Guest Author: Amy Gabaldon
I have been in the fortunate position of working for a manager who saw an AA SharePoint presentation about 3 years ago, came back to work and said, �Amy, this SharePoint thing could be a really good thing for our group and I think you can figure it out.� It took a bit of convincing before I was really on board. I had in my head that this really should be handled by our local IT group. But their plate was already full and my boss thought I could do it—so I requested a site and started down the road of trying to figure this out.
I work at TAESL (joint venture between Rolls-Royce and American at AFW) and we are an overhaul facility for the Rolls-Royce engines on the 777 and 757. We work on AA engines as well as third party customers. When a customer gives us an engine to work on, we take it apart to see what the problem is. Our customers spend a lot of money on our services and want an Engine Condition Report from the Engineering team detailing what was found during the tear-down process.
This was my challenge� figure out a way to use SharePoint for our Engineering team to have one place to log all of their findings (pictures, text, and document attachments) and basically, hit a button and get a report at the end. In our shop at any given time we have approximately 35 engines (10 of one type and 25 of the other) in various stages of tear-down, repair, build and test/ship, 10 Engineers working various shifts�and working on a Condition Report is probably at the bottom of each of their �to-do� lists.
It�s been tough, I will admit. My background is probably the furthest from IT that there is. Very early on, I managed to completely delete our SharePoint site. (Just shows how little I really understood about it). I�ve tried many different variations to get a good system in place for us to do what we need to do. Our Engineering group has had to suffer through my learning curve but have been really good sports. I have done a lot of research (Google, YouTube, blogs and books are your friends with this guys!) and have had the opportunity to attend some outside training sessions as well.
I have been very lucky in that we have had some great young Engineers that have come to TAESL through Rolls-Royce with no SharePoint experience but who �get it� �and have an understanding of programming/logic. They have helped me bridge the gap in what I want to be able to do with our site and how to make it a reality. With their help, my knowledge has expanded by leaps and bounds just by collaborating and troubleshooting. I don�t think I could have gotten where we are without their help.
For people just starting out with SharePoint I think the �overwhelming-possibility-ness� of it can be intimidating. Really, the sky is the limit on this. Looking back, I think we tried to climb Mount Everest with our Engine Condition Report project. It was pretty complex�involved designing 2 different multipage InfoPath forms (one for each engine type) that have data connections to pull some information from a SharePoint list and some information from an Access database, allowing Engineers to add their findings (text, pictures, document attachments) and then have a very snazzy �Print View� (which is actually a .pdf) so we can send/email it to our customers.
Oh, did I mention we track the progress of completion of this report automatically through our SharePoint site? Our customers want this in a timely fashion�so that is a big piece of this as well.
I recently had the opportunity to attend the TEC2010 conference in Los Angeles and found out we are not alone! In fact, AA is actually further down the SharePoint road than some other big companies. I know Ash Mughal and his team is preparing for AA to move to the SharePoint 2010 environment early next year and that is really exciting.
For us, our Engine Condition Reports were just the beginning; we�ve added many additional reports, workflows, alerts, status bars, charts and an external (outside the firewall) �Partners� site to our SharePoint repertoire. Other TAESL teams have launched sites (I think I am a participant or owner of 12 different sites) as a result of the work we�ve done.
For any group just starting out with SharePoint�I would have to make the following suggestions:
- Don�t be afraid to ask for help from our HDQ team. They have implemented a really cool tool �Report a SharePoint Issue� and this has been my lifeline. Their responses are timely and if needed, they can remote into your set to see what it is you are trying to do.
- Have a team of people working on this! Don�t just ask the one staff assistant to �go figure it out�. SharePoint is all about collaboration and I firmly believe it takes that collaboration to get it going!
- Start small. Don�t try to climb Mount Everest.
Guest Author: Amy Gabaldon
Amy Gabaldon has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work but has worked for American Airlines (in a variety of different roles) for 13 years. For the last 2.5 years she has had the opportunity to spend a lot of time trying to figure out SharePoint!