Archive for the ‘Tips and Tricks’ category

SharePoint Tips from Indiana Jones?

December 23, 2009

I just commented on Michael Gannotti’s latest post “The Adventure Begins… Productivity Adventures” about how Indiana Jones had a lot of good business lessons. I decided I could probably expand that into a short blog post in case someone out there finds this stuff interesting.

So what sort of lessons, or tips can Indiana Jones teach us that are related to achieving a successful SharePoint?

  1. You have to have the courage to take on something challenging.
    Indiana Jones never ran away from a Challenge (well not the ones that mattered). It’s important to first be ready and dedicated to accomplishing a goal. SharePoint is a very challenging thing to implement successfully, and the business problems it helps solve are even more daunting. Courage always helps.
  2. Know your limits and what your good at.
    Remember that scene when Indiana Jones is being chased by that giant unstoppable boulder? While courage is important you still need to know your limits and when it makes sense to ‘run away’. Or in a business sense cut your losses. Sometimes things are unstoppable and we have to be ready to admit it to ourselves to help us survive (hopefully with lots of lessons learned so we don’t do it again). Not every idea you come up with is going to work. SharePoint certainly has limits of it’s own and you also need to understand these.
  3. Simplicity is often the best option. (Gun vs Sword)
    There is a scene, Gun vs Sword, where a scary bad guy is waving his sword around and there is a build up where you expect a big fight. Instead Indy pulls out his gun and just shoots the guy. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DzcOCyHDqc) Sometimes the solution to something is simple and there is no need to make it more complicated. This is especially important for SharePoint as complexity often leads to bad choices being made, especially when it’s unnecessary.
  4. You need to know your stuff and be ready to learn.
    Indy is a super subject matter expert and professor in his field with plenty of knowledge about history, archeology and foreign lands. If you are diving into something like SharePoint you should hit the books first, and will need to learn a ton. Not only about the technical aspects but also about the business, and business processes you will be effecting by your SharePoint implementation.
  5. You don’t have to be a superhero.
    Indiana Jones was more or less an ordinary guy who did extraordinary things. We can all be just as extraordinary as Indy. Anyone can implement SharePoint successfully. I mean that.
  6. Some things never change.
    Indy uses pretty old fashioned methods, and techniques often and they work. There is no need to reinvent the wheel if something works. Think about even the traps he faces, most of these are extremely ancient, but still serve their purpose (albeit they aren’t up to the daunting task of taking out Indy). In SharePoint the challenges we face aren’t new. They aren’t unique either.
  7. Know what your are afraid of, or bad at and let other people help.
    Indy was afraid of snakes. He knew it, and we all knew it (because he shared that openly). As a result it is much easier to work around the fears.
  8. You can’t do it alone.
    He also wasn’t the best at everything, and without the help of other people could never have achieved all that he did. Implementing SharePoint successfully is absolutely a team effort and involves many people working hard and effectively together.
  9. You have to believe in yourself and it doesn’t hurt to be unique or have your own image.
    Indiana Jones has a very unique outfit and look. When you see it, it tells you a lot about him and his style, personality and attitude. Your own portal should also have a brand, it’s own attitude even. You also have to believe in it, and get other people to as well. If you don’t think SharePoint is a good  thing, then why should anyone else?
  10. You have to see things through and stay focused.
    Indiana Jones always stayed focused on the treasure or end goal. Constantly moving towards it regardless of significant obstacles. It’s a long difficult journey or adventure to that treasure of an effective SharePoint implementation, but when you get there it is absolutely worth it.

This was fun and I hope you enjoyed it or got something out of it,
Richard Harbridge

Indiana Jones teaches us a lot about important business things. As an example I will go through a couple here.

1. You have to have the courage to take on something challenging. Indiana Jones never ran away from a Challenge (well not the ones that mattered). It’s important to first be ready and dedicated to accomplishing a goal.

2. You need to know your stuff and be ready to learn. He is a super subject matter expert and professor in his field with plenty of knowledge about history, archeology and foreign lands. If you are diving into something like SharePoint you should hit the books first, and will need to learn a ton.

3. You don’t have to be a superhero. Indiana Jones was more or less an ordinary guy who did extraordinary things. We can all be just as extraordinary as Indy.

4. Know what your are afraid of, and work around it. Indy was afraid of snakes. He knew it, and we all knew it (because he shared that openly). As a result it is much easier to work around the fears.

5. You have to believe in yourself and it doesn’t hurt to be unique or have your own image. Indiana Jones has a very unique outfit and look. When you see it, it tells you a lot about him and his style, personality and attitude.

6. You have to see things through and stay focused. Indiana Jones always stayed focused on the treasure or end goal. Constantly moving towards it regardless of significant obstacles.

So I think the photo-shopped picture is perfect Mike! Looking forward to seeing more from your adventures soon,
Richard Harbridge

SharePoint Keyboard Shortcuts

September 11, 2009

One of those things I often see people surprised by, or forgetting about is the usefulness of keyboard shortcuts when working with applications. It can save you time by removing the need to navigate menu’s, and scroll the mouse all around the page. Often the only way you can cause certain behavior is by using key combination’s on your keyboard. So it’s always good to know what keyboard shortcuts exist and how they can be used with the application you are using.

SharePoint has lots of GREAT key combination’s you can use to save you time and energy and Microsoft has done a great job of listing them all.

Keyboard Shortcuts for WSS: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepointtechnology/HA101756491033.aspx

Keyboard Shortcuts for MOSS: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepointserver/HA101733621033.aspx

Be sure to review the Rich Text Editor and Rich Text Editor of the Content Editor Web Part as many people don’t realize the difference between hitting Enter and Shift + Enter.

It’s also a good idea to remember your browser has it’s own shortcuts that you can use for navigating pages, content, magnification, printing, and more.

Here are some simple examples:

  1. You can enlarge the text on any Web page by pressing Ctrl and the plus or minus keys (for bigger or smaller fonts).
  2. You can also enlarge the entire Web page by pressing the Ctrl key as you turn the wheel on top of your mouse.
  3. You can tap the Space bar to scroll down on a Web page one screenful. Add the Shift key to scroll back up.
  4. If you hit the Ctrl and Home key on your keyboard you will immediately be taken to the top of the web page, document, or email.
  5. Hitting the Ctrl and End key on your keyboard at the same time will take you immediately to the bottom or end of a web page, document, or email.

Hope this helps someone save time,
Richard Harbridge

Closing (or X’ing) is not Deleting Webparts

August 4, 2009

SharePoint WebPart pages often have ‘Closed’ WebParts being loaded everytime the page loads because the page editor may have incorrectly ‘closed’ a WebPart rather than ‘deleting’ the WebPart. (Or never removes it after closing it.)
close

Everyone who works with SharePoint sees and most likely runs into this (often :().
This is by no means ‘new’. In fact it’s been around since back in the 2003 days and here are a couple good posts that already exist on it:

The point being you can easily fix this for all your pages by adding the ?contents=1 to each page and managing it that way (see linked articles above for description of how this works, or my previous post: https://sharepointkb.wordpress.com/2008/07/25/sharepoint-webpart-error/) or you can add each closed webpart individually (using the advanced webpart pane). The why this is a good thing is pretty straight forward, it provides you with a way to restore webparts just in case you didn’t mean to ‘remove’ them from the page.

The why you should go through ALL of your landing pages, home pages, or often updated pages and do this ‘clean up’ work *regularly* (until it’s no longer an issue) is because it still retrieves these webparts (and all their lovely properties) when it loads the page, it just doesn’t render them to the end user. This makes for much slower response rates and can be easily improved.

So seriously, if you read this and haven’t checked how many closed webparts are on your pages (in the past month) go do that right now and clean them up. Set up a scheduled task each week to do this, write a script, or train people to manage page content so that it doesn’t happen anymore. Do anything but leave it alone. Then tell other people, and make this one of those checks you do when working with pages. You will be surprised by how much it can often help page load times.

Let’s also hope that Microsoft makes these ‘closed’ parts expire in the future… since recycling bin already does this. *nudge nudge* *wink wink* to MS.

Hope this helps,
Richard Harbridge

SharePoint Saturday in Toronto (Speakers and Sessions)

June 29, 2009

http://www.sharepointsaturday.org/toronto/default.aspx

SharePoint Saturday is July 11th in Mississauaga
(This is right beside Toronto in the province of Ontario, in the country of Canada, it also happens to be where I live :)).

If you read this blog, then you are probably someone who will enjoy and learn a TON from the wonderful speakers at SharePoint Saturday. I know I learn new things from many of the speakers on a regular basis. It’s a FREE event. Think about it, these speakers are experts. Many have done talks at things like the best practice conferences. Those are expensive conferences and this one is free. It’s like getting the value of a couple grand, and all you have to do is drive to the Microsoft building in Mississauga. It’s also a great opportunity to network and build your professional skill set as well as personal skill set.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up now!

Register Now

Looking for more information or even more amazing reasons for why you should go and you should bring all your friends? Check out the speakers that are presenting (http://www.sharepointsaturday.org/toronto/Pages/speakers.aspx) and the great sessions (http://www.sharepointsaturday.org/toronto/Pages/meetings.aspx) I am excited to attend quite a few of these sessions.

On a minor note I am also presenting for this event. It will be focused around tips, tricks, and takeways that will make user adoption, maintaining buy in, and governing SharePoint significantly easier. I intend to record the session so people can download it after and hope to release a teaser for what I will cover soon.

I would love to meet with everyone, and welcome everyone to come out to SharePint after the event. We don’t have the details quite yet on where that will be, but let me assure you I am totally up for having some great and in depth conversations after, during and before the event as I am sure there is lots I could learn from you.

Hope to see you there,
Richard Harbridge

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

Updating Content Editor Content with Word

May 19, 2009

There are a number of reasons why users might be using content editors for page content in a SharePoint site. However this creates a fair amount of overhead when users can’t get the content to ‘look just right’. Often without HTML edit abilities users become frustrated and will give up or push content out that has been akwardly formatted.

One of the ways you might try out to help with these kinds of issues is getting users to modify and update content editor content in word. I am going to go through how this can be done (relatively easily) in a few steps here. The important steps in the process is creating an HTML document (in this case I am using word, but you could use SharePoint Designer, or any product which pushes out HTML) and then getting the content editor webpart to reference the HTML document.

  1. First let’s create our web page content in word. It’s important to keep the size of the webpart in mind when we build the content and users MUST insert images as links (from the SharePoint site or internet) as embedded images won’t display. Here is an article on this: http://blogs.msdn.com/ecm/archive/2006/11/17/converting-office-2007-openxml-documents-with-embedded-images-to-sharepoint-web-pages.aspx *Note we are doing a process similar to smart client authoring/conversion. We are just doing it more manual for greater control/flexability.
  2. Save the word document as the HTML/HTM file type. You can do this simply by choosing SAVE AS and saving it under the HTML file type.
    SaveAsHTML
  3. Next we need to upload our HTML (or HTM) file to a SharePoint library.
  4. Navigate to the page you want the content to be displayed on and add a new content editor webpart.
  5. Now let’s edit the newly added content editor webpart’s properties. Namely the Content Link property and set that to reference the HTML or HTM file we just added. To do this you can right click the link in the document library and click copy shortcut and then paste the shortcut into the content link field.
    SaveShortCut
    ContentEditorContentLink
  6. Click OK and save the edited properties.
  7. Voila we should now see the content (built in word) showing on our webpage through the content editor. If we want to modify the content we just need to open the document in word, make our changes and save it to the server. Immediately updating the content on the webpart.

There are two advantages to using a process like this:

  1. You get content version history and version control. Normal webparts don’t really have version control, so by using a document libraries content like this we can enable versioning and go back to previous versions in case something mucks up.
  2. Any user with access to the content can change it just like a word document (more or less) making it require far less training and effort for people to update than the typical SharePoint methods that can cause alot of confusion.

Hope this helps someone who wants to use document conversion for SharePoint but needs a more flexable model for page content,
Richard Harbridge

Mind Map of Resume? IBIS Map of Cover Letter? Do it.

April 16, 2009

Want to drastically improve your chances at nailing that new or better job? Try some of these self proclaimed totally awesome ideas. Don’t think you have to stop using the old fashioned resume and cover letter. Just attach these to the existing ones you use for extra effect. 🙂

Mind Map Your Resume – Diagram Who You Are

Create a Mind Map of yourself, and your ‘resume’. This makes you stand out, and it allows people to digest information about you as a person in a creative and sometimes faster more efficient manner.

Here is an example of my mind map resume: http://www.mindmeister.com/18885811 – Just expand and collapse nodes. (I know it’s messy and overlaps, but it gets the point across. The one you print out is the complete and sexy looking map, so that’s the one that matters.)

richard_harbridge
(If the above link shows a login prompt, you can click browse and find it (Richard Harbridge, or 18885811) or you can just look at this image to get an idea of how to start.)

Just print one off and add it to your resume as a last extra page. You wouldn’t believe how much impact that alone can have at making you stand out and getting you the interview and job opportunity.

IBIS Map Your Cover Letter – Explain How You Benefit The Business

This is only one way of helping you get a job. For those of you who have done IBIS mapping (or Dialogue mapping) you can use this as well. Apply for a job with an IBIS diagram with a starting question of “Why should you hire me?” and go from there.

If you think about it that’s what a cover letter really does at its core. Explain why you are better than anyone else for the position. Here is a really fast example I whipped up.

whoshouldyouhire

Yes I know it’s biased and not an accurate IBIS map, but if done correctly (heck even unbiased) you can show why you are so awesome. (It’s meant to be funny, in reality I would probably articulate real unbiased reasons why I am a good fit for the role etc as ideas and real unbiased reasons why anyone else may not be as good a choice.)

To learn more about IBIS mapping just do a google search there is a wealth of great content out there, or if your a SharePoint person you should read over Paul Culmsee’s great posts on the topic at http://www.cleverworkarounds.com/

Why Should You Try These?

We are in an economic recession. This means that when job postings are created companies get more response not less, and it’s harder and harder for organizations to sift through the applicants to find the one that fits the job best. Standing out and being noticed is the first step to getting them to read your resume a bit better.

Let’s face it, old fashioned boring cover letters and resumes are still used, but if there’s a newer way of doing something and you take the time and energy to do it well, you can beat everyone else out there to the best opportunity of your life. Benefiting both you and the organization you are applying to.

Hope this helps,
Richard Harbridge