With SharePoint, It Depends


2011-02-28-WithSPItDepends-01.pngFor those new to SharePoint, it is important that you understand that there is no such thing as a homogenous SharePoint deployment. No two SharePoint environments are the same - sort of like a fingerprint. We all have fingerprints, and at a macro-level our fingertips all look similar, but as you zoom in close, you very quickly pick up the nuances that make each of them unique.

That’s certainly true with SharePoint. You can follow the directions for an out-of-the-box deployment, use all of the default settings, and each installation will look about the same – on the surface. But even in the most vanilla of installations, there are nuances because of:

  • The hardware you’re using
  • The network you run on
  • Whether it’s on-premise or hosted
  • How your system is configured
  • How you set up your content databases, content types, taxonomy
  • How you set up your governance, distributed controls and administration, organized your users

In essence – if you actually use your environment, then it will quickly move away from the vanilla and become unique to your organization. Customize and deploy web parts and other solutions, or integrate a line of business application, and you’ll move even further away from the vanilla example in the SharePoint documentation.

You’ve probably heard it stated that SharePoint is a platform, not a product, which means it is highly configurable and extensible. Many customers purchase SharePoint because they want to utilize its core, out-of-the-box functionality (collaboration, content management, security, search, etc.), but their end result may look nothing like the generic SharePoint sites in the documentation (for some examples, take a look at Febreze, and also Pilgrim).

At my company (an ISV), we receive many questions from our customers about their environments that are difficult for us to answer. For one, we focus entirely on products – not services. While we have fantastic customer support, we have consulting partners that we work with to help our customers build solid platforms, repeatable processes, and follow best practices for using SharePoint. Second, without looking at their environment, we may not be able to reproduce an error. That’s why a support call to any product company begins with an inventory or environmental questions, to understand as much about your environment as possible before attempting to solve the problem. Many times it is determined that the issue has nothing to do with the product, but with the customer’s environment, and we work with a customer to walk them through their system changes. It could be related to:

  • Permissions issues
  • Configuration changes
  • Features missing
  • Links deleted or changed
  • Hardware (environmental) changes
  • Or maybe even the dreaded "User Error"

Considering the list of nuances above, just remember that while SharePoint is an amazing platform that allows you to create very powerful solutions with very little technical skill (and even more solutions if you know what you’re doing), it is also a very complex tool. When presenting at conferences, there are always questions from the audience that simply don’t have a single (or an easy) answer. It is because of the complexity of the platform, and the vast number of deployment scenarios that could cause that specific issue. While the expert may give you the impression that he or she is eluding a specific answer, or not being genuine, the fact is that in most cases it just depends.

When you look at SharePoint through the lens of a platform, not a shrink-wrapped product with a set number of clearly defined features, you’ll understand that many of the answers depend on several factors, some of which I’ve outlined here. It is near impossible to answer most of the questions definitively (certainly while standing on a stage, in front of an audience).

Don’t get discouraged by this complexity. Again, SharePoint offers a powerful platform with rich features and capability. With a little bit of training, and following established best-practices, you can solve many of your business problems. Just keep asking questions, tap into the great SharePoint community, and remember to test. Before you know it, you’ll know SharePoint like the back of your hand. Or your fingerprint.

SharePoint as a Business Opportunity


2011-02-25-SPBusinessOpp-01.jpgThis article is for any SharePointer looking for business opportunities. It’s not for developers looking for code or power users looking for tips.

A few days ago I participated, as an attendee, in the O’Reilly TOC (tools of change for publishing) Conference. I had high hopes of hearing the word SharePoint somewhere but I didn’t.

I heard many other words including workflows, content management, xml, search, and rights management. But the most common word was “App” and the second most popular was “e-book”.

During TOC I witnessed many striking events and I would like to share them with you. After that I will try to bind it all together and end up with what I see as an opportunity.


The majority of attendees were not IT Pros, but were book publishers, writers, editors and even graphic arts professionals. It is important to say that the conference is technology orientated. The age range was vast but surprisingly there were a significant number of people over 60.

  1. During the presentations and keynotes the primary note taking tool was the iPad. Then notebooks (Macs more than Windows based) and smart phones of all kinds (less WP7). The older generation of attendees used iPads. Very few people were taking notes on paper.
  2. The usage of Twitter was outstanding and very helpful. The tweets were running fast and contributing to some kind of collective note taking.
  3. There were attendees representing very small and focused publishing companies. Many of them trying to find out how to survive the huge transformation of their businesses: from the printed book to a couple of new paradigms: the interactive Apps (Mobile devices) and the E-books (Kindle, Nook).
  4. There were attendees representing huge publishers that were astonished by the challenges their industry faces. Immense organizations slow to adapt but trying to keep relevant. Their most visible challenge can be described with a question: How do we offer value to writers if technology allows them to achieve similar results without us?
  5. The publishing industry that used to be something between writers, editors and publishers has become more complex and now requires many more skills including graphic arts, interactive design, SEO, social networking, online marketing.
  6. The market requests were experience instead of more information.
  7. Royalties and subscription schemes are the preferred monetization strategies. No flat fees.

The main problem seems to be an economic issue; although the writer is the center of the business, there are so many more professionals involved in the production and distribution of the book. How do they maintain a good level of income for each one?


A few weeks ago I attended a conference about the famous Cloud. This time, the conference was organized by Oracle. Most attendees were IT Pros from big corporations and financial organizations.

  1. Most note taking was pen & paper with a few PCs using Windows XP .
  2. There was no Twitter handle and few tweets about the conference “ I’m at xxx place”
  3. Apps? they were talking about private clouds for corporate use (intranets).
  4. IT Pros were disconnected from businesses decision making. The most common worry I could find was a fear of losing their job.


It appears that the business world is mutating to a new self. An environment where the small business is empowered by technology and the enterprise is threatened by its resistance to change. Where the common challenge is to integrate multiple skills and technologies.

That means that product managers must adapt their deadlines in order to integrate processes where multiple professional need to participate in a synergetic process. It also means that using multiple platforms is going to be the rule. And that is something that applies directly to single band advocates (Microsoft, Google, Apple).

I also believe that the most important tech leaders will have to adopt the same modus operandi. For example: Why doesn’t Microsoft have a version of IE for Mac? Or why doesn’t Apple have a version of iPhoto for PC?

Opportunity for SharePointers

If you’ve read this far, you probably know what the opportunity is. Big and slow corporations changing direction, small entrepreneurs empowered and everybody trying to find a technological solution for facing the challenges of a global market looking for great experiences.

There are a huge number of publishers who are going to use WordPress as their engine for managing editorial workflows and content. Some are going to Drupal and some even to Joomla. Isn’t this the place for SharePoint to compete?

If publishers are going through this then it is also happening to designers, consultants, opinion leaders, and probably to everyone. Would you say, today, that the Web isn’t for everyone?

The mobile world is opening a new way of using the Web. SharePoint can support that.

7 Components of a Successful SharePoint Business Strategy: Part II of the Profiles in Productivity Series


In Part 1 of the Profiles in Productivity Series, We Don’t Have a SharePoint Strategy, Derek Weeks discussed how technology adoption can often outpace its business strategy in the enterprise. We also discussed how a business strategy around SharePoint was unavoidable for today’s CIO. In Part 2 of the series, Jeff Carr discusses 7 key components of developing a SharePoint business strategy.


How "Getting It Out There" Is Not A Strategy

Why do you use Microsoft SharePoint? On the surface this might seem like a relatively simple question. In all likelihood, I’m sure you are able to list a handful of reasons that include everything from business collaboration and document management to business intelligence and enterprise search. However, if you take a moment to look past the functional capabilities of the product itself and step back to carefully consider exactly why you are employing its use, what might the answer be then? If a detailed and specific reason is not immediately apparent this should be cause for concern.

The “Technology First” Approach

A common approach for many organizations has been one of technology centered design - that is, to start with the technology first and push off the gathering and documentation of requirements until later, if at all. It is often left up to the folks responsible for the IT function to set it up and get it out there and, as business users slowly become aware of its existence, a site or two are often provisioned for them to “play around” with. Initial sites are then followed by a few more and even more after that, and in what seems like the blink of the eye, an assortment of individuals and groups from across the organization have started to turn on various bits of functionality and deploy the product in a haphazard and confusing way.

SharePoint is a technology designed to remove management of the information environment from IT and place it into the hands of users. The problem lies in the fact that many organizations lack standard ways of managing content and therefore permissioning and site management are often dropped into the lap of a single or small group of uninformed individuals. These people, along with the end users themselves, are for the most part unfamiliar with standard practices in information architecture, content management, taxonomy and metadata.

Before long, the effort required to support and manage growth of the platform dramatically increase as it rapidly evolves into a highly decentralized and ungoverned proliferation of sites, subsites, lists and libraries. As it continues, business users’ ability to work declines because of the organically growing highly complex and convoluted structure. The lack of consistency and integration leads to a fragmented and frustrating user experience that is compounded by an explosion of content as more business units come online.

An absence of ownership of information architecture leads to numerous issues related to findability. Users are forced to turn to search as a primary form of information seeking but an absence of standardized content enrichment processes lead to a degradation of the out of the box search experience. Simply put, a lack of strategy, process and governance around content management means that search doesn’t work. Third party add-ons and custom solutions often appear throughout the environment in an effort to overcome these issues and in the end, what you’re left with is a complex and fragmented data repository with increasing operational costs.

7 Key Components of a Successful Strategy

As a result of this situation, organizations are now faced with significant challenges in trying to pull back on the reins to establish a more disciplined foundation. Many are faced with a need to re-architect their SharePoint environments in a way that better aggregates the results of the proliferation into a more cohesive experience that aligns with and supports strategic objectives.

If you find yourself in the group considering a move to the newest release of the product, now is an opportune time to pause and be sure that your SharePoint 2010 strategy includes the following seven key components:

  1. Purpose – Strategic objectives must be identified and clearly defined in conjunction with key executives and stakeholders. These individuals are responsible for articulating the overall vision and ensuring the direction chosen is tied back to organizational goals. Without their buy-in and ongoing support in the form of time, budget and dedicated resource allocation, the chances of success for the platform are dramatically reduced.
  2. Arriving at a common purpose is oftentimes difficult so a recommended approach is to conduct an executive workshop to:

    • Identify key descriptors for the system both currently (what is it now) and in the future (what it need to be);
    • Develop a roadmap based on gaps identified including quantitative benchmarks from which future successes can be measured; and
    • Create a Vision statement for SharePoint outlining in detail overall purpose and intention.


  3. Governance – Comprised of the collection of policies, processes, standards, models, roles and responsibilities that ensure successful management of the platform across the enterprise. More informally, it’s all the things required to make it work as well as the glue that holds it all together. Because of SharePoint’s inherent nature to decentralize away from IT, stronger governance processes are required to make it a success.
  4. An advisory council comprised of cross-departmental representation is required, and must include active participation from the executive stakeholders who contributed to development of the overall Vision. Sub-committees and working groups for specific areas like technology, information architecture, training and education need to be tasked with implementation, operationalization and enforcement, as successful governance requires accountability.

    For additional detail surrounding information governance please see the first of two articles I recently authored along with Seth Earley for KMWorld Magazine titled SharePoint 2010 ECM Governance. Keep in mind that the ability to establish and operationalize governance is often dependent on organizational maturity so I’d recommend also taking a look at Sadie Van Buren’s recent post on SharePoint Maturity.

  5. People & Objectives – Identification of the audiences that have a stake in the environment. It’s important to fully understand who they are and what tasks they are required to accomplish. What are the key business processes and how will the technology be designed to support them?
  6. Strategy defines your approach to completing the following activities:

    • Identify all the people and groups required to participate in the environment;
    • Determine existing pain points along with potential solutions;
    • Develop use cases and user scenarios to capture business processes and common interactions; and
    • Document opportunities for active and passive personalization that also include the serendipitous discovery of information.


  7. Requirements & Analysis – The formal gathering of requirements, taken directly from users and captured in their own words. This includes an assessment of the current environment in the form of stakeholder interviews, core team working sessions, end user surveys and heuristic evaluations to identify what’s working and what’s not along with desired improvements in the form of features and functionality. Requirements must be analyzed, categorized, prioritized and ultimately tied back to the purpose.

  9. Information Architecture – Definition of approach to the two key areas of information organization and access. Prior to implementation of site structures, navigational schemes and search interfaces, it’s crucial that you develop comprehensive content models, which require clear understanding of types and volume of content that exist. To do so you must define methods for completing the following:

    • Content audits and inventories that identify volume, ownership, responsibility and overall scope of the problem;
    • Identify key global content types that have organizational value along with standard definitions for each. For example, defining and obtaining acceptance with respect to what constitutes a “Procedure”;
    • Document information lifecycles that address all aspects of management from creation to disposition;
    • Develop metadata schemas and plan groups and term sets as a basis for content enrichment including the definition of a standard set of fields applied to all documents;
    • Design of workflow to automate all or portions of key business processes;
    • Design of standardized publishing models outlining levels of organizational autonomy (centralization vs. decentralization);
    • Establish consistent naming conventions along with a set of editorial guidelines; and
    • Site map development to determine the logical hierarchy of site collections, subsites, lists and libraries.

    Performing this analysis sets the foundation for the design of wireframes illustrating innovative access mechanisms that are consistent, standardized and provide a multi-faceted approach to information findability.


  11. Technology – Involves consideration of coverage for the installation, configuration, and maintenance of both hardware and software along with application integration between the SharePoint environment and other enterprise systems. Also includes identification of third party add-ons and custom development necessary to meet high priority requirements. The technology attribute of the overall strategy is, for the most part, the only piece that should be fully owned by IT.

  13. Maintenance & Enhancement – How will you address improvements to the environment as business needs evolve? To do so, it will be important to ensure the availability of metrics from which benchmarks and end user satisfaction can be measured. Metrics, which must be tied back to the overall purpose, can be captured in the form of search and web analytics as well as through periodic qualitative measures indicating user satisfaction. New initiatives identified by business users need also relate back to the strategic objectives.

Pulling It All Together

The formal definition of an overall strategy for SharePoint that begins with an executive vision and proceeds to outline a clear set of business goals is the best method for enabling achievement of long-term objectives. Governance is a fundamental element of success and often finds its biggest challenges in changes to organizational culture. While difficult, this transformation is needed for growth. A cultural evolution will be required but can be made easier through strategies that address the socialization of business objectives as well as communication and training initiatives that assist with influencing user adoption. Without a strong governance model, even the best designed environments are sure to fail.

A well designed SharePoint implementation will be constructed from the perspective of the end user and will streamline business processes by providing a place for teams to perform their work more effectively, enable the capture and dissemination of organizational memory and ultimately connect people with the right content (or the right person), in the right context at the right time.

Without the development of a formal strategy in each of the areas identified, a lack of future opportunity will exist as a result of an absence in foundational capabilities that have not been established over time. Inevitably, starting with the technology itself will result in longer term challenges and potential failure from a lack of user adoption. If you’re not careful, your SharePoint environment will end up evolving into nothing more than a complex file share on the web, only significantly more difficult to use and much more costly.

As you work with others in your organization to further refine or develop your SharePoint business strategy, I am happy to make the seven components list above available here as a PDF . The seven steps discussed above were originally presented in an article I wrote earlier this year for the American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T).

Coming Soon…Part 3 - Profiles in Productivity

In Part 3 of this series, we will discuss how to best work with business users to develop your SharePoint strategy. Hint: don’t talk about SharePoint. This next article will feature video highlights of Mark Miller and Dux Raymond Sy from the recent KMworld SharePoint Symposiusm in a session entitled, “What End Users REALLY Want from SharePoint”.

Slideshow for SharePoint


This solution lets you setup a smooth scrolling slideshow with data from your SharePoint list or your picture library. This solution displays all items in the specified view.

You can customize the appearance of the slideshow web part by changing the size of the slide, the scroll direction (both in and out), border style, background color and image, slide time and display time etc. See the bottom of article for full configuration details.

You can have multiple slideshow web parts in one page and have them scroll independently (it would be messy to look at, but you can do it…).

The solution has been tested in IE8, Firefox 3.6.13, Safari 5.0.3 and Chrome 9.0.597.98 in both SharePoint 2007 and 2010.

Screenshots from the slideshow


Move the mouse over the slide to pause

The dummy text is snagged from here and the images from Google’s picture search on color-in line drawings

The tool pane:

The button on the left brings you to “NewForm” for that specific list (not available if you are pulling images from an image library).

The middle ones are “Previous slide”, “Resume slideshow” and “Next slide”. The button on the right takes you to “DispForm” for that specific item.

The configuration options:

  • listGuid: The GUID of the list you will pull information from – see below for instructions getting this GUID
  • listBaseUrl: The base URL (site URL, not list URL) of the site containing the list to pull from
  • listViewGuid: The GUID of the view you will pull information from – see below for instructions getting this GUID
  • viewFields: An array of all the fields you want to include – using FieldInternalName
  • viewFieldsStyle: An array that corresponds with the above array. Used to set an individual CSS style of the value
  • imageMax: Object literal with the parameters “height” and “width”. This represents the max-height OR the max-width of images that are either pulled from a picture library, or from a hyperlink field configured as “Image”. This does NOT apply to images embedded in a rich text field. Use only one parameter at the time to keep the image aspect ratio. The one not specified should have the value null
  • containerID: A unique ID (unique in the current page) for the slideshow container.
  • containerHeight: Height in pixles
  • containerWidth: Width in pixles
  • containerBorderStyle: CSS style for the border of the container
  • containerBgColor: Background color of the container
  • containerBgImg: Background image to use for the container
  • inDir: The direction to scroll in the content (n,nv,ne,s,sv,se,v,e)
  • outDir: The direction to scroll out the content (n,nv,ne,s,sv,se,v,e or fade)
  • displayTime: How long to display each slide – in milliseconds
  • slideTime: The slide time – in milliseconds
  • readMoreLink: true or false
  • readMoreText: If the above parameter is true – the text or image to click to go to DispForm for the specific item
  • addNewLink: true or false
  • addNewText: If the above parameter is true – the text or image to click to add a new item to the list
  • emptyCaution: If the list view contains no items – this is the text displayed in the first (and only) slide

How to find the listGuid, viewGuid and FieldInternalName:

Go to the list view that will provide the input for your scrolling web part. Right click somewhere in the list view webpart and select “view source”. Search for“ctx.listname”, and you will find something like this:

ctx.listName = “{A4B4E15A-C5B0-47BC-A08B-739CD48FE58A}”;
ctx.view = “{B83E87C1-D25A-47DE-8196-A0A12DB89106}”;

The value for “ctx.listName” is used as “listGuid”, and the value for “ctx.view” is used as “listViewGuid” in the configuration.

To find the FieldInternalName of your field, go to DispForm on any element in the list, right click and select “view source”. You find the FieldInternalNames by searching for the “FieldName” (the display name) of your field. The FieldInternalName is found like this:

<!-- FieldName="My new field"

The code

Download the code for the file “SlideshowForSharePoint.js” here

Store the file in a document library or a dedicated script repository in your site collection. Ensure all users have read access to this repository.

Place the CEWP where you want the slideshow to appear and add this code:

<script type="text/javascript" src="https://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.5.0/jquery.min.js"></script>
<script type="text/javascript" src="/test/English/Javascript/SlideshowForSharePoint/SlideshowForSharePoint.js"></script>
<script type="text/javascript">
var myScrSettings = {'listGuid':'A4B4E15A-C5B0-47BC-A08B-739CD48FE58A',
	'containerBorderStyle':'border:6px silver double',
	'readMoreText':"<img title='Go to item' src='/_layouts/images/magnify.gif' border='0'>",
	'addNewText':"<img title='Add new item' src='/_layouts/images/newitem.gif' border='0'>",
	'emptyCaution':"<div style='height:100%;width:100%;padding-top:140px;text-align:center'>There are no items to show here..."};

Change at least the listGuid, listViewGuid, viewFields and the “script src” to the file “SlideshowForSharePoint.js”

Regarding picture libraries:

You do not have to provide any entries in the array for the “viewFields” – leave it empty like this []. If you like to put additional fields above the image, add them to the array as shown above.

Ask if something is unclear

A Process to Showcase SharePoint’s Value to Your Organization - Part 2: Understand Your Corporate Strategy & Your Business Processes


Understand Your Corporate Strategy

In order to better understand your corporate strategy – and how you can map the usage of SharePoint to that strategy, you need a basic understanding of the Value Chain. The Value Chain was first described and popularized by Michael Porter in his 1985 best-seller, Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance.

Dr. Porter states every company has a Value Chain – how you create and sustain value as a company. Every firm is a collection of activities that are performed to design, produce, market, deliver and support its product. All these activities can be represented using a value chain (pictured below).

A firm’s value chain and the way it performs individual activities are a reflection of its history, its strategy, its approach to implementing its strategy, and the underlying economics of the activities themselves. The value chain is the basic tool for diagnosing competitive advantage and finding ways to enhance it.1


The corporate strategy is a very high level message, usually communicated to employees via a few key priorities, such as:

  • Grow the Business 35% in the next 5 years
  • Differentiate our Products & Services from our Competitors
  • Achieve Best in Class Customer Service
  • Lean our Business Processes

Executives in charge of each major department in the company have more detailed goals that would map to the 4 example points above. The value chain is a tool that can be used to better understand the business processes that are performed to support the corporate strategy.

These business processes are what we map the usage of SharePoint to. Why? You must be able to show how the usage of SharePoint is helping to support the corporate strategy – and how it is adding value to the company and eventually your customers. If you can not provide this information to your bosses – why should they invest in the technology?

Understand the Business Processes the Company Performs

Philip Kotler and Kevin Lane Keller expand on the concept of the Value Chain in their business text book, Marketing Management 12e. The Value Chain shows the firms’ success depends not only on how well each department performs it work, but also on how well the various departmental activities are coordinated to conduct core business processes.

Strong companies develop superior capabilities in managing and linking their core business processes. Strong companies are also reengineering the work flows and building cross-functional teams responsible for each process. Winning companies are those that excel at managing core business processes through cross-functional teams. 2

Coordinating department activities, and better managing core business processes through cross-functional teams speaks directly to collaboration. Collaboration can be defined as a way to improve the productivity of people and teams and accelerate the flow of information throughout the company.3 Accelerating the flow of information via your processes is where SharePoint can add a lot of value to your company.

Why SharePoint?

  • SharePoint provides a platform to help manage and link core business processes by enabling cross-functional teams to collaborate in an efficient manner.
  • SharePoint provides a tool to empower business users with a way to quickly improve core business processes.
  • SharePoint is unique in that it enables business users to create their own solutions and control their own permission & access models without having to rely upon IT.
  • In addition, SharePoint is a web-based platform, so end users simply need a web browser to interact with it.

The 5 Core Business Processes

The Value Chain identifies 5 core business activities that involve the work of cross-functional teams:


  • The market sensing process. All the activities involved in gathering market intelligence, disseminating it within the organization, and acting on the information.
  • The new offering realization process. All the activities involved in researching, developing, and launching new high-quality offerings quickly and within budget.
  • The customer acquisition process. All the activities involved in defining target markets and prospecting for new customers.
  • The customer relationship management process. All the activities involved in building deeper understanding, relationships, and offerings to individual customers.
  • The fulfillment management process. All the activities involved in receiving and approving orders, shipping the goods on time, and collecting payment.

In addition to the 5 cross-functional core processes, the value chain identifies nine strategically relevant activities that create value and cost in a specific business. These nine value-creating activities consist of five primary activities and four support activities.


The primary and support activities are the department specific business processes your company performs on a daily basis. The people within the specific departments will know the most important processes they perform on a daily basis – and these are the processes that you will create a process map of.

The Value Chain provides the tool for you to get a better understanding of the general business processes a company must perform to deliver value to its customers. With this basic understanding, you should have the ability to think about your company from a wider perspective – which is where SharePoint can play a critical role.

Looking at your business from a wider view will enable you to identify areas where SharePoint can help support the corporate strategy and add value by improving cross-functional processes through improved collaboration and visibility.

In our next article, we will walk through creating a process map.


Will I be seeing you soon?

My Upcoming Speaker Engagements

02/22/2011 The Future of Productivity (Microsoft Keynote) - New York City, NY
03/01/2001 The SharePoint Security Model by Sadie Van Buren, moderated by Mark Miller - Live Online
03/02/2011 New York City SharePoint User Group
03/07/2011 SharePoint in Business w/ Global 360 - Canberra, AU
03/08/2011 - 03/09/2011 SharePoint Conference Australia (Keynote speaker) - Sydney, AU
03/11/2011 Sharing the Point - Bejing
03/13/2011 Sharing the Point Tour - Ho Chi Min City (Saigon)
03/15/2011 Sharing the Point Tour - Manila
03/16/2011 - 03/17/2011 SharePoint Conference New Zealand (Keynote speaker) - Wellington, NZ
03/22/2011 - 03/25/2011 SharePoint Branding 101 w/ Matt Hughes moderated by Mark Miller - Live Online
04/07/2011 Build a Community in SharePoint presented by Axceler - Live Online
04/11/2011 - 04/13/2011 Best Practices Conference, Europe - London, UK
05/19/2011 - 05/20/2011 ShareFest - Denver
06/01/2011 - 06/03/2011 SPTechCon - Boston, MA

SharePoint 2010: End User Adoption


2011-02-16-EndUserAdoption-01.pngWell, where do I start? We are now coming up on the first anniversary of SP2010. A lot of companies are looking to upgrade or even install SharePoint for the first time. They are doing this because senior management wants a platform that can help the business grow. The IT geeks are fundamentally happy with this platform, so all is good. Or is it?


Those pesky end users keep getting in the way of things. ‘I hate IT’. ‘SharePants’, ‘What’s wrong with email?’ ‘Why do we need to change? Everything works!’ Common phrases heard from the masses.

So what do you do? Well, I have been spending some time researching companies migrating to 2010 and a number of them have come up with some darn good ideas…… which appear to work!

We know that SharePoint is a powerful platform enabling greater collaboration, massive time savings and, therefore, greater efficiency, Apart from …. The end user not using it or being scared of something new.

We need to see SP from their eyes. As a child, we are often given some ‘white lies’ for our own good. ‘Eat your carrots, they make you see in the dark!’ ‘Eat the crust, it will make your hair nice and curly!’ ‘If you’re not good, Santa won’t come.’ These are all harmless non truths (apart from the last one) but they are effective. So why not use the same on the end user?

The two driving forces for people to use anything are:

They want it.
They need it.


The secret back door to SharePoint is discussions. Through this, you can provide for both of these desires. Here is how.

They want it.

This is a purely emotive desire. You must create this emotion.

  1. I want to win! Why not make things fun? Why not give a prize for usage? Create a treasure hunt. Initially, you inform the staff of the game. All they have to do is go to the Forums in SharePoint. In there, you have created a topic titled ‘Treasure hunt’. This will have the initial instructions. They will have to follow clues through SP. Finally, they will get to a document where they enter their name as well as the other items you have asked them to collect. These items may be as simple as the 10th word in a document or the document number. This is up to you. This shows you that they have found their way through. It is fun and they have been learning without realising it.
  2. Why not reward your staff for the number of replies they have made to posts? Simple but effective.
  3. I want to be heard! – Create topics that the end user feels they can really contribute to. For instance ‘ What 2 things do you really like about the company and what 2 things would you change?’
  4. Newsletter feedback – This was done by a company employing over 12,000 people. They used to send out an email. This time, they put it up on the Forum to see how it was received. They thought they may get 50 to 100 posts as a result. After 1 week, they had over 12,000 posts and a load of good ideas!

They need it.


  1. So, they need IT assistance. Send them to the IT support forum. You create common topics that people need help with. If there are other questions commonly being asked, you can submit an article. Over time, you will then build up a really useful knowledge base for the staff. It will save you time in the end!
  2. In addition to the point above, a University in the UK has created webcasts. This is ideal for the visual learners. We have to consider the way people learn. The three ways are visual, audio and kinaesthetic. The webcasts really help the visual learners as well as the audio learners. The game idea above would suit the kinaesthetic learners.
  3. They need it to be easy….This is why I recommend the Discussions section as your first port of call. They have already learned about forums from other experiences but you must give it the look and feel of something they have already seen. On top of this, make it easy for them to log in to SP. Also, make it easy for them to retrieve lost passwords. This is one of the most common reasons why people stop using SP.
  4. One other thing to consider. Make it compulsory to sign in to SP daily. This is a bit of the stick approach but why not add a carrot? If they have logged in every working day that month, they get entered in to a prize draw. Worth considering.

I hope one or more of these ideas may help. There are some limitations with Discussions ootb. You can write your own web parts but our experience at developing forums products, such as Social Squared, suggests that you will never stop trying to fulfil additional feature requirements. As a result, I would suggest looking at the current crop of Forum Web parts. Whoever you go with, make sure they are continually developing the product. You will need it!

The Best SharePoint Survey Ever – Yours!


2011-02-21-BestSPSurveyEver-01.jpgOver 3000 people have viewed our SharePoint survey results to date. In January, we asked 11 questions about how people are using SharePoint in the enterprise. Over 830 people responded.

Your responses gave us all a great sense of what you were doing, the value you found, and the challenges you faced. But, were you also one of those who read the survey and said to yourself, they should have asked about this. Or, the survey would have been better if they had asked about that.

For this reason, we want you to suggest what questions we should ask. There is no better way to get a great survey than to ask the SharePoint community what it wants to know. We first ran the survey back in August 2010 with a plan to run updates every six months. Our next survey is scheduled for the Summer 2011, and we want to make it better than ever. For you.

So here’s the plan:

  1. Don’t be shy, submit your question now in the comments section below.
  2. Submit more than one if you wish.
  3. We need to get the word out. Tweet about this article, and ask others to contribute. It’s not our survey, it is yours.

Applied SharePoint 2010 Governance Part 2 Automated Content Review with Workflows and Policies


Last time we looked at how we could delete old versions and drafts of documents automatically using Information Management Policies (IMP’s). This time we are going to use a combination of IMP’s and Workflow to solve a common business issue – ensuring that content has been reviewed at certain intervals.

The Issue

All organization face the issue of keeping their content up to date once it is stored within SharePoint. This can be for user engagement reasons – having fresh content on an Intranet is much more engaging. It can also be for compliance reasons – ensuring that certain policies and procedures are periodically reviewed.

The issue that we are trying to solve is the automation of a review process. Ideally we would like for SharePoint to notify us, after a period of time, that a piece of content needs to be reviewed. We would like the ability to specify what intervals these review processes should run at as well.

In this example I am going to tackle a very common scenario

  • Automatically setting up a review process for documents (Making sure that the policies are reviewed so they are current and in keeping with our compliance policies)

There are also a couple of other requirements in the form of metadata that users would like to see:

  • Last Reviewed Date: The last time this piece of content was reviewed
  • Next Review Date: The next time this content will be reviewed

These fields will provide a visual cue to the current state of the content. I like knowing that the piece of content I am reading on my company Intranet is current. If it’s from 3 years ago then I am much less inclined to trust the content.

The Solution: Workflow + Information Management Policies

The solution to this is a combination of SharePoint Designer created workflows to inform users that content needs to be reviewed and an IMP to trigger the workflow at a pre-defined date and then keep firing off the workflow periodically.

So let’s start by creating the ‘Review Content’ workflow. This is pretty easy and remember that you can create more complex workflows if need be.

However essentially the use case is:

  • Send the document through a review/approval process
  • If its approved:
    • Set the last reviewed date to today
    • Set the next review date to today + 3 months (since we run review cycles every three months)
  • If it’s not approved:
    • Do nothing

Step 1) Create a new reusable workflow

We want a reusable workflow because we would like to re-use this workflow across all libraries in the current site. We can also globally publish the workflow later if we want to.


I could have limited this workflow to the document content type, for example, but we want to use it across multiple content types: Documents, Events and Pages. Hence make sure the Content Type is set to all.

Step 2) Add Association Columns

Since we are creating a workflow for all Content Types the fields that we need, Last Reviewed Date and Next Reviewed Date, are not accessible. To solve this we will create two Association Columns that will attach themselves to the Content Type list which the Content Type resides on.

This way Documents, Events, Pages or whatever else will be able to use these two columns.

So click on ‘Association Columns’ and create two columns, both of type date and time. Default the value to none and allow blank values.


Step 3) Create workflow actions

First we are going to use an Approval Process so choose ‘Start Approval Process’.


Change the name to ‘Review Content’ and choose the users that you want to be included in the review process. You can also fill in the Task Request fields as well but I won’t bore you with that. You should have something that looks like this:


Now we need to check if the user approved/reviewed the content that was assigned to them. So we need a condition of type ‘If any Value equals any Value’


We want to check if the item is approved. The Approval process will set the IsItemApproved variable if it is successful so let’s use that and check if it equals yes.



Now we have to take care of our dates. Firstly we need to set the Last Reviewed Date to today. Choose the ‘Set Field in Current Item’ action, choose last reviewed date and set it to today.


Next we need to do a calculation for the Next Approval Date field. We want to add 3 months to it so let’s choose an ‘Add Time To Date’ action. Add 3 months to the Today and then output this date to the variable ‘Next Time Approved’.


Now that we have this date 3 months into the future (which will be our next review cycle) lets assign it to the Next Review Date. Choose the ‘Set Field in current Item’ action again and choose ‘Next Reviewed Date’ to the ‘Next Time Approved’ variable that we created.


Ok after all of that our workflow is ready to go and it should look something like this. Publish it out so that it is ready to use:

Setting up the IMP’s

Now that we have our workflow set up we need to hook it up to our Content Types and make the workflow execute through our IMP’s. It’s the IMP’s that will trigger the workflows automatically.

Let’s assume that we are going to attach it to a custom Document Content Type called ACME document, but it is exactly the same for ANY other Content Type that we want to use. Unfortunately you can’t attach an IMP with retention directly to the Item or Document Content Type which is a limitation but a great reason to use custom Content Types 2011-02-17-AppliedSP2010Governance-Part02-Smile01.png

Step 1) Add the ‘Review Content’ workflow to the ACME Document Content Type

Navigate to Site Actions->Site Settings->Site Content Types->ACME Document->Workflow Settings->Add A Workflow and add the Review Content Workflow. This will associate it with the ACME Document Content Type:


Step 2) Enable Retention and Workflow

Now go back to the Content Type information page and click on ‘Information Management Policy settings’. This will enable us to add the IMP that will trigger the workflow automatically.

First we have to enable retention so click on the ‘Enable Retention’ check box. Them click on Add a retention stage:

Now we need to configure the retention:

  • Event: We want this workflow to run 3 months after the document has been altered. So let’s set up the Time Period as Modified plus 3 months.
  • Action: We obviously want to start a workflow so choose the ‘Start a workflow’ action and select our ‘Review Content’ workflow
  • Recurrence: Now since we want to have content reviewed every 3 months we need to set the recurrence period at 3 months. This means that every 3 months this workflow will fire which is what we want.

Once we are done it should look like this:


Press OK and that’s it! We are ready to go. Now due to time constraints we won’t wait for 3 months to check this out but if we choose to run the workflow manually we will see that if we approve the content that the Last Review and Next Review Date are filled in. We can also verify the next time the IMP will trigger by the Expiration Date field which equals our Next Review Date field. Success


More Improvements

From here there is a lot more that you can do

  • Globally publish the workflow through SharePoint Designer to make the ‘Review Content’ workflow available through all sites within the current Site Collection
  • Add a more complex workflow and fields
  • Yearly approval cycles for board documents
  • Create a custom retention formula to have some more smarts when the review cycle runs. A limitation of this approach is that it will always run in 3 month intervals, even if a user modifies a document 6 weeks in the review cycle.

But really let’s just think back on what we have achieved in 30 minutes! We automated review cycles with a custom workflow, custom time period with no added actions by end users. For me it’s pretty cool and shows how a bit of out of the box configuration can be so powerful.

Hope you enjoyed this article and stay tuned to next time. If you are interested in learning more about Workflow in SharePoint 2010 then I hope to see you at my SharePoint Saturday Redmond session!

SharePoint 2010 Branding Series – Part Five


2011-02-16-SP2010BrandingPart05-01.pngWell it’s been a long time coming both nothingbutsharepoint.com and sharepointedutech are now up to date with this blog and are eagerly awaiting this and the following posts so let’s not leave it any longer.

In the last post we looked at getting the header in to the design and positioning it correctly as well as moving the navigation area.

In this post we are going to move a few of the standard SharePoint controls around and get ready for styling.

The Controls we are going to move are:

The MetaData delegate control which displays the “I like it” and “Tags” buttons (not available in SharePoint Foundation)

<SharePoint:DelegateControl ControlId="GlobalSiteLink3-mini" Scope="Farm" runat="server"/>

and the search area placeholder and delegate control

<asp:ContentPlaceHolder id="PlaceHolderSearchArea" runat="server">
	<SharePoint:DelegateControl runat="server" ControlId="SmallSearchInputBox" Version="4"/>

Creating A Searchbar Div

We need to tell SharePoint where we want to put the two controls. So, as in the previous post, we need to first locate the code block.

<!-- =====  Begin Ribbon ========================= -->

Then above that we will add the following

<div id="eis-searchbar" class="s4-notdlg">
	<div id="eis-searchbar-inner">

This adds a CSS id with the name #eis-searchbar and also applys the class .s4-notdlg which removes the codeblock from the popup dialogue box.

We then create a CSS block with the name #eis-searchbar-inner (the reason for this will become clear in part six – version 5)

Now we are going to put the following code between the above div and I will walk through it line by line.

<div class="eis-breadcrumb">
	<asp:SiteMapPath runat="server" id="SiteMapPath1" CssClass="eis-breadcrumb-items" CurrentNodeStyle-CssClass="eis-breadcrumb-items-current">
<div id="eis-metadata">
	<!-- links for I like it and Tags and Notes -->
	<!-- use ControlID="GlobalSiteLink3" for larger icons or remove this line entirely for no icons -->
	<SharePoint:DelegateControl ControlId="GlobalSiteLink3-mini" Scope="Farm" runat="server"/>
<!-- search box loads from delegate, style with CSS -->
<div id="eis-search">
	<asp:ContentPlaceHolder id="PlaceHolderSearchArea" runat="server">
		<SharePoint:DelegateControl runat="server" ControlId="SmallSearchInputBox" Version="4"/>

Whatever happened to the SharePoint breadcrumb? (lines 1 – 4)

One of the things I mentioned at #SPSEMEA was the lack of a decent breadcrumb. This has now been moved from the logical breadcrumb in SharePoint 2007 which has the usual structure (see below), to a folder which, when you click it opens an indented tree like structure.


However, this is not the effect I would like in my design and so we need to add our own breadcrumb and style it as we see fit.


This can be achieved by adding lines 1 – 4

It isn’t a SharePoint specific control hence the prefix asp: in fact it’s just a .NET control that I remembered from my ASP.NET days. It provides us with the excact functionality that we desire (albeit without the styling just yet).

Metadata (Lines 5 – 9)

If you have SharePoint Server it’s a nice idea to locate the delegate control for GlobalSiteLink3 (might not have the -mini bit in your setup) and add it to this section so that it appears to the right of the searchbox. I think I am using Foundation and so will not be able to demo this.

To enable styling, we wrap the control in its own div with an id of #eis-metadata.

Search Box (Lines 10 – 15)

Again wrapping the searchbox in its own div, we have to locate the delegate control, associated place holders and then we are able to style them in the next post.

Where are we now? Below is a screenshot and it clearly shows that the code we have just created doesn’t fit in with the design at all.

In the next post you will see how we style the search bar making it slot into the design nicely.


You can see a live demo of the site here Version 4 and you can download the source code files by clicking the download link below

Download Source Code

Matthew Hughes