Category Archives: SharePoint

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Northern California ARMA Seminar Panel Member

On March 6, 2014, I will be a panel member at the Northern California ARMA Seminar.  I am honored the Northern California ARMA would invite me to be a panel member and am looking forward to it.

At this seminar, we will be focusing on Records Management and I have been asked to attend and share my experiences with Records Management in SharePoint.

This should be very informative and I hope to see you there!

Register for this Event Here

Who is ARMA?
ARMA International is a not-for-profit professional association and the authority on governing information as a strategic asset.

The association was established in 1955. Its approximately 27,000+ members include information managers, information governance professionals, archivists, corporate librarians, imaging specialists, legal professionals, IT managers, consultants, and educators, all of whom work in a wide variety of industries, including government, legal, healthcare, financial services, and petroleum in the United States, Canada, and more than 30 other countries around the globe.
ARMA International offers invaluable resources such as: •Legislative and regulatory updates
•Standards and best practices
•Technology trends and applications
•Live and Web-based education
•Marketplace news and analysis
•Books & videos on managing records and information
•Global network of 27,000+ information management professionals and more than 10,000 professional members

ARMA International publishes Information Management magazine, the only professional journal specifically for professionals who manage information as part of their job description. The award-winning IM magazine is published bi-monthly and features articles on the hottest topics in information governance today, as well as marketplace news and analysis.

The association also develops and publishes standards and guidelines related to records management. It was a key contributor to the international records management standard, ISO-15489.

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Factors that Drive the Success of Information Use

There are many factors that comprise the successful implementation of a SharePoint solution.  Regardless of what it is you are building, the following key success factors apply.

  1. Ease the Pains Associated with Storing and Managing Information
  2. Provide Meaningful and Accurate Information to Consumers
  3. Promote the Agile Evolution of Information Use
  4. Governance
  5. Education

Each of these Key Success Factors is described in more detail below.

Ease the Pains Associated with Storing and Managing Information

First and foremost, your information must be stored in a manner that is consistent, easy to understand and easy to maintain.  Without information, you wouldn’t have the need for a content management solution and without easing the pains associated with storing and managing this information, Contributors will be less likely to use the solution.

There are specific techniques that can be used when implementing SharePoint that can simplify the contribution and maintenance of information.

Content Categorization – We use content categorization to understand the types of content being stored which aids with:

  • Reducing the question “where do I store and manage this content”,
  • Provides a means to preset metadata with default values; reducing the metadata values that must be manually entered by a user, and
  • Search scoping, information aggregation and metadata filtering.

Without adding some level of structure to your content, you will accomplish little.  Storing and managing your content using the same approach as what was found on file shares adds zero value.  You will eventually end up with hundreds, if not thousands, of sites.  Many of those sites will have document libraries with many folders and sub-folders.  Users will quickly be uncertain to where content should be stored.  Managing unstructured content without any level of categorization will always lead to diminishing adoption, frustration and distrust in the technology.

Take the time to categorize your content, apply grouping principals and governing rules for appropriate use and you will be working towards a solution users adopt and become more efficient executing day to day business operations.

Understanding – The implementation team must have a thorough understanding of the content to be managed; thus implementing a solution that is consistent and eliminates ambiguity.

For example, the term Contract can have many definitions in an organization; Employee Contract, Customer Contract, Vendor Contract, etc.  These contract examples have entirely different meanings, uses and associated processes.  By thoroughly understanding the information, a solution can be appropriately architected to eliminate this type of ambiguity.

Responsibility – The responsibility of information belongs in the hands of the information owners.  When we implement solutions that aid in the ownership and responsibility of managing information, that information is more likely to be fresh, up to date and accurate.

Process – Information only has real value when it is used in actions and to facilitate decisions:

  • Improved decision-making
  • Simplify work and information flows
  • Achieving action plans and change initiatives
  • Developing information value chains
  • Maximizing use of information

Making process an integral part of architecture is a great way of adding value to your business.

Metadata – Metadata allows you to store and manage instance specific information for your content.  For example, having the ability to store the date of a meeting with the meeting minutes document will allow you to quickly locate that meeting document by meeting date.  And, storing the value of a contract with each customer contract document would allow you to filter all customers that have executed a contract greater than $100,000; which might aid with a marketing effort.

Many fear the use of metadata as there is a belief it is too much work for the user when uploading a new document or adding a new item to a list.  Various techniques can be utilized to overcome these fears.  These techniques include (but are not limited to):

  • Using appropriate information architecture, categorization and grouping principals, will allow you to configure default metadata values.  This eliminates the need for a user to input the metadata value but allows it to be present for search, faceted filtering, aggregation, workflow decision and triggers, etc.

An example of this would be a Project Number metadata column associated with a project document.  If you have all documents, associated with a specific project, managed in a site, you already know the project number and can configure a default value; i.e. the Project Number.

  • User education is also a very important technique.  The more your users understand the value of metadata, the more likely they will be to ensure metadata values are accurate.

Demonstrate the value of metadata to your users by setting up a POC and show them search results with and without the use of metadata.  Demonstrate faceted filtering and advanced search with and without the use of metadata.  It is a powerful message.

Metadata is also the primary means by which users can filter aggregate views of content; this is known as faceted filtering.

Provide Meaningful and Accurate Information to Consumers

Virtually all employees in your organization will consume information to support their specific day to day business needs.

The consumption of information will be determined by a specific contextual need.  For example, an employee may wish to search your Intranet for the latest parking policy or a project team member may wish to find notes for a meeting that occurred two months ago.

When considering the consumption of information, we also must consider how it will be presented to those consumers; search results and aggregate views are but only a few that will be required.  Other means of presenting information will include dashboards, printed reports, charts, etc.

The only means by which we can query information and produce accurate search results, faceted filtering, aggregate views, dashboards, printed reports, charts, etc. is by first architecting the information; so we know what it is we are querying.  Without this, none of this will be possible!

Promote the Agile Evolution of Information Use

There are many factors that drive the adoption and evolution of information use.  Of these, the most critical include:

Managing the Change of Information – Information is changing on a regular basis; project documents change and evolve, employee handbook and corporate policies are in a constant state of evolution.  Architecting your content management solution to facilitate the evolution of information is critical.

Work-in-Progress versus Published Information – During the process of information creation and collaboration, the state of that information is considered work-in-progress.  The solution must provide the means to determine work-in-progress versus published.  In some cases this is delivered using content versioning or security.  In other cases it requires a more complex means of disseminating the information.

Keeping Information Fresh and Up to Date – It is the responsibility of information owners to keep information fresh and up to date.  If the information in your content management solution is allowed to become stagnant and out of date, consumers are less likely to visit your Intranet and information consumption.

Versioning – An advanced content management solution provides the ability to version your content, view and roll-back to previous versions.  The lifecycle of content management requires this functionality.

Archival and Destruction – When information has reached the end of its lifecycle, often it is archived and/or destroyed.  This applies to all information in your environment, not just corporate records.  Thoroughly understanding the lifecycle (creation, evolution and eventual destruction) of information is a critical element of information architecture.

Governance

Governance of your information management solution comes in many forms; policies, procedures, processes, guidelines and education.  Without governance all of your hard work architecting a solid solution will eventually crumble.  The negative consequences are too many to list in this article.

The primary elements of information and solution governance falls in the following categories:

Infrastructure Governance – In most organizations, there is sufficient infrastructure governance; server builds, patches and update schedules, SLA’s and so on.  The infrastructure to support your SharePoint installation will mostly fall within this existing governance.

Solution Configuration and Customization Governance – Configuration and customization governance is equally important as the infrastructure governance.  Implementing processes and controls to appropriately manage change, meeting up-time SLA’s, is critical.

Solution Use Governance – It is here where most implementation teams fall short.  Governing the use of your SharePoint implementation is a means to keep configuration consistent.

Often I hear a department director or manager demand they have administrative rights to their department site.  In most cases, giving a non-technical user administrative rights to anything in SharePoint, is a huge mistake.  There are so many things that can, and will, go wrong in this scenario.  Here are a couple examples:

  • Because the non-technical user doesn’t understand the security model, they inadvertently give access to the wrong users.  I have see employee salary information exposed in this exact situation.
  • Consider a non-technical user creating a new document library and not using the data types (content types) your implementation team configured.  Now that same non-technical user uploads policy documents to this new library.  These policy document won’t be aggregated to your corporate policy book nor could they be searched (and filtered) as other corporate policy documents are.

These are but a couple examples of insufficient use governance; there are many more negative consequences.

My recommendation is to lock your implementation down tight as can be; only allowing the implementation team to make modifications at first.  Implement a federated use governance model as you educate users with the appropriate skills to make modifications that meet your best practices, policies, procedures and guidelines.

Without governing the implementation, customization and use of your information management solution, it will evolve in an inconsistent and out of control manner and quick become of little use to the business.

Education

Education at all levels is of paramount importance.  In most business environments your users have been driven to use file shares, local drives, email systems, etc. to store and manage their information.  Moving your culture from “the way we have always done it” to a completely new environment is a very large chasm to cross.  Users must be appropriately educated to trust and use the new system.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many factors that contribute to the successful implementation, adoption and use of a SharePoint content management solution.  Installing SharePoint, configuring a few sites and throwing the keys to the kingdom over the wall will fail every time.  On the other hand, implement sound information architecture techniques, governance and education will lead you down a path of success!

If you are in need of help with your SharePoint implementation, Information Architecture, education or training, please don’t hesitate to contact me; this is what I specialize in!

 

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SharePoint 2013 Task Management

Task Management

The task management functionality available in SharePoint 2013 has many new and improved features. Features such as the ability to create sub-tasks, a new timeline view, more robust management of tasks using Microsoft Project 2013 and so on. In this article I will take a deeper look in to these new and enhanced features of SharePoint 2013 Task Management.

For the purposes of this topic, I have created an “out-of-box” site using the Project Site template. No customizations have been made to the site, libraries or lists. The figure below is our demonstration site, using the standard Project Site template.

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The figure below shows the standard Tasks list that is included with the Project Site template. The list itself is very similar to what we found in earlier versions of SharePoint. However, you will notice a timeline view is now available. More about the timeline view later.

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Task Assignment

An improvement in SharePoint 2013 task management is the ability to assign multiple resources to a task. In previous versions, you could only assign a single resource which made using the “out-of-box” task management cumbersome when managing more complex projects.

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Subtasks

You now have the ability to create subtasks which is another new feature found in SharePoint 2013. I believe this was primarily implemented to support Microsoft Project integration. More on Microsoft Project integration below.

To create a subtask, click the parent item context menu and select the Create Subtask option.

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The figure below shows our task list after adding 2 subtasks.

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Timeline View

The timeline view provides you with the ability to display specified tasks in a timeline, or Gantt, style view. The timeline view can be enabled or disabled for any task list in SharePoint. This is accomplished by editing the web part properties and checking/unchecking the Show timeline option.

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You can add and remove tasks from a timeline by clicking the task item context menu and selecting Add to Timeline or Remove from Timeline option.

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In the figure below, you can see that I have added the Human Resources Intranet Requirements task to the timeline. You will find the timeline view is best suited to display high-level tasks and milestones. If you add too many tasks it will become cluttered and difficult to read.

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Aggregating Tasks to Your Personal Site

One of the best new features available in SharePoint 2013 is the aggregation of tasks, assigned to you, in your personal site. This provides you with a view of all tasks, across the entire farm, aggregated in one place. This means, regardless of where a task resides (a department site, project site, team site, etc.) they will all be aggregated to your personal site.

To accomplish this in the past, we had to customize a solution using search web parts, create a custom developed solution or purchase a 3rd party tool.

Note: The personal site task aggregation feature utilizes the SharePoint FAST search engine to index task information and make it available for querying. This means, tasks will not be aggregated to your personal site until the search indexer has processed the tasks.

To see an aggregate view of all your assigned tasks, simply go to your personal site and click the Tasks link in the left vertical navigation area.

In the figure below, you can see the tasks assigned to myself.

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You might have also noticed, when you click a task item context menu, you have the ability to edit the task and go directly to the containing site or list. The is very convenient for managing tasks that reside in many locations of your Intranet.

Managing Tasks with Microsoft Project

Microsoft has made the management of SharePoint tasks, in Microsoft Project very convenient. To open a task list in Microsoft Project, simply navigate to the task list and click the Open with Project option on the ribbon bar.

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Now that your SharePoint task list is open in Microsoft Project, you can use all of the features available in Microsoft Project.

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After you make updates, in Microsoft Project, and save them, all of those updates are posted to the SharePoint task list.

Note: You may be asking yourself, Microsoft Project has many more features and fields then a SharePoint task list; is this information lost when you close Microsoft Project? The answer is no! Microsoft Project and SharePoint are tightly integrated and the actual project file is also saved to the site; in the Site Assets library.

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Extending Microsoft Project Fields to a Task List

There may be situations when you wish to publish additional information from Microsoft Project to your task list in SharePoint. This can be easily accomplished by mapping fields using the following steps.

For the purposes of our demonstration, I will map the Duration field from Microsoft Project to our task list in SharePoint.

  1. In Microsoft Project, click the File tab in the ribbon bar.
  2. In the Info section, click the Map Fields button.

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  1. In the Map Fields dialog, click the Add Field button.
  2. In the Add Field dialog, for the Existing Project Field, select Duration from the drop-down list.
  3. For the New SharePoint Column, leave the default as Duration.
  4. Click the OK button when you have completed these steps.
  5. Click the OK button in the Map Fields dialog when you have mapped all the desired fields.

Now the Duration field in Microsoft Project is mapped to a new Duration field in the SharePoint task list. Save your project and the SharePoint task fields will be updated, containing the mapped field values.

As you can see in the figure below, the Duration field now contains the duration information from Microsoft Project.

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Once you start editing and managing your project tasks in Microsoft Project, I have learned that it is easier to continue using Microsoft Project; instead of switching from editing tasks in SharePoint some of the time and in Microsoft Project other times.

Conclusion

As you can see there are many new and improved task management features found in SharePoint 2013. The ability to assign more than one resource to a task and the timeline view are of my personal favorites. In addition, I use the Microsoft Project integration on virtually all project management scenarios I am involved with.

It is important to note; all of the features described in this article are available in Office 365. I use Office 365 to run my business and manage all client projects and these task management features and Office integration I use on a daily basis.

If you are interested in discussing these features, obtaining a demonstration of how they may improve your task management needs in your environment, please Contact Me. If you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment below; I will answer as I have availability.

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SVSPUG: Leveraging SaaS Applications Using the SharePoint 2013 App Model, 2/20/2014

Join us at the Silicon Valley SharePoint User Group, on February 20, to learn more about SharePoint 2013 App Model development techniques.  Brian Prigge, from Ramp, will be delivering our session, discussing how to leverage SaaS applications using the SharePoint 2013 app model.

This should be an interesting and informative discussion; we hope to see you there!

Sponsored by
RAMP Logo
We would like to thank Ramp for sponsoring our meeting food and drink.  If you were fortunate enough to append our panel meeting, last year in July, Ramp was the food/drink sponsor and it was fantastic.  I’m sure the food and drink at this meeting will also be wonderful.
Register Now
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SESSION INFORMATION
Speaker: Brian Prigge (Ramp)
Topic: Leveraging SaaS Applications Using the SharePoint App Model
Description: Historically, SaaS applications have been disparate causing end user confusion and leading to poor user acceptance.  With that advent of SharePoint 2013 and the new App Model, developers can bring those applications under one roof in either SharePoint Online or SharePoint Server without disenchanting end-users or frightening the IT pros.  As with any new development model, there are significant benefits, but also significant challenges.  I’ll review experiences from real-world projects and how to integrate SAAS services with SharePoint 2013.  Attendees will learn important tips and best practices for how to leverage the App Model to augment a SharePoint Server 2013 or SharePoint Online environment, while maintaining a consistent look and feel, emphasizing searchability, and ensuring security.
About Brian Prigge: Brian Prigge is a SharePoint Architect with RAMP, where he leads the implementation of SaaS-based architectures into custom SharePoint integrations. He has been working with SharePoint for over five years and has a deep knowledge of both the solutions model and the app model for custom SharePoint development. He has worked in many major verticals ranging from pharmaceuticals to financial services. He specializes in designing and developing custom solutions to complex business problems.’’Prior to his position at RAMP, Brian worked as a SharePoint Consultant and Trainer for a Chicago-based consultancy and as an engineer at a prominent automotive security company. He has worked with a wide range of farm sizes and throughout the entire project lifecycle, allowing him to provide a well-rounded perspective on the complex nature of SharePoint.

 

MEETING LOCATION
Meeting Location: Valley Transit Authority (VTA)
3331 North First Street
Building “A”
San Jose, CA 95134
United States of America

Click to View a Bing Map

Meeting Date: February 20, 2014
Meeting Time: 5:30pm to 6:00pm – Arrive
6:00pm to 7:00pm – Session
7:00pm to 7:30pm – Q&A
7:30pm to 8:00pm – Raffle and Wrap-up

 

ABOUT RAMP
RAMP LogoRAMP has developed the next generation of search & video experiences to make video more valuable.  Using RAMP, clients are able to fully leverage the value of all of their video content by driving increased discovery across search and social sites, enhancing user engagement through dynamic search and publishing solutions across web, mobile, and connected devices, and maximizing revenue through sophisticated advertising capabilities.
Leading media companies and enterprises using RAMP include Thomson Reuters, FOXNews, ABCNews, NBC, Dow Jones, Meredith, Citibank, and others. For more information visit RAMP.com, or contact us at info@RAMP.com.  Engage with RAMP on Twitter (@RAMPInc), Facebook (/RAMPInc), LinkedIn (/company/RAMP-Holdings-Inc) and YouTube (/user/RAMPIncVideo)