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27
Jan

“I did’nt know SharePoint did that” – People Search

I just read a good article from one of the Analyst companies I work with now and then. This article is about a large Scandinavian bank, and a new “phonebook” application that was built for about 30.000 employees. This is a very cool solution, that has a full profile display for the individual employee, displaying all contact information, organization, competences/projects etc. The solution is built on BEA Weblogic and Autonomy.

I’m not going to talk to much about this solution, other than the analyst mentioned that he saw this as a best in class solution and it was difficult to make suggestion for any further improvements.

I agree the solution looks great. Phonebooks are winners in term of user acceptance and it looks like Nordea nailed it. But I think the analyst in unaware that this exact same functionality is available – out of the box – with SharePoint Server 2010.

It’s called Mysite with People Search, and I actually think that the standard SharePoint functionality adds a little more. As an example – when you search for a users – you can not only see profile and contact data for the individual, but also documents the person worked on – in the search result set.

Result page when searching for People in SharePoint 2010

 

If you dive into the individual profile – which look almost exactly like the Nordea solution – you get social information about the individual, among other dynamic information about the person and your relations to the person. It’s pretty cool stuff…

 

Standard User Profile page in SharePoint Server 2010

 

So SharePoint Server 2010 actually has all of this out of the box. I just recently implemented this functionality at a client, and after strugling a bit with the user profile syncronization of data with Active Directory, the rest is straight forward configuration.

Personally I will be a little careful with claiming SharePoint to be “best in class” for Phonebook/People Search solutions, as I am not deep into all solutions available. But I am sure that we can agree, that providing this type of value out of the box, is pretty amazing. And that’s not all… 😉 If you are ready to go beyond SharePoint, adding Fast Search and Office Communication Server will add a substantial amount of functionality to the mix.

Here’s a link to the article about the Nordea Phonebook solution

And

heres a short video on some of the SharePoint out of the box functionality

 

 

 

 

26
Jan

SharePoint Adoption rule #1: “Forget about SharePoint”

Originally written for the SharePointEurope.com in October 2011 by Anders Skjoenaa. Edited and republished on SharePointPeople in January 2012.

Even if technology is providing the company with capabilities that it never had before, value is not realized before users start to embrase these capabilities – correctly – in regards to the job each individual is doing. People are generally not interested in any kind of change, unless the change will help them do their job better, faster or easier – and very importantly – they need to feel this themselves!

Most decisionmakers will have SharePoint presented as a very functional and strong platform, on which the company can run close to everything that has a webinterface – and even a few things that do not. Think of the infamous “SharePoint Wheel” and it’s six (6) major functional areas. All this included in the same piece of software! SharePoint provides an extraordinary set of capabilities. But no matter how much you try, you will only succeed implementing (given that we can agree on that a succesful implementation includes that adoption goals are met) the functionality that people REALLY need – or think they need.

This is why my first rule in the “Rulebook for SharePoint adoption” is to “Forget about SharePoint”.

I know that this is a provocative statement for some. So let me explain exactly what the purpose of this rule is. It is really quite simple.

It’s about communication…

As a major part of your SharePoit adoption stategy, you will be doing Communication Planning; You will define different audiences that you need to communicate – and in some cases market – your project and solution to. In many companies I work with, this type of communication is built on the capabilities of SharePoint. This just may be a big mistake!

When you – as a platform owner of SharePoint, and a responsible manager of the funds provided to you to implement SharePoint – are telling your audiences about all the good things SharePoint can do, YOU ARE DOING YOUR JOB. But the people listening to you – are probBLY not! Most of them REALLY do not need to know about workflow, collaboration and document versioning. Depending on their job, they have completely different things on their mind. Things that are pains or big obsticles to their succes, individually. And if you want to help them, you will need to forget about “the SharePoint wheel” and limit your communication to exactly the solution that solves the biggest and most visible pain, for the largest amount of users.

“Strategic” naming…

An example; Try NOT to name your project “SharePoint implementation” – or anything else with the SharePoint name in it. SharePoint is an incredibly strong brand – so strong that it may bite you in the neck, if you use is. Why? Let me tell you about “Michael”, the QA Manager at a manufacturing company I work with. (Michael is – by the way – not a real person.)

Michael is looking for a system to support the management of non-conformity incidents in production lines. The it department looks at the requirements presented to them and decides that this is a very good fit for SharePoint. Since the company already have SharePoint 2010 in production, there is a lot of sence to this decision. So they go back to Michael and tell him about building dynamic forms in InfoPath, getting production data from the LOB apps via BCS and how SharePoint has workflow capabilities that can be used for building his system.

So after the meeting, Michael returns to his desk and Google’s this new thing he just heard about; “Sharepoint”. And what does he learn? Go to the SharePoint page on Wikipedia yourself and check it out… Yes – He gets the “SharePoint Wheel” and a loooong article about internet facing websites, intranets, document and records management, etc. All good stuff – but not exactly the things Michael need to get his job done. So his conclusion is obviously, that maybe this SharePoint thing is not what he needs, and the it guys must have misunderstood his request. Next, he makes another search – this time for “Quality Management system” – and finds a small proprietary websolution that “speaks his language”.

What is the end result:

  • SharePoint is out
  • Proprietary solutions is in
  • IT Costs (operation, support, management) go up
  • Immidiate requirements are meet
  • User must learn a new tool
  • Solution and data is “Silo’ed”

So – when you know SharePoint, and understand the resources and funds a company have invested in getting the capabilities SharePoint provides, you also understand that situations – like this one – will not help you drive adoption and eventually value form SharePoint. Even if SharePoint is the obvious choice, you will – almost always – be more succesful with removing “SharePoint” from the discussion. It may be a hard one to accept – but give it a try and you will start to see a different dialogue with users and a better foundation to drive adoption of your SharePoint service.

Some people might tell you that SharePoint is a solution – dont belive them! SharePoint is a platform – and a pretty strong one – for building a wide array of solutions. And your people want solutions. They dont “want” SharePoint – even if they really need it.

23
Jan

Simple integration with SharePoint, Dropbox, Twitter, Facebook etc.

You may have heard of this new cloud service that is about to become available for us all – IFTTT (pronounced “lift” without the “l”). It’s currently in Beta, but you can use it online today at ifttt.com.

IFTTT – stand for “IF This Then That”. It works very much like a simple conditional statement in your average workflow engine, but it’s available of the internet – and it works with a lot of the common social services and other relevant platforms that you are already using out there.

So what can you use this for? Let me give you a few examples:

IF you are posting a message on a social platform (that is supported – could be Twitter) you can have IFTTT post the same (or another) message on another channel (could be FaceBook). Or IF you are tagged on a photo on FaceBook, you can have the photo downloaded to a folder in your Dropbox. It’s these kind of simple – cross platform – workflows you can easily build, using IFTTT. These examples are quite simple, but you can imagine an almost unlimited number of possibilities.

This is an amazing idea! If the people behind IFTTT keep up with the development in social platforms, and if they are succesful building ways to integrate to things like SharePoint and/or Office 365, IFTTT will be a very strong player in the future, because of it’s accesibility and simplicity. And it’s free – at least for now!

I have high hopes for this one, as it could eventually be a hub for social communication as people are starting to embrase it’s capabilities. I can think of a few big companies that could consider making an early aquisition and strengthen their position in the social computing marketplace.

Some workflow vendors  – like Nintex – are already doing something similar to IFTTT with Nintex Live, a part of the Nintex Workflow product suite. But these two are really not comparable in any other sense. Nintex is a real workflow platform – IFTTT is not! But it’s going to be interesting to see what happens to IFTTT in the near future…

If you are using SharePoint, IFTTT might already be interesting today. Even without exploring all the capabilities of IFTTT and what it can actually do with each different channels it connects to, I see this a an easy way to get social data into SharePoint. How? IFTTT enables you – very easily – to send emails with relevant content (you can actually configure the content of the email) to any mailadress you define. This means that you can have an email sent to any mail-enabled folder in your SharePoint environment, when a given condition is triggered in IFTTT. So you can do things like having your SharePoint MySite status updated, when your FaceBook status is updated.

As I would expect IFTTT to keep building new triggers into their solution, you could imagine a number of highly relevant business scnearios where SharePoint automatically gets triggered by things that happen on Facebook, Twitter or one of the other services that is supported.

I will be following up on IFTTT in the near future, and see what happens in respect to functionality –  and how it can benifit SharePoint users and business.