There's an interesting shift happening within the enterprise collaboration space -- which may not be viewed as a positive change by everyone -- but is definitely causing many organizations to become more introspective about their social collaboration strategies. The consumerization of IT and Bring-Your-Own-Device trends are having a dramatic impact on how businesses view their collaboration tools, systems, and vendors, with many organizations abandoning the idea of a single vendor providing for all of their needs. Instead, there is renewed interest in buying best-of-breed solutions, with the assumption that, to some degree, these platforms and tools will work together when needed.
We've all heard the statement "it just works" when applied to a favorite consumer device or application, like a mobile phone or favorite website. Want a perfect example? The FitBit family of products perfectly meshes a consumer device (a health monitor) to a powerful and easy-to-use dashboard via your wi-fi connection. You simply create a profile, link that profile to your device, and it just works. This is the kind innovation and seamless experience that users expect from all of their technology.
I've long been a fan of the science behind social informatics -- it's a blend of technology, sociology, psychology, anthropology, and in some cases business, with the goal of understanding how technology is driving human behavior, and how those changes to human behavior, in turn, affect changes to technology. It's a cycle that defends and propels ideas such as Moore's law, which observes that the capacity of transistors doubles every two years. It's a concept that I've often applied to the SharePoint space when talking about end user requirements, and how end users may accept the out-of-the-box, plain vanilla SharePoint experience upon initial exposure to the platform, but as they begin to understand how SharePoint works and what more they can do with it, their requirements become more and more complex, which then requires more time and cost to expand the platform. Studies in social informatics have shown again and again that productivity generates productivity, and innovation drives even more innovation. Think about how many thousands of inventions have come out of the US Space Shuttle program that never would have come about had we not set such lofty goals.
I was reading an article in the March edition of Harvard Business Review about Why It Pays to Be a Category Creator with much fascination. I've been using this phrase of "category creation" to describe the work Axceler has been doing in the area of social collaboration governance. With the pre-release of our ViewPoint Enterprise product, we now offer the only tool in the Microsoft partner ecosystem that gives an organization visibility and control over their enterprise social collaboration platforms, beginning with support for Yammer. More than just another product release -- parallel to our existing offerings -- ViewPoint as a category creator will help us to deliver exponentially better benefits to the rapidly expanding and changing social collaboration landscape.
Think about how rapidly your own collaboration requirements are changing -- and much of that change being driven by your end users. The way we build and support communities, both internal and external, is evolving, and so the measurements and key performance indicators we use to track and quantify the business benefits of these platforms must also evolve. End users want the ability to use whatever tool or platform best meets their requirements and cultural nuances -- and most of those tools and platforms must coexist with, plug into, integrate with your SharePoint platform. That's the future we see here at Axceler, and we're excited to be the first to market with our category-creating social collaboration governance tools.
If you've not yet had a chance to take a look at ViewPoint, you can find more information at https://Axceler.io. The signup process is quick and easy, and you can quickly start tracking adoption and engagement metrics for your organization's Yammer network.
Knowledge Management (KM) platforms have existed for a couple decades, but these platforms tend to be inflexible, silo-based collections of corporate data that are often tied to specific business processes. Within the past decade, many different collaboration platforms have sought to unlock these data silos, resulting in a vast array of options for structured and unstructured collaboration: the structured collaboration tools providing tighter control over and management of a company's intellectual property, and unstructured tools providing more of the team-based communication and sharing features organizations need to get their work accomplished. At the forefront of this collaboration movement has been SharePoint, offering mostly structured collaboration, but also providing some unstructured and social capabilities as it has matured.
With the slow shift toward cloud-based platforms, we have seen the rise of the Enterprise Social Network (ESN), and with this rise, a push by many organizations toward the unstructured collaboration model as a way to improve the quantity and quality of employee collaboration. Microsoft's acquisition of Yammer last year for $1.2B was a testament to the rising influence of social within the enterprise, with more than 75% of businesses expected to adopt an ESN in 2013 (McKinsey). As a leader in unstructured collaboration, Yammer is helping Microsoft expand their leadership position within the social collaboration space not only through integrations with their SharePoint and Office365 platforms, but by helping Microsoft transition into a cloud-delivery model for many of the company's most well-known products. Microsoft is betting on a future where all of us will lease, rather than buy our software, ensuring that we always have the latest, greatest version of their leading business and productivity solutions. But don't think that it's just Microsoft's world-view at play -- every major software maker is moving toward this model. But they also envision a world where social acts as a layer across all of our core applications, allowing individuals and teams to easily communicate and correlate activities across these systems.
It is a fact that the more controls you place on a system, the less likely people are to use that system. Information workers want to move quickly, consume data or share an idea on the fly. Some experts and pundits claim that Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is dead -- that this vision of structured collaboration has failed because of its inability to win over these information workers. Of course, as you investigate the successful implementations of SharePoint and other platforms, it becomes readily apparent that the drivers of success have more to do with up-front planning and proactive governance than whether or not technical needs are being met. If you design your platform to align with defined business goals, and ensure the voice of the customer (or the end user) is part of that design and build process, your chances of delivering a successful platform -- embraced by your users -- increases dramatically.
The need for structured collaboration is not dead -- far from it. Enterprises still need a way to safely manage their content and intellectual property, and SharePoint continues to have a strong future. But the reality is that ECM does not deliver the unstructured collaboration requirements of the end users. The release of SharePoint 2013 made huge strides to deliver an enterprise social experience, and the acquisition of Yammer has markedly accelerated delivery of that social collaboration vision.
However, the danger for the enterprise is complacency around metrics (visibility) and governance (control) -- the idea that a new tool or platform will automatically solve end user adoption and engagement issues, and, more importantly, result in both improved productivity and business value. Nothing is automatic. Unstructured collaboration, like structured collaboration, needs to be aligned with business goals to be effective. What is needed is a way to measure the effectiveness of your new social collaboration platform.
With this morning's announcement of the availability of a pre-release version of ViewPointEnterprise (press release), Axceler becomes the only Microsoft partner to show "a unified view of an entire organization’s collaboration platform adoption and engagement rates in one view, empowering them to quickly understand the condition of employee collaboration and make changes to increase ROI and minimize risk." ViewPoint provides an interactive dashboard (as shown here) that gives visibility into enterprise social networks, such as Yammer, SharePoint, Box, Jive, and Chatter. This initial release of ViewPoint focuses specifically on Yammer, helping organizations to identify employee adoption by tracking participation over time, and provides visibility into the most and least active groups, including volume of posts, how many files were shared, and number of likes and shares within a group to help measure employee engagement.
“Many businesses are still figuring out not only how to efficiently work on social collaboration platforms, but also the platforms that are helping the business achieve its goals,” said Jim Lundy, founder and CEO of Aragon Research. “As enterprises identify their collaboration platform mix, ViewPoint Enterprise simplifies how businesses track the success of each platform and identify what’s working or not working in order to understand the trends, users and topics that are driving valuable engagement and collaboration within and across the enterprise.”
End users are demanding enterprise social collaboration, but organizations need visibility into how these platforms are being used so that they can validate their effectiveness and determine a return on investment. As an expert in governance for collaboration in the social enterprise, Axceler is already known for our award-winning SharePoint governance platform, ControlPoint. Now with the availability of ViewPoint Enterprise, Axceler is bringing governance to the Yammer platform with other social collaboration platforms to follow.
You can try out the ViewPoint Enterprise tool -- and enjoy some videos from our new "Practice Safe Collaboration" campaign -- by going to www.practicesafecollaboration.com
Quietly present in the background of SharePoint is SQL Server. This just means that as data is entered into SharePoint, it is stored in a database. While the end user need not be concerned with SQL Server, they directly benefit from having a plentitude of data available at their fingertips.
This is important because this means there is usually much more information about the document, or task, or whatever item the end user is seeing on the screen. If we saw all the information stored in the database about every SharePoint item, we would be scrolling left to right forever! And this would be, needless to say, overwhelming and not very helpful.
SharePoint is so efficient for end users because it can show only pertinent data that users need to see. What a user sees when they look at a document library for example is usually the default view out of the box. Imagine how useful it would be to see information you need without needing to manipulate columns time and time again. This is accomplished through views.
For example, by default, the only way to see if and who may have an item checked out is to look for the green arrow symbol on the document type icon.
By hovering the cursor over the green arrow a pop up box will show you the information.
But this box will eventually disappear after 5 seconds. To view this information again, the user would have to move the cursor and hover it again over the green arrow.
Often end users would like to have this information more easily visible. This can be accomplished by creating a view to include this information. Another popular option is to modify an existing view. Perhaps you do not need a duplicated view, but just want to add a column to the default view. This is when Modify View would be prudent to use. These options are located in the ribbon (Library tab, Manage View group).
If creating a new view, SharePoint will give you options for the type of view to create (Calendar, Gantt, Standard, etc.) Usually Standard View is the most often used by the end user. Also, a check box is available should the user wish to make this new view the default view. This means that when any user navigates to that list or library, they will see this new view every time.
SharePoint include many out of the box preconfigured columns that can easily be added.
To add a column, simply mark the checkbox next to the desired column. The numbering system to the left of the form allows the user to configure what order they would like the column to appear in the view. In our example above, we can select the Checked Out To column and insert the column order we would prefer.
Note that by adding a number to the newly desired column, SharePoint will automatically insert the column into the desired position and renumber the remaining columns.
Now, once the view is saved, the Checked Out To column will appear, and it appears as the third column as stipulated in the screen shot above.
Forming views with pre-configured columns is an easy way to surface pertinent data so users can see it at a glance and not take time searching for the information they need. As we work with our items, all the data ever entered regarding that item is stored in the database. It was always there. We just configured SharePoint to surface only the desired data in the format we prefer.
For many users, the importance of a strong metadata and taxonomy strategy is unclear. Unfortunately, this lack of clarity is fairly widespread across most organizations using SharePoint. But it's not a problem just with SharePoint -- the same issues we experience within this community are often times common to every other knowledge management or collaboration platform. SharePoint stakeholders need to understand that metadata is foundational to everything else you want to accomplish on the platform.
Some metadata and taxonomy management can be streamlined and automated, but it will require a lot of up front work. There's no getting around it. It should be central to your SharePoint strategy, and a core aspect of your regular governance discussions. In my presentation The Connection Between Metadata, Social Tools, and Personal Productivity, I share a few "universal truths" that should be considered as you begin planning your metadata strategy:
- Metadata is fundamental to making social, knowledge management, and SharePoint work
- The business dynamics of how Information Workers capture, consume, and interact with data are changing
- Social tools are just another layer of the search experience
- Organizations don’t understand, much less track and measure, user productivity
Three of these four points are clearly visible within SharePoint's new social features, all of which center around keywords and metadata -- and can take advantage of your organization's taxonomy structure. Between development of SharePoint 2013 social features and the acquisition of Yammer, Microsoft has shown that they are serious about addressing the changing way in which we work, and improving the ability of our intranets, extranets, and external-facing websites to surface the right content, at the right time.
- Metadata drives search, content and task aggregation, and it enables most of the new features within SharePoint 2013. Think about the most common SharePoint scenario: adding a document to a document library. As you upload a file, you might have the ability to apply relevant keywords from a pre-defined term store. Your taxonomy adds structure to the content. In addition to the required taxonomy fields, you may also apply a few relevant keywords that are not part of the taxonomy, but which you know will provide richer context to the content. Folksonomy, in conjunction with a proactive governance model, refines your taxonomy so that common folksonomy terms eventually find their way into the managed taxonomy, so that others can use those terms more broadly. To make this model work requires some effort from your team -- a governance process to regularly review end user keywords, delete irrelevant terms, promote others, and overall optimize your platform for a healthy search experience.
- Social utilizes your metadata to enhance conversation, and make your dialog applicable to your work output. As shown in the following image, social interaction further enriches the context and visibility of your content. I my example above, the document owner applied both taxonomy and folksonomy. Social applies additional folksonomy -- by sharing the document with others, liking it, rating it, commenting on it.
We don't always know what content we're looking for. The limitation of the traditional search model is that we only find that content which fit into our specific search terms. If someone uploads content without applying taxonomy or folksonomy (which, let's admit it, is the case for the majority of our content) then you rely on your search crawler to search through titles and metadata descriptions. But through our social connections, we may locate new content based on personal and professional relationships, and through tags (an ever-growing folksonomy) applied by people you've never met and maybe never will…..because they were able to find that content through their social circles and apply some context of their own.
- Productivity improves when people can find their content, and (more importantly) when the processes you ask them to follow -- to ensure that metadata is assigned, and that your compliance/security guidelines are being met -- also fits into the way they need to work. That's really the key: design solutions that match the needs and working habits of your people, rather than force people to learn a new way to work. Social tools tend to be a more natural fit for the way that people connect and collaborate.
To be honest, the last universal truth is still a "work in progress." Measuring end user productivity is a difficult task to master -- and is a topic for a future post. My best advice is to monitor usage of your platform, and begin to understand the features and tools that people gravitate toward, and those they avoid. Overall, I cannot stress any more the importance of thoughtfully building out your metadata and a taxonomy strategy. The lack of a strategy can impact these common scenarios outlined above, and your ability to leverage the full functionality of SharePoint.
Let me be the first to shout to the world that the Emperor is naked. As the old story goes, a trickster deceives the Emperor into believing that his new robes are visible only to those who are intelligent and wise -- and because nobody wants to be considered foolish or stupid, everyone pretends to be able to see the Emperor's new robes. As he parades though the town center, people praise him for the exceeding beauty and richness of his new invisible robes. It takes a small child from the crowd to recognize what is truly happening: that the Emperor has no clothes.
Social is the new set of robes. Everyone claims to have the inside track on the social movement, mastery of this latest buzzword -- yet few people really understand how social will improve team collaboration in a meaningful and measurable way.
Every new technology goes through an adoption curve -- best outlined in the familiar innovation adoption lifecycle by Bohlen, Beal and Rogers at Iowa State University, which was used by Geoffrey Moore in his seminal book, Crossing the Chasm. Innovators create or embrace new technologies and ideas, which are then picked up by early adopters who synthesize the new ideas and , in most cases, find the first true business applications for these technologies, which is a critical step for any product or service to find its way into the early majority. These early adopters provide essential feedback and real-world applications, helping the technology mature.
One of the factors that helps any technology move from the limited financial opportunity (for the most part) of early adopters and into the realm of the mainstream adopters is the ability to link "features" to specific business outcomes. Within the realm of social computing technology, the transition to demonstrable connections between qualitative benefits and business output is beginning to be realized.
At SharePointFest Denver last week, I presented two sessions that focused strongly on the new social capabilities in SharePoint 2013 (you can find my sessions here on gamification and productivity). Because of my focus on the role of social in broader collaboration strategies, I'm often asked "What is the business benefit of social in SharePoint." At a high-level, my prepared answer is to tell people that social is another layer of the search experience -- that it is about adding context to content, making that content more searchable, more findable.
But I thought I'd provide a quick breakdown of what I mean. Specifically, my view is that there are five primary business benefits to using the social features in SharePoint:
- Data context and correlation -- As people interact with the content you upload, they relate your content with other relevant content, such as projects you might not be member of, studies that may correlate, or conversations on similar topics that you may not be aware of elsewhere in your organization. These conversations, tags, links, and sharing help to build context to your content that you alone might never be able to accomplish.
- Questions and answers -- It never hurts to have multiple means through which users can find the answers they need to business questions. As social becomes more and more of a layer between enterprise applications, we will use these tools to find quick answers -- people are able to leverage their networks of experts much more quickly than, say, through a search page. Social provides a quick and easy way to share data and knowledge.
- Identify expertise -- Upload dozens of documents on a single topic, and you will likely be recognized as an expert (at least by volume) on a topic. But social helps surface subject matter experts (SMEs) directly, or more importantly, indirectly through their activities. As people like, rate, follow, and share content with SharePoint, they begin surfacing in search results as an expert because of their social expertise -- expertise that you might not otherwise identify if not for the social tools used.
- Extending search -- Social builds, extends, and improves search through the dynamic creation of end-user-generated keywords, or folksonomy. As users connect and discuss content, they apply tags or keywords that help them personally relate to that content, and track themes or data trends in SharePoint. Every like, every tag, every rating or share helps improve the overall search experience by adding to the folksonomy, which then -- through proactive governance -- can help improve your system taxonomy.
- Team connection -- While the terms "social" and "collaboration" are often blurred, I like to separate their definitions by saying that social technology helps teams collaborate by building connections across traditional data silos. Social is the tool by which collaboration is achieved. Social helps teams connect and relate whether they are across the hall, across campus, or around the world -- thus improving collaboration.
I started this post with an analogy that attempted to make the point that most organizations are running as quickly as they can toward social without understanding what they are actually trying to accomplish. As with any technology deployment, you rarely recognize the financial benefit when you cannot first identify the business goal. That's certainly the case with social.
If I can use the emperor analogy one last time -- all of the recent buzz around Yammer is yet another way for your organization to run outside without any clothes. There are reasons to use SharePoint 2013 on premises social features, and reasons to use the Yammer model. Both provide powerful and flexible solutions, and both have distinct business value. The real key to gaining business benefit out of the Microsoft social platforms is to begin with a clear definition of our desired business outcomes. Know what you want to achieve up front.
Looking forward to writing much more on this topic in the coming months.
Ever wish you and a few folks had a space online where you could collaborate on things that may not be ready for prime time viewing by the whole team? Or you are working on something that would be better served by not being part of the main team site? Well, you are in luck! SharePoint 2010 offers this capability out of the box! They are called meeting workspaces.
These workspaces are actually a SharePoint site. There are a few variances of meeting workspaces available. The difference is simply what pieces are built-in to the specific workspace site template. Available out of the box are:
Blank Meeting Workspace: This is just a blank site that can be configured as needed by the user.
Basic Meeting Workspace: This template includes a list for objectives, attendees, agenda and a document library.
Multipage Meeting Workspace: This template includes a list for objectives, attendees, agenda and additional blank pages to be used as needed within the same site.
Decision Meeting Workspace: This template includes a list for objectives, attendees, agenda, a document library – as well as a task list and a decisions list. The decisions list is convenient for driving and tracking decisions in a more visible fashion. Note these decisions can also be marked as Proposed, Pending Approval and Final.
Social Meeting Workspace: This template includes a list for attendees, directions and things to bring. It includes a photo web part on the page as well as a built-in discussion board page and photo page containing a picture library.
Now the next question may be: Why would a team want to use these workspaces? These workspaces become sub-sites of the main team site. Think of them as a virtual conference room allowing for smaller project work to continue simultaneously to the team’s main work.
Let’s look at a couple of different scenarios.
Example One: A sub-committee of the team has been formed to work on a new policy revision. By utilizing a meeting workspace, that sub-committee can work in their own environment without cluttering the main team site with another document library for the drafting of the policy. Plus they can utilize the built-in lists to drive the process forward.
A basic meeting workspace can be used to:
- load drafts in the document library, where check in/out and versioning can still be applied to track document progress
- list meeting agendas for easy access by the sub-committee members
- track objectives in the objectives list for changing the policy so the sub-committee doesn’t lose sight of the original intent in revising the policy in the first place. Often teams can get lost in “fixing” holes in a policy and actually miss the main reason or need for the revision.
- manage attendees of the sub-committee so everyone has visibility to the sub-committee membership. This also tracks attendees’ participation, response to meetings and whether they are required to be at meetings.
- One thing to note is that Outlook is currently not integrated with meeting workspaces, so there may be some duplicative work in using the attendees web part. But these workspaces are still just a site – so web parts can be added and deleted as needed. Perhaps the sub-committee lead prefers to add a task list to this site, or perhaps a decisions web part rather than using the attendee web part. This flexibility brings the best of both worlds by bringing some automation in easy site creation with already loaded web parts that are useful to the team, while allowing customization of the workspace that may bring additional value.
Utilizing a meeting workspace will provide the sub-committee members a space to work together capitalizing on SharePoint’s collaboration features. Then once the revision is ready for the full team to view, it can be loaded in the appropriate document library on the main team site and be accessible for all.
Example Two: A group is in charge of organizing the winter party for their team. A social meeting workspace enhances the group’s collaboration efforts by:
- providing a checklist for items to bring – allowing the team to build a list over time to make sure and not forget anything!
- managing attendees
- noting directions (The directions list is a simple text box, but raising the visibility of things like directions to the landing page of the workspace makes it easily accessible to the team and empowers the team to access this information when needed and not require a direct response from an organizing team member. This will allow members to focus on the task at hand!)
- providing built-in pages to engage the team in discussion boards to gather feedback from the team on topics
- providing a photo page to load fun pictures from the event (also remember that making the most of the usage of this site template, like posting photos, can also serve as a team building technique.)
Starting from the site template and having the flexibility to add web parts, a strong collaboration hub can be maximized. Perhaps a document library can be added to load restaurants menus for review and even party contracts.
An added benefit is that SharePoint has the innate feature of creating a historical archive of a team’s endeavors. So next year, when another round of revisions is needed, or party planning begins again the new team can gain insights from the work done previously.
Workspaces can also be controlled via permissions, so if the sub-committee revising the policy needs the workspace to be limited to only their eyes during drafting, that can be done. Just as allowing the full team to see the progress on the winter party and comment on its development can augment the work to be done.
It will be up to the team to decide on the necessary pieces of the workspaces. Taking advantage of these out of the box collaboration features can streamline productivity and assist in driving work forward.
[Please Note: Workspaces are available in SharePoint 2010, but not in SharePoint 2013 or Office 365]
Before joining Axceler, I was the Solutions Manager at a SharePoint-centric consulting company, and we did a lot of physical paper to SharePoint migrations. Oftentimes, the client would expand the scope of the migration project to include the files that were born digitally, and locked away in file shares. We used a variety of tools and techniques to perform the migrations because each scenario was different. What was constant across all of the projects was the need to have the stakeholders participate in the process.
These stakeholders have the institutional knowledge surrounding the documents that is critical for a migration project to be successful. They know what files to keep, what files to discard and most importantly what metadata to associate with the files. This metadata "tagging" is what makes the files more valuable and findable when in SharePoint. As a practical matter, involving the end users also helps distribute the workload so that the consultant or SharePoint administrator can manage the project efficiently.
The challenge was always, how do you allow users to participate without losing control? Some of the tools we used allowed users to operate independently, which was great from a workload perspective, but fell short from a control perspective. What it was lacking was any sort of review and no change management. End users were free to upload personal files, or worse -- old files that compliance departments wanted destroyed, and there was no organized process around when to stop working on the files in the file share, and when to start working on them in SharePoint. Some of the other tools we used were very centralized in nature and allowed us to tightly control our migrations but did not allow for any user involvement. ControlPoint FileLoader is different.
The architect of ControlPoint FileLoader (who is still with Axceler) was a consultant who understood this challenge and built the tool with that in mind. The way FileLoader handles participation vs. control is via the concept of a "Control File." The administrator or consultant can set the parameters that must be controlled for a migration in the Control File, and then hand the Control File off to an end user to start adding their content.
Perhaps a particular migration requires only Word documents and Excel spreadsheets created in the last 2 years. After setting these parameters, the Control File can be shared with the end users for their input. Once the end user has tagged their files with the appropriate metadata, the Control File can be returned to the administrator for review, and then scheduled for migration during off-hours. This scheduling allows for good change management procedures, and ensures that the original files are set to read only, archive, or deleted once they go live in SharePoint, eliminating any confusion -- and allows for one version of the truth.
The flexible nature of the Control File allows administrators to add formulas, to auto tag data based on other values, or create VisualBasic scripts to append the original files as .old. The possibilities are endless, and it is always interesting to see some of the creative ways it has been applied by our clients.
While the Control File allows for participation while maintaining control, it still requires the administrator to create the original Control Files. Some of the larger organizations and consultants that we work with had asked if we could push down this Control File creation to the end users to further distribute the workload. We thought this was a great idea, and so we released ControlPoint FileLoader 2.0 in September (2012). This version allows you to install the product in "Control File Generator" mode (CFG). In Control File Generator mode, the end user can create Control Files with zero involvement from IT. They can choose what files to upload, filter on specific criteria, choose content types, and add metadata. They simply cannot upload the files. The upload is handled by IT as part of a process. A typical process might include a review of the Control File by the end users, supervisor, the compliance department or perhaps legal. The process may be structured so that all Control Files that have passed the review process are Stored in a library and scheduled as a batch it run every Friday night.
ControlPoint FileLoader is a great solution for your file migration project, but whatever solution you choose, remember -- it's all about inviting participation while maintaining control.
There is a growing contingency of vendors and tools that give administrators and executives some degree of visibility into what is happening within SharePoint -- but the depth and usefulness of this data varies broadly. What analytics and reporting do you need to better understand how the platform is being used, by whom? Of course, having data is just part of the equation -- the other half is about taking action. What good is it to see what is happening if you cannot also change and automate your SharePoint environment based on what you find?
Webtrends (one of our partners) is a great example of a company providing rich data and insights into what is happening across your public-facing sites, as well as inside SharePoint. Of course, Axceler's ControlPoint complements that data, providing comprehensive data and reports on various SharePoint attributes -- and then helps you manage and automate how you receive this data, and the actions you take. One of the primary reasons why ControlPoint is the leading administration and governance solution for SharePoint is not only its ability to report on what is happening in your environment, but it also gives you granular control over those activities.
At the 2012 SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas, Axceler announced several new products, including ViewPoint for SharePoint (VP4SP), which is designed to help organizations understand activity happening across your various collaboration platforms, with the first release to support both SharePoint and Yammer. As part of the VP4SP strategy, Axceler has made available a free version of the tool to provide enhanced visibility into SharePoint permissions. You can download a copy of this free tool here.
With ViewPoint for SharePoint you’ll be able to:
- Instantly find out who can see what content – and how users were granted permission
- View dashboards, and run reports on users and permission levels
- Save time and hassles — no more hunting through groups to figure out how someone received access
- Get the baseline information you need to step up permissions and enhance security
Why focus on permissions? Permissions issues remain as one of the primary and root causes to most issues in SharePoint administration. Having better visibility into what is happening -- so administrator can take quick action, or develop preventive measures -- is critical to the establishment and maintenance of your governance policies and procedures. Some key scenarios where better permissions visibility would improve overall administration:
Orphaned Users – If you are like most organizations employees come and go. How many employees have access to SharePoint sites that no longer exist in your active directory?
Runaway Control – With so many users of SharePoint have site administrators or power users been accidently given broader control then intended? Verify the number of people with admin or full control by site.
Site Drill Down – Delegation is critical to productivity but it can leave you vulnerable without the right visibility. Run a report by site to verify who has been granted permissions. Is someone giving out permissions that surprises you?
Visibility is the necessary first step to implementing and improving governance, allowing you to track and measure platform usage. You cannot manage what you cannot measure. Within SharePoint, it is critical that you be able to see what is happening inside the environment, and then, based on that activity, take steps to improve and automate the system. ViewPoint for SharePoint is a powerful new tool that will help you take back control of your platform. Download the free version of VP4SP today!
With Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer last year, the ever-evolving social collaboration space is changing once again. While SharePoint had social features natively built in, the addition of Yammer into Microsoft’s portfolio and the subsequent integration has ramped up SharePoint’s social capabilities. Here is an introduction to a few of the features that involve both SharePoint and Yammer integration.
Send to Yammer
Send to Yammer allows SharePoint users to send documents, announcements and tasks to Yammer. This allows users to collaborate real time on projects. Once in Yammer, users can monitor who has viewed or downloaded these files by using the recent activity stream. Furthermore, Yammer’s integration with Office Web Apps will allow users to view and edit these documents directly from the Yammer activity feed.
Primary Yammer Web Part
The Yammer web part allows users to monitor Yammer streams and notifications directly from any SharePoint site. For example, a user might want to place their “My Feed” as a web part on their My Site to consolidate that information. Or a business unit might want to place their Group Feed onto their department site. The Yammer web part also allows a user to send private messages and track those conversations through a separate tab. Placing this web part on their My Site just gives the user another way to track their collaboration from one central location. Of course, the ability to utilize Yammer features like metadata tags, mentions of other users, etc., within SharePoint will ultimately help increase collaboration, search and ultimately, productivity.
Admins can also configure this web part using native SharePoint web part controls. They can also make Yammer activity streams available as read-only, so those folks who don’t have Yammer access will still be able to access the streams in SharePoint.
Office Web Apps/SkyDrive Pro
Microsoft also announced their plans to integrate Yammer with Office Web Apps and SkyDrive Pro by summer 2013. The integration with Office Web Apps, as mentioned above, will allow users to view and edit content directly within a Yammer activity stream. This will enable users to monitor changes and collaborate real time.
SkyDrive Pro is online storage where a user can upload and access files within a personal library that can also be shared with others, both within and outside of the organization. Yammer will be utilizing SkyDrive Pro as its underlying platform for file storage. Just another way Yammer will tie into SharePoint, by allowing users to download content from SkyDrive Pro that was uploaded using Yammer.
SharePoint is at heart a collaboration hub. If maximized, the team site should be the “go to” place for the latest and greatest information a team needs to perform their daily work. One out of the box feature that helps to communicate important information is the calendar.
The site owner can place a calendar web part on the team’s landing page communicating vital information, such as milestone dates, team meeting dates, or perhaps the team’s vacation schedule or telecommuting schedule.
One thing to keep in mind is a calendar is simply a list. Perhaps the traditional calendar layout is too large and a table is preferred. Since the table is a list, there are view options. The web part can be modified to change the view, just like the list itself.
Let’s look at a calendar web part displayed in a different view.
Views available include:
- Calendar – a traditional month view
- All Events – show all events past and present
- Current Events: show only current and future events (often this is preferred to All Events as it highlights only pertinent data for the team and lessens the length of the list in a view)
Often team members wish to utilize Outlook for viewing the team calendar. SharePoint integrates calendars with Outlook. Simply click the Connect to Outlook icon in the ribbon, Calendar tab, Connect & Export group.
Once the connection to Outlook is established, the SharePoint Calendar will appear in Other Calendars in Outlook.
While this integration is convenient, it must be understood that this is not a one-to-one integration, meaning you cannot add something to your main Outlook calendar and it will automatically show in the SharePoint calendar. But a useful thing is that you can view these two calendars side-by-side in Outlook and can drag and drop events between the two calendars. Note that any incompatible content will be removed when dragging and dropping from an Outlook calendar to a SharePoint calendar via Outlook.
Surfacing central information to the team is imperative to good team collaboration and SharePoint calendars make this essential communication easy! And allowing team members to view this information in Outlook extends the ease of use for everyone.
Another out of the box capability of SharePoint 2010 will assist in bringing vital calendar information regarding multiple sites or calendars. This is useful for reviewing multiple schedules and analyzing availability and timing between different aspects of a project or team.
Perhaps there is a main site calendar, and the team would like to see the sub-project schedules in the same calendar. We will use the example of the main calendar for the whole project and adding the sub-project of developing the SOW and vendor selection.
To overlay calendars, select the Calendar Overlay icon in the ribbon, Calendar tab, Manage Views group.
Now a new calendar can be built by clicking New Calendar in the new screen. This will open a SharePoint form to create the overlay calendar. Complete the boxes as indicated:
- Calendar Name
- Type – is the calendar to be overlaid a SharePoint calendar or one available from Exchange
- Description – it is important to include a fairly detailed description for the overlay calendar so team members are clear as to what is included in the calendar
- Color – a different color can be assigned to help differentiate each calendar from the other calendars
- Web URL – input the added calendar’s URL and click Resolve
- List and List View – then select which list you wish to use from the now populated list dropdown
- Always show – mark this checkbox if you wish the overlaid calendar to always show
And now all events from the two calendars are visible and the individual events are color coded for each different calendar represented.
It is important to note that there are only 8 colors to choose from for differentiating between calendars and there can only be a maximum of 10 calendars total in the overlay. Also, the overlay does not show in Outlook if the calendar is connected to Outlook – only the main calendar information will be displayed.
Keeping teams alerted to calendar events enhances communication and enables teams to see important data at a glance. This will build productivity and empower teams to work in a streamlined manner. Also, by utilizing Outlook teams can further productivity by working in a familiar environment. It is always helpful to reduce the places people have to look for information, thus capitalizing on team member processes already in place.