sharepoinTony

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Archive for August, 2010

Lean Thinking for SharePoint

Posted by sharepoinTony on August 27, 2010

I have to start this with a tidbit of history.  You see, I actually did something before I began working with SharePoint…surprising as that may sound.  For several years prior to SharePoint I had a really long job title, but the gist of what I did was implement Lean practices in a corporate setting.  My focus was on the “office” which meant any business function that wasn’t on the factory floor.

So what is Lean?

There are books that go into depth on the subject, and Wikipedia provides some definitions, but my personal short description is this: Lean is a way of thinking and working that incorporates continuous improvement, process improvement, and efficient practices.  It is all about eliminating waste in your business.

Lean is what lead me to SharePoint.  When I first saw SharePoint and learned the things it could do, I jumped into it.  SharePoint was the tool I was looking for to help implement new processes, to help business staff embrace Lean concepts, and to help the company benefit from the Lean effort.  I got excited about SharePoint and haven’t looked back.

One of the cool things about SharePoint is the concept of distributing the work and enabling people to create what they need in a site.  Eliminate the bottleneck.  That is a Lean thought, it is a Lean way of doing things.  Lean is about empowering your staff to do the things that they need to do to get their job done.  And you want them to succeed, to excel, and to do it all without WASTE.

How many times have you experienced the waste most companies tolerate?  Wasted time, wasted spending, wasted energy.  Lean is about eliminating those wastes.  By capturing the time, energy, and money previously lost in that waste you can redirect all of that into improvements that benefit the company.  You can take a week-long process and make it into a few hour process.  When your company shortens process times it becomes more competitive, more cost-effective and usually more profitable.

What is Lean Thinking for SharePoint?

Although there are lots of benefits to studying Lean, I think that by simply using a few Lean concepts your SharePoint activities can make significant improvements that benefit your company.  “SharePoint people” can easily pick up these concepts and incorporate them into their work.  A perfect example is the implementation of a new workflow.

We typically attack a workflow request by asking about the process and capturing key steps we know we will need to create a SharePoint workflow.  But what if we take the opportunity to ask questions?  Why are those steps needed?  Who really needs to be involved?  What is that information used for and by whom?  But don’t stop there…you have to follow-up by tracking that information flow.  What does that person actually do with the information?  Is it even used?

That is the tough part.  People always say they know the process or they know the requirements.  Never believe them.  I cannot tell you how many times I followed a process, tracked the information flow across multiple branches and up the chain of command only to find out that the end result was never used.  Everyone in the organization had accepted the process, enforced the perceived “need” and just “knew” that we had that do it that way.  It often turns out that someone in some department said they needed the information and that filtered its way into the process over time.  It sounded valuable, so management made it a requirement.  Everyone got used to the “requirement” and it became part of the culture of the business.  Years ago that probably was needed information.  The business had to change to stay competitive, but  business processes lag behind and are not updated.

Taking the time to truly find out what is needed and why it is needed allows you to create a process, in a SharePoint workflow, that reduces work and eliminates waste.   By taking the time to do this, even if you don’t find any waste you will gain a solid understanding of the process and have documented the process which is of value to the company.  Having to change a workflow to correct the process isn’t fun and is a form of waste.  Just do it right the first time and you will save time and money.

Resources you can use to learn more about Lean:

Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation, Revised and Updated
by James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones
Easier, Simpler, Faster: Systems Strategy for Lean IT
by Jean Cunningham, Duane Jones
Office Kaizen: Transforming Office Operations into a Strategic Competitive Advantage
by William Lareau
The Lean Office: Collected Practices and Cases (Insights on Implementation)
by Productivity Press Development Team
Lean Administration: Case Studies in Leadership and Improvement (Enterprise Excellence)
by AME – Association for Manufacturing Excellence

Posted in Best Practice, Lean, Workflow | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

SSO Tips

Posted by sharepoinTony on August 24, 2010

There are lots of blogs out there talking about the problems people have setting up SSO (Single Sign On) in SharePoint 2007 implementations.  There are also quite a few that run down the steps to do it and state that it is easy.  What is the disconnect between these two “camps” talking about SSO setup?

Well, one thing (IMHO) is that the ease of the process depends on YOUR environment and YOUR knowledge of what SSO is, how it works, and what you plan to do with it.  So my first (and most important) tip is take the time to learn about SSO and what you want to accomplish by using it before you attempt to configure it.

My other tips are:

Enterprise Application Definitions –

  • If you are planning to use Groups, create an Enterprise Application Definition for each group
  • Configuration steps often talk about creating a group for SSO Administrators and SSO Managers, these groups are NOT the groups you want to use here
  • The Account Type selection of Group is used when you want to connect to the data source using the same account for all users in the designated AD group.
    • For example, if you are going against an HR database and you have an AD group for HR managers who are allowed to see data from that source – SSO Enterprise Application Definitions let you map the group to an account with permissions to access that data, and that account will be used for everyone in the HR AD group
  • Things you cannot change it for the Enterprise Application Definition after initial definition:
    • Account Type
    • Authentication
  • Authentication is not clearly described in many places, here are the basics:
    • Select the Windows authentication check box if your clients use Windows authentication when connecting to the external data source (if it is required)
    • Leave the Windows authentication check box unchecked if your data source allows mixed authentication, such as SQL Server does by allowing either SQL or Windows authentication
  • Make sure you login to Central Admin with the “Enterprise Application Definition  Administrator” account when you create your definitions, otherwise you will have problems
  • After you create a definition using the Account Type of Group, don’t forget to update the ‘account information for enterprise application definitions’ – this is where you enter the AD group that you want to map to a specific account for accessing the data source

Configuration –

  • Make your life easier and just create an SSO Administrator account, don’t try to use an existing account.  It can be done, but it also can get confusing
  • If you are in a small environment you should still create the SSO Administrators and Managers AD groups as suggested by Robert Bogue (http://thorprojects.com/blog/archive/2008/08/02/moss-single-sign-on-setup-step-by-step.aspx) – It allows flexibility for you in the future without reconfiguring SSO
  • Follow Roberts steps (link above) for the basic setup
  • Reference links:

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/sharepointdesigner/arcve/2007/08/27/an-introduction-to-single-sign-on-sso-with-data-views.aspx

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc262932(office.12).aspx

Posted in Administration, Install and Configure, SSO, Tips and Tricks | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Mapping Properties in SP2007 for Search

Posted by sharepoinTony on August 9, 2010

Search is really one of the most needed, if not most important, components of a corporate intranet based on SharePoint. Why?  Because if you can’t find what you are looking for on the intranet, then the intranet is of little value.  Regardless of whether or not you accept this concept as true, the fact is that improving the search capabilities of your SharePoint farm will increase usage and acceptance. One of the things you can do to improve the search capabilities of your SharePoint farm is to make some (or all) of your site columns searchable in an Advanced Search page.  I know, I know, you can already find content based on the data in your site columns when searching now.  But how many documents are in your result set?  And, can your users search for specific site column content? If you have created Content Types and Site Columns that your users understand, then they will likely want to search for specific content based on them.  Here are the steps to take to enable searching directly on your custom site columns from an Advanced Search.  I created a new Advanced Search page, you could modify your Search Center Advanced Search page if so desired. To search by a column in any list or document library, you need to create a managed property and modify an Advanced Search box…and you will need to crawl your content to make it available. So let’s get to it.  My example is using a Site Column named “Product Name”.

Create a Managed Property

  1. Navigate to your SSP and select Search Settings
  2. Click on Metadata Properties under the Queries and Results section in the QuickLaunch
  3. Click on the Crawled Properties link in the tool bar
  4. Find your Site Column by typing it in the search box and clicking on the green & white arrow
  5. Capture the exact property name – in my case it is “ows_Product_x0020_Name”
  6. Go back to the Metadata Properties page
  7. Click on the New Managed Property link in the tool bar
  8. In the new form, please enter a name for the managed property, e.g. “ProductName”
  9. Select the correct data type, e.g. “Text”
  10. Click on the Add Mapping button to open up a “Crawled Property selection” WebPage dialog
  11. Type the name of your column in the “Crawled property name” field and click the “Find” button, e.g. type “Product”
  12. You will see the column name showing in the “Select a crawled property” list
  13. Select the appropriate column, e.g. “ows_Product_x0020_Name”
  14. Select the checkbox for Use in scopes if you plan to add this property to a Scope, otherwise leave it blank
  15. Press OK to complete the form
  16. Start a full crawl. This crawl will map column data to the managed property

We are halfway there, we now have a managed property that can be accessed by the Advanced Search web part.

Modify Advanced Search

To enable users to search for the column from the UI, you have to add the new property to the property drop-down in the Advanced Search web part they use.  Again, this can be any advanced search web part, however this only enables the web part you modify.  If you want users to select this property from any Advanced Search, you will have to modify each of them.

  1. Go to the search page (or your Search Center  & click on “Advanced Search”)
  2. Click on Site Actions and select Edit Page
  3. Click on “edit” and “Modify Shared Web Part” of your Advanced Search box
  4. On the right pane, find the Properties text box under Properties section (XML text box)
    • Advanced Search web part XML Properties

      Click image for large view

  5. Copy and paste the XML text into Notepad to edit the XML (I just think it is easier this way)
  6. Find the <PropertyDefs> node and add a new entry for your new Managed Property:
    • e.g. <PropertyDef Name=”ProductName” DataType=”Text” DisplayName=”Product Name” />
    • The DisplayName attribute  shows in the property drop-down
    • The PropertyDefName is the Managed Property Name you created in Step 8 of Create a Managed Property, above
  7. Find the  <ResultType> nodes and add a new entry:
    • e.g. <PropertyRef Name=”ProductName” />
  8. Copy and paste the XML text from notepad back into the XML text box
  9. Click OK
  10. Test your handy-work:
    1. Check that the Properties drop-down menu has the property displayed
    2. Execute a search using the new property

Now your savvy users can search for content with laser accuracy and obtain search results that focus on what they want without having to sift through extraneous results.

Posted in Administration, Install and Configure | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Summary of SANSPUG meeting on 8/3

Posted by sharepoinTony on August 5, 2010

The new SANSPUG (San Diego SharePoint Users Group) is growing fast, and it was apparent at the August meeting held this week.  There were only a couple of empty seats and those in attendance engaged in many discussions and gained valuable tips on SharePoint.

The first session presented by Galen Keene on “Being a SharePoint Site Collection Administrator” was well received.  Galen did a great job of running down all of the menu items available to a 2010 SCA by keeping it informative, interactive and NOT a boring lecture just listing the menu items.  Kudos to Galen, especially considering this was his first user group presentation!

Chris Givens followed with an interesting session on “Using SharePoint Content Types Properly“.  His session included some live demo’s hosted on the SANSPUG.org SharePoint site.  Having a SharePoint 2010 site available to the user group proved its value tonight.   This informative session sparked discussions that intrigued everyone.  Chris adjusted on the fly and displayed live on the SP 2010 site several things  people were asking about and seamlessly went right back on track with his presentation.  Excellent job Chris!

I think everyone learned something at this meeting, and seemed to enjoy both sessions.    We wrapped up with announcements about upcoming events that are in the planning stages, such as a SharePoint Exam Cram, a SharePoint Sprint, and a SharePoint Saturday in San Diego!

The San Diego SharePoint Users Group holds monthly meetings that are FREE to anyone interested in SharePoint.  The group has two levels of membership, a basic member just like any other user group and the other a paid member who desires access to additional (“Premium”) content and activities.  To learn more about upcoming meetings and events check out the www.SANSPUG.org site.  Registration on the site is free, which provides access to meeting presentations and more. 

Posted in Administration, Announcement | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Reminder about List Views

Posted by sharepoinTony on August 2, 2010

Maybe it is my perspective and not really true, but it seems like a lot of people seem to forget that they can change the default view that appears when navigating to a SharePoint list.  Additionally, I seem to have to point out the simple steps to create an alternate view Style.

So for anyone out there that hasn’t realized it, take this post as your reminder…look at your list views and think of what the default “should” be; then consider using an alternate style when it improves usability.

Quick refresher points on List Views:

  • When creating a view you can select to “Make this the default view” right under the View Name.  Change the default view when it is more convenient for the majority of people viewing the data to see it this way.
  • Scrolling down and expanding the Style section of the Edit View page will allow you to change the appearance of the view and the data in your list.
  • Group By will allow you to create groupings of the data in your list based upon one of the columns in your list.
  • Totals will allow you to present column totals to your users.
  • Filters let you manage the data presented in the view.

Tips

Browse out to one of your lists and explore the resulting view after changing the style.

  • One thing I like to do is use the Preview Pane style for some lists where the default view needs to display many columns.  This may require the user to scroll down to see all of the data, but it usually is better than scrolling over to the right to see all of the columns.
  • Choosing the Shaded style might make a vast collection of data easier to read.
  • The Boxed style might be handy when you are displaying a small set of data in a web part, rather than displaying all of the data in the list.  Refine your display with filters and sorting.
  • Filter tip: you can use “[Today]” in your filter when filtering against a date column.  I often use it to get “recent” items by filtering with a target date column.
  • Don’t display a column that you are using in Group By.  The grouped column will display in the grouping, save screen space and remove the column from your view, un-check “Display” in the Columns section.  This isn’t a rule, it is only a tip to save space and avoid duplication of data in the display of your data.
  • If you have a list that is capturing numbers of something, people generally want to see the total of one of those columns. Give them a view that includes totals right from the start, expand the Totals section and select the appropriate column.  Don’t remove the column from your display like I suggested for Grouping – people usually want to see the details that make up a total.
  • Another ‘forgotten’ view is the Calendar View.  You can create a calendar view of any list that has a date …and they all have the Created and Modified dates.  Those dates aren’t always relevant however there are many task and other lists that have content and dates which are often compatible with a calendar view.  You can provide list users with both standard and calendar views to improve usability.


Posted in Lists, Views | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »