Thursday, 13 December 2012

XMind markers for SharePoint

For those of you using the XMind mind mapping tool, here are some useful SharePoint markers that you can import for use with your mind maps.

To import the markers once downloaded, simply open XMind and click on File > Import and select marker package. Now browse for the downloaded package and click Finish.
The new markers will be available under the My markers section in the markers window. 

Thursday, 29 November 2012

SharePoint 2013: eDiscovery

Another new feature in SharePoint 2013 that impressed me at SPC12 was the introduction of the eDiscovery centre. Microsoft seem to have heeded our calls and made great progress on regulation and governance functions within SharePoint 2013.

For those that haven't come across the term eDiscovery, or have heard it mentioned before but are unsure of what exactly it is, here's my very high level explanation:

eDiscovery refers to information or content searched for and packaged in a litigation. So for example company A is taken to court by company B and needs to gather all information / discussions / emails referring to the business deal that has gone wrong to present it in court. The process of searching for and packaging the content is eDiscovery. (in a nutshell!)

This is a feature sorely lacking in previous versions of SharePoint - however we have gotten around it historically by building custom solutions involving search etc. to get by and satisfy the legal fraternities.

eDiscovery allows for the creation of cases and within these cases to create custom queries and holds to ensure we gather all the content we need. The really impressive bit is that in SP2013 the sources of these searches can include Lync conversations, eMails, documents and other general Share|Point content as well.

To start off we create a eDiscovery center (much like we would a records or document centre).

From this point we can create cases, in this case I've followed Microsoft's suit and created a case for Contoso Ltd.
Once in the case we can create custom queries or holds, in the example below I have a custom query that I have created that uses a custom search query for a number of terms and the content sources include email, contacts, meetings, tasks, notes, documents and Lync between a specified date range:


Once these queries and searches and holds have been run and you have gathered all the content required, you will need to present the findings to your legal team / lawyers, and (as is often the case) your lawyers are external to your organisation and need to present the content in the form of a DVD, what Microsoft have provided you with is the option to now export all case content to a standard folder structure which can then be burnt to a DVD / or dumped onto an external hard drive and presented to the legal team;

There's more to the eDiscovery features, you can create in place holds so that even if staff change or delete items these mails/conversations/documents/etc are kept in tact and on record for presentation.

In short, well done Microsoft!

Monday, 26 November 2012

SP 2013 Access services

I never thought I'd be able to say this about MS Access, but WOW!

Amongst some of the new features in SP2013, I'm really impressed by what MS have done in terms of bringing Access into SP2013.

Access tables = SQL tables, etc. Firstly when you bring access into SharePoint it will no longer be a standalone MDB file, the tables / queries and triggers are written to SQL, so you are now dealing with SQL triggers, tables and queries with a nice client side app that even business users understand and find easy to use.​

Business forms
I personally see the new integration replacing many of those custom lists we find scattered around team sites in collaboration environment. Why? because business has been using access for years - just think back to all your client engagements, personally I've come across loads of departments that rely heavily on access databases created by one of their staff members. Also, access forms are easy to work with and are easily tailored to individual and departmental needs.

BI potential
So now we're talking SQL tables as opposed to lists, this means reporting and ultimately BI can be simplified, manipulating SQL tables directly will make it easier to draw reports.

Access apps
Remember this is 2013, they're now referred to as access apps and no longer access databases, and they're dead simple to create too. From site contents simply click "add an app" and from the list of apps available select "Access app" and start designing.

MS have also provided a number of pre designed templates, which include the tables and some sample reports which you can go on to modify to your hearts content.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Search best bets

This is a quick win, and something most of my clients request or ask about when discussions around search begin: "How can I have an article appear at the top of a search result when a user searches for x". Quite simple really, SharePoint 2010 has an easy to use and easy to configure solution aptly named Best Bets.

This is all good and well, but "how do I configure it?" I hear you ask, well here's how:

1. Navigate to Site Actions > Site settings
2. Click on the "Search keywords"  link (found under the Site Collection Administration section.
3. You will now be presented with the following screen.

4. Press the Add Keyword button as circled (with much artistic skill may I add) above.
5. Now fill in the form provided (see the image below)
4. Once you have added the necessary fields click ok and your best bet has been set up. Testing the search will reveal the following - notice the top two results with the stars (those would be your best bet results):

Friday, 18 May 2012

Hide My Site, My Profile links and disable social tags in SharePoint 2010


I recently had a client who, for at least the first phase of the project (and for budgetary constraint reasons), chose not to allow users of the intranet to make use of my site features in their shiny new SharePoint 2010 intranet, however still wished to make use of user profile services for people search. And wanted us to provision and configure the my site host for the time being.

This is quite simple to achieve with a little configuration:

To hide My Site, My Profile and disable Social Tags
  • Go to Central Administration > Application Management > Manage service applications > User profile service application
  • From the ribbon, Click “Manage User Permissions” under People
  • In the “Permissions for User Profile Service Application” pop up, select a user group, e.g. All authenticated Users.
  • Uncheck the “Permissions” item, base on what you want to disable. Click OK to save the settings.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Searching MOSS 2007 from within SharePoint 2010

I was looking for information on searching 2007 sites from SharePoint 2010, and found very little (perhaps it was my own poor searching methods, but nevertheless for those with the same affliction as myself here's how to set up searching of MOSS 2007 from SharePoint 2010!): 

Step 1:
1.       Grant read access for the search service account on all sites you wish to crawl/index

Step 2:
1.       Go to central admin
2.       Go to Manage service applications
3.       Highlight the Enterprise search service application and click Manage
4.       Click on Content sources
5.       Click on New content source
a.       Give the content source a name
b.      Select SharePoint sites from the list of available content source types
c.       Enter the address/es of the SharePoint site/s
d.      Specify the crawl schedules
e.      Check the Start full crawl of the content source option
f.        Click OK
6.       The content source has now been created and will start crawling immediately (if read permissions have been granted on these sites for the search service account)

Step 3:
1.       Go to central admin
2.       Go to Manage service applications
3.       Highlight the Enterprise search service application and click Manage
4.       Click on Scopes
5.       Click Create new scope
6.       Give the new scope a title that staff will understand and recognise
7.       Click OK
8.       The scope will now appear in the current list of scopes, click Add rules
9.       From scope role type select Content Source
10.   Select the content source you created earlier from the drop down box
11.   Click OK

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Keep it simple stupid!

So, like all SharePoint consultants/architects/devs/project managers I've witnessed my fair share of the heartache of failed projects for various reasons, but the one that *really* gets to me is when SharePoint solutions are over engineered - and we overlook the actual business and strategic objectives the solution aims to meet.

I use a phased approach when taking on an intranet project (particularly when the organisation has never made use of an intranet or SharePoint previously).

Phase 1 consists of purely branding and page layouts customisation and perhaps 1 or two content aggregators (for news, etc.). Start getting end users used to the idea of searching for general content and policy documents through the intranet as opposed to emailing/IM'ing/phoning HR to request the information/policy/template they are looking for.

Phase 2 is where we start getting to the fun stuff: collaboration / LOB application integration / document management / etc. And this phase should only start once phase 1 has been live and rolled out to staff for at least 3 months. 

This ensures your SharePoint solution is eased into the organisation, and it assists in user adoption, in that users aren't thrown into the deep end and forced to change their mindsets from day 1.

I've found that when an organisation goes the Full Monty with SharePoint from day 1 and embraces document management and collaboration aspects of SharePoint without fully understanding the product and training it's end users efficiently (or even developing effective governance policies and processes) users push back and return to their bad habits.

As consultants and architects it is our duty to sometimes say "no", the customer is not "always right" the customer is king, and WILL return and provide repeat business if their implementation is a success and by implementation I do not mean only technically.