Saturday, March 26, 2011

Seven Key Areas of Focus for Effectively Implementing SharePoint 2010

"How can SharePoint 2010 add immediate value to my organization?"


"What are some of the key areas of SharePoint 2010 functionality that I can demo to my organization in an attempt to gain a higher percentage of user adoption?"

To effectively answer both questions, I believe you must start by executing a plan to communicate, build, and demonstrate the benefits of using SharePoint 2010 for the seven key areas of focus outlined below. I could write an entire book about each area, so the purpose of this post is to identify each area while pointing out key items of functionality within each area that you will need research in more detail as part of your efforts of determining how SharePoint 2010 can help with your business challenges.

1. Better Collaboration and Communication. According to Evan Rosen, ten cultural elements are present when collaboration is working within an organization: Trust, Sharing, Goals, Innovation, Environment, Collaborative Chaos, Constructive Confrontation, Communication, Community, and Value. Rosen believes collaborative tools such as SharePoint can motivate employees and drive business. But what particular features in SharePoint 2010 can help facilitate better collaboration and communication? I would start by creating a demo site based on each of the following Collaboration site templates available in SharePoint 2010: Team Site (top level site), Document Center (not Document Workspace), Group Work Site, and Enterprise Wiki. This will give you a foundation of four sites to build on within your demo environment.

Next, ensure a Meeting Workspace is created and associated with a recurring meeting item on a team calendar. If you are using Office 2010, be prepared to explain and demo the MS Word 2010 co-authoring capabilities in SharePoint 2010. Document approval using Workflow is another good example of collaboration in SharePoint 2010. Other items to configure and demo include Announcements, Discussion Board, Project Tasks, and a Survey. Finally, be sure to showcase the two main benefits of using Managed Metadata Services in SharePoint 2010 -- easy tagging and metadata-based navigation, and how metadata can be used to replace folders for organizing documents and files in a SharePoint site. The goal of this focus area is to demonstrate a variety of ways to effectively collaborate and communicate within SharePoint.

2. Enhanced Enterprise Content Management. In addition to the capabilities that were introduced in MOSS 2007 (check in/out, versioning, item level permissions, content types, policies, workflow, etc.), SharePoint 2010 offers many new features for document management, including:

Document Sets -- Allows you to collaborate on and manage a group of related documents without having to create a new document library. Each document set created contains its own web part page called a welcome page that displays all content associated with the document set. Common metadata is shared for content contained in the document set, and you can even configure automatic creation of default documents when a document set is created. Building a white paper is a good example of when you might use a document set, as you will have the ability to manage many files (Excel, Word, images, PDFs, etc.) together as a single document in which you can eventually designate the white paper to be created as the master document.

Document IDs -- Gives you the ability to assign a unique identifier for a document or document set regardless of where that it is being stored within the SharePoint site collection. This capability is a long awaited great addition to SharePoint 2010. Now you can provide unique numbering for documents that each have different formatting, and store those documents in any location within a site collection while still being able to reference these documents by their original ID and URL.

Location-Based Metadata Defaults -- Allows you to set default values for a document's metadata based on the location of where the document was created. Uses conditional rules to determine when default values are applied to a document.

Metadata Navigation and Filtering -- Gives you the ability to navigate content based on its associated metadata. Navigation Hierarchies and Key Filters are displayed in the left pane of your SharePoint site interface that allow you to navigate and filter your metadata taxonomy to obtain a desired view within a list or document library.

SharePoint 2010 also introduces new capabilities for records management. Adam Harmetz, Lead Program Manager at Microsoft, does an excellent job explaining these new capabilities here. In regards to digital asset management, SharePoint 2010 now provides the ability to manage audio, video, and images as content types in an all-inclusive asset library. This allows you to catalog your rich media content along with convenient preview modes that display thumbnails and managed metadata snippets. Audio and video can be made available through the out-of-the-box Media web part or embedded Silverlight applications, and you can employ workflows, rules, routing, and policies to manage all contained assets.

3. Personalized Experience. I have found that when my clients have an understanding of the security trimming functionality native to SharePoint, they have a greater appreciation for the technology. They really like the idea of making content invisible to users for which they do not have permission. Audience targeting is one of the significant features in SharePoint 2010 that provides a method of targeting web parts and content to specific groups and users. Virtually any individual item within a SharePoint 2010 site can be targeted, including documents, events, list items, and even the entire site. However, for any given SharePoint site, I recommend setting group permissions at the site, list, and library levels, and using audience targeting at the web part level so different audiences can see different web parts on a page. Finally, for the ultimate experience in personalization, research why My Sites are widely considered the "Facebook for the enterprise".

4. Systems Integration. You should implement your SharePoint environment to serve as the electronic gateway (one-stop shop) to all internal information systems that your user base will use on a daily basis. In the context of Higher Education, these information systems might be an institution's learning management system, student information system, and campus email system. Such a scenario will obviously require some level of systems integration, for which you will more than likely need to deploy a Single Sign-On (SSO) solution such as Microsoft's Forefront Threat Management Gateway 2010 product. The Business Connectivity Services (BCS) feature in SharePoint 2010 can also help by allowing you to connect external systems (external to SharePoint) to SharePoint with relative ease. For example, you can establish a BCS connection to the Oracle or SQL database of a student information system, and then create, read, update, delete, and query (CRUDQ) this data from a SharePoint list or web part.

It is important to understand that trying to implement a 'perfectly integrated' SharePoint solution is often unrealistic. I have found the best approach is to integrate what you can within web parts and lists (using SSO and BCS), and provide a link to everything else. The goal is to provide a single point of access to the resources that support your users in their daily activities.

5. Business Intelligence. SharePoint 2010 offers a few out-of-the-box Chart and Key Performance Indicator web parts that can be added anywhere within your SharePoint site hierarchy. These simple web parts provide a stunning array of visualization options while displaying data from within a SharePoint list or document library, or from an external source such as a SQL Server database. For those interested in enhanced dashboard functionality, PerformancePoint Services in SharePoint 2010 allow you to create rich, context-driven business intelligence (BI) dashboards that aggregate data and content from many locations (Lists, Excel files, SQL Server tables, Analysis Services, ODBC connections, and more) to provide a complete view of how your business is performing at all levels. Microsoft says PerformancePoint Services is the easiest way to create and publish BI dashboards in SharePoint 2010.

Excel Services is another BI feature in SharePoint 2010 that allows you publish Excel workbooks to a SharePoint site where users can view and edit them through their web browser. One of the great things about Excel Services is the Excel Web Access (EWA) web part, which allows you to render entire workbooks, or just portions of a workbook (such as a pivot chart or a table) in a SharePoint page. In regards to reporting, you can configure a deployment of SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) to integrate with a deployment of SharePoint 2010. This integration allows you view, navigate, print, and export SSRS reports via a web part on a SharePoint site.

6. Form Automation. I define form automation as the process by which a form is made available online to view, fill out, submit, and digitally sign, while streamlining its associated business process. Using Microsoft InfoPath 2010 Designer, you can easily convert a Word, Excel, PDF, or paper-based form to an InfoPath Web Form that can be published to a form library in a SharePoint 2010 site. Users can then view, fill out, submit, and digitally sign this form via their web browser. The associated business process, typically an approval process, is automated through the use of a Workflow that is built in SharePoint Designer 2010 and published to the same form library. Forms that should be considered for automation include:

Change Control Request
Change of Status
Emergency Contacts
Employee Information
Expense Report
Lunch Order Request
Purchase Requisition
Project Request
SharePoint Requests (Permissions, Libraries, Lists, Sites, etc.)

7. Anywhere Access (without VPN). People simply like the idea of being able to logon to their personalized SharePoint environment from a computer anywhere in the world, without the use of a VPN. Tools such as Forefront Treat Management Gateway 2010 allow you to securely publish your SharePoint sites to the Internet, providing remote users a secure method of accessing internal resources, as well as a way to share content with teaming partners outside of your organization, without having a need to establish a VPN connection.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that you must be running the Enterprise edition of SharePoint Server 2010 to realize much of the functionality listed above.

Well, there you have it. By focusing on these seven key areas when implementing SharePoint 2010 in your organization, I firmly believe that you can experience a higher percentage of user adoption while adding immediate value to your organization.

Interested in getting your thoughts on this topic.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for helpful links. It was easy to read, but I'd like to add that if your software business needs to be updated try outsource software development.