• 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.
  • SharePoint 2013 Designer has the ability to incorporate business workflow activities into the SharePoint application and enable users to mirror the behaviors required to process an activity. SharePoint 2013 uses Windows Workflow Foundation and Windows Communication Foundation to represent a SharePoint-driven business process.

    The Windows Workflow Foundation is a collection of workflow activities (e.g. add start time, build a dictionary, do calculation, etc.) that comprise the individual components of a business process. For example, creating a Leave Request workflow within SharePoint 2013. There are four basic steps to setup this process using the SharePoint Designer: 1) add an application to SharePoint, 2) add multiple list columns to the app, 3) create an approval workflow, and 4) customize the Leave Request form.

    The figure below is a high level depiction of the architecture of the SharePoint 2013 infrastructure, which now incorporates Microsoft Azure cloud capabilities and works with SharePoint 2010:

    For more detailed information on SharePoint 2013 Workflow, please follow the link below:
    This technical article, which is called SharePoint 2013 Workflow Fundamentals, covers the Platform Architecture, Workflow Subscriptions and Associations, SharePoint Workflow Interop, and includes Additional Sources for even more detailed information.

    SharePoint Engine

    For more information about SharePoint Server 2013 and how to incorporate Workflows into your business, or to discuss having us help you select which options are the best solution for your company, please contact SharePoint Engine.

    SharePoint Engine is your leading provider for Microsoft SharePoint solutions. We provide a wide array of products to help improve the most important aspects of your business' functioning. All of our process-oriented solutions are customized to meet your precise objectives. Additionally, our team is made up of recognized industry experts who specialize in SharePoint and have been working with SharePoint since its release.

    Feel free to contact our Sharepoint Consulting team here.
  • On June 14th, Microsoft released its official iOS app for Office 365 subscribers. This app, called “Office Mobile,” gives an iPhone-optimized version of Office 365 that works in sync with desktop usage of the subscribers other Office 365 products.

    Mobile-Accessed vs Mobile-Optimized

    The Office 365 suite was made with the web in mind. Each element of the suite can be accessed through Office Web Apps which retain full functionality when accessed from a mobile device. Tablet and smartphone environments could thus already access the Office 365 functionality—so what extras does the release of a specialized app entail?

    Put simply, this is Microsoft’s first major attempt to release a mobile-optimized app for its productivity software outside of the Windows Phone environment. The application offers improved navigation and a few mobile-tuned features designed to help with productivity on the go.

    Those mobile-friendly features include advanced synchronization with the subscriber’s non-mobile versions of Microsoft Office: Users can find the recently viewed documents regardless of where they were retrieved from and resume reading or editing documents from their last saved document location.

    You can find more details by taking a look at the Apple Store page for the app here.

    Microsoft’s Future App Developments

    While tuning Office 365 for the iOS environment is a major step toward releasing optimized apps, it may not imply that all of Microsoft’s productivity software will receive the same treatment. While a mobile-specific version of SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint Online remain as possibilities, there are also hints that Microsoft is using a different strategy.

    With the official blog post announcing the app, Microsoft also advised tablet users to avoid the application in favor of using Office Web Apps through their tablet browser. This is the same method currently used for connecting with SharePoint.

    Despite the efforts seen here, Microsoft may be reluctant to make mobile-tuned apps. It may also be that this application is being used to test the waters for future app development. While some of the early response has been negative, many of the unfriendly reviews seem to be a response to Microsoft’s subscription model rather than the app itself.

    In any case, Microsoft currently seems more focused on optimizing the web-based version of their productivity suite. While this may preclude opportunities for a mobile-oriented UI and features, adding app development to the lineup could reduce the project’s speed of adaptation. In either case it’s a trade-off, and a difficult choice to make. Regarding that choice, Microsoft has yet to give clear indications of its long-term plan.

    Feel free to contact our Sharepoint Consulting team here.
  • Today’s workforce is more mobile than ever, and this trend is both enabled and fueled by cloud-based services. However, organizations must strike a balance between supporting this increased mobility and safeguarding the company’s security. With current trends showing that enterprise groups are opting for cloud-based email, however, companies must make wise decisions about which platforms they use and how they secure their email services.

    The Trend for Cloud-Based Email

    Free webmail, popular as early as the late 90s, was the first iteration of cloud-based email. However, the lack of professionalism, features, and security convinced enterprise groups to choose non-cloud alternatives—until recently.

    A study from SpiceWorks shows that in 2012 roughly 42% of companies were using a cloud-based email services. In 2013, that number increased to 46%. Further, 5% of respondents said they currently had on-site email but were planning on switching to a cloud service some time in the next six months.
    These results indicate that by the end of the year the majority of U.S. companies will be using a cloud-based email service.

    The Remaining Concerns for Hosted Email

    Those who continue to resist cloud-based email cite a variety of reasons for this choice, with the most prominent being a lack of control (66% of respondents). More than half of respondents (56%) indicated that security and compliance were major concerns with cloud-based email.

    Microsoft’s cloud-based service (Microsoft Exchange Online) is one of the two leading cloud services for enterprise (with Google Apps as the major competitor). One of the biggest advantages Microsoft has in this arena is the integration of Microsoft Exchange Online with the Microsoft SharePoint enterprise content management system.

    In SharePoint 2013, file-sharing, email, and more are fully prepared to exist in the cloud. The integration of Lync, Exchange, Office 365, and SharePoint foreshadows Microsoft’s plan of action: Rather than competing at every individual level for enterprise clients, they will compete with a holistic package that provides a working whole rather than a collection of moving parts. This integrated approach also helps resolve concerns over compliance and security.

    To learn more about how you can use SharePoint to improve your company’s approach to email or how you can better integrate Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint 2013, we encourage you to take advantage of a no-obligation consultation with SharePoint Engine.

    Feel free to contact our sharepoint consulting firms team here.
  • While Microsoft hasn’t given official word that Silverlight is being sunset, the company’s behavior in the past few months has indicated that Silverlight is either being abandoned or pushed to an excruciatingly low priority level. Will Silverlight survive over the next few years? And what will happen to SharePoint features that rely on Silverlight if this Microsoft offering gets the axe?

    Why Silverlight May Be on Its Deathbed

    Questions of whether or not Silverlight would continue to be a Microsoft offering were raised as early as October of 2010, when speakers at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference conspicuously failed to mentioned anything about the product. While a 2011 version of Silverlight was released, no new versions have even been announced since.

    In the last two years a number of major platforms using Silverlight decided to abandon ship. This includes government agencies and, more recently, the movie-streaming service Netflix. While Netflix has yet to transition away, the official departure of this major name may well be a death-knell for Silverlight.

    Microsoft has yet to make an official statement on the future of Silverlight, but their silence and the lack of updates are causing more and more partners to pull away. Indeed, one of the few major platforms that still taps into Silverlight is SharePoint itself.

    The Future of Silverlight in SharePoint

    In SharePoint 2010, Silverlight was used for many segments of the UI and was touted as one of the major offerings of that release. Most significantly, many of the most popular and successful web parts (both from Microsoft and from third-party creators) relied on Silver light.

    SharePoint 2013 has taken a different route, and while it’s possible to deploy Silverlight web parts, the primary elements of the UI have been built in HTML 5. This particular transition shouldn’t be too surprising; while it was not in a discussion about Silverlight itself, Dean Hachamovitch—Microsoft’s project manager for Internet Explorer—called HTML 5 “the future of the web.”

    For web part developers, switching over to HTML 5 will be an important step in the coming months and years. This will be especially true if and when Microsoft officially abandons Silverlight, creating a potential for security gaps in any remaining Silverlight elements. Users and admins, meanwhile, will need to transition into SharePoint 2013 and away from Silverlight web parts if and when that abandonment happens.

    While it may not be significant for the average SharePoint user, the retirement of Silverlight is also a way of bowing to the Google-supported vision of the web. This shouldn’t be seen as Google winning a battle in the war for enterprise clients, however: While Google does offer limited enterprise content management services, it’s not even close to competing with Microsoft. That said, relinquishing proprietary software may become relevant in the years to come as Google and Microsoft continue to battle in their various competing divisions.

    Feel free to contact our Microsoft Sharepoint Consultant team here.
  • With an initial release in October of 2012, SharePoint 2013 is still in the early phases of adoption for most organizations. For those currently considering a transition, this article gives a quick look at the core offerings of SharePoint 2013.

    Improvements have been made to workflow management.

    Workflows are more powerful and capable in SharePoint 2013 than in any previous version. The creation of workflows has also been made more intuitive, and SharePoint is now fully integrated with Microsoft Workflow Manager.

    SharePoint 2013 gives major social features.

    Long-time users of SharePoint will know that SP 2007 had only superficial social features and that SharePoint 2010 dramatically improved those offerings. The leap forward with SharePoint 2013 is even more substantial.

    While phrase “Facebook for enterprise” is likely an exaggeration (despite having been thrown around a lot in the past few months), the offerings are formidable and include: the chance to show and filter activity feeds, engage in micro-blogging, develop more socially integrated sites, and the option to “follow” coworkers and discussions.

    SharePoint Search has been dramatically improved.

    New features in SharePoint Search, including the inclusion of external websites, new customization options, better organization, and more intelligent site ranking all combine to make SharePoint Search a powerful productivity tool. While few have used SharePoint Search as a core part of their daily work in the past, that’s changing with the 2013 release.

    Everything is cloud-ready.

    Cloud-based storage for documents has been ramped up, with the “My Sites” model being traded in for the far more capable Microsoft SkyDrive. The ability to save documents easily and effectively improves user adoption, allows for seamless synchronization, enables healthier collaboration, and much more.

    We have reached a point of stability.

    In our September newsletter last year we discussed SharePoint 2013 and some of the opportunities it provided. We here at SharePoint Engine were as excited as anyone, but we also knew from years of experience that Microsoft releases could come with a slew of bugs. Now that we’re well past the public beta and deep into the official release, those bugs have been squashed. A few known issues remain, but SP 2013 now stands as a reliable enterprise content management system.
    While there are plenty of other features worth discovering, these core offerings give a strong sense of SharePoint 2013’s value. If you’re looking to migrate or to improve your recent implementation, we encourage you to take advantage of our no-obligation consultation and contact SharePoint Engine today.

    Feel free to contact our Sharepoint Consulting team here.
  • For those transitioning into the SharePoint environment, one hurdle is found in shifting from Excel to Excel Services. The primary confusion here arises because the two seem like—and, indeed, in many ways are—identical services. 

    However, the two also work in tandem, and each has its own functionality and user interface. This entry will give a rapid-fire rundown of Excel Services and how it differs from offline versions of Excel.

    How Excel and Excel Services Are the Same

    The element of Excel Services most similar to Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013 is found in Excel Calculation Services (ECS). ECS loads the workbook, maintains sessions, and completes all of the calculations. The calculations and functions found within ECS are identical to those found in Excel, so those who have memorized long lists of useful equations can rest peacefully.

    In many cases (dependent on which version of Excel and SharePoint is being used), the offline version of Excel will continue to serve as the authoring tool while ECS uploads and integrates the workbooks.

    How Excel Services Is Different

    Excel Services then extends beyond the functionality of the offline versions by offering two major sets of web-integrated features. The first is Excel Web Services (EWS), a part of Microsoft’s SharePoint Services offerings. EWS provides an advanced API that allows for custom features, applications, interface options, and more to be built within any given workbook.

    Since these workbooks are likely to be standardized elements across your organization, the implementation of intelligent apps and features can have an immediate and lasting benefit for your organization.

    The second is Excel Web Access (EWA), which is one of the core web parts in Microsoft SharePoint. Using these EWA web parts allows you to display elements of selected workbooks in the user interface and even allows users to edit those workbooks directly. Since the workbooks are marked up with dynamic HTML, the viewing and editing processes remain seamless, stable, and simple.

    Using EWA features helps bring key workbooks into top-of-mind awareness for your staff, which in turn increases user adoption. By combining this increased use with savvy implementation of the display options, you can increase business intelligence at each level of your organization.

    While select features of Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013 may not be compatible with Excel Services, enterprise-relevant features run without a hitch. By using your existing knowledge of Excel along with the SharePoint-integrated features, you can dramatically increase the impact of your workbooks.

    Feel free to contact our sharepoint consulting firms team here.
  • A simple definition of an Extranet is – an external network that has authorization to access a private network, enabling remote users to leverage internal corporate resources. Access between the Extranet and Intranet is typically done through a browser that is connected to the public Internet.
    This blog post is intended to help you understand, at a high level, the difference between SharePoint Server 2013 Extranet and Office 365 External Sharing. For a more complete understanding of these two products or to help you make a decision about which is the right solution for your company, I have provided some additional resources at the end of this post.

    SharePoint 2013 Extranet Overview

    SharePoint Server 2013 extranet environments ‘extend’ a private network out to remote users so they can access corporate assets as if they were directly part of the internal network. Typically, only a portion of the organization’s information and processes are shared with remote users, which can be made up of customers, partners, employees or contractors. The type of corporate assets that might be made available are such things as: documents, branded information, personalized content and views, collaborative content, libraries, etc.
    Based on the individual user’s security profile, extranets can provide a portion of or even the full scope of SharePoint functionality to external users. A SharePoint Server 2013 extranet can provide access to sites and data such as:
    • Internet-facing access to a subset of sites and data, or…
    • Internet-facing access to the full breath of SharePoint capabilities
    Extranet content is typically hosted within an organization’s corporate network and made available through an edge network or, in some cases, through an environment isolated within a perimeter network. This type of hosted architecture enables better system performance as well as more control over security.

    The SharePoint 2013 extranet can enable remote employees that are geographically dispersed through a seamless authentication experience, and can enable external partners to participate in internal business processes, with partner isolation, so that only the partners who are invited to participate can have access. There is also the ability to provide internal data segregation, limited authorization as needed and a restriction of data across a broad spectrum of partners. In addition to employees and partners, SharePoint 2013 can provide customers with access to targeted content, segmentation controls to mitigate cross-contamination of data, and limitation of content and search results based on their security profile.

    Office 365 External Sharing

    Before we discuss external sharing, let me answer the question, what is Office 365?
    Microsoft Office 365 is a subscription-based online service that provides individual and corporate users access to various products and services built around the Microsoft Office platform. 

    Office 365 is also the business and enterprise design for Office 365 leverages the cloud to provide access to servers on a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) basis; and include Exchange, Lync, SharePoint, and MS Office Web Apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.).

    To extend access to remote users who are not members of an Office 365 subscription group, Office 365 has the ability to provide External Sharing. Users who do not have user accounts for the source SharePoint Online environment within Office 365 are considered ‘external users’ and can be granted access. This is done by activating the external sharing feature in SharePoint Online so that external users can be invited to use the site and/or site content though an email-based invitation and authentication.

    In Office 365, an organization can manage external sharing on a global basis through the SharePoint Online Administration Center, or through specifying more granular sharing options such as allowing sharing only with sign-in at the site collection level
    • Share the entire site by inviting external users to sign in using a Microsoft account and Microsoft Office 365 User ID.
    • Share individual documents by inviting external users to sign in using a Microsoft account or an Office 365 User ID.
    • Send a guest link via email to a user to view documents on the site anonymously.
    External Sharing can be accomplished in one of three different ways when using Office 365:

    Advantages and Disadvantages of SharePoint Server 2013 Extranet Compared to Office 365

    There are three advantages to External Sharing with Office 365 versus SharePoint Sever 2013:
    • Simplified share model that also can provide granular access to corporate resources
    • Cost-effective
    • Light-weight solution to sharing basic data and information when complex business logic is not required
    SharePoint Server 2013 Extranet requires additional network and infrastructure configuration which increases cost and complexity. For businesses seeking only to share limited content and/or collaborate short-term without the need for a seamless logon experience or whose extranet environment is not subject to corporate or governmental regulations, Office 365 provides an external sharing capability tht can be leveraged to make company assets available over the Internet.
    There are four advantages when using SharePoint 2013 Extranet:
    • It is possible to provide data isolation within a trusted network and external access can be restricted to a perimeter or edge network. SharePoint Online Service Description. http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/sharepoint-online-service-description.aspx
    • Data maintenance can be performed at a single location
    • SharePoint 2013 Extranet can be comprised of a single environment that facilitates both internal and external collaboration with granular access controls
    • SharePoint 2013 Extranet can be implemented with a separate or shared Active Directory infrastructure.
    Additional Resources

    Overview of publishing to Internet, intranet, and extranet sites in SharePoint Server 2013 [http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj635881.aspx]
    Share sites or documents with people outside your organization [http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/office365-sharepoint-online-enterprise-help/share-sites-or-documents-with-people-outside-your-organization-HA102894713.aspx?CTT=5&origin=HA102476183]
    Manage external sharing for your SharePoint online environment [http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/office365-sharepoint-online-enterprise-help/manage-external-sharing-for-your-sharepoint-online-environment-HA102849864.aspx?CTT=5&origin=HA102476183]
    What is an external user? http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/office365-sharepoint-online-enterprise-help/what-is-an-external-user-HA104036809.aspx]

    SharePoint Engine

    For more information about SharePoint Server 2013 and Office 365, or to discuss having us help you select which option is the best solution for your company, please contact SharePoint Engine.

    SharePoint Engine is your leading provider for Microsoft SharePoint solutions. We provide a wide array of products to help improve the most important aspects of your business' functioning. All of our process-oriented solutions are customized to meet your precise objectives. Additionally, our team is made up of recognized industry experts who specialize in SharePoint and have been working with SharePoint since its release.

    For more information, please visit our website at www.SharePointEngine.com or call us at (877) 368-7202

    Feel free to contact our Microsoft Sharepoint Consultant team here.
  • Business Intelligence (BI) often takes on the mantel of exotic, rare, and almost unattainable technology. But at its core, business intelligence is simply a method of reporting on what happened.

    Granted it is a type of reporting that reaches beyond an ordinary peek into the rearview mirror of past business events; business intelligence helps to spot future trends, make informed go/no-go decisions, or identify potential threats. BI technology is strongest when it rests on a large supply of valid, diverse and current data, and can leverage the proper tools to help users understand and visualize queries about that data.

    This blog post is about how SharePoint 2013 can help users solve practical business information problems, even though they don’t have the time or the budget to custom build an enterprise-scale BI system. The underlying premise of this blog is – show how SharePoint 2013 can provide a reasonable cost-benefit ratio and justify investing in BI technology.

    Before we jump into SharePoint 2013 and its capabilities, let’s take a high-level look at Business Intelligence.

    What Problems Can BI Solve?

    If the only tool you have in your toolbox is a hammer, then every problem might look like a nail. The fact is, most businesses are able to solve most problems without spending a dime on more technology. In other words, the ‘hammer’ most businesses have been using works just fine, because most of their problems look like nails. The challenge they face only comes into focus when their competition is able to solve the same type of problems, but they do it faster, cheaper, and with less effort. Obviously, this can be a doomsday scenario for the company falling behind, technologically speaking.

    That said; Business Intelligence is a great tool…but what problems will it solve? Perhaps a better question would be…how do I figure out if BI can help my company? You are not alone in asking these questions. Just because we have the tools to do something amazing like BI, doesn’t mean you need it or can afford it. But it certainly would be beneficial for you to find out if and how a Business Intelligence capability would help your business.

    The starting-line to find out if BI makes sense for your organization runs right through your own conference room. You need to sit down with your senior executives and managers and talk to them about the information they rely on to run their part of the business. What information do they need, when do they need it, what do they do with it, what information are they missing, and so on? Initiate this type of conversation and you will, undoubtedly, open up a window of opportunity to discuss the merits of Business Intelligence.

    SharePoint 2013 and Business Intelligence

    Assuming that you see value in establishing BI capabilities in your organization, a very good first step would be to evaluate Microsoft’s SharePoint 2013. Because Microsoft products are generally used throughout both the back-office and front-office of most businesses, SharePoint 2013 is a very powerful tool to integrate the data with the technical systems required to build BI capabilities.

    The main theme for BI is aggregation of data from multiple sources and then making that data available when, where, and how it is needed. BI must also be in complete alignment with all corporate goals while it supports the needs of individual managers who are responsible for achieving those goals. SharePoint 2013 is designed to access information and put it in the hands of employees when and where they need it. Because of SharePoint 2013’s capabilities to enable collaboration and teamwork, its very nature aligns the goals of the business with the goals of the employees.

    Data Warehousing Measures and Dimensions

    Perhaps the most fundamental requirement of BI is the need for information or data. Often this data is distributed throughout multiple databases and must be aggregated in some form.

    In data warehousing, which is the term used to describe the functions necessary to aggregate, store and access data for the purpose of Business Intelligence and analytics, the data is often loaded into Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) cubes. The data stored in a cube can be sorted and filtered based on measures and dimensions. This technique lets users query the cube based on practical business categories which enable calculations to be made such as sum, count, average, min/max, etc. This is called a measure.

    The other characteristic used in a cube is called a dimension. Dimensions are a collection of information or references about a measureable event. Each dimension can be measured.
    For example, let’s say you wanted to run a report that gives you an up-to-the-minute total on sales volume and the number of units sold for each region of your company. In this example, the regions would be the dimensions and the sales volume and number of units are the measures.

    SharePoint is designed to access cubes and work with the data stored in the cube, based on the available measures and dimensions.

    Key Performance Indicators Business Intelligence enables visualization of raw data in the form of charts, graphs, pictures, etc. Typically Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), Score Cards, and Dashboards use the raw data and turn it into something that can be easily consumed by a viewer. For example, a project status KPI is commonly displayed as green, yellow or red lights to indicate that the project is on target/no issues, there are minor issues, or the project is in trouble. This BI technique is an easy way to visualize the data and cut through all the non-essential information and get to the point. This also allows the viewer to quickly gauge if the corporate goals are being met or are in jeopardy.

    SharePoint 2013 Business Intelligence Solutions

    SharePoint 2013 has several products that may be used as part of a BI system. The following is a list of commonly used MS components, all or just some of them can be used to create a practical and powerful BI system:
    • BI Data Services – MS SQL Server Data Services and Integration services (both used to extract, transform and load data from disparate sources)
    • BI Engine MS SQL Server Analysis Services (supports OLAP cubes by letting you design, create, and manage multidimensional structures that contain data aggregated from other data sources, such as relational databases.)
    • PowerShell (a Microsoft task automation framework, consists of a command-line shell and associated scripting language built on .NET technology)
    • PowerPivot for SharePoint (Analysis Servicess server running in SharePoint mode and provides server hosting of PowerPivot data)
    • Microsoft Excel (commonly used spreadsheet with Pivot Tables and Pivot Charts and can be used with SharePoint)
    • Microsoft Performance Point Designer (is integrated with SharePoint to create dashboards, score cards, and analytics.
    Setting Up SharePoint 2013

    When SharePoint 2013 is installed and configured, Central Administration (CA) is provisioned. Central Administration is where you control all the settings and features of SharePoint Product sites for Web applications, like Excel or Performance Point. CA is a convenient tool that helps in linking the applications and tools required by SharePoint to set up a BI system. You will also use Microsoft’s PowerShell to set up the infrastructure for SharePoint sites so they can run in a multi-tenant environment on a single physical server or virtual server.

    Excel Services or Performance Point

    You can use either or both of these tools to create dashboards. Either one will help you establish trusted locations (e.g. http:// links), data providers, libraries, and databases.
    Excel is often the easiest and most familiar tool to display and analyze BI data. Since Excel has been around a long time and so many people are experienced when it comes to using Excel, it is a good choice as the front-end tool to put on your BI environment.

    With Excel you can add measures and dimensions from a source data cube (created by Analysis Services) and then use the Pivot Chart capabilities in Excel to select the fields you want to display, such as sales amount, product categories, sales by geography, etc. You can also create Pivot Tables is you want to display a spreadsheet with multiple columns and rows, also using the fields from the cube.

    SharePoint’s Practical Solution

    Microsoft and SharePoint have all the tools you need to create a very robust and practical BI solution. It is probable that you currently own licenses to many of the components, if not all, that are required to build a solution. If you are interested in Business Intelligence and you would consider a Microsoft-based solution, you might find that you can be up and running in a matter of days with a minimal investment.

    SharePoint Engine

    For more information about SharePoint Server 2013 and practical Business Intelligence solutions, or to discuss having us help you select which options are the best solution for your company, please contact SharePoint Engine.

    SharePoint Engine is your leading provider for Microsoft SharePoint solutions. We provide a wide array of products to help improve the most important aspects of your business' functioning. All of our process-oriented solutions are customized to meet your precise objectives. Additionally, our team is made up of recognized industry experts who specialize in SharePoint and have been working with SharePoint since its release.

    For more information, please visit our website at www.SharePointEngine.com or call us at (877) 368-7202
  • SharePoint 2013 comes with an important decision right off the bat…cloud or on-premises? As part of Microsoft’s marketing strategy, they’re offering SharePoint in two different modes: SharePoint Server that can be installed on-premises just like all previous versions; and Office 365, which is a version of SharePoint that runs in Microsoft’s own data centers as part of a cloud. There is enough overlap of features between the on-premises and cloud versions to say that SharePoint 2013 and Office 365 are essentially the same, but they are clearly designed for two different market segments.

    Microsoft publicly stated they will develop and support both versions for the foreseeable future, but the hosted version is likely to be the winner since all technology is trending towards the cloud.
    This blog post, as the title suggests, is focused on the highlights of SharePoint 2013 and Office 365. However, the fact that SharePoint 2013 and Office 365 allow you to leverage either on-premises or cloud computing speaks volumes about the deep transition taking place in how software is delivered and consumed. Clearly, cloud computing is a big part of the future for Microsoft and all other manufacturers of commercial software.

    SharePoint 2013 represents a major new release in the product’s lifecycle, and this blog post is intended to give you a quick reference guide of five points that rise to the top.

    Better Branding

    Branding your web presence used to be a rather difficult and time-consuming process that involved specialized knowledge of the designer tool and assets, UI expertise using style sheets, and an understanding of how to package the entire branding concept. This is not to say that branding in SharePoint 2013 is fall-off-a-log simple, but a competent web designer with proficiency in HTML, Cascading Style Sheets and JavaScript can brand a SharePoint site and create a public-facing or internal site that looks very professional. This feature will reduce the time required to brand a site and make it less costly to support SharePoint as a platform for public-facing sites.

    Public-Facing Website Improvements

    SharePoint 2013 greatly improved its ability to host public-facing websites. SharePoint has evolved since the 2007 version and, even though 2010 was an improvement, 2013 is now much more full featured. It includes numerous capabilities that help with SEO, including XML-based sitemaps, user-friendly URL’s, SEO settings by different site collections rather than individual sites, and even robot.txt support to define out of bounds areas for search engine crawlers. These new features make it much easier for companies to adopt SharePoint and centralize their knowledge base, increase collaboration and deliver a better overall experience to end-users.

    Business Intelligence Enhancements

    Business Intelligence (BI) is top of mind for most CIOs and CEOs today. Using SharePoint as a platform to tap into and leverage business intelligence opportunities is vastly improved. With Big Data taking center stage, SharePoint 2013 expanded its capabilities over the 2010 product and enables the users to delve much deeper into trusted data sources to perform analytics. Additionally, for those using MS Excel, integration between SharePoint and Excel is much tighter too.

    The PowerPivot program has been given more power in SharePoint 2013, allowing you to work with billions of rows and columns directly in memory. Other features such as PerformancePoint Services, Dashboard Designer and Visio Services also work together to provide a more complete dashboard showing your company’s financial health.

    Deferred Site Collection Upgrade

    SharePoint 2013 has a very useful new feature called ‘deferred site collection.’ This lets a specific set of site collections run as SharePoint 2010 while SharePoint 2013 is being installed. This means you can run SharePoint 2010 code within the 2013 product. Obviously, this is advantageous when needing to maintain compatibility with any custom code and applications you may have built on top of SharePoint 2010.

    Improved Mobile Device Support

    With bring-your-own-device (BYOD) all the rage and mobile computing becoming a business necessity, Microsoft had to meet the challenge of making SharePoint deliver a better experience for users of mobile devices. There is now an HTML5 coded view that is called the ‘contemporary’ view which has been optimized for fast access across iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone devices.

    Office 365

    To close out this blog post, let me mention a few things about Office 365. This product is all about saving money while still accessing the familiar features of Microsoft Office. This is primarily a cloud-based product, hosted by Microsoft and comes with a 99.9% uptime Service Level Agreement. Office 365 puts the power and agility of MS Office (including SharePoint 2013) within reach of individuals, small businesses, large businesses and other organizations…and with a lower upfront cost.
    • SecurityOffice 365 is built from the ground up with security and privacy in mind. Unlike other cloud based services, Office 365 is not supported by advertising and there is no risk that your information will be targeted by advertisers or compromised.
    • High Availability
    • Office 365 is available when you are. It is not limited by an Internet connection, if you are online or not, you can still access your information anytime, anywhere.
    • No Training RequiredBecause Office 365 is also Microsoft Office, the world’s most useful and recognizable software, little or no training is required. Since most people are already familiar with MS Office, Office 365 is ready to use as soon as it is installed.
    • Simple to Set UpOffice 365 is designed to set up right away and start using immediately. No IT staff is required to provision a desktop or set up user permissions.
    • Cloud or On-PremiseWith Microsoft you can choose either a cloud solution or on-premises, or even a hybrid mix of the two. Because Microsoft has the largest partner ecosystem in the world, you can easily find a qualified consulting firm to help you move forward and provide ongoing support.

    SharePoint has grown into a multi-billion dollars a year business for Microsoft that is still growing, increasing the company’s vast market share year-over-year. Businesses large and small have to do more work with few resources, develop customer intimacy, improve operational efficiency and establish product leadership. The only way to meet these important business requirements is with technology and Microsoft’s SharePoint 2013 and Office 365 are two of the leading tools in this effort.
    SharePoint Engine

    SharePoint Engine is your leading provider for Microsoft SharePoint solutions. We provide a wide array of products to help improve the most important aspects of your business' functioning. All of our process-oriented solutions are customized to meet your precise objectives. Additionally, our team is made up of recognized industry experts who specialize in SharePoint and have been working with SharePoint since its release.

    For more information, please visit our website at www.SharePointEngine.com or call us at (877) 368-7202.
2013 © SharePoint Engine All rights reserved. Developed By Binary Republik