• What changes and enhancements in SharePoint 2013 make it worth migrating from SharePoint 2010? Speaking from a purely business perspective, there are a number of features in SharePoint 2013 that are probably worth making the investment to upgrade. There are also some features that might not be worth the effort, at least for the majority of SharePoint users.

    In this blog post we will summarize a few of the new features in SharePoint 2013 that might justify upgrading from SharePoint 2010. The features we’ll overview are: Design Manager, Device Channels, HTML5, Community Sites and Community Portal, the new Search experience, Content Search Web Part, and Web Content Management. These features can be configured by a trained in-house SharePoint developer or a professional SharePoint consulting firm can be contracted to do the work.

    Design Manager


    This tool will help make your website look as if it was custom designed, and ensure that your brand is presented how you choose rather than looking like SharePoint. Design Manager makes it much easier to create customized, pixel-perfect design while using the design tools most designers are familiar with. With Design Manager you can also optimize your site’s design for a certain class of smart phones or tablets. Depending on what device channels you define, you may want several designs.
    Design Manager lets you create your design, implement the design and manage the website design.

    Device Channels


    With Device Channels, you can render a single publishing site in multiple ways by mapping different designs to different devices. Each channel can has its own master page that links to a style sheet that is optimized for a specific device. Each channel specifies the user agent substrings for one or more devices, such as Windows Phone OS. There are rules that determine what devices are included in each channel. When visitors browse your site, each channel captures the traffic for its specified device or class of devices. Visitors see your site in a design optimized window customized for their particular device.

    HTML5 and CSS3


    HTML5 has several new features such as: the < video > and < audio> elements for media playback in the bowser’s default player; support for local storage which gives the user the ability to use web apps or read content while offline; and new content-specific elements like < article>, < footer>, < header>, < nav>, and < section>. These tags allow for better SEO content indexing, organization and standardizations for all designs. HTML5 lets developers target the most number of devices with the least amount of development effort.

    In addition to HTML5, CSS3 opens up even more branding opportunities. CSS3 includes: the @font-face property to render font file references in a live environment; the border-radius enables the ability to make rounded corners on boxes and other objects; box shadow generates a shadow on elements; and dynamic widths for proportional sizing on multiple screen sizes. CSS3 also gives designs that need dynamic widths the ability to re-size proportionally based on the screen resolution or the size of the device.

    Community Sites and Community Portal


    There is a new site template called Community Site, which is a site that promotes discussion between members based on site specific topics. It also allows for the use of common social media techniques like ‘@’ to mention and ‘#’ hashtags to tag with categories.

    The Community Portal Site Collection template automatically aggregates community sites for easy viewing and access. This is very similar to the Linkedin-groups concept. Community Sites can be created to support different subject matter and then a Portal can be created to access sites individually.

    New Search Capabilities


    Search in 2013 enables users to find relevant information quickly and easily and makes it easy for Search administrators to customize the search experience. It also provides several API sets for advanced customizations and solutions. There have been a wide variety of improvements in the Search capabilities of SharePoint 2013 from SharePoint 2010. With the newest version, Search has been re-architected to a single enterprise search platform. The search architecture consists of the following areas: crawl and content processing, indexing, query processing, search administration, and analytics.

    Content Search Web Part


    The Content Search Web Part (CSWP) is a Web Part introduced in SharePoint 2013 that uses various styling options to display dynamic content on SharePoint pages. The CSWP displays search results in a way that they can easily be formatted. Each CSWP is associated with a search query and shows the results from that search query. Display templates can be used to change how search results appear on the page. CSWP can return content that is as fresh as the latest crawl of your content.

    Web Content Management


    SharePoint 2013 includes new and improved features to manage web content and simplify how you design publishing sites and enhance the publishing process. Content authors can copy content from Word, paste it directly into a Rich Text Editor Web Part or an HTML field control on a page, and have the resulting semantically correct HTML markup display in the styles that were defined by the designer.

    In SharePoint 2013 the variations feature is used exclusively for multilingual sites. The variation feature makes content available to specific audiences on different sites by copying content from a source variation site to one or more target variation sites, and tracking relationships between sources and target content.

    Cross-site publishing lets you store and maintain content in one or more authoring site collections, and display this content in one or more publishing site collections. When the content is changed in an authorizing site collection, those changes are then displayed on all site collections that are reusing this content.

    The overall experience of WCM combining Apps, Search, Devices, Design Manager significantly enhances our ability to manage the publishing of pages and the environment to make that happen.

    Wrap up


    If you are thinking of switching to SharePoint 2013, there are a number relevant, business-oriented, features to consider. We presented a few of the features in the blog, but to get an complete picture of all the features that might be relevant for you, it is advisable to speak to a SharePoint Consulting professional.

    SharePoint Engine


    If SharePoint experience is one of the keys to end user satisfaction, then SharePoint Engine will get a gold star. As a SharePoint Consulting company in business for the past 7 years, they have successfully completed more than 100 projects. Many of the SharePoint Engine developers have been working with the platform since it was launched in 2001. The depth of their knowledge is substantial and can be used to design and build an exceptional SharePoint solution.

    If you would like to talk to a premier SharePoint Consulting firm with the experience and vision to design your ideas and business objectives into SharePoint, please send us an email at Info@SharePointEngine.com or call 678-956-1780.

  • SharePoint haters seem to be disappearing. Possibly they aren’t as vocal as before, or perhaps they don’t complain as much. Whatever the reason, ‘hater’ rhetoric is quieting down…and that is a wonderful thing.

    In this blog post, I want to look at why users didn’t or don’t like SharePoint; why a design flaw here or coding problem there would be so magnified by unhappy end-users that they felt compelled to write about their pain. I’d also like to propose the idea that end-users are becoming happier with each passing day as SharePoint evolves and SharePoint developers evolve with it.

    Let me say right up front, the reason most users didn’t like SharePoint was because the developers that designed and built the user applications were untrained, inexperienced, or lacked vision…or all three. I’m laying the whole SharePoint ‘hater’ thing at the doorstep of developers…sorry.

    Microsoft Got the Ball Rolling


    So, why did so many end users decide to blame SharePoint rather than the developer or his lack of SharePoint knowledge? The whole thing started with problems with Microsoft and the vast array of products that people everywhere were exposed to and learned to hate. We might consider some discontinued products like Microsoft Bob, OneCare, Microsoft Chart and Picture Manager…to name just a few of their flops. These products were all discontinued because they weren’t any good. Microsoft marketing hyped them up, people purchased them, and people hated them. At the very least, you have to give Microsoft credit for trying new things. It just would have worked out better if those new things would have worked.

    If a software product is not stable, secure, or capable of performing as expected, then that the product is destined for the trash bin along with the company that built it. Given that so many of their products failed, the amazing thing about Microsoft is the brand is still incredibly strong. Microsoft certainly had its share of unstable, insecure and clunky products, but it also had a few magnificent triumphs. That said, the Microsoft brand has been stained enough times that people are skeptical of their products and quick to tell the world when something goes ‘bump in the night.’

    SharePoint and the inaugural version called Microsoft SharePoint Services or MOSS, was misunderstood from the very beginning. Here is how Microsoft described SharePoint Services back in 2006 with Version 1.0:

    Windows SharePoint Services is a versatile technology that organizations and business units of all sizes can use to increase the efficiency of business processes and improve team productivity. With tools for collaboration that help people stay connected across organizational and geographic boundaries, Windows SharePoint Services gives people access to the information they need.

    Built on Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Windows SharePoint Services also provides a foundation platform for building Web-based business applications that can flex and scale easily to meet the changing and growing needs of your business

    Most people read the marketing description above and said: “It does what?” In those three simple words, they were asking – what in the world is a foundation platform? They also were saying – SharePoint Services sounds too complicated and expensive. Obviously, SharePoint got off to a rocky start in life.

    Things are Changing


    That was then, this is now. SharePoint 2010 and the recently released Version 2013 have evolved as a solid ‘foundation platform.’ People now have a better understanding of what SharePoint can do, and people are a bit more tolerant of Microsoft since that the company regained the confidence of the masses. SharePoint earned a new lease on life, and Microsoft intends to take full advantage of the opportunity. However, developers still do the design and coding of SharePoint, which keeps the end user tethered to the skills of the developer. Will SharePoint ever meet the users’ needs? The answer to that question depends on the designer and developer.

    The SharePoint haters are still out there. As I’ve tried to illustrate in this blog post, their discontent should be with the developer more so than with the product. By way of example, what if Honda automobile company put a lawn mower engine in their new Civics? If you bought one and found the car was a wee bit underpowered, whose fault is it? Should you blame the motor, the car body, the gasoline, or the builder? Obviously, the builder. The same holds true for SharePoint.

    SharePoint haters are disappearing because a big part of the reason for the hater’s discontent has been resolved; the product itself is stable and it is much better understood by end users. This still leaves room for improvement, and that will come as the developers get more experience and are able to help the end users perform their jobs better.

    SharePoint Engine


    If SharePoint experience is one of the keys to end user satisfaction, then SharePoint Engine will get a gold star. As a SharePoint Consulting company in business for the past 7 years, they have successfully completed more than 100 projects. Many of the SharePoint Engine developers have been working with the platform since it was launched in 2001. The depth of their knowledge is substantial and can be used to design and build an exceptional SharePoint solution.

    If you would like to talk to a premier SharePoint Consulting firm with the experience and vision to design your ideas and business objectives into SharePoint, please send us an email at Info@SharePointEngine.com or call 678-956-1780.

  • Developing a SharePoint Strategy
    Having a thought-out SharePoint strategy in place improves company output and simplifies project management. This article provides a guide on how you can implement an intelligent strategy for your company.

    Identifying the Areas for Your SharePoint Strategy


    The areas of importance will vary from company to company, but as a general matter of principle there are eight core and four secondary areas for developing a strategy. The core areas are project management, testing, policies/permissions, deployment/initial training, code management, site architecture, maintenance, and security. The secondary areas are branding, social, operational concerns, and post-deployment training.

    There may be additional sectors where you company needs increased focus. Likewise, some secondary categories may be core for your company while some core features may be resolved by other means (for example, hiring out maintenance and testing can simplify the strategy for select companies).

    Build a Strategy Committee


    The reason it's important to build a SharePoint committee isn't that the creation of a strategy is a large project requiring a great number of labor hours. Rather, it is a complex project that will have different implications for individuals in different roles. Having representatives from different parts of your company will help you foresee problems and discuss potential resolutions.

    Having a committee will also help each group or department feel invested in and committed to the strategy. Numerous studies have found that strategies developed and implemented by multiple groups within the company are far more effective than edicts that come from the upper echelons of the corporate ladder.

    Define Roles, Scope, and Outcomes


    Once you have brought together your committee, the next step is to define the important terms. In this case, the important items to define are 1) the roles of each member of the committee, 2) the scope of the strategy (and the projects the strategy may imply), and 3) the goals that the company hopes to achieve by implementing these strategies.

    While the exact roles will vary from company to company, it's suggested that you assign a "champion" who will pitch the value of this strategy to the various departments and, if needed, to the executive level of the company.

    It is also important that, within the roles being established, there is a clearly defined pathway for communication. Who will be communicating with whom? When will news and updates be given to each group or department? And so on.

    Set Time-Lines


    For those developing a strategy during the initial deployment of SharePoint, the need for a time-line should already be evident. However, setting a specific, workable time-line is no less important for companies that have been using SharePoint for years. Without setting specific dates, the project—including the development and implementation of the official strategy—can linger in the ether for months or even years.

    The specific time-line will vary dependent on the size of your company and the scope of your SharePoint projects. As a general guideline, however, it's advisable to select a time somewhere between two weeks to three months as your target completion date.

    Creating a strategy for your company may seem like an arduous and, at times, even an unimportant task. However, its central element is an exercise in communication, group-thinking, and inter-departmental cooperation that will set a precedent for many projects yet to come.

    For more information about Sharepoint implementation and customization contact our sharepoint consulting firms experts here.
  • Tools for SharePoint Administration
    One of the major benefits of SharePoint is that it remains compatible with dozens of other professional tools, including both free and premium options. Many of these tools make the lives of SharePoint administrators far easier. You can only take advantage of the tools you are aware of, however. As such, this article will walk you through some of the best SharePoint-compatible tools that are especially helpful for administrators.

    1. CardioLog Analytics [Free Edition]


    IntLock is an analytics company that has developed some powerful tools for SharePoint. The best news is that, as long as your pages have fewer than 250,000 views each month, the free edition will be able to meet all of your needs. Full-featured releases of CardioLog are available for SharePoint 2010 and 2013.

    2. Microsoft Administration Toolkit


    This tool is especially important if you're using a version earlier than SharePoint 2013; as of the 2013 release, many of the features of this toolkit are built directly into the interface. The toolkit includes features like adjustable test loads for deployment testing; an advanced security configuration wizard; an improve diagnostics and statistics utility; and improved reporting.

    3. McAfee's Network Discovery for Microsoft SharePoint


    While Microsoft has done a good job with its built-in security (especially if you keep your version up to date), there are elements of network security that are better handled by an outside service. The best part of this McAfee utility is that it has an inventory and tool-set built specifically for SharePoint. You will be able to easily find SharePoint environments and get detailed reports on the network.

    4. Microsoft's SharePoint Designer


    For those looking to improve the aesthetics and functionality of their SharePoint pages, there's no better tool than Microsoft SharePoint Designer. Simple WYSIWYG ("What You See Is What You Get") modifications combine with workflow integration and other administrative features. If you're working with SharePoint, it's vital that you get comfortable with this tool.

    5. SharePoint SUSHI


    For fans of open source projects, the most impressive offering is SharePoint SUSHI. This "Swiss army knife for SharePoint" combines intelligent, customizable automation and reporting for a variety of common SharePoint tasks. Permision management, profile management, group management, and backup/restoration are all simplified by this tool.

    Are you looking to magnify your productivity in SharePoint? These tools, and many others, are well worth looking into.

    If you have any questions about sharepoint, feel free to contact sharepoint consulting firm experts here.
  • : Is SharePoint On-Premise Dead?
    Microsoft has made it clear that its cloud offerings are a high priority. The release of SharePoint Online and Office 365 have been accompanied by major promotional pushes and, overall, a positive reception. But the rise of these cloud offerings has also raised questions about the future of SharePoint on-premise. Is SharePoint on-premise likely to stay alive and well in the coming years? Or is 2013 the final non-cloud release? Should we expect diminishing support for on-premise releases as anything outside the cloud gradually approaches the status of "zombie software"?

    The question of the "death of SharePoint" has been circling the community since SharePoint Online was originally released. The motive for Microsoft focusing on the cloud is, after all, largely financial; on-premise installations are less profitable and have higher per-capita maintenance costs. The cancellation of the "Microsoft Certified Masters" programs, which took place near the time of the SharePoint Online roll-out, seemed to be a confirmation of the death of on-premise releases.

    The good news? At a minimum, it has been clear that Microsoft is still on board for supporting on-premise releases, at least for the time being. Bill Baer stated, "We remain committed to delivering support and solutions for our customers whether in the cloud or on-premises." He further outlined the various expected modes of support, including cumulative updates, service packs, and new content releases.

    Baer's response did little to allay fears about the inevitable demise of on-premise releases, however. As the discussion continued to make the rounds in the professional SharePoint community, Jeff Taper (a project lead for SharePoint) confirmed that new off-cloud versions will be released for SharePoint. Whether or not this will include the sort of "next version" we've come to expect (a SP 2016 similar to SP 2013, for example) is not entirely clear. However, Taper has been specific about plans to release new versions of Windows Server, SharePoint, and Exchange. He further indicated that these releases would happen with "a comparable cadence to past server releases."

    So is SharePoint turning into a zombie? The best answer at this point is "not yet." While there are still signs that Microsoft is shifting its focus toward cloud-based offerings, 2013 is unlikely to be the last on-premise version of SharePoint available. At a minimum, we can expect a future release that would officially bridge the gap between those dwelling inside and outside of the cloud.

    Feel free to contact our Sharepoint Development team here.
  • SharePoint Conference 2014 – Planning

    Whether you're new to using SharePoint or you've been a high-level administrator for years, SharePoint Conference 2014 will be a powerful learning experience. While it will be a few months until the conference itself, there's a lot you can do right to ensure you get even more out of the experience. Here are some tips for developing your plan of attack.

    Plan Your Timetables


    As we've discussed in earlier entries, there are more than 200 sessions currently planned for the conference. This includes keynote speakers on each day of the conference, but a number of additional presentations are also on the docket. While some of the workshop experiences will be available more than once throughout the conference, the presentations and panels are one-off opportunities that will serve as the staples in your schedule.

    What about the rest of your opportunities? How can you plan in ways the ensure you don't miss out on any of the events you're most excited for? There's good news on this front: Microsoft has uploaded its full lineup of speakers and currently scheduled opportunities for SPC14.

    Use the Advanced Search Features


    You can now use an advanced search and filter setup (powered by SharePoint Search) to find the sessions that you want to attend. You can filter by track type (which audience the session is designed for), the track level (how advanced users are expected to be to understand the materials presented at the session), the time of the session, whether the session is cross-technology or cross-audience, and much more.

    Check for New or Revised Sessions


    Even though more than 200 sessions have been uploaded to the Microsoft site and integrated with advanced search filters, bear in mind that more sessions are being approved all the time and some sessions may be revised prior to the conference. As such, re-checking your schedule from time to time in the coming months is advisable.

    With tracks designed for four major audiences (Developer, IT Professional, Power User, and Executive), there are sure to be sessions that suit your professional role. If you're looking to empower yourself and your company in years to come, SharePoint Conference 2014 is the penultimate resource. Be sure you don't miss this opportunity.

    Looking for Sharepoint Consultant. We are here ready to help you!
  • The Evolution of SharePoint
    SharePoint has evolved dramatically over the last decade. This entry looks at ways the platform and our approaches to it have developed over time. Perhaps more pressing than any other question, however, is whether or not you have fully evolved in your own approach to SharePoint.

    An Incredibly Brief History of SharePoint


    While other Microsoft offerings foreshadowed the eventual destiny of SharePoint, it was when Office SharePoint Server 2007 was originally released that the platform really took shape. With the option to create team sites, navigation, and advanced workflows, the 2007 iteration gave us a fully functional enterprise content management system.

    When SharePoint 2010 was released, it did more than improve the design. It enabled and empowered employees at all levels by providing business connectivity services, improve business intelligence, and improved automation throughout the workflow process.

    Then, with SharePoint 2013, we saw dramatic improvement in the social offerings. The ability to collectively store, source, and share information resources within the content management system allows SharePoint to work as the spine of your enterprise social efforts.

    Where Did You Get Stuck?


    You may have noticed that we moved beyond simply being an enterprise content management (ECM) system in 2010. Yet many users—including, or perhaps even especially, long-time users—settle into preconceived notions about SharePoint that interfere with really taking advantage of what the system now offers.

    SharePoint expert Marc Anderson, in a November presentation at the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) conference, showed some of his research into how users were adopting the various functionalities of the platform. Even amongst users who were fully upgraded to SharePoint 2013 or SharePoint Online, there were notable omissions in the types of tasks completed.

    Veteran users were more comfortable customizing the interface, training users on the platform, improving the infrastructure, and gaining improved insights on their business operations. However, these same veterans were less likely than new users to take advantage of internal applications and search features.

    The research didn't merely point to a group of "dinosaurs" who failed to adopt the new bells and whistles. In all groups, limited use of new collaborative options, social features, and advanced integrations shows a saddening trend. Many stop their evolutionary journey short of its maximum potential when it comes to the use of SharePoint.

    Anderson jokingly talked about the stages of SharePoint acceptance, likening them to the stages of grief. For many, there are stages of denial and frustration as it becomes more clear that the out-of-the-gate version of SharePoint will not magically do everything for you. This eventually becomes an acceptance of the effort required to take advantage of the tool. Indeed, such effort is vital for a full SharePoint evolution.

    So where are you stuck? How expansively do you use the various resources that SharePoint has to offer? And how can we at SharePoint Engine help?

    Looking for Sharepoint Consultant. We are here ready to help you!
  • Flying Blind in SharePoint
    So you've launched your own deployment of SharePoint, figured out how to set up basic pages and site architecture, fine-tuned some basic settings, added a couple web parts, and gotten yourself into business. Well done! For you, and many others like you, it can seem like the process is finished and you have no need of any further work—let alone expenses.
    Well, let's not beat around the issue: Hiring SharePoint consultants comes with a cost. Yes, companies like SharePoint Engine do provide a free consultation that can be of significant value on its own. However, most initial consultations can do little more than review your current strategy and point you in the general direction of improvement.
    Why bother with a SharePoint consultant? In many ways, working with a certified expert in the field of enterprise content management is the same as working with a personal trainer as you try to improve your overall health. While it's true that consultants won't be "working out for you," they have three other major purposes: First, to educate you on the best areas and strategies for improvement; second, to make sure you don't injure yourself unintentionally while trying to improve matters; and third, to keep you on target.
    Your content management system, workflows, business intelligence, and system security are vital—but they're not urgent. It's easy to be swept into new tasks while dismissing any potential work on SharePoint as a less crucial task. Eventually, you reach a point where you've left the system unattended for months or even years. This opens potential security gaps and, when given an honest analysis, drains a great deal of potential earnings by decreasing your operating efficiency.
    There's a lot you can do to educate yourself on SharePoint, complete tasks independently, or even make sweeping customizations with no educational background outside of your access to free informational resources. This isn't just acceptable: It's a great idea! However, being able to educate yourself doesn't give you the same vantage point as a SharePoint experts.
    Years of practice and education give consultants a big-picture view of the situation, allowing them to help you understand your options, evaluate potential improvements, and prioritize effectively. The amount of time saved by working with a consultant often amounts to a higher value than the cost of the SharePoint consultant's services.
    If you're still feeling hesitant, we encourage you to try out a free consultation from SharePoint Engine today. We'd love to discuss ways in which a partnership between our companies can benefit all parties involved.

    For more information about Sharepoint implementation and customization contact our sharepoint consulting firms experts here.
  • Keys to SharePoint
    SharePoint is a powerful tool, but using it right is key to unlocking its full potential. If you're looking to gain a lot more from your enterprise content management by investing a little bit of time, this entry is for you. We provide four keys to maximizing the value of your SharePoint deployment.

    Key #1: The Conceptual Shift

    The first key was hidden in the paragraph that begins this entry. SharePoint is often conceived of as a "product." In reality, the out-of-the-box product you receive is only the most insignificant piece of SharePoint's value. The true value is in SharePoint's nature: It is a tool and is also a platform.
    As you approach the platform, it's wise to recall what a platform is: It's something you build on top of. SharePoint is a strong platform that will support your efforts in a variety of ways, but you remain responsible for building an architecture of your own. Similarly, SharePoint functions as a tool. It is limited by how skillfully you use it, but in the right hands, SharePoint can create amazing results.

    Key #2: The Building Blocks

    Viewing SharePoint (especially SP 2010 or 2013) as a platform leads us to the next key: Finding the right building blocks. While you can custom-build just about anything you can imagine on this versatile platform, you can also take advantage of the parts and pieces built by others.
    "Web parts" are the most useful piece to build with. You can find free or premium web parts, including several use-oriented developments from SharePoint Engine. The SharePoint 2013 marketplace allows you to find a variety of tested web parts that integrate seamlessly with your interface.

    Key #3: The Power Source

    You can use SharePoint to polish up any number of your company's facets, but the best use is in empowering your intelligence workers. Communication and business intelligence are the keys to improving the quality of work your staff gives while simultaneously improving the sense of reward they receive.
    Regardless of your industry, automated workflow communications and business intelligence are integral to a successful SharePoint strategy.

    Key #4: Continued Renovations

    Once you've built a powerful structure for your company, it's important to continue expanding the resources, upgrading the architecture over time, listening for and responding to employee feedback, and otherwise renovating your SharePoint structure.
    Microsoft hasn't stood still on this product line over the last decade. Rather, new iterations have dramatically expanded the resources you can take advantage of. Learn about new features and deploy them whenever they seem fitting for your company.
    These four keys may seem simple, but they'll help you to unlock the full potential of your enterprise content management system. For more information on how we at SharePoint Engine can help, get in touch with us for a free, no-obligation consultation.
  • SharePoint Conference 2014
    We've talked about SharePoint Conference 2014 in previous entries, but now Microsoft has released critical information about the conference itself. While we previously knew about the location, dates, and general plans, we now know about the different attendee tracks, the major workshopping sessions, and the core speakers.

    Topic and Attendee Tracks


    While some conferences have only one or two tracks (for example, a "developer track" and "general public" option), SharePoint has four different tracks and a number of different "topic tracks." As an attendee, you'll be able to choose:

    1.IT Pro
    2.Developer
    3.Power User
    4.Executive

    The conference topics will include a number of different categories with different levels of sessions. Sessions will be labeled with a number from 100 to 400, with the higher numbers representing "deep dive" sessions meant to help even the most experienced of professionals while 100-level "overview" courses are meant to accelerate basic learning and familiarity.

    As to the categories themselves, the usual suspects can be found (architecture, business intelligence, governance, etc.). However, the topics go well beyond those standards too. Every SharePoint topic you could want to learn about will be represented, including far-reaching topic tracks such as "related technologies," "social," "office development," and "hybrid topologies."

    There are enough topic tracks that it would be a waste to try and skim over all of them here. If you're ready to find out more, you can read the full list on this official page, which goes into detail on what each track includes.

    Major Speakers


    When SharePoint Conference 2014 was announced, there were a great many names suggested as likely speakers. While Microsoft has given themselves room to expand the list of speakers, a core lineup has been confirmed. Without a doubt, the lineup includes a range of "MVPs and certified masters."

    Microsoft is bringing in many of their own elite, including Jared Spataro, Jeff Teper, Bill Baer, and Adam Pisoni, but many recognized experts from outside of Microsoft will also be in the spotlight. This includes Laura Rogers of Rackspace, Sam Hassani of BrightStarr, and Rita Zhang of GE. In total, there are more than 60 confirmed presenters.

    Even if nothing is added to the lineup we've received so far, SharePoint Conference 2014 will be the biggest event that we've ever seen for professionals in the field. Stay tuned to this blog for more updates on the conference, our analysis of some of the Microsoft announcements, and more. We look forward to seeing you in Las Vegas this coming March.

    Looking for sharepoint consulting companies, contact to our sharepoint experts here.
  • SharePoint haters seem to be disappearing. Possibly they aren’t as vocal as before, or perhaps they don’t complain as much. Whatever the reason, ‘hater’ rhetoric is quieting down…and that is a wonderful thing.

    In this blog post, I want to look at why users didn’t or don’t like SharePoint; why a design flaw here or coding problem there would be so magnified by unhappy end-users that they felt compelled to write about their pain. I’d also like to propose the idea that end-users are becoming happier with each passing day as SharePoint evolves and SharePoint developers evolve with it.
    Let me say right up front, the reason most users didn’t like SharePoint was because the developers that designed and built the user applications were untrained, inexperienced, or lacked vision…or all three. I’m laying the whole SharePoint ‘hater’ thing at the doorstep of developers…sorry.

    Microsoft Got the Ball Rolling

    So, why did so many end users decide to blame SharePoint rather than the developer or his lack of SharePoint knowledge? The whole thing started with problems with Microsoft and the vast array of products that people everywhere were exposed to and learned to hate. We might consider some discontinued products like Microsoft Bob, OneCare, Microsoft Chart and Picture Manager…to name just a few of their flops. These products were all discontinued because they weren’t any good. Microsoft marketing hyped them up, people purchased them, and people hated them. At the very least, you have to give Microsoft credit for trying new things. It just would have worked out better if those new things would have worked.

    If a software product is not stable, secure, or capable of performing as expected, then that the product is destined for the trash bin along with the company that built it. Given that so many of their products failed, the amazing thing about Microsoft is the brand is still incredibly strong. Microsoft certainly had its share of unstable, insecure and clunky products, but it also had a few magnificent triumphs. That said, the Microsoft brand has been stained enough times that people are skeptical of their products and quick to tell the world when something goes ‘bump in the night.’
    SharePoint and the inaugural version called Microsoft SharePoint Services or MOSS, was misunderstood from the very beginning. Here is how Microsoft described SharePoint Services back in 2006 with Version 1.0:

    Windows SharePoint Services is a versatile technology that organizations and business units of all sizes can use to increase the efficiency of business processes and improve team productivity. With tools for collaboration that help people stay connected across organizational and geographic boundaries, Windows SharePoint Services gives people access to the information they need.
    Built on Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Windows SharePoint Services also provides a foundation platform for building Web-based business applications that can flex and scale easily to meet the changing and growing needs of your business
    Most people read the marketing description above and said: “It does what?” In those three simple words, they were asking – what in the world is a foundation platform? They also were saying – SharePoint Services sounds too complicated and expensive. Obviously, SharePoint got off to a rocky start in life.

    Things are Changing

    That was then, this is now. SharePoint 2010 and the recently released Version 2013 have evolved as a solid ‘foundation platform.’ People now have a better understanding of what SharePoint can do, and people are a bit more tolerant of Microsoft since that the company regained the confidence of the masses. SharePoint earned a new lease on life, and Microsoft intends to take full advantage of the opportunity. However, developers still do the design and coding of SharePoint, which keeps the end user tethered to the skills of the developer. Will SharePoint ever meet the users’ needs? The answer to that question depends on the designer and developer.

    The SharePoint haters are still out there. As I’ve tried to illustrate in this blog post, their discontent should be with the developer more so than with the product. By way of example, what if Honda automobile company put a lawn mower engine in their new Civics? If you bought one and found the car was a wee bit underpowered, whose fault is it? Should you blame the motor, the car body, the gasoline, or the builder? Obviously, the builder. The same holds true for SharePoint.

    SharePoint haters are disappearing because a big part of the reason for the hater’s discontent has been resolved; the product itself is stable and it is much better understood by end users. This still leaves room for improvement, and that will come as the developers get more experience and are able to help the end users perform their jobs better.

    SharePoint Engine

    If SharePoint experience is one of the keys to end user satisfaction, then SharePoint Engine will get a gold star. As a SharePoint Consulting company in business for the past 7 years, they have successfully completed more than 100 projects. Many of the SharePoint Engine developers have been working with the platform since it was launched in 2001. The depth of their knowledge is substantial and can be used to design and build an exceptional SharePoint solution.

    If you would like to talk to a premier SharePoint Consulting firm with the experience and vision to design your ideas and business objectives into SharePoint, please send us an email at Info@SharePointEngine.com or call 678-956-1780.
  • Learning to love SharePoint migration
    Migrating your SharePoint to a new version can be an intimidating process. Even for the technically savvy, the migration can feel overwhelming. For those without a strong technical background, the move can feel like a miniature apocalypse. Here are some specific items you can watch out for during SharePoint migration to increase your chances of long-term success.

    Document Migration by Type

     

    Dependent on how you're organizing your SharePoint libraries, it may be true that you only need to move files with specific extensions to the new library. Even if your current system isn't set up to sort by file type, the migration can provide a great opportunity for reorganization. Using some simple programming, you can move file types selectively during your SharePoint migration.

    Keeping the Dates in Order

     

    The new system will organize files by date without a problem. If migration is executed poorly, however, you could accidentally reset the date of creation and last modification for your files. Dependent on which version of SharePoint you're migrating to, maintaining the appropriate dates may require a bit of additional configuration work or the use of a third-party program.

    Special Characters and Quirky File Names

     

    If you're moving from a non-SharePoint content management system, you may have file names that include special characters such as colons, brackets, slashes, ampersands, etc. These special characters will not, by default, work within your SharePoint file trees. These strangely named files can disrupt the migration process or break down your internal navigation systems. Universal find and replace options are available, however, as are tools that can resolve special character issues during your migration.

     

    Bulk Migration of Files

     

    If you don't have a very good organization system right now, SharePoint should be a big upgrade for you. However, it's also possible that you don't have the time to resolve your organizational issues before the migration itself. You can move everything over to SharePoint in bulk, but it's important to use at least a basic level of file organization so you know where to find crucial files before your new organizational system can be implemented.

    These are just a few of the items to look out for during SharePoint migration. What are some issues you've run into during this process? And have you had the opportunity to work with certified SharePoint experts during past migrations? Let us know in the comments, below.

    Feel free to contact our sharepoint consulting companies team here.
  • Effective SharePoint Training
    The growth mindset has been the focus of numerous studies on effective learning, yet few corporations are familiar with the growth mindset and how they can take advantage of it. This article will walk you through the mindsets and show you how appropriately timed interventions can make your company's SharePoint training more effective

     

    What is the "growth mindset"?


    Carol Dweck, a psychologist and researcher, introduced the term "growth mindset" as part of her studies. These studies took place over several decades and aimed to discover how a "growth" versus a "fixed" mindset influenced learning capabilities.

    Simply put, the "fixed" mindset is the belief that each person is born with innate attributes that cannot be changed over time: We have a set degree of intelligence, potential for happiness, and talent. The "growth" mindset is the belief that change and growth are possible when time and energy are invested into learning itself.

    Dweck's studies had phenomenal outcomes: Those with the fixed mindset were found to make counterproductive choices and to learn slowly, if at all. Those with the growth mindset were found to grow more quickly and maintain a higher level of motivation when faced with stress or failure. More importantly, it was found that simple interventions could be used to instill students with a growth mindset.

    Teaching SharePoint with the Growth Mindset

     

    Mindset interventions can be simple: Devoting time at the beginning of a course or a set of trainings to show why the brain continues to adapt—and that emphasizes that skill comes from effort and experience, not inborn traits—has had a surprisingly strong influence over the success of those training programs.

    SharePoint is a complicated system that can be intimidating for those in a fixed mindset. This is especially true for those coming from the baby boomer generation—and, to a lesser extent, any time before the "millenials" (those born in the 1990s). The new software, hardware, and patterns of work can feel like they're impossible to master; those with a fixed mindset quickly believe that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" or, even worse, that they're simply not smart enough to learn SharePoint.

    By showing that effort and continued training are the processes that result in skill, you can help immerse your employees in the software in a growth-oriented way. Be careful about your approach, however. Even beyond the interventions you use in your training program, it's possible to sabotage the growth mindset by making statements that establish a fixed mindset for your staff.

    The growth and fixed mindset are just one part of an effective SharePoint training program for your company. To learn more about how you can develop the best training program possible, contact SharePoint Engine today.

  • Key Components of SharePoint
    While it's important to know what to avoid with SharePoint use, it's just as important to know how you can make the most out of the platform. As with any powerful tool, SharePoint is limited by how skillfully it is utilized. This article will walk you through five key components of using SharePoint successfully at an organizational level.

    The First Key: Communication

     

    Communication is a key to just about anything that requires interpersonal work. This is doubly true for SharePoint. You will need to communicate with all of your employees at each stage of the development and deployment process—but you'll also need to be receptive to their input. Listening carefully will allow you to understand employee frustrations, make effective changes in your system organization, and far more.

    The Second Key: Appropriate Administration

     

    Administration of a large SharePoint system can be a daunting task, but if done correctly it will make things smoother for everyone. If done poorly, administration can break every project your company works with. Appropriate administration protocols include limiting administrative rights (as a security measure) and using the appropriate administrative tools for SharePoint and your Windows server.

    The Third Key: Appropriate Maintenance

     

    It's easy to abandon basic maintenace if you don't have a dedicated agent taking care of it for you. Be sure someone is assigned to update SharePoint when new service packs and cumulative updates are available. Your company should also have a plan and policy in place for making backups of your SharePoint farms. If you want to learn about how SharePoint Engine can take care of maintenance for your organization, visit this page.

    The Fourth Key: Regular Training

     

    There's often a single batch of training that happens during SharePoint deployment or after new employees are hired. Beyond those single-serving classes, training is often abandoned. If you really want to maximize your employee potential, additional training and learning opportunities should become a regular part of your company's culture.

    The Fifth Key: Continuous Development

     

    As has been noted in previous entries, you'll want to ensure that your initial deployment of SharePoint takes advantage of as many core features as possible and that your configuration is as close to your target setup as is possible. However, SharePoint as a platform is dynamic. By continually investing in development, you will continuously reap rewards.

    These five approaches are important keys to unlocking SharePoint's potential. Ultimately, however, they're just the beginning. Check out our other entries, guides, and informational articles to learn more about how you can use SharePoint and SharePoint consultants to benefit your company.

    Find out more about sharepoint implementation and customization contact our microsoft sharepoint consultant experts today!
  • SharePoint server deployment
    Are you getting ready to deploy SharePoint for the first time in your company? Are you looking to upgrade SharePoint to the newest version? In either case, you're facing SharePoint deployment: A critical phase filled with opportunities and risks. Those risks shouldn't be underestimated. Approaching the deployment incorrectly can lead to disaster.
    So what can you do to make sure that doesn't happen? This article will walk you through the most important steps.


    The Virtues of Planning

     

    While there are many specifics that can lead to problems in SharePoint deployment, there's also one major miss-step that's painfully common: Failing to make any plans for deployment. Rather than being about specifics, this failure is about not planning for any specifics at all.

    Planning for deployment involves a number of steps, including the selection of an appropriate timeline, informing staff of the change, letting staff know what benefits the new ECM/iteration will bring, and having at least a general outline for procedures in each stage of the new SharePoint implementation.

    The good news is that many of these stages are simplified by SharePoint itself. Namely, informing your staff about the shift and giving them information on why the change is taking place both become easier thanks to the Microsoft SharePoint platform. It's easy to point to the benefits of this enterprise content management system, and if you're already using SharePoint you can take advantage of the built-in communication features to let your staff know what's coming next.

    Avoid an Elongated Timeline

     

    If you're already comfortable with your current ECM or current version of SharePoint, it's easy to postpone implementing the new version of SharePoint. This raises several problems, not the least of which is user impatience.

    Users who have a sense that a new deployment is perpetually "just around the corner" will lose faith and will drop out of learning mode; they will grow more attached to current systems. If you follow up the value pitch with a rapid implementation, you can conserve employee morale and keep them in the mode to learn.

    Not Using Key Features

     

    While new products and services can sometimes be intimidating, the window for full user adoption is a narrow one. If you implement a new version of SharePoint without taking advantage of the new features, it's likely those features will never enter the spotlight.

    The newest version of SharePoint (2013) is packed with social features, new collaborative tools, improved cloud storage, and far more. Research what new features your company can take advantage of and provide training on these features alongside the new SharePoint deployment.

    Configuring Your SharePoint

     

    SharePoint configuration is built for flexibility and simplicity. Unfortunately, it's impossible to give real flexibility without at least some trade-off; the more options you have, the more it complicates the configuration process.

    You will configure SharePoint itself during deployment. The options available are too numerous to outline here, but the simple rule is this: Be thorough and careful with your system configuration. It's far better to set it up right the first time around rather than spending the extra time and effort to reconfigure it later.

    If you want help with your SharePoint configuration or deployment, we can help. SharePoint Engine is a full-service SharePoint consultancy group. You can contact us today to speak to a certified expert.
  • Networking at SharePoint Conferences
    There are dozens of exciting technology conferences on the horizon, and none more buzz-worthy than SharePoint Conference 2014. With the electric climate in our industry, those who haven't yet attended conferences should take the plunge while those who have experience should take the time to refine their conference skills. This entry continues our series on how you can make the most of your next SharePoint conference. Earlier in this series we gave you tips on how to prepare for the conference and tips and tricks to use during the conference itself. Now let's move on to networking.


    Have your pitch materials ready.

     

    Even if you're not looking for another gig, contract, job, or opportunity, there's no harm in preparing your value pitch. Your value pitch can come in any number of forms: It's simply your way of showing what you bring to the table.

    These days, you'll want two basics: A business card (be absolutely sure to include a link to a personal website or LinkedIn profile) and an elevator speech. The elevator speech is your 15 to 20 second "pitch" on your skills, abilities, accomplishments, and background; the idea is to keep it short enough that you could give it during an elevator ride.

    Network actively but sparingly.


    Everyone you talk to is a potential network connection, but if you try to hand each person a business card and a sales pitch you’ll come off as needy. Find the people who you really have a potential connection with and invest more time and energy in setting the foundations for that relationship.

    Spamming your business information across the convention floor will not help your reputation or bring you professional success. It’s not a numbers game: It’s people game. As such, you need to spend more time in dialogue and more time asking questions—and less marketing yourself directly.

    Use the right networking strategies.

     

    Networking isn't about giving a sales pitch and getting names. It's about asking useful, thoughtful questions. Having your business card and elevator speech ready is partially just a courtesy to others; while some of the people you meet may have materials prepared for you, most will require that you ask questions to learn what they bring to the table.

    Not many will have a specific value proposition and use-oriented print materials. The people who set of booths, however, have that sort of communication in mind—so you should certainly step over to the booths when you get the chance.

    Plan to use the conference as a social media opportunity.

     

    Whether it’s through Tweeting, Facebooking, or writing a blog entry, you can leverage the experience and justify the expense by talking about it on your professional outlets. For individuals, this is a way to extend your social networking and develop your reputation. For companies, this can be an opportunity to reach out to new clients and professionals.

    Beyond simply leveraging the conference itself, though, it's important that you keep your social media profiles active so that anyone who scouts you through those online pathways will see that you're an active user. If you're not an active user on Twitter, Facebook, or other outlets, simply don't provide your username on your business card, LinkedIn profile, or other professional hubs.

    By following these simple tips, you can get far more networking done and get far more value out of it. The SharePoint community is strongly social and very bright, but it's often comprised of introverts—so having a networking strategy can only help.

    Looking for sharepoint consulting companies, contact to our sharepoint consulting services team here.
  • SharePoint Conference 2014 registration opens
    As we noted in earlier entries, Microsoft announced its SharePoint Conference 2014 in June of this year. Details have been slow to surface, but now far more information is becoming available. Most of the new information is certainly in response to the fact that registration is now open.

    The event itself will take place in the Las Vegas Venetian (one of the high-class hotels found on the strip) from March 3rd to March 6th of next year. As soon as the SharePoint conference was announced, the community started buzzing about it. The 2012 conference of the same name was wildly successful and it's anticipated that the 2014 version will be no less spectacular.

    To find out more about the conference or to register directly, you can visit the official website for the event. Event passes range from $150 to $1,995 depending on what sort of access and duration you're looking for. As noted in Microsoft's promotional email, "This is your chance to get an all-access pass to everything that the conference has to offer, from the best sessions to the latest and greatest technology, to unbeatable access to Microsoft pros and industry experts."

    The conference itself is meant to be a "total experience" for improving your understanding, abilities, and connections within SharePoint. Hot topics for the convention include the SharePoint-Yammer breakout session, the Microsoft technology showcase, and the hands-on labs that let you work directly with Microsoft professionals.

    "The content is designed and created specifically for our three SharePoint audiences, IT Professionals, Developers, and Executives," noted Microsoft, and they offer "a complete collection of tracks and topics for each audience." With so many Microsoft innovations in the time since the last conference, there's certain to be a great deal to explore at this event. We hope to see you there!

    Looking for sharepoint development. We are here ready to help you!
  • Less-known features of SharePoint 2013
    More than one Microsoft SharePoint consultant in our company has been working with SharePoint 2013 since the early beta, but these days anyone can take advantage of the newest release. However, our experts can help you learn more about the less obvious features of SP 2013. We're going to share some of the most useful details with you today.

    1) Microsoft is introducing an improved release cycle.

     

    For those unfamiliar with the term "release cycle," it simply indicates how often you'll see updates to the platform. SharePoint Online will have a 90-day release cycle. This means that you'll see six updates each year, which means that many of the exciting features (integration with Yammer, new search options, etc.) may be closer than you thought.

    2) The FAST search is now a built-in.

     

    Many SharePoint 2010 users fell in love with the "FAST search" add-on that gave an improved search algorithm, improved previews, and an army of new search functionality. Here's something that those outside of SharePoint consultancy don't usually know: FAST search was actually a project created by a Norwegian, non-Microsoft company; Microsoft bought the add-on, customized it, fine-tuned it, and is now including it from the get-go.

    3) SharePoint 2013 Is Microsoft's Enterprise Social Platform

     

    Some people are confused by the social elements of this enterprise content management system, and that's largely because "social" is immediately associated with social networks like Facebook and Twitter. SharePoint 2013 isn't aiming to compete with either of these services, but it is bringing social into the enterprise arena with a number of new features. If you haven't been using social before now, you may not have noticed the social feature updates. Take it from us: They're well worth exploring.

    4) Geolocation can be added as a field.

     

    If you're a small company with little mobility, Geolocation won't add much for you. For larger companies or companies that have road warriors in their ranks, the ability to add a geolocation field is amazingly useful. Adding this feature may require the help of a Microsoft SharePoint consultant, but it's well worth it for companies who can make use of geotagging.

    5) The guest link feature gives new sharing opportunities.

     

    Sharing is caring, right? You can now bring in even more shared content through the "guest link" feature. This allows anything stored in SharePoint Online to be shared with people who aren't SharePoint users. This makes it easy to send client presentations, give useful information to partner companies, and do far more.

    6) PHP can now be used directly for SharePoint functionality.

     

    PHP has had a fairly complicated relationship with SharePoint in the past, but they seem to have worked things out: SharePoint functions can be programmed directly in PHP in SharePoint 2013. Even more exciting for some is the inclusion of improved CSS and HTML 5 interaction. There are still some limitations for programming, but there's no doubt coding new functions is far smoother.
    If you want to get in touch with a company experienced with SharePoint consultancy, we encourage you to check out our website and give us a call at (877) 368-7207 for a free consultation.

    Find out more about sharepoint implementation and customization contact our microsoft sharepoint consulting firms team here!
  • Earlier this year Microsoft unleashed a new version of the SkyDrive Pro desktop client. Since that May release, SharePoint consulting firms have been taking a good hard look at how SkyDrive and SharePoint can work together to make your business even better.

    As a desktop app, the new version of SkyDrive (available specifically for Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server 2008, and Windows Server 2012) functions as a standalone application that gives SharePoint 2013 users the opportunity to sync their files to the machine. The obvious use is to allow for offline access to important files or to sync to a device that won't have web access so mobile productivity can be enhanced. Office 365 files can also be synchronized to the local system.

    Once the update is installed, it shouldn't require a SharePoint consulting firm to tell you how to synchronize: Simply push the new "sync" button found in the upper-right of the SkyDrive Pro library.

    For some users, this version of SkyDrive won't offer any additional features. Specifically, if you were already using Office 365 Small Business Premium, Office Professional Plus 2013, or Office 365 Pro Plus, you were able to accomplish all the synchronization contained in this SkyDrive update. However, for everyone else, this SkyDrive iteration offers great new functionality.

    Not all users will need to synchronize their files for offline usage, but many benefit from this practice even if it's only an additional precaution in case internet access is lost. SharePoint consulting services can help bring you up to speed on the best practices for cloud-based and offline data storage.

    While automatic updates should give you the new version of SkyDrive, those who don't regularly update may not yet have heard about the new release. The announcement itself was made only through the Microsoft blog and came with little fanfare.

    If you're uncertain how to proceed, SharePoint consulting services can help you make the most out of this new release. Check out our contact page for further details on how we can help.

    Get more information about sharepoint implementation and customization contact our sharepoint consulting services team here.
  • Empowering your SharePoint conference experience.
    SharePoint conferences are some of the most valuable experiences for anyone working in the IT industry. Even for those working in other fields, the insights available here are often worth the trip. That's why we previously wrote about how you can best prepare for your next SharePoint conference. Today we will discuss what you can do at the conference itself to have an even more empowering experience.
    Stay rested and hydrated.

    It's tempting to spend your evenings sipping away at fine or not-so-fine wines, but remember that you need your energy. Drinking more than you usually do will lower the quality of your sleep and prevent you from getting properly hydrated.

    Whether you decide to stay sober or not, be sure that you prioritize your rest and hydration. These conferences can be exhausting, and having the energy to both attend activities and stay focused during them requires some conscious effort.

    Keep your eyes peeled for SIGs

    SIGs, or "special interest group" meetings, may not even be on your schedule. They tend to appeal to only a niche group, but if you are a part of that group or feel like you can take advantage of the lessons being taught, you can access an intimate, high-action learning environment.

    And remember: SIGs come in all shapes and types, so chances are there will be at least one SIG that's specifically applicable to your niche.

    Carry a notebook.

    Whether it's an electronic notebook or a traditional pen-and-paper setup, having an opportunity to take notes is important. This isn't simply to record factual details or contact information, however. Hearing the ideas and stories of other individuals and companies is a great way to get your creative juices flowing. Take advantage of the brainstorming atmosphere by writing your ideas down throughout the conference.

    Some people find it easier to work with a voice recorder or a voice recorder app on their smartphone. This can be a great option, but remember that it limits when you can make notes.

    Pay attention for activities and workshops.


    Look around for activities and workshops, including ones listed and unlisted in your conference itinerary. While the speakers and announcements are what draw professionals to conferences, the biggest long-term value comes from participating in experiments, active workshops, and other group-based activities. This also creates one of your best opportunities for networking.

    Use the conference as a social media opportunity.


    Whether it’s through Tweeting, Facebooking, or writing a blog entry, you can leverage the experience and justify the expense by talking about it on your professional outlets. For individuals, this is a way to extend your social networking and develop your reputation. For companies, this can be an opportunity to reach out to new clients and professionals.

    In our next entry on making the most of SharePoint conferences, we'll discuss how to network yourself effectively. We look forward to seeing you at the next major Microsoft event.

    Feel free to contact our Sharepoint Consulting team here.
  • Improved SharePoint training
    Even if you're teaching the right information, you may not be teaching it right. Here's how to maximize the impact of your SharePoint training.

    1) Use talk-back instead of tests.

    While some testing may be necessary to make sure your employees have mastered the basics, testing is one of the least effective ways to ensure that your staff remembers those basics for the long-haul. Rather than relying on tests to gauge how well the training group has handled the information, engage in active conversation with members of the group, draw out individuals who may be less naturally social, and give consistent feedback on the progress of both individuals and the group as a whole.

    Encourage a growth mentality.

    Some of the most influential research on education in the last two decades has centered around the "growth mindset." The simple version is that, when it comes to learning, most people fall into one of of two groups: They either believe that people are born with a certain level of ability and intelligence that they cannot alter (a "fixed mindset") or they believe that people can grow and obtain new intellectual heights (a "growth mindset").

    People with a growth mindset do better professionally and academically. Even more interesting, however, is the fact that simple training-room additions to encourage a growth mindset have a lasting impact on how well trainees learn and how well they retain the information. While the techniques for encouraging a growth mentality vary, the core principle remains the same: Students must be reminded that failure is an opportunity to learn and that growth is the objective of the training itself.

    Use next-to-real environments.

    By using pseudo-real environments (such as those we discussed in our previous Azure pop-up lab entry), you can help your training group get acclimated to the systems they will actually end up using. This will improve user adoption and information retention.

    Additionally, pseudo-real environments let you do something especially useful to aid the learning process: Forcing your students to fail. Studies have found that students who are put in a situation where they fail and must then figure out how to resolve the situation are more confident and capable than students who were simply taught the "right way" to do things.

    We'll have more training tips in the future, so be sure to stay tuned as we help you maximize the impact of your SharePoint training.

    Feel free to contact our Sharepoint Consulting Firm team here.
  • SharePoint 2013 for social scalability
    SharePoint 2013 has many features that benefit enterprise-scale organizations. This is especially true when it comes to two key elements: Scalability and collaboration. This entry will overview some of the most important features of SharePoint 2013 and discuss the importance of SharePoint migration.

    Collaboration Tools

    One of the biggest benefits of migrating to SharePoint is the inclusion of simple sharing. This includes file sharing, shared calendars, collaborative workflows, team content management, group data repositories, group contact management, and much more.

    Since SharePoint is used as a web-based content management system, your team can collaborate from anywhere they have access to the web. With the inclusion of new SharePoint features in 2013 that enable easy mobile and tablet access, you are empowering your on-the-go workforce. Further, since SP 2013 brings discussion boards, micro-blogging, mini-wikis, social document curation, and numerous other social-oriented features, you are encouraging your team to connect.

    Scalable Features

    Internal sites can be set up for teams, groups, departments, or projects and are a professional, streamlined method of organizing your company's information. Configuration for these sites is simple, making it easy to create as many as is necessary. Further, you can replicate your existing SharePoint sites for maximum scalability. SharePoint migration also lets you take advantage of the improved search capabilities of SP 2013. The upgraded search includes relevant internal content, community-based content, external sites, and more. You can even fine-tune your search by adjusting the algorithm used to prioritize results.

    If you really want to prepare your company for growth, one of the best features of the 2013 update is the improved business intelligence. Your company can get even more from the SharePoint insights into the most vital behaviors of your company and your clients.

    SharePoint is known to dramatically improve productivity, group-think capabilities, document management, legal liability fail-safes, data redundancy, and more. Migrating to SharePoint 2013 can be a complex process. We encourage you to contact SharePoint Engine today for a free consultation on your migration needs.

    Feel free to contact our Sharepoint Consulting team here.
  • In the coming months we'll be providing a full-fledged Microsoft certification study guide on this blog. In this first entry, we will provide basic tips on studying for Microsoft certification and using the resources here and on other websites.

    General Study Tips

    If you're here looking for some last-minute cramming before your certification test, we wish you the best of luck—but we can't do much more for you. One of the most important things to remember is that you need to spread your studying out over time. Your brain's long-term memory stores information only when that information is re-visited regularly. As such, it's a good idea to schedule your studying over the course of several weeks and set aside an hour or so each day.

    When studying, try to find partners who are also interested in Microsoft certification. Beyond the benefits of being able to study in a fun, social environment, you will often be given the opportunity to explain or re-explain a concept to your peers. Studies have shown that re-teaching information is one of the most effective ways to ensure that you yourself remember it.

    Many of the standard "study tips" will apply to your certification prep: Drink plenty of water while studying, make flashcards, take pre-tests, and make sure you're getting plenty of sleep.

    What to Study

    While we will provide specific study guides for the core Microsoft certifications in the coming weeks, there are a few general principles to keep in mind when preparing for Microsoft's tests.
    First, note that Microsoft doesn't use trick questions in its exams, so if you find yourself over-complicating a concept you are probably straying from the path. This also means that you need to understand the core concepts but won't need to study each and every possible subtlety.

    Second, note that you can choose what specific certifications to test for. As such, you can narrow the scope of your study to a few select fields. While it does save money to study and test for numerous certifications simultaneously, it's wise to start with the most relevant certifications for your career path.

    Using Online Resources

    There are many free and paid online resources that were developed specifically to help you study for Microsoft certification tests. However, you'll need to be wary as you decide which services to take advantage of. In addition to researching paid services, do your due diligence on any free services: Learning from inaccurate or misleading educational resources can lead to spectacular failure on the test itself, which is just as costly as investing in a premium service.

    Remember that Microsoft also has specific approved partners for exam preparation. While many of these services charge a substantial fee, they have been reviewed by a Microsoft team and can thus be trusted.

    We look forward to providing additional tools and resources for you as this blog series continues. Microsoft certification is a valuable career asset and well worth obtaining.  

    Feel free to contact our Sharepoint Consulting Firm team here.
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