Playing in the Sandbox
February 22nd, 2012 -- by Guest blogger - Erica Toelle
Have you ever wanted to use a custom code solution on SharePoint and not been allowed because of restrictions by your IT department or hosting provider? Sandbox Solutions, a feature introduced across all versions of SharePoint 2010 and Office 365, might be an option for you. Sandbox Solutions allow some custom coded SharePoint solutions to be deployed at the site collection level, instead of at the farm level, as long as they don’t use restricted API namespaces.
The restrictions on deploying custom code at the farm level are in place to prevent poorly written code from hogging more than their fair portion of shared server hardware resources. Sandbox solutions allow your SharePoint administer to restrict the amount of hardware resources each site collection is allowed to use, therefore ensuring one site collection isn’t slowing down other sites on the SharePoint farm.
Sandbox Solutions mean you have more flexibility to extend the core functionality of SharePoint in your business solutions. These customizations could include site branding, workflows or adding new actions to the ribbon. While you won’t be able to deploy most third party SharePoint products as a Sandbox Solution you will be able to make UI teaks that can greatly improve the usability of your SharePoint solution.
Contact BluLink Solutions to discuss whether or not sandbox solutions might be a good option for your SharePoint environment.
Get More from SharePoint Server 2010 with Document Sets
August 23rd, 2011 -- by John Ano
The Document Set is a new feature in SharePoint 2010 Server that an organization can use to group related documents and files into a single unit that can be managed as a single SharePoint item. Grouping files into a document set solves a lingering yet common problem that business users have had with SharePoint out of the box. Custom development and third party solutions were the only options available to meet this need until now.
Some typical ways an organization can benefit from using document sets include:
- Aggregating groups of documents for recurring business reporting (monthly, quarterly, annual)
- Managing technical product specifications (requirements, design, test)
- Publishing product sales literature (datasheets, testimonials, reviews)
- Generating proposals (RFP, resource planning, pricing plans)
- Contract Management (contracts, change orders, support agreements)
A document set is a content type that you can add to a document library. The document library presents document sets with a custom web part page that displays and describe the document set’s contents. The web part page can be modified to suit specific business needs, for example, with the addition of a team contact list or task list.
Document sets are based on folders but can do things that regular SharePoint folders cannot. You can conduct many familiar SharePoint operations on a document set just as you would conduct with a single document or other SharePoint list item:
- Custom workflows
- Apply metadata
- Send To repository or Records Center
Custom document set workflows can now be created in SharePoint Designer 2010 to give your organization the ability to review, approve and publish with a repeatable team process for all content in a single document set. In earlier versions of SharePoint, you’d have to manually run a workflow for each document.
Within a document set, you can set up default documents as templates when starting a new project. With default documents in place, creating a new document set will also create all of the default documents, saving time and maintaining consistency.
Content owners and managers are painfully aware that when metadata tagging is skipped or incorrect, their content may not appear in page views or in search results. Creating and managing workflows on multiple related documents can become tedious, especially as the document count and number of metadata columns grow. SharePoint 2010 makes tagging a bit easier for document sets in two ways.
First, prepopulating document set fields with default metadata reduces tagging errors and speeds up the upload and tagging process for items in that set.
Second, document metadata is key to organizing and searching for content, and with a document set you can share metadata columns between documents in a set. If the document set is a monthly business report containing an Excel workbook, a PowerPoint deck and several word documents, you do not have to redundantly tag each file with the same metadata. Simply apply the metadata to the document set and any shared metadata columns will be synchronized with each document within the document set.
This is a new feature in SharePoint Server 2010, and there are some limitations your organization should keep in mind when considering using document sets:
- Requires at least SharePoint Server 2010. The document set feature is not available on SharePoint Foundation.
- Nesting document sets is not allowed.
- Cannot nest folders within document sets.
- Using a custom view “Show all items without folder” won’t show document sets because they are folder based.
- In-place records management feature is not available to document sets. Document sets can only be sent to Records Center.
- Aggregating documents from different libraries is not supported out of the box, but can be accommodated using link content types.
- Custom workflows for document set require SharePoint Designer.
- Document set welcome pages are not zipped up with the document set when sent to a Records Center.
Even with a version 1.0 feature set, document sets make it easier to publish and manage groups of similar content in SharePoint without a lot of custom development or reliance on third party tools.
Business Intelligence and Profitability
August 19th, 2011 -- by Clint Skullerud
Across the spectrum of competencies within the IT department of a successful organization, Business Intelligence (BI) can have tremendous impact on the revenue cycle, financial outcomes and profitability. Many companies organize their BI departments within the operational management structure instead of IT management because ‘the business’ likes to keep its information close. Organizations that lack success or struggle to have a grasp on the position of their business usually rely on inadequate or non-existent BI information.
Organizations with the largest volumes of data and complexity have the greatest need for organizing data and making it intelligible. Let’s take for example healthcare organizations — many healthcare businesses are shackled by antiquated systems that are exceedingly complex, often surpassing 1,000 tables for a single database. The information can be disorganized and the supporting data infrastructure dysfunctional.
Cognos, a suite of Business Intelligence applications is an excellent BI tool for organizing and analyzing data, particularly for mature businesses i.e. those larger infrastructures which inevitably come with added complexity. The data is stored in a Data Repository (preferably a datamart, or data warehouse) and it is transformed with Cognos, from a shapeless lump of data needing to be sliced and diced, into small bite-size pieces for the Business to chew on.
In order for businesses to make decisions on the fly, data must be presented in aggregate and summed to the highest level, while still having the ability to break it into the most granular details to be sifted through. With millions of transactions and probably the same number of variables, data will not be easy to find. In fact, you will need a sophisticated data-mining tool to extract it. Cognos facilitates this with OLAP summary cubes and drill through detail reports.
In addition to information being accessible and scalable, it also has to be deliverable. This is where businesses can realize the value in deploying Cognos on Sharepoint. Though Cognos is a good tool, the licensing can be very expensive. Some organizations don’t understand that a considerable savings from the Cognos budget can be redirected into the profit line by simply deploying Cognos reports on SharePoint, where the users can access them without a Cognos license and for a much lower cost.
As we continue to explore this link between BI and SharePoint in this four-part blog series, you can discover more ways to scale costs by being efficient in the ways your Business Intelligence information is captured, organized, and deployed.