SharePoint 2010 – General guidelines for driving user adoption

At a recent conference, a show of hands highlighted that the majority of people consider SharePoint 2010 to be a platform rather than a solution.  This point of view is correct but if we are looking to drive user adoption then this can only be through deploying SharePoint as a solution and by engaging our users.  Users can be put off by staid, featureless information sites and are now looking for interactive solutions which encourage collaboration and variety.  With this in mind, I recommend adopting some of the points detailed below in order to drive user adoption and reap the benefits of a great deployment with rich content and an interactive user community.

  • The important thing when deploying SharePoint is to have a defined plan with realistic goals.  It is vital to assign accountability and responsibility to appropriate people or teams.
  • Define a communications campaign to support the launch of the solution.  Bolster this with emails, posters and if possible, have a launch party!
  • Give the site some kind of branding, an identity and an up to date look and feel.
  • Engage users in the design of the solution so that they feel part of the project, are engaged early and are able to influence the design so that it meets their needs.
  • Ensure that there is budget set aside for training materials and define a specific training.  Only those users who know how to use SharePoint properly will get the most value from it.
  • Stop sending communications out via email and start publishing them to SharePoint first.  This could be company newsletters, social memos, new employee news etc.  If you have a remote workforce and still need to send emails then at least publish them to the site before sending out the email communication.
  • Ensure that navigation is intuitive, simple and not too deep.  Make it quick and easy to locate the most popular sites and activities.
  • Encourage users to save documents to SharePoint and provide training on how to connect libraries to Microsoft Outlook to make it quicker and easier.
  • Include a wide range of content formats including pictures, video and surveys.  Make the content varied and interesting, presenting users with various experiences for interaction.
  • Prime the system with as much information as possible such as the company handbook, document templates, events calendars, company policies etc.
  • Make SharePoint the first port of call for performing day to day admin operations such as purchase requisitions, annual leave requests, car sharing schemes, meeting room booking systems via SharePoint calendars or lists etc.
  • Identify key users in the business who can receive additional training and act as local experts, providing informal training and advice to colleagues.  Maybe set up a user group which could take some kind of ownership over (or certainly influence) initiatives, new content, layout etc.
  • Delegate content ownership out to individuals, teams and departments.  Encourage them to take ownership of their content and to keep it fresh.
  • Ensure that authors (individuals or teams) are able to dedicate time every week to refresh the content and ensure that it is up to date, relevant and interesting.
  • Turn on Enterprise Search and ensure that you have defined adequate content sources, metadata and search scopes.  A great search experience will certainly make users return to the site.
  • Define various audiences within the organisation so that you can target specific content to them and ensure that irrelevant content does not clutter up their screens.
  • Encourage the adoption and use of Social Media tools such as news feeds, blogs and My Sites; users should at the very least be encouraged to update their profile information.
  • Engage a senior member of the business to write a blog and try to ensure that this is updated semi-regularly.
  • Set up specific informational sites, wikis or blogs for specific interest areas.
  • Set up a competition to encourage a more social aspect to the site; this could be something like a competition to upload the best photo of the local area, best team photo for example.
  • Provide recognition.  You could reward the generation of content so that people are encouraged to use the site; this could be via a competition or by displaying league tables of the most prolific users.  This of course needs to fall in line with usage policies so that only relevant content is uploaded.
  • On a final note, I would say that the site needs to look fresh, be regularly updated, easy to navigate and engaging.
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Designing SharePoint 2010 Workflows with Microsoft Visio

One of the great new features of SharePoint 2010 is the ability to open up the whole workflow design experience to business users. Many users are familiar with using Microsoft Visio these days and it has become almost a standard for defining business requirements graphically.   Over the past couple of years we have noticed that more and more of our clients are using Microsoft Visio to mock up their process flows in the form of flow charts, or even putting together more complex swim lane diagrams.

Now, with the release of Office and SharePoint 2010, it is now to take output from Visio and use it to generate workflows within SharePoint.

Visio now comes with a new template under the Flowchart category called Microsoft SharePoint Workflow.  This can be used to model business processes using conditions and actions that are SharePoint Specific.

1. To initiate a new process map, launch Visio, click on the File tab in the ribbon and then click on New.

2. You will be presented with the Choose a Template form.  On here you need to click on the Flowchart category.

3. You will then be prompted to choose a template, choose Microsoft SharePoint Workflow

4. Choose the measurement unit that you prefer and click on Create.

5. You will then be presented with a new blank canvas on which to define your workflow process.  In the picture (below) you can see the most common items that can   be used to create a process map; these are included on the Quick Shapes   navigation pane.

By clicking on any of the other three panes we can access a   whole lot more actions and conditions.

Any workflow process must start with a Start action and each point where the workflow process may   terminate requires an End   action.  In between these points, we   are free to configure any number of conditions and actions in order to map out a real business process.

Common actions include starting a new out of the box SharePoint   Approval workflow, sending an email or assigning a to-do item to a specific   user (or group).  Quite complex   scenarios can be designed using these items.

So, the objective for the user is to define the process flow and make reference to every condition and action that may occur as the process is executed.  The following image is a very simplistic representation of a workflow process modelled in this way.

The important thing for the user to do is label each of the actions and conditions correctly and ensure that any conditions have labelled Yes and No paths assigned to them.

Once the workflow is complete, it can be exported in a Visio Workflow Interchange format and sent to a more technical user who has access to the SharePoint Designer application.  They can then import the exported map into SharePoint Designer where it is translated into a SharePoint workflow.  They can then modify it and prime it for use,
ensuring that it functions correctly and is associated with the correct document libraries, lists or sites.  The workflow can then be published to a test SharePoint environment for
verification.

6. Visio provides a tool to validate the map that you have drawn; this appears on the Process tab on the ribbon.  It will detect errors such as not labelling the condition branches or missing out Terminate actions.

Clicking on Check Diagram  performs the check and reports any errors in a lower results pane.  Fix any errors and repeat the checking until  there are no further issues to resolve.

7. Once you are ready, click on the Export button on the Process tab.  You are presented with a standard Save As dialogue that will enable you to  select a location to save the file.  The  file will be saved as a Visio Workflow Interchange file with a .VWI  extension.  This is the format supported  by SharePoint Designer.

8. The job of the designer is now complete and the responsibility passes  to the user who has access to SharePoint Designer.  The next step is to launch Designer and  connect to the Site where you want to deploy the Workflow.  Typically this will be a test site in order
to validate the process.  Once you have  connected to the site, click on the Workflows link as shown below.

9. You can then access the Ribbon and Select Import from Visio.

10. Browse to the file that you  saved earlier and open it.  You can then  give it a more meaningful name and decide whether or not this is going to be  immediately associated with a SharePoint object, or be imported as a reusable  workflow (more on this in a future post).

11. The workflow design will be imported and then rendered in the  standard Designer pseudo-code style layout as shown below.  You can then action each of the underlined  items and assign specific values to them.  An example from the screenshot below would be to assign users or groups  to the these users fields.

12. Once you have configured the  workflow you can publish it by clicking on Publish  on the Workflow tab.  Note that you can  also perform validation checks here by clicking on Check for Errors.

13. The Workflow will now be available in SharePoint and accessible through the site or list that you have associated it with.

All in all, this is a great new feature and will make it a lot  easier for power users and subject matter experts to get involved in SharePoint  projects and will speed up the overall design to publish process.  The important thing is that it puts the power  of definition back into the hands of those who understand their business and  who should therefore be able to model it more accurately.  Granted, there is an element of IT  involvement required, and this should always be the case in order to ensure  that standards are maintained and processes are optimised for performance.  As with anything, governance is critical and  should always be a central part of any workflow project.

The only thing to bear in mind is that you do need Visio Premium  and you will also need to download SharePoint Designer.  As a rule, we would recommend that SharePoint  Designer workflows are only used for specific departmental or project level  solutions, and that enterprise workflows should be modelled with a more robust,  measurable and scalable toolkit.

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Is 2010 suited to ECM?

I say “Yes it is” and here’s why…

SharePoint has been dramatically improved with the release of SharePoint 2010, and incorporates many new features which support the use of the product as a platform for ECM and image storage.

Content Types – Determine which Content Types need to be created in order to manage the documents being scanned into SharePoint.  It is important to clearly categorise the types of documents being captured and ensure that the business have been consulted in order to define document policies, retention schedules, security, workflow and metadata requirements.

Digital Asset Support – SharePoint 2010 has a new asset library which is specially designed to manage and share digital assets such as video, audio, pictures, and other rich media files.  It has a new IMAGE Content Type which has specific features and functionality that support document images.   Consider whether or not this is required for your solution or whether you plan to use standard document libraries or record
libraries.

Scalability – SharePoint has always been discounted as a high end ECM platform due to questions over its ability to scale.  SharePoint 2010 addresses many of these limitations and facilitates its use as a platform for ECM.

  • A single list or library can contain tens of millions of items
  • Hundreds of millions of items can be managed in a large archiving scenario

Consider whether or not your current SharePoint farm can accommodate the volume of
scanning that you are planning to carry out.  It may be that one or more dedicated crawl servers are required in a high volume scanning scenario.  Consider also the impact on database size and transaction logs.  Additional disk capacity may be required.

Remote Blob Storage (RBS) – SharePoint 2010, in conjunction with SQL Server 2008 is now able to store documents outside of the database where traditionally they were stored as BLOBS (Binary Large Objects).   This provides real scalability and enables an organisation to benefit from lower cost storage for documents.  Note that

High volume ECM solutions built on SharePoint should ideally use remote blob storage.  This will reduce the impact and storage costs for SQL Server and will also enable documents to be stored on lower tier storage.

Thumbnails – SharePoint supports image thumbnails which may improve the overall user experience when working with images.

Information Management Policies – Consider setting up Information Management Policies if you have not done so already.  In SharePoint 2010, separate retention policies can be set up for records and documents.  Questions to ask include:

  • How long do document drafts need to be kept for?
  • How many versions need to be retained and for how long?
  • When is a document made into a Record?
  • How long are documents and records retained?
  • What eDiscovery requirements exist?
  • What are the File Plan requirements?

Records Declaration – Records Libraries and other Records Management
enhancements in SharePoint 2010 enable scanned images to be immediately converted
into Records.  Consider whether or not this needs to be activated for your scanned images.  Typically a scanned image cannot be altered and is therefore considered to be a record as soon as it is added to SharePoint.

Content Organizer – This replaces the SharePoint 2007 Rules engine and is far more efficient at routing records to the correct location based on metadata values.  Consider how this can be utilised, especially in high volume mailroom scanning environments.

In Place Records – Rather than having to send a document to the Records Centre for it to be made into a record, a user can now opt to declare a document as a record in it’s original location. This will allow the document to gain the appropriate security, retention and disposition without ever having to be routed to a centrally managed location.  How will the business want to work with documents and records?

If documents are sent to the Records Centre then options exist on whether or not to completely move the document, copy it to the record centre or move it and retain a link.  This decision needs to be made and implemented.

Document IDs – An important new improvement on SharePoint 2007 is the ability for a document to have a unique ID which stays with it throughout it’s lifecycle, even if it is renamed or moved to another list.  Consider whether or not you are going to use this feature and whether or not you require a prefix which will appear before the sequential document ID.  This will need to be set up on the site collection if you plan to use it.

Workflow – The improved Workflow capabilities in SharePoint 2010 make it easier than ever to apply process automation to documents that are scanned into SharePoint.  An example of such a process is the automatic triggering of an approval  process when a
new invoice is scanned into the system.

Consider how your organisation could benefit from the use of workflow technology and whether or not it could be applied to automate specific document centric processes.

All of these, and there are a lot of things I haven’t even touched on (SharePoint Workspace, BCS, Compound Indexing…….the list goes on), show that SharePoint 2010 is suited to ECM.

As an added note, when considering migrating users from an existing document management platform to SharePoint, you may face challenges to replicate some of the functionality that they require.  This of course depends upon the product that you may be replacing and the demands of the various business areas.  Whilst SharePoint may not be able to meet the same functionality, there are a number of third party products that could help.  Areas that we commonly need to consider are:

  • Email Integration – many ECM products offer a fully integrated email client providing advanced drag and drop functionality and very tight integration with Outlook.  Third party tools such as Colligo and the new Workshare Point applications provide this level of functionality.
  • Advanced thumbnail viewing for ‘all’ file types – many ECM products contain a generic viewer that is able to diplay multiple file formats without having to need the client aplication installed on the desktop.  It often also supports advanced thumbnail capabilities.  There is a new product from Surfray which provides excellent thumbnail and document viewing capabilities at the document library level and supports up to 500 file formats.  Another good generic viewer is the one developed by Brava and there is a free version whch handles files such as TIFFs.
  • Remote blob storage – working with third party tools such as those developed by AvePoint and Metalogix enables more scalable and enterprise level heirarchical storage capabilities and bring SharePoint in line with some of the larger ECM vendors.
  • Business Process Management – should the client require enterprise BPM capabilities then options exist with products such as K2 and Nintex.
  • Scanning – many ECM platforms provide their own, or integrate with, enterprise level scanning applications.  Guess what? So does SharePoint.  Products such as Kofax, ReadSoft, Kodak Capture and Knowledgelake all integrate seamlessly with SharePoint and provide advanced, high volume scanninng capabilities.

On its own, SharePoint 2010 has some great new ECM features; combined with third party components it can provide a truly scalable platform for ECM.  The question isn’t “Why use SharePoint 2010 for ECM?” but “Why not use SharePoint 2010 for ECM?”.

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Benefits of Scanning into SharePoint

Since 2007, Microsoft has invested heavily in improving the document and records management capabilities of SharePoint and it is these improvements which have transformed the product from a collaborative platform into an ECM platform.  SharePoint 2010 can be considered as a viable option for managing high volumes of scanned images.

The benefits can be summarised as follows:

  • The technology is built on a proven, reliable and widely supported Microsoft platform.
  • Many organisations already have client access licenses (CALS) for SharePoint which they can utilise.
  • SharePoint 2010 is a feature rich platform for managing content and now fully supports document images.
  • A document library is now scalable to millions of documents and the new features of 2010 improve the user experience when working with very large lists.
  • The ability to automatically route documents based on metadata could prove to be very powerful when implementing post room scanning solutions.
  • SharePoint’s workflow capabilities enable rapid development of business workflows which may be triggered by the receipt of a new scanned document.
  • SharePoint now has the same ribbon user interface as Microsoft Office and is therefore easy and intuitive for users to interact with.
  • Most of the leading scanning applications on the market support SharePoint 2010 as an output source for saving documents.

Having said this however, any ECM solution built on SharePoint will need to be implemented in the same way as any enterprise EDRMS project.  Governance,
policies and a comprehensive business case are prerequisites before embarking
on a project of this nature.

A few products that support scanning into SharePoint include Kofax, ReadSoft, Knowldge Lake and Kodak.

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European SharePoint Conference. Berlin

I’m at the European SharePoint Conference in Berlin so expect lots of updates over the next few weeks as I write up my notes! There have been some great speakers and so much buzz around SharePoint 2010!

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SP2010 Search Alerts have been turned off

While continuing to set up my demo build, i ran a search and attempted to set up an alert so that I would be notified by email whenever the contents of the search result changed.  I received the following error message:

“Search Alerts have been turned off for this search application.  For assistance, contact your server administrator”.

To correct this, what you need to do is:

  1. Go into Central Admin
  2. Select General Application Settings
  3. Under Search – Select Farm Search Administration
  4. In the lower part of the screen you will have a list containing at least one search service application.  For a standard installation you will have one entry titled “Search Service Application“, click on this.
  5. The next screen presents you with the System Status and a load of settings for the search service.  Towards the bottom of the status list you will see Search Alerts Status and to the right it will say Off with a link saying enable.  Click on enable and the job is done.
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Error Using DataSheet View in 64 bit Office 2010

I have just been configuring SP2010 for a client demo that I’m doing and uploaded a load of documents into a document library. I then wanted to easily set the metadata for all of the documents by working in Datasheet View but it wouldn’t allow me to.
It gave me the error message:
“A datasheet component compatible with Microsoft Sharepoint Foundation is not installed
Your web browser doesnt support Active X controls
A component is not properly configured for 32-bit or 64-bit support.”

The reason for this is that I am running the 64bit version of Office 2010 and it does not support this functionality. The solution I found is to install the 2007 Office System Driver: Data Connectivity Components.

Here is the link
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?familyid=7554F536-8C28-4598-9B72-EF94E038C891&displaylang=en

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Using Content Organizer

We willl now look at the Content Organizer which allows us to define a set of rules for moving documents from the Drop Off Library to a more permanent location within the Records Centre.  Note that the Content Organizer can also be used on libraries in any site, not just the Records Centre.

In short, the Content Organizer is a routing engine which is new to SharePoint 2010 and allows you to move content based on Content Type and user defined rules.  Items in the Drop Off Library typically have metadata fields applied to them against which the rules are run.  The Content Organizer can also move items based purely on Content Type.

To start with we will create a new Document Library to move documents to.

  • Navigate to our new Records Centre
  • Click on Site Actions New Document Library
    1. Name: Standard Archive
    2. Description: Archive 7 Years for Documents
    3. Document Template: None
    4. Click OK

Next we will set up a Content Organizer Rule to move specific documents to the new Standard Archive library that we have just created.

  • Click on Site Actions – Site Settings
  • Under Site Administration click on Content Organizer Rules
  • Click on Add New Item

Here we will set up some basic information for the Rule

  • Rule
    1. Name: Documents Rule
    2. Status: Active

We will tell it that we want to apply the rule to all Documents.  That is, where the Content
Type is set to Document.  It would be just as easy for us to set up different rules for different Content Types.  One example would be that all Financial documents are moved to one library whilst all HR documents are moved to another.

  • Content Type
    1. Group: Document Content Type
    2. Type: Document

Setting up a condition allows us to be even more explicit.  In this example we will move
all documents that have the word “RMDemo” in their name.  So what we will do is tell the rule to look in the Name property to see if it contains the characters “RMDemo”.  If it does then it will satisfy the rule and Content Organizer will process the document.

  • Conditions
    1. Property: Name
    2. Operator: Contains All Of
    3. Value: Contoso

We will now tell it the target location i.e. where to move the documents to; this will be the name of the document library that we created earlier.

  • Target Location
    1. Click Browse
    2. Click Standard Archive
    3. Click OK and
    4. then OK again

[Press F5 to refresh the RM Demo home page]

We will now go and see this process working end to end.  What we will do is create a new document in a regular site Document Library and then send it to the Records Centre.

  • Navigate to a SharePoint site with a document library
  • Click on Shared Documents (or any document library)
  • On the Ribbon click on Documents and then click on New Document
  • Click on OK
  • In Word type in “Demo document to test the Content Organizer
  • Click Save

Let’s give it a filename which includes the word ‘RMDemo‘ so that out Rule will pick this up and move it accordingly.

  • FileName: Document RMDemo
  • Click Save and close Word

Now let’s send this document to the Records Centre.  Once again this is easily achieved via the document menu.

  • Click on the new document and select Send To – Demo RM
  • Click on OK
  • Click on OK

Notice again that the document icon has been changed to signify that it is a shortcut link.
Let’s now go back to our Records Centre site and see what has taken place.

  • Navigate to the new Records Centre site
  • Click on Standard Archive

Here is the document.   What has happened is that it was initially moved to the Drop Off Library, the Content Organizer ran and detected that it was a “RMDemo” document and moved it here.

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SharePoint 2010 as an ECM Platform

Here is a whitepaper I have recently written regarding the use of SharePoint 2010 as a platform for Enterprise Content Management.

Whitepaper SP2010 as an ECM Platform

This is a PDF document.

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Enabling Send To for your Records Centre

In the previous post we created a new Records Centre site.  What we need to do now is to enable usersto send documents to it from other sites and other site collections.  To do this we need to set up this new site as an option on the ‘Send To’ menu.  This is done through Central Administration.  Note that you apply this to the Web Application and all site collections under this Web App will inherit this Send To option.

First of all we need to look at the URL for the Records Centre site and copy it to the clipboard [exclude the page – just copy up to and including the name of the site e.g. “http://intranet/demorm“]

  • Run Central Administration
  • Under General Application Settings click Configure Send To Connections
  • Click on the Web Application – a screen appears allowing you to change it
  • Select the name of the web app that you want to apply this to e.g. “Intranet
  • In the list, highlight the name of the Records Center that you created in the previous post
  • Type in a Display Name for the Send To connection e.g. RM Demo
  • For the URL paste what is in your clipboard e.g. http://intranet/demorm
  • Append the following to the end of the URL /_vti_bin/official file.asmx
  • Tick Allow manual submission from Send To Menu
  • Select a Send To Action e.g. Move & Leave a Link
    • This moves the document to the Records Center but leaves a link to it in the current Document Library.  Alternatively you can move it completely or copy it.
  • Enter an explanation e.g. ”Document manually archived to demo RM site
  • Click Add Connection
  • Click OK

We have now configured a new Send To destination so that we can send document to our new Records Centre.  The scope of the Records Centre is to the Web Application that we selected above.  We will now see how this appears to the user.

  • Return to a site in your site collection where you have a document library
  • Locate a document and click on it’s title drop down to access the context menu
  • FFom the dropdown menu select our new Send To – Demo RM
  • Are you sure? Message appears – Click OK
  • A confirmation message appears – Click OK

You can now see that the document icon has changed to include a small arrow, this denotes that this is a link.  This assumes that you selected the Move & Leave a Link option.

  • Click on the document title

By clicking on the title we are presented with an information page that shows that the document has been moved to a new location.  We will now return to the Records Centre.

  • Go back to the new Records Centre
  • On the left click on Drop Off Library

You should see your document in the Records Center.  In a future post we will look at how we can use the Content Organizer to move documents from the Drop Off Library to other libraries in the Records Center.

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