control the Quick Launch display… tweak, collapse and hide
  • Hide major chunks of the interface that are just not needed on some pages
  • Let users manage the interface with the click of a button
  • Allow manual resizing of web parts on the page
  • Expand and contract all groups in a list
  • Manage your own resources for creating other basic, interface interactions

You don't need to be a programmer. You don't need to be a super geek to get this stuff to work. You just need to have the right tools and know what to do with them. That's what we'll provide.

Also, if you haven't already heard (and you're probably living in a cave without a wireless network if you haven't), the Extreme Early Bird deadline to register for SPTechCon Boston is Thursday, so sign up now to take advantage of the savings.

-- David