sharepoinTony

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Posts Tagged ‘Review’

“Conference” Room Manager for SharePoint

Posted by sharepoinTony on June 26, 2009

Review and Implementation Notes on ACAR Room Manager for SharePoint

We had a need for a SharePoint calendar that would allow us to manage some conference rooms.  After searching around, and evaluating some other options, I decided to do a deeper evaluation of ACAR’s Room Manager for SharePoint.   This is my summary of findings and notes on the specific ways we wanted to implement this tool.

Review Notes

ACAR describes the product this way:

“Room Manager Suite for SharePoint is an easy to use room scheduling software solution for SharePoint. It is simple and powerful. Consists of a set of web parts which makes room reservation simple for end users.” (ACAR Room Manager)

It is a Room Scheduling Software for Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 which provides a nice interface that allows the user to see both a calendar and thumbnail photos of the rooms.  The rooms are color-coded so it is easier to identify what meeting is in which room, this is a nice feature and can be controlled within the “Room Details” screen.

Room Manager default page

Room Manager default page

The installation is simple and automatically creates a sub-site for you within SharePoint for the Room Manager.  Basic setup steps include uploading your photos of your conference rooms and entering the basic information about them.  ACAR provides a list with setup and administration guidance as well as FAQ and Information  lists.

Room Details screen

Room Details screen

Adding the Capacity and Description to your rooms helps users choose the right room for them.  If you add keywords and have Search enabled your users can find specific rooms quickly by searching.

The Sort Order is used to control the display of the rooms on the home page, next to the calendar.

The “Title” fields seem a little  irrelevant to me, they only control the label/link that is displayed next to the thumbnail.  I felt that anyone implementing this would want those to be consistent; and although you may want to modify them for your implementation they should be managed in a more central location.  (Side note: while testing this product, I had one person changing those and it really confused other users when they saw one room with varying text in the display.  Some thought there were problems with the product.)

The Picture Size field also seems unnecessary, and we would replace that colum in the display with  “Room Dimensions” to provide more useful information to the users of this tool.  That column would have to be added to the Room picture library.

This raises a good point, one of the great features of this product is the flexibility that they allow.  They hide a few lists, but otherwise if you are relatively careful you can modify the lists and libraries to fit your needs.  More on how we did some of this later.

ACAR Quick Launch - default for Room Manager home page

ACAR Quick Launch - default for Room Manager home page

The Quick Launch has been modified by ACAR for the Room Manager sub-site.  As you can see it provides for ease of navigation and a custom feel for your users.  Your users only see what they need to effectively schedule a room or manage the Room Manager.  Breadcrumbs are provided for access back to the host site in the normal SharePoint fashion.

You may want to “hide” the links to the settings or Information lists because of the information they contain.  This can be accomplished by setting permissions on those lists or by adding audiences to the Navigation item on the site.

One additional thing to watch out for is the selection of colors in the Room Details.  On our system, some of the colors selected did not display correctly when selected for a room.  As an example, I selected “Bright Green” from the ACAR provided list for one room.  After saving and going back to the Room Manager home page, I see that the room color displayed is a purple.  That rooms events are now the same color as another room with the selection “Violet”.  I had to go through and test everyone of the 27 pre-defined colors and try each one to determine what would work on our system.

Colors I found that displayed oddly:

Light Yellow (displays white, which is used for “waiting list”)
Bright Green (displays purple)
Violet (displays purple same as bright green)
Acqua (displays bright blue same as Turquoise)
Dark Teal (displays purple same as violet)

Colors that worked fine but caused the Events in the Calendar to be difficult to read:

Blue
Dark Red
Indigo
Dark Blue
Dark Green

That left us with 17 colors to use for our rooms.  We could actually also use Violet as long as we didn’t use the conflicting colors, and it was our choice not to use the darker colors.

When contacted, ACAR support was surprised by this but agreed with my assessment to simply remove some of the options from the drop-down list.  If you need that many rooms you may want to consider either multiple implementations of this tool or plan to resolve this issue.  Also please note that this is only what happened on ONE test server implementation, results may vary. Also, the difficulty reading events when using the darker colors could potentially be mitigated through the use of CSS to alter the text color of the events for those specific rooms using those colors.

Overall, I really like this product. It allows you to quickly and easily implement a solution for room management while making use of mostly Out Of the Box SharePoint features.  Room management can be delegated down to appropriate levels and the Administrator shouldn’t have any major tasks after the initial setup.  We ran this test over several weeks, and never ran into anything beyond what was mentioned earlier.  It is very intuitive and simple to use.

ACAR offers a Standard Edition and an Enterprise Edition with single server licenses and discounted licenses for additional servers.  The difference between the Standard and Enterprise Editions is unlimited locations and rooms with Enterprise.  Enterprise also appears to allow for Invoicing or chargebacks of rooms, but this seems to be something you implement using InfoPath not something built-in.  We had no need for that so we did not look into that concept.

Implementation Notes

One of the “customizations” that I tested had to do with a specific need we had for this tool.  Several of the conference rooms are “owned” by a specific department, who has priority over all others when scheduling their specific rooms for meetings.  They had a person who approved all scheduled meetings in their rooms and wanted to keep that “chain of command” in place.  So, for our testing I wanted to intercept the auto-generated email notifying the user the room was scheduled and tell them it was pending approval.  Then I have to send a message to the appropriate approver so they can check conflicts, etc. and approve or reject the requested scheduling.

I was able to add columns to the Events list, turn off auto-emails, modify selections in the provided “choice” columns, and create a workflow in SharePoint Designer to accomplish this conference room scheduling process.  This also displays the flexibility with this product over some that really lock you out of “their application”.

Details on this customization may be in a follow-up article, if any interest is expressed…or I have time and less pressing topics to cover. 😉

Posted in Calendar, Commentary, SharePoint 2007 | Tagged: , , | 12 Comments »