Archive for the ‘Administration’ category

Get the Productivity Hub for SharePoint

September 16, 2009

So over the past while I have been raving about how happy Microsoft has made me with their announcement for continued support/updates to the productivity hub. Well I realized I hadn’t even mentioned it on my blog here.

So now I am.

This is a bit of old news, but in case you haven’t heard about it…

The Productivity Hub is a Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007 site collection that offers training materials for end-users. It has blogs, discussion groups, a coach ‘program’ (listing of coaches you can define and extend), change management (to reduce load on IT staff) and tons of great starting content for a powerful SharePoint and Office help center.

Download it here: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=277fefca-d62f-41bc-943d-79002254cfee&displaylang=en

Why is this so good?

  1. The obvious one is that this reduces cost and overhead related to training. It acts as a tool for training departments and IT.
  2. Not just one way to learn. Since the content can be video, documents, coached training, forums, blogs and more it means you have many learning paths available for individuals.
  3. Drives adoption. The coach concept and if you properly highlight the productivity hub with featured material, or roll up a tip/trick each week on your intranet homepage with a reference to the productivity hub you can begin to imagine how it can help improve shared understanding and overall user adoption of SharePoint.
  4. The content updates for the hub (more released on a schedule like this: Aug 2009, November 2009, February 2010, May 2010 etc) will add more and more great documents, videos and help for end users without you having to do any discovery on your own. You simple download and run the content updates. You can review the content each time to ensure it falls in line with your solution, customizations, and objectives but it can save you tons of time.
  5. It provides a framework/starting point for a great knowledge sharing/community solution. If you have never played with/experimented with PKS, or built knowledge sharing areas this is a good example of some important features/techniques. There is a built in feature listing/functionality where certain material can be featured. It has a rating system to help ensure the community moderates and promotes the best content, it runs in SharePoint so you can control and customize the permissions to your hearts content, and so on and so forth.

Ian over at at wssdemo.com has done a wonderful thing and installed/made this available here: http://templates.wssdemo.com/sites/productivity/Pages/Default.aspx

Brief note here for Administrators: It is intensive on the SQL side on install so make sure to do this in off hours or plan accordingly.

I was a bit excited in writing this, but I really am excited and hope you are as well,
Richard Harbridge

P.S – As a social media aside: http://www.slideshare.net/sachac/smarter-work-why-social-networks-matter is a slide show on “Smarter Work and Why Social Networks Matter” from Sacha that is a fantastic, short, and simple explanation of why things like this matter. In our case this is a community building toolset (productivity hub) and will help boost adoption. 🙂

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Selling SharePoint Services Internally

June 10, 2009

SharePoint is BIG. It’s a large complex platform that enables users to create a limitless number of possible solutions. It is also scary, largely unknown to many people, and difficult to understand how to use/apply successfully for a specific business need.

If your organization has SharePoint odds are you have some SharePoint “Experts” who know SharePoint very well. In a way that group is a consulting company internally. Often they identify opportunities, gather requirements, build solutions and train users.

So how do they sell those services to users internally? If I am a department head and I want to see how SharePoint can help me how do I go about doing it? Often this is an ad hoc or process defined in your SharePoint governance. They contact the support team or the solution team which takes them through the SharePoint business value planning sessions (for lack of a better term).

The thing is, how are those users even going to know that SharePoint can help them in the first place? User adoption, training, evangelization and internal marketing can certainly help get the message out there, but a much simpler and cost effective method also exists (that should be done together with other methods). This method is rarely implemented.

Set up a SharePoint Services Offered page for your users internally. This page should be just like a consultant organizations would be. This is what we can do for you.

Really Simplified Example:

Gold Team Package – Your team works hard and shares information all the time. How can you improve sharing, retention and organization so that the team is more efficient? Try a SharePoint team site! In it you will get the following features:

  1. Share documents more easily and take advantage of alerts which let you know when content has been updated.
  2. Improve version control, and document integrity reducing the pain of looking up old versions of documents, or the pain of sifting through duplicated documents for the right version.
  3. Share announcements and important news easily.
  4. Keep track of important project/team contacts in one place.
  5. Distribute and manage tasks across the entire team so everyone can know what needs to be done.
  6. Keep everyone aware of important deadlines and dates with shared calendars.

Platinum Team Package – With the platinum team package you get all the benefits of a Gold Team Package but with some added advanced features that can really take your team or department to the next level!

  1. Collaborate together and build a knowledge base using a wiki.
  2. Push out important news, personal thoughts, or changes on a regular basis using blogs.
  3. Work collaboratively on preparing a meeting’s agenda, objectives, or to even help facilitate it using meeting workspaces.

Available Add On/Optional Services:

  1. Workflow Add On for Business Processes – If you have a business process that is difficult to monitor, audit, or work through we can help simplify it via a business process analysis session or two and streamline/automate it through SharePoint.
  2. Usage and Analysis Training – Ever wonder how you can improve your site? One way this can be done is by reading over what areas are used most often, and which areas are not. This can help you improve navigation and see what users like the most about your site.
  3. Site Management Training – So you have a site or would like to create a new one but don’t yet know how to manage navigation, permissions, or build lists/libraries? No worries this training will give you the jump start you need or greatly improve what will be possible in your site.
  4. Records Center Auditing – If you have important information that you need to ensure is stored, tracked, and kept for auditing purposes this can really help!

For each solution/option include how much training is available, or necessary as well as what other benefits they will receive. Try and make it really easy to navigate through and understand what is really available only a call or email away.

Users can now review the list of available solutions and pick what they think they want. If you think about it the cost is how much of their time is necessary. If your organization is large you can actually charge across departments/divisions using a revenue/cost transfer method. So you could ACTUALLY price these services out. This makes it easier for users to see what is available, and it makes it much easier on the support and solution teams because it is more standardized.

I don’t really see how anyone can have a governance plan and not do something like this (in their own way).

Just a thought that I hope helps,
Richard Harbridge

The Importance of ‘Tuning’ for a More Successful SharePoint

June 2, 2009

One of those things that I have seen from time to time is organizations who have implemented SharePoint not examining the usage statistics, feedback, surveys, or measuring user adoption correctly or on a continual basis. This is extremely important because it allows us to adjust, shift, and improve our SharePoint deployment over time.

From the very beginning of a SharePoint project (or any project) you should determine how you can measure it’s success. The typical two things that we measure on any project is time and money. In SharePoint projects this is still an accurate metric, however it’s important to note that SharePoint is a solution set that delivers value over time. It does not realize it’s full value until some time after the initial implementation has been completed. This is in part due to the considerable training, user adoption, and basically learning  to leverage the functionality best.

So if SharePoint realizes it’s value over time, it also makes sense that if we can continue to improve, focus, and adjust our SharePoint implementation over time it’s considerable value can be further enhanced and even tailored to specific needs. Needs that we will begin to see as the SharePoint platform matures within the organization.

I have never met someone who doesn’t think of SharePoint and almost automatically begin thinking of point solutions, or quick wins.  Personally I believe this is one of the main reasons it’s so hard to think of a larger measurement and long term success of a SharePoint implementation. We are tempted to only consider the individual business cases as measurable and spend our time examining and reviewing these.

It’s also important to examine the entire SharePoint deployment or implementation. This can provide extremely important insight on where perhaps things are falling short, such as training, user adoption in certain areas of the business, or new needs/missed needs of the users. The best part? SharePoint offers a bunch of tools to help and assist in achieving a much better idea of overall SharePoint adoption, and success in areas of the business.

Use Surveys!

The platform gives you surveys which are a great tool that can be used for very flexable and specific analysis requirements. I highly recommend that ANY SharePoint project, and certainly the entire SharePoint ‘comfort’ level of the organization be surveyed from time to time. This can help us get more information than the basic “time and money” metrics. This can tell us how happy people are, how satisfied they are, frustrated they are, or how much they are using SharePoint.

If you haven’t used SharePoint survey’s before. Start now and get a more comprehensive picture of your users, adoption, and “SharePoint Success”.

  1. Plan and Create a Survey: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepointtechnology/HA102085781033.aspx
  2. Responding to a Survey (for the end users): http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepointtechnology/HA102085791033.aspx?pid=CH102386051033
  3. View and Analyze Survey Results: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepointtechnology/HA102088111033.aspx?pid=CH100649421033

Promote Feedback!

Another great thing SharePoint provides is an easy way to organize what I call “feedback funnels”. We can use something as simple as a ‘contact, or provide feedback’ link on each site or area so that users can communicate with the owners and leaders of that content. You could use SharePoint lists for feedback (survey’s as suggested as well) or even InfoPath forms. You could also add in the ability for users to rate content which is another form of providing feedback which benefits everyone.

The important thing isn’t really the ‘how’ this is done though. It’s the building of a culture and people so that they WANT to communicate feedback. It’s really important to help everyone feel like their input is invaluable and important.

SharePoint at it’s base is a collaborative platform. If the organization doesn’t communicate adding SharePoint won’t do anything except perhaps promote visibility of the communication issues, or provide a tool/framework to begin communicating more with and to start the conversations around communication needs in the organization.

If the organization is already collaborative then really drive the point that they are building the SharePoint intranet (as an example) and that with their feedback it can be much better.

Analyze Usage Statistics!

An intranet and/or extranet is similar to a website when it comes to measuring user interaction. Page hits as an example is an extremely important unit of measurement that can help determine what pages may need to be updated, improved, or easier to get to. It’s important to measure the usage statistics regularly and to make them a part of the continual improvement process for SharePoint. There are even webparts you can add or develop that will show the most popular pages, articles, or content for users.

One thing I personally enjoy is the users statistics. When you can see who has, and hasn’t been visiting certain areas of content it can greatly improve your ability to identify people who may need more training, knowledge, support, or understanding of why that area is important and beneficial. It also helps you identify the power users for some of your content. These people are extremely important in improving overall user adoption in the organization and can help take your SharePoint implementation to the next level.

The last example of usage statistics I will provide will be on how search queries and search terms can help you improve search, the taxonomy of your sites, and present certain material on dashboards or homepages. You can even create your own custom tracking, or implement solutions that provide greater visibility of key statistics and indicators. As an example if you have media content the podcasting kit can help show the number of downloads or views of certain material.

That was a fair bit of rambling but hopefully something in here helps someone out there or helps spark an idea that hadn’t been considered,
Richard Harbridge

Development and Design Concepts (How to get to Predictable Development)

February 24, 2009

Today I stumbled upon an old post by Alan Cooper located here: http://www.cooper.com/journal/2007/10/design_engineering_the_next_st.html
(Thanks to another blog post on SpittingCAML for bringing my attention to it.)

I want to ask you all a question based on the article and Development/Design Concepts that are debated out there, but before I ask the question I need to give some background:

The article is extremely well articulated and while I am not a fan of necessarily grouping people as one collection or another it does a good job of illustrating some of the deep set challenges of our current Development Practices (I speak of a wide generalization based on what I have seen in organizations I have worked with). The issue described in the article particularly is that of unpredictable development.

The issue Alan illustrates here of unpredictable development clearly describes that the approach to solving them is by better understanding individual programmer objectives or goals and mapping that in a way to the processes we use to create the end solution.

He creates two classifications, builders and designers and explains each. For the sake of brevity I will just quote the illustration here:

The first camp is composed of builders: those programmers who, like the many carpenters and masons who preceded them in history, take a sublime joy in seeing their handiwork take form in the real world where it can be—and is—used and appreciated by others. They may be hammering together packing crates or they may be painstakingly crafting Steinway pianos, but seeing their products of wood and steel assume a tangible form that gets things done in the wider world provides them with a sense of accomplishment and well-being. It achieves their goals.

The second camp is composed of designers: those programmers who, like the many visionaries who preceded them in history, take a sublime joy in seeing complex, apparently intractable problems dissolve in the face of their creative thinking. They may be arranging utensils in their kitchen drawers or they may be painstakingly calculating how to shape a girder to support a mile-long highway bridge, but seeing that the solution they imagine is the best and most efficient one possible provides them with a sense of accomplishment and well-being. It achieves their goals.

Of course, the builders share in the joy of devising clever solutions just as the designers revel in seeing their creations take real form, but if a mutually exclusive choice between the two options ever arises, each will be happy to focus on the type of work that best satisfies his goals.

What I think is important here (and I am trying to be objective) is that the article outlines a simple yet effective way to help improve development processes. The method outlined: By creating designers and builders with appropriate roles and responsibilities that run in line with their personal goals and objectives; the development work and end result will be far more predictable and of higher quality. This quality can be measured as reduced cost, higher morale, and so on.

You can read hundreds of books and articles, and of course this is a heated debate topic, but for me personally I believe that the only way a development process and methodology will be effective is if it works for the actual developers you have on staff.

As an individual developer it is extremely important to know and understand your fellow developers. It is even more important for anyone structuring development practices or managing developers to understand the developers they manage. Knowing their personal goals, interests, and objectives will allow you to assign them with the work that is most suited to their personality and style.

Realistically the ‘builder’ and ‘designer’ is an extremely oversimplified description, but it has value in that it is a separation of developer types under more than one classification. This way there is a greater chance of them getting the kind of work they want.

Let’s think about that for a moment:

  1. What happens if a developer falls under both types? Or seems caught in the middle?
  2. Or if (as is the case in many small development groups) the developer must constantly change roles to deal with the increased demand?
  3. Then even comes the more challenging aspect of:
    Who makes the judgment for which group they belong under?
    The manager? The developer? Co-workers? A objective and neutral testing process?

It becomes a spiral of questions that quickly pulls attention away from the important and easily understood concept that the individual’s goals and personality (regardless of what they do whether it be development, design, consulting, analysis, etc) should have an impact on the work assigned to them and that the only way we can try and assign work is by using classifications.

We use classifications for everything. From our professions (Analyst, Designer, Developer, Manager, etc) to often our personalities themselves (Introvert, Extrovert). These all provide value if they are used correctly.

The great article Alan wrote depicts two interesting classifications of developers which separates them by their goals and interests (or personality).

Hold on a second, I said earlier I am not a fan of grouping people or classifying them, and yet I just described how it is effective? It is effective and works in many situations however these can never be static, and will and MUST change based on hundreds of influencing factors.

You will no doubt need to break each classification down further, or adjust them to match the kinds of developers you have, or adjust them to better suit the kind of architecture and design work necessary for successful projects based on the technology you use. All these reasons and more such as cost, organization style, your own management style, etc will influence how you structure it. In some cases for extremely small development groups it won’t make sense to even have classifications.

So in summary (I know I rambled a bit, apologies) Alan’s article is really fascinating and good because it shows that many other people understand that the personality of developers influences the development process and development design concepts. He also (based on his own situation and experience) suggests two classifications that work for managing and working with his developers.

So the question I give to you is:

What classifications would you use?
The same ones? Or different ones? If they are different why are they different? What is your situation like?

Have fun thinking about it, or applying some of the concepts Alan describes,
Richard Harbridge

InfoPath Webpart – Host InfoPath Templates in WebPartPages – Free

February 12, 2009

First of all why? If for nothing else there are products that are sold out there that literally cost hundreds of dollars that do exactly what I am going to describe in this post (and in some cases have extra limitations).

If you want to host an InfoPath form template embedded in a SharePoint webpart page it is a fairly easy process and I noticed a few glitches or extra steps in the articles I found on this so I figured I would iterate my own perspective.

There is a webpart  included in the Enterprise version of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server. The webpart is called the XmlFormView: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/microsoft.office.infopath.server.controls.xmlformview.aspx. It is powerful, simple, and relatively easy to use. However it is not in the webpart gallery by default there are a few steps you need to do to enable this nice little webpart in your SharePoint web application and then the targeted site collection.

Step One – Modify the Web.Config:

The first step is to modify the web.config file with an extra safe control entry. (Web.config files are stored typically in “C:\Inetpub\wwwroot\wss\VirtualDirectories\PORT NUMBER  or host header name” (Back up the web.config first if you want, but this is a pretty safe change.) The entry you are going to add is shown below and goes in the <SafeControls> section (in case you didn’t guess that :P):

<SafeControl Assembly=“Microsoft.Office.InfoPath.Server, Version=12.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=71e9bce111e9429c” Namespace=”Microsoft.Office.InfoPath.Server.Controls” TypeName=”*” Safe=”True” />

NOTE BEFORE YOU COPY – WordPress messes with my ” characters I think, so make sure you either type this out personally, or at least check it before copying and pasting into your web.config (otherwise you’ll get a server error.)

Save the web.config file after you change it and load up the target site collection in a browser.

Step Two – Make the WebPart Available For Use:

Access Site Settings for the root of the site collection.

sitesettings

Select the WebPart’s Gallery.

webpartssitesettings

Click New.

xmlwebpartnew

Find the Microsoft.Office.InfoPath.Server.Controls.XmlFormView. Select the checkbox beside it and click the populate Gallery button.

xmlformwebpartadd

Step Three (Optional) – Change the WebPart Details:

Now let’s change the webpart’s properties because the name isn’t very helpful (XmlFormView).

xmleditwebpart

Just put in whatever details you want. This is also where you should probably set this webpart up so that only certain groups can add it who have the training and knowledge to do so.

xmlwebpartupdate

Step Four – Add the WebPart to a Page and Configure It:

Now all we have to do is navigate to a page and add the webpart. Simply click the gold add webpart band on the target page when in edit mode and scroll down to the webpart we added (and renamed :)).

xmladdwebpart

After clicking Add you will recieve an error. Don’t worry about it, just hit close. The webpart will show on the page like so.

xmlwebpartclosed

Modify it’s properties and add the following three important things:

  1. Change the EditingStatus to Edited or Init (as desired) since Closed probably isn’t what you want.
  2. Set the XSNLocation to wherever your xsn form is being stored. In my example here I have deployed it to a form libary called Library.
  3. Set the save location for where the form should save to. In my example I actually have the option DisableSave in there so this isn’t necessary (since I am saying to disable the ability to save from this part). Remember your xsn’s submission rules normally dictate where the form will be saved and stored.

xmlformviewproperties

And voila the form should display like you always wanted.

xmlformviewerinpage1

Step Six – After Effects:

Tell your boss you just saved the company several hundred dollars and did an amazing job.

Hope this helps someone out there (and doesn’t offend any of the ISV/product companies who do something like this),
Richard Harbridge

Show Content to Anonymous Users/Hide Content from Logged in Users

February 12, 2009

A while ago I made a quick post about the SPSecurityTrimmedControl and how it can easily be used to hide any content based on permissions. (https://sharepointkb.wordpress.com/2008/09/02/hide-content-or-controls-based-on-permissions/)

Jason Coleman brought up a good question which was “How can you hide content from someone who is logged in?” (As opposed to anonymous access.) This could be used to hide registration links, sign in links, and other custom content you might have.

The answer is very simple. We just add javascript that hides controls or that changes the look of elements on the page into the SPSecurityTrimmedControl. This javascript would only render when users have the required level of permissions so anonymous users would see the content, but it would be hidden for logged in users. 🙂

Simple Example:

<div id=“RegistrationLink”>REGISTER</div>

<SharePoint:SPSecurityTrimmedControl ID=SPSecurityTrimmedControl1  PermissionsString=CreateAlerts runat=server>
<script type=”text/javascript” language=”javascript”>
document.getElementById(RegistrationLink).style.display = “none”;
</script>
</SharePoint:SPSecurityTrimmedControl>

IMPORTANT NOTE: Of course you called also use the ASP login view control to do this as well, and this is probably recommended since it’s designed to do just that. LoginView Control: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/system.web.ui.webcontrols.loginview.aspx

I am merely trying to illustrate other uses for the above control because I like it so much. 🙂

Hope this helps someone,
Richard Harbridge

Query list with Excel Error (Windows cannot find .iqy)

February 10, 2009

A great many people experience this issue and it’s hard to find an answer/resolution for it. When you open the task pane in a SharePoint list and choose Query list with Excel you receive an error with something similar to the following: “Windows cannot find ‘C:\Users\Username\AppData\Local\Temp\Low\list6856.iqy’. Make sure you typed the name correctly, and then try again.”

exceltasksheet

exceltaskerror

The reason you get this message? Odds are your Internet explorer settings have protected mode on, and/or you don’t have the SharePoint address set as a trusted location.

So it’s VERY easy to fix, just turn off protect mode, or add it to trusted sites, or local intranet (if that makes sense) and set those zones to have protected mode off (you don’t need protected mode on a local intranet, trust me).

protectedmode

Do this and you should be golden and the issue should go away.

Hope this helps someone,
Richard Harbridge