iStart - Sharepoint: Getting to the point

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iStart - Sharepoint: Getting to the point

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Information overload. It defines the age we live in. Distraction, ...

Information overload. It defines the age we live in. Distraction,
clutter, and search angst are daily productivity killers causing
headaches and wasting hours.
Believe the disciples, and Microsoft’s SharePoint is on the
cusp of greatness, bringing order to clutter, collaboration to
fragmentation and timeliness to information and decision
making. But listen to the unconverted and it’s badly designed,
slow and another marketing snow job holding together the
Microsoft stack.
Your IT department probably already has the product, so iStart
canvassed a couple of experts on implementing SharePoint to
help you decide if it is a fit for wider use within your business…

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  • 1. Tools // Information Management // Microsoft SharePoint Getting the point Information overload. It defines the age we live in. Distraction, clutter, and search angst are daily productivity killers causing headaches and wasting hours. Believe the disciples, and Microsoft’s SharePoint is on the cusp of greatness, bringing order to clutter, collaboration to fragmentation and timeliness to information and decision making. But listen to the unconverted and it’s badly designed, slow and another marketing snow job holding together the Microsoft stack. Your IT department probably already has the product, so iStart canvassed a couple of experts on implementing SharePoint to help you decide if it is a fit for wider use within your business…58 Quarter Two 2012
  • 2. What is SharePoint? search. This approach often led to higher licensing and support costs, and often SharePoint is a software platform built by Microsoft with the primary aim to lower user adoption due to inconsistent and unfamiliar user interfaces.make it easier for people to work together. SharePoint lets users set up web While SharePoint may not be ‘best of breed’ at all these tasks individually, assites to share ideas and information with others, and collaboratively manage a whole it is a much more compelling solution. For organisations that use Officedocuments and content. SharePoint search and metadata allows users to eas- applications such as Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, SharePoint offers theily find and locate documents and information from across the organisation. best integrated experience allowing organisations to gain the most from theirSharePoint’s Business Intelligence capability makes it easy for users to publish existing technology investments.reports, set-up dashboards and drill into information enabling better decision There is a rich set of features that can be applied to most business problems,making. SharePoint is also adopted by a number of organisations for their public but if your business problem can’t be solved by out of the box features then youweb presence. can usually find a solution from the ecosystem of partners that build add-on Microsoft has taken a very unique approach to enterprise content manage- solutions.ment as opposed to other vendors. SharePoint as a platform can support anyenterprise content management challenge. SharePoint changes the way busi- What kinds of business requirements or circumstances leadness uses content management from ‘how does this technology make me do to recommending SharePoint over other packaged solutions?my business?’ to ‘how do you want to work?’. This is a dramatic change for a There a number of circumstances but often the following will be among thenumber of organisations who have become used to having their business pro- key reasons:cesses driven by their chosen technologies. 1. Organisations wanting to streamline investment in a single platform 2. Requirements for a core collaboration tool for projects or improved team workContent, Information, Document and Knowledge 3. Where an intranet portal is combined with document or records managementManagement - where does it fit? 4. To provide an extranet for customer and supplier communications and col- SharePoint is the platform that underpins your enterprise content manage- laborationment challenges. SharePoint can provide management of well defined and 5. For a content management system for a glossy public website.structured content management such as records management and it can also Where several requirements exist, IT departments can build forward focusedcope with the challenge of unstructured content such as blogs and wikis. roadmaps to plan the delivery of projects with a clear understanding of costs SharePoint not only manages concrete artefacts such as documents, pro- and on-going benefits over a number of years.cedures and how-to-guides, but also the softer ‘tacit’ knowledge that exists SharePoint also delivers value where an organisation has already invested inwithin an organisation, encouraging collaboration between people. SharePoint the Microsoft Office suite. SharePoint easily demonstrates how it can be used tocontains personal spaces where users can manage their organisational profile, gain further productivity enhancements, say through reduced training effort orrecord their likes and dislikes, areas of interest etc. Keyword search is tailored to consistent user experience. This leads to higher levels of adoption.not only return documents but also links to people within the organisation that Other times SharePoint plays a role for smaller organisations wanting to bet-could help you. This is based on things such as your profile information, role, ter organise and increase efficiency, so an Intranet or Document managementareas of interest and the documents you have been working on. All of which solution might be implemented as a starting point.helps people collaborate better. SharePoint is also frequently a fit on Microsoft Dynamics projects such as AX ERP, CRM and NAV financials. The roadmap for these products will only see thisWhy SharePoint over a best of breed solution? grow. In the ECM (Enterprise Content Management) space SharePoint is growing The licensing model for SharePoint means organisations can ‘dip theirits perception as a ‘best of breed’ solution. Looking at the latest Gartner Magic toe’ into SharePoint using the free ‘Foundation’ version and then upgrade toQuadrant SharePoint sits alongside IBM and Oracle in the leader’s quadrant. Standard or Enterprise once they understand how it could work for their busi- The ‘Unified Platform’ is SharePoint’s point of difference over other solutions. ness.In the past an organisation’s ECM requirements required them to deal withmultiple vendors and differing platforms. For instance the public website was What types of projects deliver the low hanging fruit foron a different platform to the document management system, which was again SharePoint - where should initial efforts be focused?separate to the Intranet platform – all of which creates a headache for enterprise The initial step for an organisation undertaking a SharePoint implementa- ›› Quarter Two 2012 59
  • 3. Tools // Information Management // Microsoft Sharepoint tion or looking to realise value from an existing implementation should be to ness. They act as advocates when they return to the business to ‘Champion’ the undertake a road-mapping exercise. SharePoint is so feature-rich that there are a SharePoint cause. They help the project team gain traction with business users number of areas an organisation can derive value from. A clear roadmap should and help identify the ‘low hanging fruit’. Get them energised and engaged early make it obvious where the low hanging fruit lies. A lot of organisations make the on in the project with a series of ‘Show & Tells’ around the SharePoint feature first step by adopting SharePoint as an Intranet platform. SharePoint encourages sets. collaboration and immediate efficiencies are realised through the breaking down 3. SharePoint Admin: Someone needs to take ownership of the overall of silos within the organisation. SharePoint Project. The SharePoint Administration role should be filled by some- For others it may be document management or the creation of ‘Project or one with a good understanding of SharePoint and how it can be configured and Customer Workspaces’ to enable greater sharing with customers or suppliers. managed. There are a number of projects that can yield maximum returns with little 4. SharePoint Developers: These days there is so much functionality available effort. Depending on the pain points the organisation is dealing with you could ‘out of the box’ that I think it is a mistake to have a developer on the project. The consider any one of the following projects as an initial entry point into a longer ‘build vs buy’ debate has shifted dramatically with marketplaces allowing you term SharePoint deployment: to buy add-ons at the click of a button. Any development can usually be out- 1. The Intranet: For a lot of organisations their current intranet is out of date sourced, but watch out for customisations that will come back and haunt you and bares little resemblance to their current business practices or organisational when you try and upgrade to the next version. structure. Each department should receive a site so they can publish content Overall, a user-centric approach is important in SharePoint solutions, so impor- and announcements with the whole organisation. This is also an ideal way of tant skills are in user experience design. This ensures the solution will connect introducing the various business users to the new SharePoint technologies in a and engage with the target audiences. There is also an emphasis on manage- way that does not seem too overwhelming for them. ment consulting skills to get clear understanding of the business challenges that 2. The DMS: Gone are the days of having 38 large white ring binders with are being addressed. Wrapped around this, strong project management and every policy & procedure printed and bound. The quick solution here is to pub- methodology is a must, as well as understanding change management, and lish all the policies and procedures into SharePoint to create an online policy the governance planning required around SharePoint implementations. People centre that enables employees to browse the latest electronic copies of the doc- experienced with previous SharePoint implementations are a very valuable asset uments as well as rich keyword searching. This level of searchability is usually an in any team. instant hit with business users because they don’t need to know what policies cover which areas, they can simply query the DMS with keywords. What do you get out-of-the-box with SharePoint? 3. Collaboration: Collaborative sites can be created quickly and easily to facili- SharePoint is feature-packed right out of the box. Users can get started by tate collaboration on documents or projects or even areas of interest. Business setting up sites and workspaces, lists and libraries, all from predefined templates. users can collaborate in a semi-structured environment and hopefully get the Corporate Taxonomy and Metadata. Workflow. Content publishing and approval. corporate knowledge out of their inboxes and into their SharePoint team sites Personal spaces and Search. There is a lot included without any additional setup. where it can be searched and managed through version control and routine backups. SharePoint out-of-the-box… What are the skill sets that are required in a project team? 1. Web Content Management (under the...‘people, processes and then technology’ 2. Document Management approach) 3. Collaboration The key to a successful deployment is a team with the following skills: 4. Intranet, Extranet and Internet capabilities 1. The ‘Intranet Committee’: Form a group made up of key stakeholders from 5. Enterprise Search each and every division. These committee members need to understand what 6. Electronic Forms success looks like, and have the power to make decisions from a business per- 7. Lightweight Records Management spective and also have the power to change people’s position descriptions. 8. Approval Workflows 2. ‘Champions’: The SharePoint Champions are the key to success for any 9. User Details Searching (aka Corporate White Pages) project. Selected from key business areas to represent their teams they bring their requirements to the project team, and act as a conduit back to the busi-60 Quarter Two 2012
  • 4. integration. Some off the shelf integration scenarios are with Lotus Notes and SAP. Microsoft has released DUET which enables enterprises to integrate their on premise SAP deployments with their SharePoint deployment. SharePoint also has a service called ‘Business Connectivity Services’ (BCS) which enables SharePoint to access key information from your corporate line of business appli- cations. This information can be used as metadata and also makes the informa- tion searchable. So for example, you could tag contracts with the customer ID from your corporate CRM system. Then when you search for a specific Customer ID you are able to find the customer’s contract, as well as pull up their CRM records. Does SharePoint plug in to Outlook/Exchange server? SharePoint has out-of-the-box integration with Outlook/Exchange, allowing users to set up ‘team’ calendars in SharePoint and have them appear in Outlook. With a small configuration ‘contacts’ can be managed in a SharePoint list and have them show up natively in Outlook.Don’t get distracted by all ‘OnePlaceMail’ from Scinaptic.com allows richer integration for the storagethe features and don’t expect and tagging of emails in SharePoint document libraries and this has added greatly to the user adoption of solutions.the technology to make youdo things a certain way. In plain English, can you outline what it would take to set up a 3-step approval process, upload a draft document, update and approve it via an intranet page. How much effort from scratch? SharePoint has an out-of the-box approval workflow that can solve the sce-Is SharePoint performance typically quite slow to upload/ nario above, easily creating tasks and emailing the owners at each stage.search/update documents? Configuring such an approval process can be done in about 20 minutes. The This may have been a perception in the past but is not the case today. With first step is creating a column on your library that reflects the 3 steps you haveproper scoping and capacity planning SharePoint performs as well as any mod- decided to use. You then activate the site feature which adds the workflow toern ECM solution. your site. You then add the workflow to the library and as you add the workflow you select the column that you created in the first step.What does a bare minimum infrastructure look like? For more complex workflow SharePoint can be customised at 3 levels. Firstly The bare minimum infrastructure required for SharePoint 2010 is a ‘single a business analyst can use Visio to work with the business to create the overallserver farm’ this will typically consist of a single 64 bit Windows Server (2008 flow, this can then pass to a SharePoint consultant that can craft this into aR2), with SQL Server (2008 R2), and SharePoint (2010) installed, usually with workflow that runs in SharePoint. Finally, discrete steps or ‘actions’ within the8+ Gb of RAM. This is sufficient as a development environment or for a small workflow can be passed to a SharePoint developer to complete; such as creat-organisation. From here SharePoint can scale to meet the requirements of ing the code to update an external system.almost all organisations, this can be achieved by the addition of standalone For advanced business process management requirements third party toolsSQL Servers and the addition of SharePoint servers to handle increased web such as K2 are sometimes used.requests and loads and also to support disaster recovery and redundancy. For DM, does every document need to be manually up-load-Does SharePoint work with non-Microsoft applications or ed and the right meta-data applied in order to find it again?repositories? (and any ways around that) A number of integration solutions exist or can be created via web service Document migration can be a major barrier for organisations looking to ›› Quarter Two 2012 61
  • 5. Tools // Information Management // Microsoft Sharepoint move to another system or platform. SharePoint out-of-the-box has the ability to upload multiple documents, and an Excel-style view to bulk load metadata. SharePoint also contains functionality called ‘Content Organiser’ which uses information and metadata about a document to ‘file and save’ into the correct document library, without the user having to know where the library exists in the taxonomy. For large scale document migration tasks 3rd party tools such as DocAve Take your time to explore from AvePoint has connectors from a number of well-known ECM platforms to easily migrate content directly into SharePoint, without manually uploading. the product. As part of A common technique that I use is to perform a bulk upload using Windows your project have a ‘play Explorer View and then using the DataSheet View to do a bulk tag. So for example if you upload content from the IT Policies folder you know ‘department’ environment’ to see what will needs to be set to ‘IT’ and ‘document type’ to ‘Policy’. work best for your project If you have a lot of content to upload and tag then there are a number of migration utilities that will allow you to do bulk uploads of content and specify and organisation without the the metadata on the way up. There are also some interesting tools coming out fear of breaking something. that will auto tag and classify your content as you upload it to the server such as datafacet.com or pingar.com. Are there plug-ins that you would recommend for any What are the key things you would recommend to a business SharePoint implementation? embarking on an information management project? SharePoint is supported by a large vendor/partner community that create a There are several factors: number of plug-ins to extend SharePoint functionality. There are a number of 3rd 1. Have clear goals: Have a well-defined goal before you start. Don’t get dis- party add-ins that can be used, but this is very dependent on the problem. tracted by all the features and don’t expect the technology to make you do RecordPoint is a great plug-in for anyone concerned with compliance, records things a certain way. management or public records. RecordPoint enables SharePoint to be set up 2. Avoid the Big Bang: Don’t aim to deliver the ‘all singing, all dancing’ project. and configured in a way users naturally work, this may be project focused and Keep it simple and don’t be afraid of a phased rollout. cross discipline. This is often different to the way a record manager sees the 3. Quick wins: Target the low hanging fruit. The business (and sponsors) will world. In the background RecordPoint classifies the records and provides the see value and generate excitement and enthusiasm for the project. views needed by the record manager but doesn’t affect the way users interact 4. Avoid Analysis Paralysis: You will discover a lot of things that can be done with SharePoint. Again, this leads to much higher adoption and better ROI. with SharePoint and it’s important not to over analyse things. Keep the project OnePlaceMail is another plug-in we use regularly for increased SharePoint and goals in focus and plan to deploy the other features in later stages of the project. Outlook/Exchange integration. 5. Understand the technology: Take your time to explore the product. As part We have already touched on a few of the common add-ons. Depending on of your project have a ‘play environment’ to see what will work best for your the gap you are trying to fill there are a number of add-ons to recommend: project and organisation without the fear of breaking something. 1. Create your own no-code web parts with the DataView Web Part which is 6. Long Term Management: Factor in a ‘business as usual’ strategy to ensure found in SharePoint Designer 2010. the system is managed and updated on a day to day basis. 2. Outlook SharePoint Integration: OnePlaceMail from Scinaptic is an Australian-made product. You can run it for free for up to 25 users. 3. Workflow: Nintex Workflow 2010 enables ‘drag and drop’ workflow creation. Our thanks to Rob Stewart, SharePoint solutions specialist for Intergen Another great Aussie product! (www.intergen.co.nz) and James Milne, founder and lead consultant for Myriad 4. iPhone or iPad integration: SharePlus or Filamente enable you to take Technologies (www.myriadtech.com.au) for their contributions. SharePoint content with you on your favourite iDevice.62 Quarter Two 2012