• Many business people today do their work on the go. If this is you, you may find yourself getting frustrated by the inability to easily find information on your SharePoint website. Luckily, there are now a number of great apps for your Apple or Android based device to help you.

    Newly available through the iPhone and iPad, DocExplore will help you view the documents on your SharePoint site. Other apps may allow you to navigate the information on the site, but none has made it quite so easy to see your files as DocExplore. This app can remember your log in information for a variety of sites, as well as authenticate for sites such as Office 365. View your documents in normal view or tree view – it’s up to you. You can even find your documents and send them as email attachments straight from your phone.

    Do you need touchscreen optimization for SharePoint? Filimente can help. This versatile app also allows you to upload documents from you iPad or iPhone. If you need to work offline, you won’t have a problem when you use the Filimente app.

    With Moshare for iOS, you can share and view your files. From Word documents to PowerPoint presentations, and more, this app allows you to see what’s on your SharePoint site. Have you ever looked up a contact through SharePoint, just to realize you don’t have a pen handy? This is no longer a problem, since with Moshare, you can call your contacts from the app.

    If you are on an Android device, there are not quite as many SharePoint apps available. However, SharePlus has everything you need. You can sync your lists and libraries straight to your phone, collaborate with others, and browse and edit the site. You don’t need any server side components, and the app works with your SharePoint credentials, so you never need to worry about extra permissions. Whether you are working in SharePoint 2007, 2010, or even on Office 365, this app will help you go mobile.

    Freelance writer and self-publishing author Rob D Young notes that his work was greatly simplified due to the opportunities provided by these mobile applications, but larger groups---including major corporations across the globe---are turning toward iOS and Android apps to access their SharePoint resources.

    When you need information, you need it now. Being able to quickly access your SharePoint website, documents, and contacts has never been easier. With the ability to see, edit, and add documents to SharePoint while on a business trip or in a cab helps you keep on top of what is going on. If you are looking to boost your productivity, or that of your team, look no further than the SharePoint apps you can find for your smart phone.

  • We're spent plenty of time emphasizing the importance of SharePoint training, even taking plenty of time to tell you about effective SharePoint training techniques. (For more on that, check out the SharePoint Engine monthly newsletter.) Despite all our advice, though, there's still a chance that your training just won't hit home with your audience.

    What causes this dissonance?

    What can you do to prevent it?

    And what can you do to fix it once it's already happened?

    While we've covered the first two topics in some measure previously, the third one has yet to be discussed and it's often the most challenging. So let's dive into it now. Here's a brief guide on how to cope with failed SharePoint training.


    Step One: Re-examine the training.

    Ask yourself these questions: What approach were you using? What portion, if any, of your trained staff are now capable of the target tasks? Did you hold to an expert-approved set of concepts and strategies as you went into the training?

    Don't hesitate to get actual staff feedback to see what can be improved. It's their approval – as displayed by their competency – that you're after. Ask them what stuck, what didn't, and what they think could be improved.

    Step Two: Re-focus the training.

    What were your objectives? In other words, what tasks should users have been capable of by the end of the day? Far too often, companies train their users on a variety of "do this, go there" concepts without teaching the users the why or how of the procedures.

    Decide what exact tasks and what conceptual competencies your trainees should be able to demonstrate, and examine why your previous strategy didn't work.

    Step Three: Re-formulate the training.

    Go through the portions of the training that were ineffective and revamp them. Make sure you're teaching your trainees why it is that certain elements work; this avoids the temptation to have users memorize a sequence of steps. That sequence, if altered or disrupted, becomes useless – whereas conceptual knowledge can both adapt and expand on the required competencies.

    Step Four: Re-apply the training.

    Consider testing on a smaller group before you train a large group again. As you approach re-training, also be sure to 1) admit fault in creating ineffective training curriculum, 2) give advance warning that specifies both the reasons and the timetable for the training, and 3) provide incentives for completion (whether that's something as simple as a casual Friday or something as heavy as a small guaranteed pay raise during the next evaluation).

    Step Five: Re-re-examine the training.

    Did it work this time? If so, what made it work? What can be re-applied to future training? If not, might the problem be architectural rather than within the training itself? What gaps or areas for improvement remain?

    These five steps (re-examine, re-focus, re-formulate, re-apply, and re-re-examine) are a strong approach to training your employees effectively when your first attempt didn't stick. In the end, though, the problem can sometimes boil down to a lack of foundational knowledge or background experience. In these cases, the wise choice is often to hire out to the experts or seek the advice of a consultant. In either case, SharePoint Engine can help.

  • SharePoint: Where Servers and Staff Come Together

    You liked the first 14 tips in our SharePoint Success series, we thought we'd bring you 7 more. Keep in mind, though – these 21 tips, even when you add in the one-shot entries and other compilations we've provided, are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to SharePoint. Be sure to keep your eyes on this blog for more updates here and, for the greatest level of success possible, contact SharePoint Engine for a free consultation on how we can help your organization.

    Now, onto the 7 tips!:

    1: Create a hub where you can share documents, projects, and information with your potential and current clients. Just be sure you lock it in a password-protected site! 
    2: Be sure that all individuals who work with the interface know how to add custom fields. It's incredibly easy to do, it takes only a couple minutes, and it allows each staff-member to get all the information they need for each project. 
    3:  Put all your company, team, and other interpersonal announcements in a single place. Once you have, use the dashboard to either quickly link users to that location or – with a little Web Part magic – pull those announcements directly onto their dash. 
    4: For non-collaborative projects, tasks, documents, and discussions, encourage your workforce to work on the projects offline and then upload and update the data later on. This will improve the speed your SharePoint runs at by preventing server communication every time a minor change is made. 
    5: Use SharePoint to establish brainstorming sessions. Not only does the collaborative environment work well, it leaves a paper-trail that's easy to look back on – and it gives everyone an equal voice, since no actual yelling is required. 
    6: Use email notifications to ensure that all your team members stay up-to-date on the latest project additions, changes, and completions. 
    7: Encourage your staff to sync their Outlook or other company email address with their mobile device and home office. This ensures that everyone stays at full speed, and it's fairly easy to stop the flow of information to your staff should that individual leave your company.

    Want to learn more tactics to bolster the impact of SharePoint on your organization? Look through previous posts in our SharePoint tips series and stay tuned on Twitter and Facebook for updates in the coming weeks.

    Cheers,

    The SharePoint Engine Team


  • Effecitve SharePoint Use Means Impressive Growth
    Following up on our popular post "7 Ways to Use SharePoint Effectively," we're happy to bring you 7 more tips today. No need to gild the lily that is SharePoint! On to simple ways you can become more effective.
    1: Open up document to collaborators, and train your staff on doing likewise. This will improve the sense of teamwork, get the ideas stirring, and allow for swifter communication. 
    2: Use the "check-in / check-out" system to manage documents if you're uncertain of how collaboration would work or how changes will interact. 
    3: Train your staff on how to restore previous versions of documents. Far too much time is wasted re-writing or re-constructing content that's already been built! Simple reversions to old iterations is often the best path. 
    4: Use a single site to store, archive, and organize your emails. This also makes migration to a new/upgraded system far easier. 
    5: Use a task-based project system. Give each team-member tasks related to the project, notify them that they have a task, and have them make notes and complete the task within the SharePoint system. 
    6: If your company has issues with ineffective documents spreading, documents being bloated, or docs otherwise needing some care and attention, implement the "content approval" feature. This lets you give quick tips and pointers in addition to an opportunity for weeding out useless or inaccurate content. 
    7: Allow for telecommuting for specific tasks, such as training. It's easy to set up documents and other training materials that can be pulled from anywhere that gives you access to the web. This lets those who are sick at home stay up on work, cuts cost during training, and gives you an additional incentive by which to retain your top talent.


    Hungry for more pointers on how to get every last drop out of SharePoint? Be sure you check out our previous SharePoint tips and stay tuned on Twitter and Facebook for updates in the near future.

    Cheers,

    The SharePoint Engine Team


  • Digitize Your Growth with SharePoint
    The immense landscape that is SharePoint functionality is easy to lose track of. As a result, even those who don't make major mistakes can still fall well short of taking full advantage of the platform. To help you as you try to milk this magnificent Microsoft system for all it's worth, here are 7 simple ways you can use SharePoint to better your business.
    1: Post all of your event-related tasks, documents, notes, and other files to the event itself. You can even sync this up with Outlook!
    2: Centralize your task locations. This lets team members find their tasks more quickly, allows for easier synchronization, and lets management check in more quickly.
    3: Use a company blog (set to private!) instead of time in your meetings to communicate advances, ideas, and updates. This prevents time-wasting while giving you a visible, hard-copy rendition of current company news.

    4: Keep all your project management inside SharePoint itself. This gives you additional filtering and social options while minimizing your overhead; project management software can be pricey.

    5: Set up your road-warrior SharePoint experts with mobile access through tablets and smartphones. For more on this process, check out our SharePoint for tablets series.

    6: Use a "help ticket" resolution system for your company. This lets you organize and prioritize any issues, see what problems are common, and keep a written trail of the issue's history.

    7: Create project dashboard that allows you to filter projects by the elements they contain. This will let you see projects with similar or identical documents, tasks, details, events, and more, and lets you easily track down and replicate projects in the future.
    These are just a few of the literally thousands of ways you can use SharePoint to make your organization stronger, faster, and more effective. Keep up-to-date on further tips by subscribing to SharePoint Engine on Twitter and Facebook.

    Cheers,

    The SharePoint Engine Team

  • SharePoint is a wonderfully open-ended system, and that means you have plenty of room to mess yourself up, trip yourself over, and otherwise fail. While there are hundreds of ways to make mistakes in SharePoint, there are a few pitfalls that are both devastating and shockingly common.

    So, without further adieu, here are 5 SharePoint mistakes you're probably making:

    1: Not clearing your recycling bin.


    It may not seem like it matters, but the recycling bin can easily get out of hand. If you leave too many items, it's almost impossible to keep them straight – and they can be a huge sink on your total site quota for storage. No one wants a gigabyte of their quota to go to trash, so be sure to keep these files trimmed down and tossed out. A once-a-week or once-a-month clearance is advisable.

    2: Not putting quotas on collections.

    Site collections do a great job of tallying the inventory for your various SharePoint-based projects, but it's easy for site collections to become graveyards for long-since-dead projects. If you put some simple quotas on the size of site collections, you can easily prompt all responsible parties to keep their web-space clean.

    3: Not taking advantage of business intelligence.


    The reporting capabilities of SharePoint are some of the most impressive we've ever seen, but somehow C-level employees seem to think the reports are only helpful to them. The reality is that employees at every level can receive immense benefit from business intelligence reports – so throw some basic visuals on performance / key metric on the dash of every staff-member.

    4: Not planning effectively.

    Any SharePoint expert can tell you that Microsoft didn't build us the most simple, straightforward project. For every bit of helpful complexity, though, there's an additional way your project can tie in around itself. Make sure you plan in advance to avoid messing with the internals of your project halfway through. You don't want to break your own progress.

    5: Not using effective capacity need calculations.

    How much space do you really need for content? Unless you've done the critical thinking necessary to find your totals, you probably don't know. As you go through the calculations for necessary storage, be sure to set aside a few gigs for external applications (5 to 6gb is typically enough) for every gig of content you plan on having.

    Be sure to watch out for these easy-to-make foibles, and you'll be that much further ahead of the game. Want to learn more simple tips and tricky mistakes? Stay tuned on Twitter and Facebook.
  • As we discussed in our last post, SharePoint has become a go-to resource for many of the world's leading companies. Everything from the core content management to site creation are in common use. To help remedy the myth that professional sites can't be built from within SharePoint, we've collected some of the best consumer-facing SharePoint sites created and used by Fortune 500 companies.

    4) Valero Energy


    Valero Energy Corporation may not be a name you hear every day, but it's a company that impacts more than its share of Americans. As the largest independent refining company, Valero satisfies the energy needs of millions of Americans, and provides additional products on top of it all. And who does Valero turn to from their all-important public-facing site? None other than SharePoint.

    5) Viacom


    Viacom, the global entertainment company, runs top media networks such as MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, Spike TV, Logo, and about 150 more networks. Their assets also breach into other fields, with Neopets, BET.com, and Addicting Games all falling under the Viacom umbrella. Given the sheer amount of content to handle, it's little surprise that Viacom turned to SharePoint, the world's recognized leader in large-scale content management.

    6) International Assets Holding


    International Assets Holding, commonly abbreviated INTL, is a global advisory and execution group working with currencies, commodities, capital markets, asset management, and much more. They work with some of the world's top producers and processors, creating a world-wide bridge for government, for-profit, charitable, and other organizations. Their public-facing website brings it all together thanks to the manifold capabilities of Microsoft SharePoint sites.

    Other major companies that use or have used SharePoint for their core site include Kraft Foods, Brystol-Meyers Squibb, Exelon, Emerson Electric, PPG Industries, and – of course – SharePoint Engine. However, this list is only the tip of the iceberg. Beyond the hundreds of top-ranking companies who trust Microsoft SharePoint for both their content architecture and presentation, more businesses are choosing SharePoint every single day.
  • SharePoint is a powerful tool on almost every front. Whether you're looking to create a more powerful social infrastructure for your company, ensure that each employee always has the right document, make training and scheduling more simple, or make your task workflow more effective, SharePoint offers solutions. One of the features often overlooked, however, is the ability to create dynamic, attractive front-facing websites.

    Some companies fear that they will look unprofessional if they use a SharePoint-generated site as their public-facing resource. However, there are numerous Fortune 500 companies who have and continue to use SharePoint as their public-facing content management service. Here are just a few of the Fortune 500 companies who are using SharePoint sites today.

    1) Procter & Gamble.


    Procter and Gamble is a mega-corporation that controls some of the most powerful products on the market. From Pringles to Tampax to Pantene Pro-V, P&G has its fingers in several core marketplaces. To ensure that these products are presented in the ideal light, P&G has turned to SharePoint; four of their core sites are designed using SharePoint.

    2) Kroger



    Kroger, the supermarket giant, is a recognized name across the country. Their combination of low price and solid quality has helped the brand build itself into what it is today. To protect that brand, Kroger chose to create a SharePoint site.

    3) Dell Financial Services



    As a leader in the electronics industry, Dell is a household name for many Americans. Their low-cost computers are also a mainstay for businesses and educational organizations across the world. To help get their products into consumers' hands, Dell offers flexible financing – and to ensure that the financing runs as smoothly as possible, Dell runs a SharePoint site.

    This entry will be continued in our next post, where we'll delve into additional Fortune 500 companies that use a SharePoint portal for their front-facing site.
  • Get Microsoft Silverlight






    SharePoint is a popular platform with companies of almost every size; from the smallest of the small to the world's top corporations, Microsoft's content management platform offers a way to increase efficiency, decrease cost, and improve communication. Among the hundreds of companies who adopt SharePoint each month, last year saw a giant name added to the list: Coca Cola.

    Coca Cola Enterprises is the largest manufacturer and distributor of Coke products. Their 75,000 employees had been using a content management system that created problems; employees felt there was a lot of "push down" communication, but very little opportunity to communicate to the upper tiers. Additionally, files were often lost and the most recent versions of policies or documents were difficult to come by.

    Through the implementation of SharePoint and a team site system that allowed users to create their own sites, Coca Cola Enterprises saw a dramatic positive shift. Their staff, from ground level to C-level, commented on how intuitive and capable the system was.

    Among other core benefits of the SharePoint system, Coca Cola employees mentioned the easy-to-create team sites (over 800 sites were created by the staff in the first week after implementation); the ability to create engaged, two-way communication; the opportunity to create profiles that highlighted the personal strengths and capabilities of each team member; the increased security and visibility associated with user access; and the improved organization of resources, information, and content.

    If you're like Coca Cola and had trouble finding that "single version of the truth," are looking to create more "engaging communication," and want to create "a foundation that allows us to really understand the presence of our resources," SharePoint is the right system for you. Watch the video above for further details.


  • While the default print option for SharePoint 2010 is certainly useful, much of the included data can be done without; specifically, the inclusion of a header that gives document names, navigation, and other system-based details will often be useless when you have a document in print. One of the most effective and simple to implement solutions is a quick change to the CSS of a page.

    Thanks to the SharePoint 2010 custom CSS functionality, as well as improved rendering from the 2007 edition of the same, users will be able to take care of the header quite easily. (Users of SharePoint 2007 should note that there are often hidden elements that prevent appropriate rendering when you change the CSS. As such, you will need to either re-enter full CSS or locate the hidden elements before proceeding.)

    The primary piece of CSS you'll need is as follows:

    #s4-topheader2, #s4-titlerow, #s4-statusbarcontainer { visibility: hidden; display:none; }

    This code alone will hide the core header elements during print when you place it within the appropriate media signal (@media print). You can extend this functionality further by connecting the customized CSS with your print preview for a page. To do so, add the code <linl media="print">.

    Additional helpful CSS for printing includes the following line: #MSO_ContentTable { margin: 0 }. This line centers the content on a page. You can further alter the page alignments and other visual features with the use of tags such as text-align (left, right, or center) and padding (where you can insert a specific size to determine how much space is put between objects).

    If you have additional page elements, or page elements that are named differently than the items above, you can hide those items by inserting the element name with the code visibility: hidden; display:none;  }. 


    For more information on CSS coding, including what elements are functional inside SharePoint, visit w3schools.com.
  • SharePoint is a framework, a structure, that you must flesh out yourself. While we can do a lot for you as consultants and production workers, it's still important that you make the most out of SharePoint at every possible turn. Here are six simple ways (listed in no particular order) that you can improve your use of SharePoint for rapidly visible results.

    1) Organize your events in SharePoint. Include details, assigned tasks, related documents, group posts, and social functionality with the event itself. Integrate with the calendar. Let SharePoint serve as your hub for any major company happenings.

    2) Track productivity through SharePoint. If you track tasks and projects within SharePoint, you can create reports on who does what in the company. This will let you compare productivity between individuals and departments, and quickly pin-point individual strengths and opportunities for improvement.

    3) Let no person be an island. Have your team members set up social profiles on SharePoint that let the group know about their areas of expertise and that share commonly requested information in a public forum.

    4) Use a centralized SharePoint site for your email. This makes organization, reporting, and security much easier.

    5) Start a private company blog to share the latest updates. You can save yourself time during meetings and ensure that everyone has access to current data and plans by centralizing that data.

    6) Publish all of your training materials. You can help staff members stay up to date by giving them quick access to a web document instead of a physical hand-out. Additionally, by referring to a live document that you can update, you're saving yourself from the "outdated version" headache while saving some trees.

    These are just six quick tips to getting more out of SharePoint, but there are hundreds of additional possibilities. If you're ready to truly make the most out of your company's content management, contact SharePoint Engine today.
  • There's no doubt that the SharePoint platform has evolved over time. From its highly technical and extraordinarily challenging early versions to the often seamless and intuitive SharePoint 2010, we've seen a great leap forward. Still, some companies have decided not to upgrade to SharePoint 2010 due to the migration process. A recent study showed, however, that adoption of the latest version is up and that more companies are considering use of cloud-based versions.

    The study was conducted by Forrester and looked at 500 IT leaders. Among this more technically advanced cut of the field, 57% had adopted the most recent version of SharePoint (2010), despite the fairly new release of that product. Across all versions, 79% stated they were very satisfied with the service and 73% said the product meets the expectation of management. 75% reported that the IT staff were satisfied with the platform.

    The most valuable tools for the companies surveyed were the collaboration tools and team sites / intranets, which saw a 78% and 73% satisfaction rating, respectively. The majority of respondents also indicated that they began using SharePoint with the "workloads" features, then moved into more advanced features over time.

    Beyond an increased adoption rate for each subsequent version of SharePoint and an impressive 14-month migration rate for SharePoint 2010, the survey examined the question of alternate and upcoming versions. The big question was whether or not a cloud-based version of SharePoint was in the cards.

    The majority of companies have considered using SharePoint in a cloud-based medium, with only 17% stating that they never considered using a cloud-based version. The remainder either have or are now considering the use of either SharePoint Online or the cloud-based version of SharePoint that accompanies the Microsoft Office 365 suite. However, only 19% of all respondents indicated that they are currently using a cloud-based version.

    According to the study, SharePoint 2010 adoption should continue in full force while cloud-based versions will see increased growth in the years to come.
  • SharePoint has seen a broader adoption over the last few years, almost to the point that SharePoint systems are the expected enterprise platform. However, SharePoint management costs have remained about the same – $45 to $46 per user – over the last three years. The reason, according to the State of the Market study, is improper training and a lack of managerial knowledge.

    The study was conducted by Osterman Research and looked at over 120 managers and IT executives in the mid-to-large company ranges. Their conclusion was that the typical cost is $46 per user per month, $1 per user up from a 2009 study done on the same topic. That $46 includes only the managerial costs associated with the system.

    So why have SharePoint costs remained the same while so many other system costs have diminished? The answer, according to the study, is "a lack of administrator skills, training, and knowledge as an inhibitor to efficiently leveraging SharePoint." This means that the management is inefficient due to improper training and background, and the staff members are unable to make the most of their own system.

    When you tabulate the average cost and duration of downtime, the per employee cost expands even further, to $90 per user per month. Consistent maintenance and appropriate setup could reduce or eliminate the additional cost, but the majority of organizations don't make an investment in said maintenance services due to more visible up-front costs associated with those tasks.

    "SharePoint is a set of great tools, but at its core, it's a blank slate for any number of applications," said Scott Gode, VP of product management at Azaleos, which conducted the 2009 study. "With SharePoint, there are no known set of scenarios because you can design anything into it. So there has to be a lot more flexibility and creativity in the way that those administrators are trained and gain experience through their work career."
  • SharePoint site templates can be a great way to save time and create a site with all the needed bells and whistles. The difficulty is that many of the designs come with a high cost – ranging into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Meanwhile, free templates are often sub-par. Luckily, there are a good number of templates that are high in quality and won't cost you a thing. Here are five of the best free SharePoint site templates:

    Board of Directors: This template is clean, well-organized, and professional. For those who want an executive approach to SharePoint, BoD is a top choice.


    Download this template here.

    Clinical Trial Initiation Management: This site template is specifically designed for health care organizations who run clinical trials, but the scheme can work for other sites as well. The structure puts special emphasis on schedule and task management.


    Download this template here.

    Employee Self-Service Benefits: Designed to quickly inform your employees about benefits and allow those employees to enroll, this SharePoint template can be a real time-saver for your organization.


    Download this template here.


    GreenShade: This public-facing template is designed to help you share news, company information, career opportunities, and more with your target audience. Since the site is built in SharePoint, content creation and management is made simple. The green design is also attractive without being overbearing.


    Download this template here.

    Synesthesia: The blue/silver/white template is one of the cleaner looks for a front-facing SharePoint site. The structure was designed with resource management, media content, and social sharing in mind.



    Download this template here.

    We'll have plenty more templates to share, so keep checking back in. We'll also give a shout on Twitter and Facebook, so follow us on those locations to get the fastest updates. Additionally, if you have any templates to suggest, leave a comment below.
  • We've talked about the social features of SharePoint before, even drawing a parallel between modern social media outlets and this professional medium. However, according to Kevin Turner (Microsoft's COO), the comparison extends beyond that: SharePoint is a core, fast-growing, and versatile medium, and one that parallels Facebook in growth, spread, and potential.

    Turner pointed to SharePoint as Microsoft's product that hit the $1 billion mark in revenue most quickly. While SharePoint 2010 was the most successful version yet, the next generation is also looking bright: 5 million seats have already been claimed for Office 365. The tremendous success of SharePoint make it the core of Microsoft's business services, a division of the company that makes up 32% of the company's total structure. That puts it ahead of any other division; Windows only has 27%, while servers and related tools hold 24%.

    Further, it's not just Microsoft who's getting a lot of its attention from businesses – though, yes, 82% of SharePoint's users are business users. The number of SharePoint users is increasing dramatically, with 20,000 new users each day. Additionally, more than three quarters of all Fortune 500 companies use SharePoint. In other words, in just the same way that Facebook dominates social or Google (sorry Bing) dominates search, Microsoft is the go-to service for enterprise content management.


  • SharePoint is a system that's designed to be at your fingertips every moment of every day, accessible whether you're in the office or accessing your site while on a business trip. The web parts, business intelligence, reporting, social features, and so much more were built around a "never quit" mentality.

    But does it always work like that? In reality, of course not. There will always be down time. Unfortunately, much of the down time experienced by companies could have been prevented with just a little bit of proactive care. Since most companies are of a small to medium scale, though, it makes little sense to hire a dedicated SharePoint specialist to maintain the system.

    That's where SharePoint Engine comes in. We've added a support and maintenance service that allows you to gain a powerful ally in maintaining your system. In addition to monitoring your server and applying preventative care (hot-fixes, updates, and so forth), we're making our staff of SharePoint experts available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all year round.

    We can also help with small-scale tasks, ranging from system migration to the implementation of new elements to rolling out a new update to resolving a single issue that hits your company. Whatever you're looking for, we want to help you resolve it and get back to business as usual.

    Learn more about our SharePoint maintenance and support services today.
  • With tens of thousands of views to this blog, we know you're hearing us loud and clear. What we're missing at this point is a little bit of engagement, discussion, and feedback. So we wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that we'd like to hear from you!


    Since talking at a company on the internet can be a little intimidating, we wanted to give you a few talking points. Let us know your thoughts on any or all of the following:

    • What's your favorite element of SharePoint?
    • Are you involved with the Office 365 beta, and if so, what are your thoughts so far?
    • What's your greatest struggle with SharePoint?
    • What books, courses, and other steps do you recommend for those still looking to learn the basics of SharePoint?
    • Have you worked with us, or other SharePoint consultants, in the past? What was your experience like?
    • What other SharePoint blogs do you read? Which are the best publications for those of us in the industry to keep an eye on?
    • What topics do you want us to cover in future entries?
    Of course, any other feedback you want to give is welcome. Use the comments below to respond, or if you prefer, drop us a line on Twitter, Facebook, or our website.

  • SharePoint is a lot of things to a lot of people, ranging from a business intelligence platform to a site builder to a social hub of company information to a powerful rapid communication tool. That last potential use is becoming more prominent, and according to a survey from Robert Half Technology, it's even edging out email.

    The survey of 1400 CIOs asked where in-office communication was going in the future. The respondents were asked to rate whether email or non-email methods, including SharePoint, would be more popular in the upcoming years. While many felt the two methods would be equally popular (38%), the largest number of respondents said that SharePoint and other instant communication options would be somewhat more popular than email (14% of respondents). 13% said that SharePoint and other similar methods would be "much more popular."

    The reasons boil down to speed, convenience, and social elements. Sharing through SharePoint gives access to options like tags, invitations for collaboration, group forums, and increased teamwork. John Reed of Robert Half Technology stated that "Although email remains an important communication tool, the increased use of real-time technologies affects the IT environment." As a result, "Employers are looking for the right people to deploy these tools in new ways to increase efficiency."

    The reality is that every company will behave differently, but those on the technological frontlines will gain a lot of benefit from using SharePoint, instant messaging, and social services to supplement their core communication – whatever method they happen to use for that. The difficulty now, as it was with email long ago, is facing the learning curve. As you approach this major platform, it's wise to enlist help from those who are already experts. If you want to learn what SharePoint Engine can do for you, contact us today.


  • There's no doubt that the world, Microsoft included, is moving more toward the "cloud." However, while cloud solutions offer a great number of advantages, they also have limitations and potential downfalls. We'll take a look at those advantages and disadvantages with Microsoft Office 365 and the cloud-based SharePoint Online.

    Pros:

    • You reduce your cost. Since you no longer have to run and maintain your service, you could save a substantial amount each month.
    • Microsoft keeps your privacy in-tact by allowing you to create group-facing intranet pages.
    • The new design has several areas of improvement, especially when it comes to Silverlight visuals.
    • Employees can share and access group documents even more easily, from wherever they are.
    Cons:
    • You lose control. While you may be paying less for the maintenance of your servers, they're also no longer your servers.
    • You can't implement farm-level solutions; absolutely everything has to be made in the sandbox.
    • Your entire staff will face a learning curve as they migrate to the new system.
    • Microsoft's servers aren't completely free from errors. Earlier this year, their BPOS system went down for over a day.
    Do the pros outweigh the cons? That really depends on where you're coming from. For many groups, the decreased cost is well worth sacrificing a bit of control and learning to use the sandbox for site customization. For others, however, their current version of SharePoint resolves all their needs with ease and facing the new learning curve and potential problems is an unnecessary hassle.

    Regardless of what you choose, SharePoint Engine can help you do it right. Give us a call today for a free consultation discussing how we can work together.

  • We previously discussed some ways you can get started with accessing SharePoint right from your tablet computer – be it an iPad, Galaxy Tab, or something else entirely. While the tips and workarounds provided in this series will let many users do everything they need to with SharePoint, some users will still face limitations.

    Those limitations vary greatly dependent on how you're accessing your SharePoint content. Each application, including those outlined previously, will hit against walls when it comes to accessing SharePoint. This will be especially true as we transition to the Office 365 version of SharePoint Online. Applications can also have gaps between OS versions or major SharePoint updates where the app loses features or stops working entirely.

    Those using the mobile browsers provided by their tablet or smartphone are likely to avoid those gaps and stutters, but there are separate limitations brought about by the mobile browsers themselves. Mobile Safari, the most popular option (and the one tied to the iPad), doesn't allow Rich Text editing, as just one example. Additionally, browsing through advanced menus or web parts can become impossible.

    These problems will diminish in the future; the upcoming versions of iOS (including 5.0, which is currently in beta) will reduce issues with rich text, Microsoft may release their own fully capable applications, and SharePoint Online may integrate more mobile-friendly features. In the meantime, users can still get a lot out of SharePoint while using their tablet.

  • SharePoint is meant to bring the knowledge workers of the 21st century together, making the most out of every synergistic opportunity. However, with so many different resources inside SharePoint, it can be hard to make the most out of every one. Here are four tips to making sure your accumulated company expertise isn't going to waste.

    1: Use the Social Profiles


    There are a variety of social tools built into SharePoint. The profiles allow users to connect with one another, see which employees have what expertise, and otherwise get in touch with the right person for the job. If you haven't already created profiles, set aside a time where users can fill out their information completely.

    2: Set Aside "Note Time"


    Your experts can make use of the social elements of SharePoint to create notes that are then shared with others and made accessible for self-training in the future. These can be highly valuable – if they exist. The problem is that most of your experts don't want to take time away from their active projects for a note the won't get any credit for. Give them credit by setting aside a specific time for writing these notes up.

    3: Create a Note Directory


    While the users can share notes directly, it's still nice to have a comprehensive list. This is especially valuable for employees who want to learn more on a topic, since a compilation of valuable notes makes that education possible without burning more time from the expert who wrote it.

    4: Enable Curation Elements


    Curation – the crowdsourced vetting of your work community – can be incredibly effective. However, some elements of posts (such as ratings) can be intimidating at first. However, allowing this human feedback is a great way to ensure that the best notes and articles are visible without much digging.

    There are dozens of other ways you can make the most of your experts, but the four items above are a great way to start inching into the development of your SharePoint social elements.

  • Everyone has their own style when it comes to learning new-to-them software products. Many of the best learn by doing, but others have more of a “read first, play later” style. For those of us who love our hard copies, here are reviews of a few popular books about SharePoint.

    1. Beginning Sharepoint Designer 2010


    Written by: Bryan Phillips, Asif Rehmani, Marcy Kellar, and Wodrow W. Windischman

    Material covered: Using SharePoint Designer in an enterprise, creating and modifying web pages, using CSS editing tools to customize themes, using Data View, and integrating with Visual Studio, Visio, and InfoPath.

    What people are saying: Reviews over all seem to be very positive. Readers appreciate how this book, true to it’s title, makes SharePoint more accessible to beginners, and the fact that it covers the program in fair depth at the same time. One review mentioned that the editing could be better--a common problem with of-the-moment tech books.


    2. Professional SharePoint 2010 Administration


    Written by: Todd Klindt, Shane Young, and Steve Caravajal

    Material covered: This is an in-depth guidebook. It walks you through everything from installation of the new 2010 software, to the changed features of the new release, to architecture planning and disaster recovery.

    What people are saying: This book seems to be exceptionally popular with readers. They praise the comprehensive coverage, the clear explanations, and the useful walk-throughs. If you’re going to own one book on SharePoint Administration, this might be it.



    3. InfoPath with Sharepoint 2010 How-To

    Written by: Steven Mann

    Material Covered: Mostly, how to solve issues in SharePoint using InfoPath. It offers “over 140 solutions and scenarios”--that is, it describes scenarios and offers potential solutions to them. Basically, this is a great way to expand your toolbox for finding solutions to your SharePoint issues.

    What people are saying: Readers love how concise this is. It is unusual to find a software writer who prefers to be engaging instead of comprehensive; in this case, that strategy seems to have paid off. Additionally, reviewers think many of the tutorials are particularly good.
  • In a world where mobility is strength, the concept of tablets is a powerful one for businesses. The difficulty is that tablets, being a very different platform than your standard laptop or desktop computer, require a steep learning curve – at least if business users really want to make the most out of their Android tablet or iPad.

    To help you conquer that learning curve as quickly as possible, here are some basic pointers on using SharePoint for the tablet environment. First things first: Get the right apps.


    While there are a good number of apps that technically allow you to interact with SharePoint, and a few apps designed for highly niche purposes within SharePoint, there are a couple highly reputable options that are beautiful for a broad number of SharePoint purposes.

    SharePlus

    First, there's SharePlus. SharePlus has three different versions: Lite, Pro, and Enterprise. The Lite version is free but lacks some important security measure, the Pro version costs $15 (a one-time fee), and the Enterprise version requires a quote. Once you've purchase the version that works best for you, loading the program on your tablet will show several navigation options, including "Office 365." This means you can access your SharePoint Online content.

    Once you're done with the standard authentication, you'll see a well-organized navigation tree that shows your libraries and documents. From here you can create new files, post announcements, and much more. Well worth the low price!

    DocumentsToGo


    Next there's DocumentsToGo. DTG is popular for document creation, and while it doesn't support the same broad level of interactivity with your SharePoint site, it's one of the best tablet-based ways to create attractive documents with professional designs.

    There are two versions, the standard ($10) and the premier ($17), but either one works well for your typical document editing and creation. The premier version does offer some cloud storage and the option to create and edit PowerPoint presentations, however.

    Once you've decided on which apps to purchase (of the two above or any number of other alternatives), it's all about adapting to the mobile work. We'll cover that in future entries. As always, if you have any questions on SharePoint or want to learn what a SharePoint consulting group can do for you, just contact us.
  • This month's newsletter will cover SharePoint staffing services provided by SPE, the advantages we offer, and – far more importantly – a lineup of information, resources, and statistics on the value offered by temporary staffing options. Here's a quick peek at some of the most interesting facts.

    Temporary staff positions are continuing to become the employment of choice for tech gurus around the world. As evidenced by the 18.4% growth in 2010, the 2.6 million jobs being worked by temporary staff on any given day, and the continued growth in Q1 of 2011, more and more individuals and companies are turning toward temporary positions to fill their needs.

    Going against misconceptions about the staffing industry, most temporary staff members actually prefer temp positions to standard positions, since "flexible work time is important" to spend time with their family and pursue other interests. Two-thirds of all temporary staffers cited flexible work time as a major motivating benefit.

    Also a less-known fact is that 79% of all temporary staff members are working full time, which is right on par with the full-time vs part-time rate seen in non-temporary industries. All these advantages make contract work an intuitive choice for SharePoint experts, and allow us to access some of the brightest minds in the industry.

    Add to these benefits the simple reality of improved screening, fewer HR headaches, and the ability to quickly find a staff member that suits your company, and choosing SharePoint staffing solutions becomes the clear choice for many projects.

    [The statistics provided in this article come from the American Staffing Association]
  • SP1 is officially out, which is great news for all of the tech-savvy SharePoint gurus who've been hovering over their keyboards, ready to blitz the Microsoft download site the moment the update pack was ready. However, many SharePoint users aren't quite so familiar with SP1, and may be a bit uncertain on how to install the updates. To make that process simple, this entry will give a step-by-step guide on installing the service pack.

    Step One: Get the Service Pack Files


    You can pick up SP1 on the Microsoft Download site, but you'll need to get the correct version for your system type (specifically, 32-bit or 64-bit) and you may need to install a language pack afterward. You can find a listing of SharePoint 2010 service pack options here. Meanwhile, the two most common files needed will be SharePoint Foundation 2010 SP1 and SharePoint Server 2010 SP1.

    Step Two: Prepare for the Update


    A few preparatory steps are in order. First, make sure the account you're working from has all the administrative privileges enabled. Second, create a backup of the entire server farm, just in case something goes wrong during your installation process.

    Step Three: Determine and Execute an Update Type


    There are multiple update type options available, and different companies may find different alternatives preferable. Each option has different support (e.g., for reverse compatibility, etc.) and downtime requirements. Check out this Microsoft site summarizing the details of the update options and how to execute each.


    Step Four: Install the Latest Cumulative Update


    SP1 does not include some of the updates from the June 2011 cumulative update, so it's a good idea to install those immediately after you've installed SP1.

    If you feel that you need help in choose the best option for your company, in executing the update, or in understanding the benefits of SP1 or other SharePoint Foundation and Server updates, we'd be glad to help. Just contact us by your preferred method to get in touch with a certified SharePoint expert.
  • The world isn't short on SharePoint conferences. In fact, at any given time, there's some conference or another happening for SharePoint gurus, geeks, and experts. These conferences provide a great way to connect with like-minded individuals, learn more about the industry, and even hear the biggest news first.

    While SharePoint Engine representatives can't make it to every conference, we do try to make it to quite a few. In cases where we are otherwise occupied, we still encourage you to make the most out of the opportunity. One of the conferences going on now – as in now, now – is the SharePoint Connections Coast to Coast Tour.

    The SharePoint Connections Coast-to-Coast Tour

    Sponsored by DevConnections, this tour brings prominent SharePoint speakers to locations around the United States, including Las Vegas, Boston, San Diego, San Francisco, San Antonio, and Chicago. The primary objectives, according to the official website, include:

    • Getting practical guidance on SharePoint.
    • Facing challenges of today's business world.
    • Creating a strategic plan for your company.
    • Mastering the SharePoint technology.
    • Finding local SharePoint resources.
    • Connecting with peers and experts in the industry.

    The tour started in Vegas earlier this week, and is now continuing to Boston. As part of the conference, participants also have the chance to get involved in the Microsoft Developer Bootcamp – without any extra cost.

    The dates are as follows:



    If you make it to the conference or Bootcamp, let us know what you think by leaving a comment below or sending us a message via Twitter or Facebook.
  • Microsoft announced that SP1 for SharePoint 2010 would be released in "late June," which means – whatever the specific date – we're very close. While there hasn't been a monumental amount of concrete details, data was released at Tech-Ed 2011 concerning the nature of SP1. Here's a brief rundown of what it will contain:


    • All current bug fixes. While many bug fixes were previously released in hot fix rollups (also known as cumulative updates), most users didn't receive these updates; they were "on request only." All those fixes will be present in SP1.
    • Extended Office web app capabilities. A number of fixes, interface enhancements, and new features will be available in the Office web apps. This includes the ability to directly insert clip art in PowerPoint, print presentations and documents directly from the page (rather than just from previews), the ability to copy formulae from Excel cells, and support for the .ODF (Open Office document) format.
    • Enhanced performance overall. Page indexing, navigation, and many other elements are receiving an enhancement buff.
    • Support for IE9 Native. The native version of IE9 will now support all SharePoint features.
    • Support for Google Chrome. Chrome, which previously worked fairly well, will now be fully supported.
    • Support for SQL 11. SQL 11, aka Denali, has full support in SP1.
    • Site recycling bin. Deleted items will not be retrievable by an admin without the need for a database restoral.
    • Shallow copy. Any copied RBS database will now re-write the directions to files rather than copying all files over to disk.
    • StorMan returns. The SharePoint 2007 analysis tool that examines where you're using space will be re-implemented.
    These details, while released by official representatives, are still subject to change. However, with the release just around the corner, we'll all be able to see the details for ourselves. These highly demanded features, as well as an untold number of extras, will likely be available in the coming week.

  • If you're going to divide SharePoint into its basic units, one of the most essential is the workflow. Having the automated pipeline of a workflow, as well as the vast customization options provided by SharePoint designer, can reduce the time invested in simple organizational tasks – lowering your costs, allowing projects to be finished more quickly, and making it less likely that projects will got lost as they change hands.

    One of the important steps in making your workflow work for you is having the appropriate column displays. This allows you to have all important information visible at a glance. SharePoint Designer has made the addition of new columns easy through their association columns.

    What Are Association Columns?


    Association columns are data columns (such as URL, workflow name, or any number of custom fields) that are displayed in a reusable workflow. Since the reusable workflow model can be used anywhere within SharePoint, the only columns displayed by defaults are "Created" and "Created By" (the fields that are common through all portions of the site). Any number of additional columns can be added to reusable workflows or to lists. In the case of being associated with lists, association columns will appear on any workflow associated with said list.

    Adding Association Columns


    To add association columns, just follow these steps:

    1. Click on the "Association Columns" icon in the SharePoint designer Ribbon toolbar.
    2. Click "OK" on the warning message that comes up.
    3. Choose either "Select Site Column" or "Add New Column" (dependent on whether you want to go with one of the default options or add your own).
    4. If you're using a default column, simply choose the appropriate option from the list provided.
    5. If you're adding your own column, fill out the field name, description, and data type.
    6. Once you've finished, push "OK" to complete the column addition.
    Note that, because association columns are stored to your configuration files, you won't be able to edit the column after you've implemented it. You can, however, delete it and create a new one.

  • The migration from SharePoint 2007 to 2010 is usually a challenging but pleasant experience. Yes, you may lose some of the work invested in SharePoint 2007, you'll have to do some re-configuration, and it's a good idea to re-train your employees on modified or entirely new features. However, the simplicity of SharePoint 2010 when compared to 2007 is like switching from pounding your head against a rock to pounding it against a mattress.

    Regardless, certain configuration stages are going to present issues, and one that often gets complaints from those who run server farms (or who simply run off a shared server) is the Configure Your Farm utility. This assistance wizard is honestly designed to make your job simpler, but because of one little problem it often doesn't. That problem is that automatic population of a GUID on numerous service application databases.

    Most people will have one of two gut reactions to this problem: 1) They're fine with the problem because they don't see how it will hurt them (such as for those running a private server) or 2) They're not okay with it and now have to manually configure the entire thing. Sadly, those who choose the second column are probably safer. This is because most database backup scripts will break when they run across the GUIDs issued by Configure Your Farm.


    Oddly enough, that includes the Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager, which will return a "tag too long" error when it bumps into one of its own GUIDs. Microsoft's own configuration wizard is making it impossible to use a far more vital tool.

    Now, the $500 question: What should you do about it? Sadly, server admins and DBAs will have to wait for new versions of these utilities (which are on their way, and can even be seen in beta format in the Office 365 suite), will have to work with external tools, or will have to enlist the help of SharePoint experts. This is one of those cases where Microsoft has simply slipped up and the servers admins have to make themselves aware of the issue, the consequences, and the work-arounds.

  • One of the great advancements from SharePoint 2007 and SharePoint 2010 is the inclusion of advanced social features. This means some fairly simplistic features that allowed SharePoint to match several industry standards, but the Microsoft efforts went well beyond the call of duty. One of the most useful elements added by Microsoft is the social bookmarking feature. In this entry we will briefly touch on what this feature is and how you can make the most out of it.

    A Brief Definition of Social Bookmarking

    Social bookmarking has not been a standard ECM feature – partially because the concept has, since its inception, seemed fairly distant to businesses. In much the same way that Twitter and Facebook have moved from purely person-to-person mediums, however, social bookmarking on the whole has produced immensely positive effects in the business-to-person market.

    But what is social bookmarking? Those not already familiar with sites like Delicious and Digg may find some brief elaboration useful. The simplest definition is that social bookmarking is any compilation of useful links provided by users of a site, service, or group. To some degree social bookmarking is natural in your business; when one employee says to another, "I know a great article to read about that" and provides them with a link, that's a social bookmark.

    Social bookmarking can, but doesn't necessarily, come with a number of additional features, including descriptions of links, the name of the person who submitted the link, and group rating features.

    Social Bookmarking in SharePoint


    This is all great, and hopefully you'll see already why an ECM can benefit from bookmark sharing resources, but how does it apply to SharePoint? Beyond having social bookmarking features that are more than a little impressive, Microsoft has stated clearly that they're continuing to work on and develop these features – both in SharePoint 2010 and in the upcoming versions of SharePoint.

    Right now users have access to numerous bookmarking features, including:

    • The centralized SharePoint database of bookmarks.
    • A tagging system that allows for improved organization of links.
    • An accessible design for the interface.
    • The ability to tag specific users to call their attention to a resource.
    • And much more.
    While this is a business resource as opposed to a social one, remember that without people actively using bookmarks it's impossible to get the resources you really need. Encourage your employees to use these available tools, customize your interface by using web parts and work with SharePoint consulting groups, and you'll be surprised at how much more effective your employees can be. As a self-serve system, social bookmarks are an invaluable way to make data resources more available without increasing your labor hour investment.
  • It's common knowledge that Microsoft and Google aren't great friends. Beyond the fact that they're competing in numerous markets (notably search, mobile, productivity, browsers, and operating systems), the companies have decidedly not pulled their punches. Google has accused Microsoft of cheating on search, Microsoft has stated that Google's structure creates stagnancy and excess risk, and the fight goes on.

    One area where this war continues is in online support for productivity software. Since each of these companies runs both a cloud-based set of productivity services and a popular browser, it's a bit too easy to just "not support" the opposing team. In large part, that's precisely what both Microsoft and Google have done, to varying degrees, over the last couple years. Finally, however, Microsoft has decided to add Google Chrome support for their online tools including their various Office Web Applications via SharePoint 2010.

    These changes should be released with the Office 2010 SP1. While there's no certain date on when this service pack will be released, it's expected for "late June." Since updates are frequently rolled out on the fourth Tuesday of each month, the most likely (though certainly not official) date is June 28th. Users should keep an eye out on the Microsoft sites, however, since these updates are generally released as a manual installation months prior to becoming an automatic updates. If your'e a corporate customer, you may receive special notification before the update is made available.

    While this official support is certainly significant, it won't be the first time that Chrome devotees have used their OWA (Office Web Apps) in the Google browser; the SkyDive file sharing medium made working in Chrome entirely functional despite a lack of declared Microsoft support.

    It's hard to say how much of the previous choice not to support Chrome stemmed from an intentional evasion of Google's up-and-coming browser, and likewise it's difficult to say whether Microsoft's motivation now is just general support or if Chrome's 10 percent plus of the browser market share has now made it a vital part of a successful cloud release. In either case, the issues are now resolved and a precedent has been set for support in Office 365 and SharePoint Online.
  • Regardless of the industry, there's always a lot to be gained from conferences and conventions. SharePoint is certainly no exception. That's why we try to make it to as many SharePoint conventions as possible. Here are a few of the great SharePoint conferences coming up in the next few months.

    • SharePoint Saturday. This get-together happens on Saturdays in various locations throughout the globe, ranging from Vietnam to Tampa.
    • Tech-Ed. An event focused on technical education for all of Microsoft's products, including SharePoint and the entire Microsoft suite. Tech-Ed is happening right now, starting on May 16th and ranging to the 19th.
    • SharePoint Fest. This conference brings together Microsoft Engineers, MVPs, and certified trainers for a great lineup of tutorials, seminars, and more. This conference is taking place in Denver in May and in Chicago in July.
    • SP Tech Con. One of our favorite conferences, SharePoint Tech Con is a three day conference happening in June in Boston.
    • SharePoint Conference. This October conference is happening in Anaheim, California. The focus is on SharePoint deployment and development possibilities.
    • SharePoint Europe. Anyone near Berlin, Germany in October, 2011 should pay attention for this Europe-wide conference that looks at the crucial SharePoint decisions for everyone from C-level employees to end users.

    While we're not able to make it to a booth at every conference and convention, we're always ready to chat with you. Be sure to pay attention to this blog, as well as the SharePoint Engine site, to find conventions where you can talk to us face to face.
  • Image Courtesy of Tech Cakes
    It's hard to believe that it's been a full ten years since Microsoft SharePoint was released. In fact, it's been ten years and two months, with the birthday seeing its official celebration in Microsoft offices in March.

    One good birthday tradition is to spend some time reflecting on the advancements you've made and your overall list of accomplishments. It would normally be a touch rude to do this for someone else, but considering that SharePoint isn't sentient (it's smart, but not quite self-aware yet) it seems appropriate to take a quick stroll back down memory lane.

    Back in 2001, when SharePoint was still just a mutated extra limb to the Microsoft Office and Outlook suites, SharePoint was a difficult to use and sometimes impossible to handle platform. Its portal server and team services did one thing that was vital, though: they caught enough attention from businesses that Microsoft didn't give up on the product. In 2003, the second version of SP was released, followed shortly by Portal Server 2003.

    Then we took a break from development for a few years. While many still added extras to SP, and service packs and fixes were being released as usual, SharePoint didn't make its next advance until SharePoint 2007. But what an advance it was! The Office SharePoint Server, as well as items like the SharePoint Site Designer,  created a fleshed-out and simple to use system that also integrated essential social elements. In 2010, those features were improved further, and SharePoint became stronger, more streamlined, more stable, and easier to customize.

    Now we look to the future, as Office 365 brings us SharePoint Online. As SP is reaching its teen years, it seem that its rebellious streak – running off to the cloud as it is – is already manifesting.

    It's been a great ten years, and we hope for many more decades – as rich with advancement and possibility as this one – in the future.

  • We just got out official beta invitation for Microsoft Office 365, giving us the opportunity to browse through, learn, and toy with the various new features of Microsoft's latest evolution, SharePoint Online. However, those who haven't managed to get into the beta just yet – or who prefer a more "read only" method of education – may prefer to explore the developer guide released by Microsoft.

    The guide is perfect for those eager to learn about the new features. The 45-page document walks users through the basics (what is SharePoint Online, why SharePoint Online is advantageous when compared to both previous versions of SP and to competition, etc.), it also has a succinct look at what's new for standard users and developers. Key components of the update include:

    • Updates to SharePoint Designer. Users will be able to more quickly "leverage the building blocks" of the SharePoint environment. This includes branding, workflows, custom actions, and library interaction.
    • Updates to the Visual Studio. Users will be able to build applications, templates, and other development resources more effectively, and will be able to import previously created solutions (any file in .wsp format) into SharePoint Online.
    • A SharePoint to LINQ converter that translates LINQ coding into CAML.
    • A new client-side model.
    • And much more!

    Please note that everything discussed in the developer's guide, just like Office 365 itself, is in beta and thus is subject to change. Check out the developer guide for yourself: download now.
  • The Deepwater Horizon Drill
    Everyone knows about the BP oil spill. After all, it was one of the biggest man-made disasters in recent years, and its ecological impact – not to mention the economic damage to local regions and those who lived in those areas – was immense. As nearly five million barrels of oil gushed into the ocean, the world was outraged. Shouldn't a company like BP have systems in place to prevent just such a disaster? Well, they did, in the form of a customized SharePoint platform. And that platform had warned BP against doing exactly what they did.

    One reason that the SharePoint name doesn't often come up with BP is that the company calls its content management system the "OMS" – or Operating Management System. However, the entire thing is built on the backbone of Microsoft SharePoint, with heavy customization but a gravitational center that should be familiar to all our readers. The company is currently reviewing the OMS, and representatives are concerned because it's not a guarantee of safety. However, if the company had listened to the warning of the system, they would have almost certainly prevented the spill.

    The BP OMS, in examining the Deepwater Horizon drilling facilities, indicated that 21 stabilizers would be required. The company had six in place and ordered 15 more. However, the 15 that arrived didn't seem to be the appropriate units, so the company decided not to install them. Rather than delay the drilling, British Petroleum decided to continue with only 6 of the 21 stabilizers needed – equating to roughly a 72% deficit on the provided safety recommendations.

    What's the lesson of the story? First, that SharePoint is capable of preventing disasters, especially when you take advantage of customization features. Second, that if you invest so heavily in an effective system like a customized SharePoint content management and evaluation system, you should listen when it tells you not to continue.


  • Those who have been paying close attention to Microsoft's innovations will already have heard of Microsoft 365, which has had mentions from mid-2010. However, exactly what was to be included wasn't sure – nor was 365 itself anything more than a convention demo and set of screenshots, at least as far as practical application was concerned.

    That's changed now, thanks to the Beta release of Office 365. But what's so different about this service? The primary augmentation is the move of Microsoft's productivity components into the cloud. All of the standard productivity services, such as Excel, PowerPoint, and Word, are cloud-ready with this service, but that's not where the story ends: Office 365 also brings SharePoint into the cloud.

    The entire package is available for beta testers now, but it may take some time to get admitted to the beta program (two to four weeks, in fact, according to the Microsoft estimates). Those who would rather just wait for an official release should be pleased by the pricing, which tosses the traditional licensing fee in favor of an annual subscription. Companies with fewer than 25 employees can subscribe for $6 per year, or $18 per year if you want your employees to have access to the desktop versions of Microsoft Office. Meanwhile, the Enterprise version, designed for companies with more than 25 employees, will charge $24 per year for access to all the standard services and desktop software, as well as 24-hour IT support and advanced controls.

    There's little doubt that the update will change the face of Microsoft SharePoint, and the company has never disguised the fact that this may present complications. However, it will also offer a great number of new opportunities. Those looking to conquer the chaos or seize the new treasures lying inside the updated version will benefit from a SharePoint consulting group such as SharePoint Engine. Contact us today for your free consultation.
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