Monday, November 30, 2009

Training for SharePoint Beginners

If your organization is just now getting around to SharePoint, all this talk about new features and concepts introduced in SharePoint Server 2010 can make you feel as if the world has passed you by, and learning anything at all will be an uphill struggle.
Fear not.
At SPTechCon, we're running three concurrent sessions we're calling SharePoint 101 -- for developers, system administrators, and end (business) users. These full-day workshop-style sessions will introduce you to the basics of SharePoint, what it is, what it can do, and how you work with it.
On the developer side, expert Philip Wicklund will provide an introduction to SharePoint for experienced developers who are new to the software, but who have been charged with creating the custom components with which their end users will assemble line-of-business applications. Everything from forms, spreadsheet models, feature and site definitions, and Web parts will be examined, along with the object model and the business data catalog.
Mike Watson, who was part of the Microsoft team that created SharePoint, will give a deep dive into SharePoint administration. SharePoint is excellent software for collaboration and creating Web sites, among many other things. The administrator’s role is to hold it all together, through installation, creation of server farms, and architecting, configuration and management of the servers. This session will give experienced administrators new to SharePoint the knowledge they need to take on a SharePoint installation, and to get some rogue implementations under control.
Finally, project management expert Dux Raymond Sy will bring business users up to speed on information management, Navigation and lists, libraries, collaboration and document management. He also will discuss project management dashboards, site templates and Web parts for reporting -- all for technically savvy users whose organizations have mandated the adoption of SharePoint.
These full-day workshops are designed to smooth your path into the full, two-day technical conference that follows. Once the foundation of knowledge has been poured in the full-day workshops, you'll be ready to build upon that from the 70+ classes offered for developers, admins, business users, architects and project managers.
So join us in California, and catch the SharePoint wave!
-- David

Spotlight on 2010: Questions You May Be Asking Yourself

By Errin O’Connor, EPC Group

My firm is currently engaged in several large SharePoint 2007 implementations that are in their initial phases, and questions are being asked around SharePoint 2010 and how best these clients should prepare for it. I frequently get asked questions such as “Should we just wait until SharePoint 2010’s release to roll out our project?” or “What are the major features or changes in 2010 we can plan for now so that we are prepared?”

One major shift that I have seen with many clients is the realization that SharePoint is, in fact, not only a true Enterprise Content Management system (ECM) but the central interface their organization can utilize for virtually anything. MOSS 2007 could handle major ECM initiatives with customizations, or around areas such as workflows and the content types, but SharePoint 2010, in my opinion, is going to take out the old 800-pound gorillas such as Documentum and LiveLink.

You can start to prepare for SharePoint 2010’s upcoming release by doing several things:

· Implement a SharePoint Governance Strategy within your organization:

· This strategy has to be a living and breathing document that continually changes and grows with your organization’s implementation. SharePoint 2010 has about three times the features of SharePoint 2007 so Governance is going to be ever more important with the upcoming release. Operational SharePoint Governance is key! Not just how the ship (SharePoint) works, but how to drive the ship, maintain the ship, and dock the ship.

· Prepare your infrastructure:

· SharePoint 2010 is 64-bit all around so you need to ensure your infrastructure is compatible with the upcoming release.

· Tighten up your SharePoint training strategy

· There are major changes such in the user interface so it’s important to have internal teams who can handle the training of end-users. Perhaps more importantly, develop a SharePoint “train the trainer” strategy

· Implement a core Content Type Strategy

· So many organizations have rolled out SharePoint 2007 without a proper content type strategy and this problem will only continue to increase on a daily basis as more content is created. It’s key to develop a core set of content types that will work across your entire organization.

· Remember that SharePoint 2010 can have millions of items in a document library so start getting prepared!

· Start matching up your core content type strategy to your organization’s retention schedule.

· Spring Cleaning in the winter

· If one of your goals is to migrate off of your organization’s old file shares and into SharePoint 2010, start the cleanup efforts now. This can be a three- or four-month effort in itself, so start having your teams go through and clean up old content on the file shares (or even in SharePoint 2007) that is no longer valid or required so that the migration into SharePoint 2010 will go much smoother.

· Don’t wait to roll out a test environment of SharePoint 2010

· We are encouraging all our clients who have 2007 implementations to stand up SharePoint 2010 environments so that your organization can start familiarizing yourself with it.

Over the next several months I will be sharing SharePoint 2010 strategies, new and powerful features, and real-world implementation advice via this newsletter and I look forward to sharing my thoughts. I am in the process of writing the upcoming “SharePoint 2010 Inside Out” book for Microsoft Press on this new amazingly powerful platform.

Errin O’Connor is the founder of EPCGroup.net.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Atalasoft Updates Vizit Document Viewer

Atalasoft has announced the release of its Vizit 2.0 document viewer, which lets users preview SharePoint documents via column and full-text search. The company's press release gives all the details.
-- David

Spotlight on 2010: Workspace -- The Client for SharePoint

By Joshua Haebets

There are so many exciting features in SharePoint 2010; SharePoint Workspace has to be up there as one of the best. It has been a long time coming, but now we have a rich desktop client that can give users the offline experience they have wanted.

SharePoint Workspace is the new version of Groove, which was added to the Office family in 2007 after Microsoft's earlier acquisition of Groove Networks. Groove was a peer-to-peer collaboration tool, and in 2007, it added the ability to sync with SharePoint sites. But this process was not as seamless as many would have liked.

The release of the 2010 family of Office products has seen Microsoft give users a true offline tool for SharePoint. Workspace allows users to synchronize all collaborative information from SharePoint sites to the desktop. Collaborative information is all list data within a SharePoint site, which includes custom lists, document libraries and external lists. All the metadata and version history comes with the documents.

With a couple of clicks within the browser, a user can download the entire contents of a site to the local machine. The user experience is so good, you will see users using Workspace exclusively and rarely going to the site when working with documents and list items. This also extends to MySite, allowing users to keep all their data within SharePoint, which means that My Documents will no longer need to be synchronized for backup. Administrators will now have the ability to prevent a site from being taken offline to avoid confidential information being taken offsite.

The document management experience within Workspace is as good and in some ways better than the browser. Users have the ability to check in and check out documents, and view version history and all document metadata. This works with the UI, keeping the ribbon in context with the list or library the user is working with. Workspace integrates with the Office suite, allowing users to save directly to any synchronized sites from a quick link within the dialogue box in any of the Office applications.

Another great new feature in SharePoint 2010 is the external list capabilities. These are lists that contain information held in external databases. Business Connectivity Services, previously the Business Data Catalogue, allows you to present line-of-business data in a SharePoint list, where users can add, edit, update and delete items. When connected with SharePoint Workspace, users now have the capability to take this data offline to reference, update and have changes uploaded to the LOB system when they are next connected to SharePoint.

SharePoint Workspace is the offline application we have all been waiting for. It is a simple interface with intelligent synchronization that now enables us to work with our SharePoint data no matter the location or network availability.

Joshua Haebets is a Microsoft Certified SharePoint Specialist based in Australia.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

SharePointers: Selecting the Right Workflow Technology

By Bjorn Furuknap

Perhaps the single feature that produces a “wow” in any SharePoint solution is the use of workflow to automate business processes. Users are impressed to see that tasks previously taking days of paper shuffling and manual reminders by e-mail are now done in minutes and completely automatic.

However, SharePoint business process automation isn’t just a single topic. In fact, out of the box, you have at least two vastly different workflow options. If you don’t think that’s enough, several third-party developers offer even more options. Simply saying that you want workflow isn’t enough.

Let’s introduce the contestants.

SharePoint Designer workflows

SharePoint Designer 2007 offers easy access to workflows for end users. The major benefits of SharePoint Designer workflows are the low entry point and that you can easily create and modify workflows without hiring an expensive specialist. Do you want an approval workflow slightly different from the out-of-the-box version? You’ll have it within minutes of starting SharePoint Designer.

The downside is lack of flexibility, and, at least until SharePoint Designer 2010 comes along, lack of reusability. SharePoint Designer is perfect for smaller ad-hoc processes, but lacks the power to perform the truly heavy lifting in business process automation.

Visual Studio workflows

When you want to use a workflow for multiple sites or need more flexibility than SharePoint Designer offers, you want to look into Visual Studio workflows. With the power of Visual Studio, developers can create about as complex processes as anyone can imagine. Hook up to data sources to retrieve information, spawn recursive and parallel workflows, calculate the exact value of pi; anything can, in theory, be accomplished with a Visual Studio workflow.

The downside, however, is the learning curve. Visual Studio workflows require far more of the developer than SharePoint Designer, and if you don’t have deep pockets or vast amounts of time on your hands, you may end up wishing more than deploying.

Third-party workflows

If these two extremes are not for you, you need to look outside the Microsoft realm for your solution. Several third-party developers provide workflow authoring tools that adds variety to the workflow fauna.

I have worked extensively with two of these developers, Nintex and K2. Both offer complementary workflow products, and where Nintex is a balance between SharePoint Designer and Visual Studio, K2 is targeted at developers looking to harness even more power than Visual Studio provides.

If you want to learn more about these technologies, I have written several issues of Understanding SharePoint Journal focused on workflow. Issue 4 covers SharePoint Designer workflow. There is a special issue covering Nintex Workflow, and issue 7 covers Visual Studio workflows.

Bjorn Furuknap is the creator of the online “Understanding SharePoint Journal”

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

SharePoint news from PDC

Microsoft today announced the release of the public beta of SharePoint Server 2010, along with the 2010 versions of Office, Visio, Project and Office Web Apps. The beta can be downloaded here. A Q&A regarding the announcement with Microsoft's Kurt Del Bene, senior vice president of the Office Productivity Group, can be read here.

Microsoft also said it will create software that ties SharePoint to SAP. Called Duet Enterprise for Microsoft SharePoint and SAP, the new tool will enable additonal interoperability between the platforms. It is due to be released in the second half of 2010. Pascal Gilbert, director of Duet product management at Microsoft, discusses the software in an interview.

You can follow the news from PDC on the SD Times Web site.

-- David

Monday, November 16, 2009

SharePointers: Using SPD to Build Link to Filtered View

By Jennifer Mason
SharePoint911

Recently, I was working on a project where the users of the system wanted to be able to see a collection of summary data and quickly link into additional details. The specific scenario we were monitoring was a goals management system. We had created a site that managed several different lists, including a goals list, a work-plans list and a list of tasks associated with each of the work-plans. Users wanted to be able to quickly link between a specific set of goals, work-plans and tasks.

One way to achieve this requirement was to provide a link within each list item that opens a filtered view of the other lists. For example, in the Goals list, each list item has field that contains a link to a filtered view of the work-plans list that shows only work-plans associated with that goal. Likewise, the work-plan list items contain a field that provides a link to a filtered view of the tasks list that shows only tasks associated with that specific work-plan.

To achieve this we created a SharePoint Designer workflow that creates the link that will be used to open the filtered list views. The rest of this article will walk you through the steps used to create this. For our example, we will be adding a link to each Work-Plan item that opens a view of the tasks list that only shows tasks associated with that specific Work-Plan.


Friday, November 13, 2009

A Veritable 'Linkapalooza'

Here are some useful links from this week's SPTechReport. (Sign up to get it delivered FREE!)

Ten modules to get started developing in SharePoint 2010

Workforce management application for SharePoint

Four – count ‘em, FOUR! – SharePoint Saturdays this, uh, Saturday!

Joel Oleson: Ten things DBAs will LOVE about SharePoint 2010

Building a SharePoint 2010 Service Application

Migrating from MCMS 2002 to MOSS 2007

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Spotlight on 2010: Does It Deliver End-User Empowerment?

By Steven Fowler
“Connect and empower people” was a benefit often mentioned about SharePoint 2010 in the literature, keynote, and by session speakers at the Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2009 in October. But how specifically has Microsoft delivered on this?
One of the new pillars of SharePoint is Composites. Composites are rapidly created business solutions that meet the needs of a specific line of business (LOB). These solutions are typically defined by decision-makers and subject matter experts (SMEs) who know the information they need. The twist with SharePoint 2010 is to deliver tools that allow these same decision-makers and SMEs to build their own solutions rather than turning to an in-house IT pro or software developer, or external vendor.
With a consolidation in workforce, there are more systems for the IT pro and software developer to design, develop, support. By empowering the end user through the use of Composites, the IT pro and software developer become an advisor to the process rather than a bottle-neck. They are there to insure that Composite solutions are implemented properly and are left to those activities that only their professional skills can perform. In reality though, increased capability comes with an inherent complexity that must be considered.
Consider that SharePoint 2010 allows users to define and manage the experience using rules-based audience targeting, SharePoint groups and distribution lists. This requires that a user be adequately trained on how to use these feature/functions and that IT anticipates levels of support needed for users they empower. There will be times when the IT pro or software developer may be called upon to triage and remedy a production issue related to a decision the empower user has made, but in the big picture, that’s a price worth paying.
The more popular Composite applications are those implemented as Office 2010 client applications, such as: Word, Excel, and Access. SharePoint 2010 also extends this to include offline capability with Workspace 2010 and Visio 2010.
Custom content management workflows are common in every organization. Visio 2010 addresses the challenges associated with workflows in allowing the person that defines the workflow (the SME) to also implement the workflow.
SMEs can use Visio 2010 to express the intent of the workflow process, and export it to SharePoint Designer 2010 for further implementation of business logic and rules. Depending on the complexity of the workflow, a developer resource can be utilized, and even exported to Visual Studio 2010 if it is determined that complex or broad-scoped business requirements are present.
These workflows are people-based activities, not just interfaces between systems; they allow the information worker to collect data. SharePoint collects the information between workflow process stages and steps with the use of forms that are rendered to the browser, Office clients, and SharePoint Workspace. With SharePoint 2010 the SharePoint Designer generated the necessary forms using InfoPath 2010 that SMEs can then customize.
Along with these enhancements over SharePoint 2007 is the ability to monitor workflow process. Once workflows have been triggered and are in various process steps, SharePoint 2007 made it difficult to determine their status based on the overall workflow execution plan. SharePoint 2010 makes this easier via workflow visualizations within Visio Services that render a graphical representation of the entire workflow execution plan and indicate what stage the workflow is currently in.
Has SharePoint 2010 delivered? It seems so. SharePoint 2010 has matured many of the well-adopted SharePoint 2007 features, allowing users to self-service their business automation needs.

Steven Fowler is an author, speaker, instructor, and consultant with more than 14 years of progressive software project management, architecture, and engineering experience. His current focus is delivering SharePoint design, development, and support services at a founder of SharePointPS.com

Standardizing on AJAX

In the last issue of SPTechReport, we asked readers to write in with questions about facets of SharePoint that most interested them. In response came this letter from Jim Greenway, SharePoint admin (among other things) at T.D. Williamson Inc.: “I wasn’t able to attend the unveiling of SharePoint 2010 [at SPC in Las Vegas] so I’m really in the dark about some of its capabilities. I have heard, with SharePoint 2010 and the use of Java code, that Microsoft was standardizing on AJAX with little or no support for 3rd party tools such as MooTools. I haven’t been able to confirm this. I would like to see something around what Microsoft’s standards are when it comes to code such as Java. A lot of the functional pieces of our external web site, which was built in SharePoint, were developed using MooTools.“
Scott Jamison, formerly of Microsoft’s SharePoint team and now at SharePoint consultancy Jornata, responded: “Microsoft is absolutely standardizing on AJAX for the OOB UI in SharePoint 2010. However, developers will still need to 'pick a library' when it comes to developing for SharePoint. And MooTools will still be relevant for developing UI elements.”
And Microsoft MVP Dennis Bottjer of SpringPoint Technologies elaborated: “Basically, SharePoint 2010 is now enabling out-of-the box support for MS AJAX and Silverlight. Currently, MOSS 2007 supports both MS AJAX and Silverlight but many configuration steps must be performed to enable their support. SharePoint 2010 also add a new “client object model,” which is basically an AJAX Wrapper for web services. Microsoft also previously announced support for JQuery within Visual Studio 2008 and beyond, which makes MS AJAX and JQuery the logical choices for JavaScript frameworks over MooTools. Both frameworks are supported by the vendor and know to work with SharePoint. The goal should be to leverage MS AJAX as much as possible since it will be baked in and then leverage JQuery if needed to cover some gaps. JQuery is very compatible and is known to “get along” with other JavaScript frameworks such as MS AJAX.”
What other questions have cropped up since the unveiling of SharePoint 2010? Drop me a line at drubinstein@bzmedia.com.