Chapter 3: Planning Redundancy and Scaling the SharePoint Environment

Sams

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Rather than having multiple versions of multiple documents floating around with different names, a team site for the project with a shared document library could be used. Each client document would be stored in the library, and by using versions and entering version comments, shown in Figure 3.7, the team would know who made changes, be provided with a brief overview of what or why changes were made, and know which one was sent to the client. By using document discussions in place of emails to have an online discussion of the document, all comments are stored in one place, with the document right there for easy access as opposed to sifting through multiple emails.

Figure 3.7

Figure 3.7

Using versioning and version comments in a SharePoint document library.

Addressing the Excessive Use of Email Attachments/Ability to Know When Documents Have Been Modified

A user emails an attachment to a group, revises the attachment, and then emails it to the group again, and so on. This results in excess email traffic, excess storage, and the potential that recipients won't see the current version of the attachment if it is modified after the email is sent.

SharePoint solution: Document workspaces/libraries and alerts

Document workspaces and libraries can be used for storing documents in a centralized document library, accessible by all team members. Alerts set up by team members notify them when the document changes. Team members know where the most current version of the document is located and are notified automatically when the document changes.

Addressing Difficulty Organizing or Classifying Content

In a traditional file system environment, a user creates a document. For future reference, should the document be stored in a folder based on the subject of the document, in a folder based on document type, in a folder based on the client the document was created for, or in all three places? Decisions of this type need to be made all the time, weighing the consequences of storing the document in one place versus another versus storing multiple copies of the document.

SharePoint solution: Use of topics, document metadata, search

When using SharePoint, using document metadata and topics prevents the document creator from having to worry about where the document is stored. Metadata, or specific fields of information that can be stored with the document, can be used for information such as subject, client, and document type. Because these fields are searchable, a document can be easily found regardless of what folder it is in. Some organizations go as far as storing all documents in one big document library and then use metadata (shown in Figure 3.8), topic assignments, and search to classify and find information.

Figure 3.8

Figure 3.8

Adding metadata columns to SharePoint document libraries.

Addressing Access to Line-of-Business Application Information

An organization might use a business application such as SAP or Microsoft Great Plains. Some individuals in the organization will need to access information stored in these applications, but it would be costly to install and maintain the application on each desktop and to train all the users.

SharePoint solution: ASP.NET web parts, single sign-on

ASP.NET web parts can be developed and used to access and display information from other applications and data sources. Single sign-on can also be enabled to provide seamless integration with the application. This provides the user with an easy, usable method for accessing information, and the IT department can maintain the code centrally and not have to worry about desktop deployment and specific training for the line-of-business applications. SharePoint 2007 also supports web parts written for SharePoint 2003, which opens it to the capability to view content from multiple third-party software and web part vendors.

Using SharePoint for Sharing Information with Partners, Vendors, and/or Clients

An organization needs to collaborate with another organization—for example, a marketing company that is doing research and developing collateral for the organization, or a client that the organization is working with on a specific project. The users from both organizations email documents and other information back and forth. Typically, these emails are sent to all people involved with the project so as to not leave anyone out. This can result in excess email traffic and emails being sent to users that they might not need (or want) to see.

SharePoint solution: Team site with extranet access

The Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 team site template fits the needs of groups of people working collaboratively. The site can be set up for extranet access, enabling outside parties to participate as team members. Using a team site over a traditional email-based method of communication provides all kinds of benefits, including giving people the ability to review only what they want to review, set up alerts to be notified when specific information changes, set up a process for approving final documents, participate in online real-time discussions, and look at prior document versions.

Deploying a Team Collaboration Solution with SharePoint

A team collaboration site is used by a group of people working together for a common end result or to complete a project. The success of the team or project depends on the effectiveness of the team and its ability to collaborate efficiently to complete the project. Therefore, the site is designed to facilitate team communications and sharing project information.

Typically, a team collaboration site is an internal, decentralized site that has a relatively small number of members. However, it can be configured to provide access for members external to the organization. When the site is implemented, it replaces the traditional file-share–based storage, use of email, and use of other traditional applications that the organization might have for storing and accessing documents and other information.

Outlining Business Needs for the Team Collaboration Solution

The general categories of business needs for this group are communications, project management, and document management. These needs can be mapped to SharePoint features as presented in this section:

  • Communications—Interacting with other team members electronically using workspace instant messaging capabilities. Finding out when information has changed through the use of alerts. Having discussions on issues or documents using the general or document discussion components.

  • Project management—Assigning major project tasks to individuals using a Tasks list. Tracking and following up on tasks using a Tasks list and various views of the list. Centralizing and distributing information such as objectives, agendas, and decisions for project meetings in one place using meeting workspaces. Providing status reports to management based on information in task items.

  • Document management—Having a common place for storing documents by using shared document libraries. Managing document revisions using the check-in/check-out and version retention features. Controlling document publication using content approval. Enhancing the ability to find and feature specific documents by assigning them to topics and Best Bets. Classifying documents for retrieval using metadata attached to the document.

Implementing a Team Collaboration Solution with SharePoint

A team collaboration site is implemented using a Windows SharePoint Services team site. A shared document library is created in the team site for document management and a Tasks list is created for assigning responsibilities. Content approval is enabled for the document library with the project manager assigned the role of approver. Document workspaces are also used for individual documents to incorporate direct access from Microsoft Office 2007/2003 applications. The team uses document discussions to communicate ideas about document contents and a general discussion for items relating to the project. The team site is part of a SharePoint implementation that has content sources defined for searching relevant information and archived documents.

Outlining Ideas for Using the Team Collaboration Solution

This section includes some ideas to incorporate into the team site solution in congruence with the elements previously discussed.

The major project milestone tasks can be entered into a Tasks list, assigned to individual team members, and then tracked by the project manager. The Tasks list can also be used for status reporting.

Users can initially create documents using Microsoft Office 2007/2003 applications and then save them to a document workspace. The document workspace can be used by the team members as a conduit for instant messaging on project-related issues. Discussions within the document can be used for providing feedback and recommendations for document content.

When the document is ready for "publishing," it can be moved to the shared library where it is reviewed by the approver. The approver can set up an alert to be notified when the new documents are added or modified within the library.

Deploying a Corporate Intranet Solution with SharePoint

The corporate intranet is used for communicating information to employees and providing them with access to corporate line-of-business applications. The primary goals of a corporate intranet are to provide resources to employees that will help improve performance and to provide employees with centralized electronic access to corporate-based information for things such as policies, procedures, and roles and responsibilities. The benefits of a corporate intranet include providing an electronic means of accessing information as opposed to reliance on human intervention, providing an easier way of finding information, automating processes, and eliminating duplication of effort. The end result is a reduction in operational costs.

Meeting Business Needs with the Corporate Intranet Solution

The general business needs of this group include searching for information, corporate communications, workflow processing, management of web-based content, and application integration. These needs can be mapped to SharePoint features as presented in this section.

Corporate communications:

  • Notifying employees about company events by using an Events list

  • Notifying employees about changes in policies and procedures by using Announcements

  • Obtaining feedback from employees by using discussion boards and surveys

  • Providing access to company policies, procedures, and forms through shared document libraries

  • Providing access to company-maintained information such as employee directories using lists such as the Contacts list or the SharePoint User Profiles

Searching:

  • Finding location-specific information by having the ability to search across local sites, division-based sites, and the corporate portal

  • Having a means for searching content external to the SharePoint infrastructure, such as external websites, file systems, and other internal application databases as well as SharePoint-based information and displaying the results together by using content sources and source groups

Workflow processing:

  • Requiring documents to be approved before "publishing" by using content approval

  • Notification of outstanding items by using alerts

  • Simplifying processing by using Approve/Reject views

Managing web content:

  • Providing non-IT staff the ability to create team-based sites when necessary through Self-Service Site Creation

  • Standardizing the look and feel of sites by creating site templates

  • Enabling users to create a place for collaboration when needed through the use of shared document workspaces

  • Providing a way to make meetings more effective and meaningful by using meeting workspaces

  • Removing the dependency on IT departments for updating sites and site content by using the web-based customization features and document library concept

  • Enabling users to tailor the view of the intranet to accommodate their specific needs by using personal sites

Application integration:

  • Providing a single interface for intranet capabilities and access to applications by using link lists

  • Providing a way for users to view application data without having to load the application on the desktop by creating web parts that retrieve and display application data

  • Minimizing the problems associated with providing multiple user accounts and passwords for various applications by using single sign-on for application access

Implementing the Corporate Intranet Solution

The corporate intranet site is implemented using Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and includes Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 sites. Features used on the site home page include announcements, links (to other major corporate sites and applications), search, events, and discussions. In the Quick Launch area are links to lists, such as the Corporate Directory, and to shared libraries, including policies and procedures, newsletters, training, and benefits. Areas can be configured for operational groups within the organization and/or geographical groups within the organization, depending on the organizational requirements. Content sources that contain information useful to employees for doing their job can be added for indexing and search. Security and content approval can be implemented to enable controlled creation of sites and site content by a wide group of users. Integration can be provided for SharePoint-compatible applications by using preexisting integration web parts and/or developing custom web parts. Single sign-on can also be used to make it easier for users to access applications from within the Site collection.

Ideas for Using the Corporate Intranet Solution

This section includes some ideas to incorporate into the corporate intranet site solution in congruence with the elements previously discussed.

Disseminate important corporatewide information such as policy and procedure changes by using announcements. Put an expiration date on them. If users see the same announcements day in and day out, they have a tendency to ignore them.

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