Validation: Business Process Management is Needed in SharePoint

Mark Miller - Founder and Editor of EndUserSharePoint.comI continue to receive TONS of congratulatory emails in response to my "I’ve taken a position" article, many of them confirming that I’m on the right track when it comes to adding Business Process Management to the SharePoint stew.

One in particular caught my eye. I’m reprinting it here, removing any references to the company talked about. It is one of those "from the trenches" stories that validates why I do what I do.

Thanks so much for the note. — Mark

Message from a long time reader:

As a Methodology Administrator and Business Analyst working for a large company, it was evident that every programmer or manager felt it was not necessary to produce any kind of a real formal evaluation. They were all looking at issues as “just another little project” to make changes for their issues. When SharePoint first appeared on the scene everyone created their version of what information a site should have.

It was not long after I began working with SharePoint that I began to recognize that the object of SharePoint being a place to organize information so it could be “SHARED” was getting lost. The Business Analyst was being cut out of the equation and it was now harder to find and share the information needed between departments within the corporate structure.

Many groups asked me to help them with a site for sharing information and data. When asked if they had done an analysis to determine which business/corporate areas needed that information they could not provide an answer. In the end their site housed duplicate information that might not be correct or current. In several cases, SharePoint information was just providing a different unorganized method of storing data that was just as bad as the old method of the multiple shares that held documents and data in an organization that made it difficult to locate what the business users needed.

I applaud you for this new venture that points out what Business Analysts have been trying to do. That being, match the tool to the problem and then organize its use to best suit the needs of the business.

Over my many decades in the IT department I have seen history repeat itself and lead to failure many times.

How does Microsoft use SharePoint Internally?

SharePoint Saturday TampaI was able to attend Tim Walton’s session at SharePoint Saturday Tampa this past weekend and really enjoyed what I saw.

My plan was to send out a constant tweet stream during the session, but with Tim’s request not to take photos and the amount of content coming out of the session, I thought I’d just post my notes here to give you some ideas.

If you haven’t attended a session like this in the past, it’s eye opening. Real world uses, not just for Microsoft, but for anyone who wants to spend the time. Well worth going to the session. Thanks, Tim.

  1. Uses federated search and FAST. Premise: If search fails, the site fails
  2. Huge dropdown list of prefiltered output… "I need to find"
  3. Debate in-house on "Mingle" concept. Should MSW (Microsoft Web) be pushed to My Sites
  4. My Sites can replace desktop/My Documents
  5. MSW is starting page for EVERYTHING
  6. PowerPoint used to display animated graphics… in the browser!
  7. My Sites allocated 10 gigs
  8. Activated ratings to guage interest in content. Remove content based up interest level
  9. BCS (Business Connectivity Services) is used very heavily
  10. "Mingle": internal marketing of My Sites (Social Networking Team)
  11. "Social Connector" in Outllok connects to content in EXTERNAL social sites: LinkedIn, Facebook, etc
  12. Big value in having a LiveID: free stuff being given away
  13. "Ask me about…" in My Sites allows users to expose their expertise
  14. SharePoint Community extranets are huge
  15. Excel sales reports render directly in browser, using slicer and PowerPivots
  16. PowerPivots pull from multiple data source (very cool)
  17. Uses digital picture frames to expose KPIs on sales person’s desk (nice idea… constant updates for project managers)
  18. SP Workspaces sync with delta, not with entire document
  19. Office 2010 Mobile is a free download (important for mobile worker)
  20. Infopedia – internal document center, can hold millions of documents
  21. Check out resources at Academy Mobile

Validate Email Addresses and Phone Numbers in SharePoint 2007 (Screencast)

Author: Laura Rogers, Birmingham, AL
SharePoint 911

In SharePoint 2010, setting up validation for columns is now baked right into the product, on the Add New Column screen, but how do you do it in SharePoint 2007?  Common types of fields that need to have patterns are phone numbers and social security numbers.  Validation is the process of setting up a pattern that column data needs to match before the form can be submitted.  In this screencast, Laura Rogers shows how easy it is to set up validation in a custom form data view web part, using SharePoint Designer.  The prerequisite for this screencast is the one called Customize Form Pages in SharePoint (Screencast).

To go along with this screencast, Laura has written this blog post, which explains all of the steps in details, with tricks on how to get the phone number validation to work correctly: Phone Number Validation in SharePoint 2007.

 

Laura is currently working on this new SharePoint 2010 book:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0470617896?tag=laurogwon-20&camp=14573&creative=327641&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=0470617896&adid=0HRK7TAMZQK64YAVNWCX&

Also, for SharePoint Administrators, Laura was a contributing author on this book:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0470533331?tag=laurogwon-20&camp=14573&creative=327641&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=0470533331&adid=1P4GR4KZA6KQ4AP1RFCM&

Author: Laura Rogers, Birmingham, AL
SharePoint 911

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SharePoint � The Ring for the Memetic Smackdown

Author: Paul Culmsee
www.sevensigma.com.au

 “the ideas from this article have been drawn from the forthcoming book “Beyond Best Practices” by Paul Culmsee and Kailash Awati”.

You can read more about "Beyond Best Practices" in a previous article by Paul and Kailash here.

Many years ago, Richard Dawkins (the atheist/evolution guy) wrote about the concept of memes – how ideas themselves strive to self replicate to survive from one mind to another.  If the notion of ideas themselves having an evolutionary instinct sounds a little mind bending, then consider the power of the “leave Brittany alone” meme. Here, a video of a sobbing teenybopper was viewed by half the world population and was even spoofed in a movie. “Memetics” is the study of this phenomenon of self replicating ideas.

What does this have to do with SharePoint, you may ask?

Actually, it explains a lot about why SharePoint can be a tricky product to get right. To see why, let’s take a memetic view of organisational life.

In the beginning…

When one person has a radical idea they are branded a mad heretic – like that one person in every office whose stock answer to any question is “Just buy a Mac”. But when that mad heretic manages to convince someone else that their idea is good, something magical happens. The heretic suddenly becomes the visionary and the memes behind the heresy become the seed of what will eventually turn into body of knowledge.

Adolescence

All of us adults remember the adolescent stage of our lives when we dealt with acne, hair in funny places and making the transition into adulthood. A bunch of like minded heretics turned visionaries have to go through the same adolescent process of self identity and crystallisation of their memes. Here, the various memes fight for survival and after a year or two there is enough of a corpus of related memes known as a memeplex. From this corpus, people will start to ponder new job titles that encapsulate their ideas and philosophies.

Maturity

Once job titles appear, it takes around another year for the next evolutionary stage to occur: The creation of the industry body or community of practice. These are usually characterised by organisations with the word “Institute” in their name and aim to codify the memeplex into a “Body of Knowledge”. With that comes the offer of certifications for new disciples also wishing to be visionary too. Around this time academia gets in on the act and develops courses to teach these same visionary new ideas to students.

At this point, a critical memetic change takes place. Up until now, it has been the practitioners that have created the body of knowledge, but now it reverses. It is the body of knowledge that produces the practitioners. The popularity of the industry certification attests to this.

At this point the memes are self replicating and mature, and we have a cool new job title to show for it. Disciples of this body of knowledge have now been given the absolute truth, and go out into the world to preach the good news. The result being that the memes propagated to others are good based on the practitioners myopic notion of what is “good”. This, in turn, makes collaboration with people of other memetic persuasions difficult”

Memetic maturity also means that the chances of a radically new idea making it through to mainstream are small, because new ideas that are even slightly radical are typically discarded if they conflict with the current memeplex. This is known as the corporate immune mechanism.

Rebellion and rebirth

Often a new memeplex represented by a job title will conflict with an existing, most likely older and more mature memeplex. After all, if we go back to the start of our process, a heretic is, by definition, someone who was dissatisfied with the doctrine that they have been brought up to believe.

Therefore, the only way that a heretical new idea can survive is:

  1. Being engulfed and assimilated by the memeplex
  2. By achieving a “critical mass of acceptance” where the heretic has become a visionary. As stated, the telltale sign of this is the appearance of a new job description appearing in organisations.

In general, any existing memeplex challenged by a new idea will do its damndest to achieve (a) and will succumb to (b) only if it is unable to deal with the adapting environment in which  it finds itself operating.

Examples

You do not have to look far to see how this plays out in organisational life. Business Analysis is a relatively recent discipline that arose out of systems analysis and project management. BA memeplex maturity happened around 2003: The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) was founded in October 2003, and the Business Analyst Body of Knowledge (BABOK) was released in draft form two years later.

Even before this official legitimisation of the profession (and more so after), academic institutions began offering courses on business analysis, oriented around what became the BABOK.

Many Business Analysts were attracted to what the role entails through frustration with project management. But Business Analysts themselves have an identity crisis because a more recent memeplex like Agile software development approaches actually do not explicitly call for their role.

Another good example is the role of “Information Architect”. It is less than ten years old, often conflicts with records management and is already being assailed by the memeplex of “knowledge managers” and “social networking co-ordinators”. My prediction is that at some point a heretic will convince someone that a “Semantic Web Co-ordinator” role is where it’s at, thereby challenging the ideals of social networking co-ordinators.

Records Managers, for what it’s worth, have a really tough time convincing other disciplines the value of their memeplex (likely because nobody else will ever read the relevant state and federal records management legislation) and other memeplexes (like anything with 2.0 in its name) are currently much more popular.

The SharePoint Flight Club

SharePoint 2010 is an amazingly feature rich and powerful product. If one were ticking all of the boxes of features for a comprehensive platform that can handle more recent memeplexes like social networking (and with it enterprise 2.0, government 2.0 and education 2.0) as well as more traditional memeplexes like records management, information management, enterprise content management, business intelligence and so on, SharePoint can do it all and if put together the right way can do it exceptionally well.

Of course, with that power and that feature list, comes considerable technical complexity. Therefore the geeks have their work cut out to ensure the platform is stable, fast and responsive. SharePoint governance documentation abounds about how to do this but just because your system is rock solid, stable, well documented and governed through good process is absolutely no guarantee of success. In fact, the crux of a successful collaboration project is an area that the governance documentation does not touch.

In essence, to put in the collaborative platform, we actually have to know how to collaborate first.

Simple as this may sound, we often persist in looking at SharePoint the other way around – as if this feature rich integrated tool will magically improve our collaboration because it is so shiny and new. By that logic, buying a Ferrari should make us better drivers. From a memetic viewpoint it is clear why this rationale has turned out to be problematic.

SharePoint is essentially the boxing ring for the memetic smackdowns that inevitably occur between disciples of different persuasions, armed with the absolute truths of their respective bodies of knowledge. SharePoint’s compelling, wide ranging set of features means that it crosses all of the memetic boundaries which creates complex territorial overlap. The more features we have, the more overlap we get. This in turn leads to conflicting versions of the truth, vague and hard to pin down requirements, and ultimately a fragmented understanding of the problem at hand.  

It is the fragmented understanding of reality caused by and fed by memetic smackdowns that causes all the pain. The simple fact is that without a shared understanding of the problem, you will never get shared commitment toward an effective solution. Therefore, without shared commitment to a solution, all the technical and process governance in the world won’t save you.

This creates an unfortunate paradox – the more feature rich and more capability that SharePoint gets, the trickier it is to do it well.

Time to put on the boxing gloves?

Please see the following links to learn more about Beyond Best Practices:

http://www.cleverworkarounds.com/2010/06/07/why-ive-been-quiet/
http://eight2late.wordpress.com/2010/06/07/beyond-best-practices-a-paper-review-and-the-genesis-of-a-collaboration/

Author: Paul Culmsee
www.sevensigma.com.au

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I have taken a full time position. What does that mean to followers of EndUserSharePoint.com?

Mark Miller, Founder and Editor, EndUserSharePoint.comI have taken a fulltime evangelist position with Global 360. What does that mean to the followers of EndUserSharePoint.com? — Mark

The EndUserSharePoint.com audience has matured over the past two years. At first, the community was interested in just getting a handle on SharePoint and what it could do. Then we moved together into the interface enhancements phase where we explored what could be done at the presentation layer when the site owner had no access to the server.

Now it�s time to move beyond thinking of SharePoint as a stand-alone platform, and start providing solutions to real business problems, by reaching the �Unconscious Competence� stage.

As the SharePoint Community of End Users has matured over the years, I�ve tried to keep pace by providing deeper content for SharePoint Power Users, such as the content the jQuery teams have been providing, as well as providing direction for the beginning End User. This weekend at SharePoint Saturday Tampa, I rolled out a new presentation with Global 360, �The Missing Link Between SharePoint and the End User Community�.

The �Missing Link� presentation is the beginning salvo of a new type of content we will be providing on EndUserSharePoint.com, that of Business Process Management.

I see the next stage of maturity in the SharePoint market happening at the Business Analyst level. Too much has been done, and is still being done, in SharePoint that does not have a direct correlation with Business Processes. As I look around the landscape it has become clear to me that the most value I can provide now to my mature users is to start concentrating on Business Process as it relates to being exposed through SharePoint.

As a Business Process Management company, Global 360, has asked me to come on fulltime as their evangelist for SharePoint. What does this mean to you, a follower of EndUserSharePoint.com? How does this affect the site, the content and my objectivity?

EndUserSharePoint.com is not becoming part of Global 360. EndUserSharePoint.com stays the same! This was a concern to some of our authors. EUSP stays an independent , stand-alone voice, as it has always been. EUSP has not been bought by Global 360, they do not have anything to do with the site, other than providing occasional articles and content about Business Process Management in SharePoint.

Natasha Felshman continues to handle the day to day aspects of EndUserSharePoint.com, as she has done for the past two years. Natasha works fulltime to keep the content fresh and help the authors whenever needed. I find content and authors for the site, she handles getting the content formatted and inserted into the publishing schedule. That won�t change.

EndUserSharePoint.com has over a dozen authors, providing SharePoint specific content on a regular basis. In addition, I am adding content providers from the Business Process Management field to provide vendor agnostic articles on Business Process Management and how it relates to your SharePoint implementation. I think the analysis of current processes in a business environment is a critical piece, the �Missing Link�, for Power Users and Business Users of SharePoint.

At this critical juncture in the maturation of the SharePoint Community, working at Global 360 will give me the strongest position to learn and expose solutions to Business Process with real world context as it relates to SharePoint.

I�m excited about stepping up to the next level of understanding with EndUserSharePoint.com and I hope you are too. I appreciate the support you�ve given me in the past two years and sincerely hope you�ll stay with me during this phase of connecting SharePoint to real world business needs.

Regards,
Mark Miller
Founder and Editor
EndUserSharePoint.com

SharePoint: Extending the DVWP � Part 14: Putting PreSaveAction() to Work with jQuery

Author: Jim Bob Howard

Now that we know how to press PreSaveAction() into service on the DVWP and have employed jQuery to create some variables, let’s write our variables out to an audit list.

New Audit Records Using SharePoint Web Services

Marc’s library offers a quick way to record the changes to our audit trail, using UpdateListItems.

First, write the old (or From) record…

    $().SPServices({
        operation: "UpdateListItems", // The Cmd below causes this to be an insert
        async: false,
        listName: "FTE Change Audit", // The 'Display Name' of audit list I've created
        updates: "<Batch OnError='Continue' PreCalc='TRUE'>" +
                "<Method ID='1' Cmd='New'>" +
                    "<Field Name='FromTo'>From</Field>" + // Field Name is the 'Static Name' of the list column
                    "<Field Name='Title'>" + txtOldName + "</Field>" +
                    "<Field Name='Location'>" + txtOldLoc + "</Field>" +
                    "<Field Name='Group'>" + txtOldGrp + "</Field>" +
                    "<Field Name='Position'>" + txtOldPos + "</Field>" +
                    "<Field Name='WorkShift'>" + txtOldShift + "</Field>" +
                    "<Field Name='FTE'>" + txtOldFTE + "</Field>" +
                    "<Field Name='EffDate'>" + txtEffDate + "</Field>" +
                    "<Field Name='ChangeType'>" + txtChangeType + "</Field>" +
                "</Method>" +
            "</Batch>",
        completefunc: function(xData, Status) {
        }
    });

…then repeat the process for the new (or To) record. Change the FromTo value to To; notice we’re using the same EffDate for both of them (your requirements may vary). ChangeType can be set automatically or calculated based on what has changed.

All Together Now

Edit as you have need, but here’s how my PreSaveAction() looks:

  function PreSaveAction() {
     var txtChangeType = "Update";
 
     var txtNewName = $("input[name*=$ff1_]").val();
     var txtOldName = $("span[id*=_ff9_]").text();
 
     var txtNewPos = $("input[name*=$ff3_]").val();
     var txtOldPos = $("span[id*=_ff11_]").text();
 
     var txtNewShift = $("select[name*=$ff4_]").val();
     var txtOldShift = $("span[id*=_ff12_]").text();
 
     var txtNewFTE = $("input[name*=$ff5_]").val();
     var txtOldFTE = $("span[id*=_ff13_]").text();
 
     var txtNewGrp = $("input[name*=$ff2_]").val();
     var txtOldGrp = $("span[id*=_ff10_]").text();
 
     var txtNewLoc = $("input[name*=$ff6_]").val();
     var txtOldLoc = $("span[id*=_ff14_]").text();
 
     var txtEffDate = $("input[name*=$ff7_]").val();
 
     $().SPServices({
          operation: "UpdateListItems",
          async: false,
          listName: "FTE Change Audit",
          updates: "<Batch OnError='Continue' PreCalc='TRUE'>" +
                    "<Method ID='1' Cmd='New'>" +
                         "<Field Name='FromTo'>From</Field>" +
                         "<Field Name='Title'>" + txtOldName + "</Field>" +
                         "<Field Name='Location'>" + txtOldLoc + "</Field>" +
                         "<Field Name='Group'>" + txtOldGrp + "</Field>" +
                         "<Field Name='Position'>" + txtOldPos + "</Field>" +
                         "<Field Name='WorkShift'>" + txtOldShift + "</Field>" +
                         "<Field Name='FTE'>" + txtOldFTE + "</Field>" +
                         "<Field Name='EffDate'>" + txtEffDate + "</Field>" +
                         "<Field Name='ChangeType'>" + txtChangeType + "</Field>" +
                    "</Method>" +
               "</Batch>",
          completefunc: function(xData, Status) {
          }
     });
 
     $().SPServices({
          operation: "UpdateListItems",
          async: false,
          listName: "FTE Change Audit",
          updates: "<Batch OnError='Continue' PreCalc='TRUE'>" +
                    "<Method ID='1' Cmd='New'>" +
                         "<Field Name='FromTo'>To</Field>" +
                         "<Field Name='Title'>" + txtNewName + "</Field>" +
                         "<Field Name='Location'>" + txtNewLoc + "</Field>" +
                         "<Field Name='Group'>" + txtNewGrp + "</Field>" +
                         "<Field Name='Position'>" + txtNewPos + "</Field>" +
                         "<Field Name='WorkShift'>" + txtNewShift + "</Field>" +
                         "<Field Name='FTE'>" + txtNewFTE + "</Field>" +
                         "<Field Name='EffDate'>" + txtEffDate + "</Field>" +
                         "<Field Name='ChangeType'>" + txtChangeType + "</Field>" +
                    "</Method>" +
               "</Batch>",
          completefunc: function(xData, Status) {
          }
     });
     return true;
};
  

Other Uses

What can you do with the PreSaveAction()?

  1. Field validation – making sure the data you’re about to write to the database is going to make sense, e.g.
    1. End date comes after Start date
    2. A date range is at least X days (or no more than X days)
    3. A person is already (or not yet) on a list
    4. If some optional fields become required based on other data filled in
    5. ad infinitum
  2. Add "Did you mean…?" functionality
    1. "…to make a change, but not update the Effective date?"
    2. "…to set this date in the future?"
    3. "…this person whose name is similar?"
    4. "…for this to be a transfer? or a termination?"
    5. ad infinitum
  3. Write to an audit trail
  4. Confirm delete
  5. Look up information to store in this item
  6. YOUR idea…

Want more?

Shoban Kumar, Wael Abbas, and Edin Kapic, along with EUSP authors Michael Greene and Marc Anderson (individually, and in conversation) offer some other ideas for using the PreSaveAction().

Next time: What do user-managed drop-down lists have to do with the DVWP? Well, they’re just good practice whether you’re using the DVWP or not. But, if you want to use cascading dropdowns on your DVWP, you’ll need to plan ahead. We’ll start walking through that plan and point out pitfalls along the way.

Four articles from now, you’ll have cascading dropdowns on your DVWP. And your list owner will manage the content and the relationships from SharePoint lists.

Author: Jim Bob Howard

Jim Bob Howard is a web designer / webmaster in the healthcare industry. He has been working with SharePoint since March 2009 and enjoys sharing what he has learned. He is a moderator and frequent contributor to Stump the Panel, and answers SharePoint questions on Twitter (@jbhoward) and via email (jimbobhoward@gmail.com).

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Governance for SharePoint: Site Closure Policy – Please Take the Survey

Author: Michael Sampson

At the SharePoint Conference earlier this month in New Zealand, one speaker reported on the use of SharePoint at his organization. The organization was using SharePoint for a variety of purposes — the Intranet, collaboration sites, and more — but one thing in particular stood out to me: they had never closed a site! The net result was that the organization had 7 TB of disk space for sites, no one knew what all the sites were for, no one had a sense of the information currency of the sites … talk about a governance nightmare!

My next book, SharePoint Roadmap Governance Themes, greatly expands on the governance chapter in SharePoint Roadmap for Collaboration. Two themes have been explored to date — Site Creation Rights, and User Adoption Strategies — and there are reports available on both of those. The third theme for investigation is Site Closure Policy. In other words, what do you do with SharePoint sites when their useful life is at an end, however you define that?

As with the previous two reports, there’s a survey. If you have involvement in setting governance decisions for SharePoint at your organization, please take the survey now.

Respondents who complete the survey will receive a free copy of the research report, due for publication in July 2010.

Author: Michael Sampson

Michael Sampson is a Collaboration Strategist. He helps end-user organizations in New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Europe and other places around the world improve the performance of distributed teams. Michael is the author of Seamless Teamwork: Using Microsoft SharePoint Technologies to Collaborate, Innovate, and Drive Business in New Ways (Microsoft Press, 2009), and SharePoint Roadmap for Collaboration: Using SharePoint to Enhance Business Collaboration (2009). Based in New Zealand, Michael works with clients worldwide.

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“SharePoint is causing information management problems.” Really?

"SharePoint sites are easy to set up, but when the project ends, business-critical information is stuck in these sites." — Erik Moller quoted in an article, SharePoint Causing Info Management Problems

I’m not sure how to handle this type of comment, it’s so off on so many different levels. Is it really a SharePoint problem being described here? Instead of me picking this apart, how about some feedback. Read the article and then leave a comment back here. If I’m off base, let me know.

Mark

Structured Versus Unstructured Data – Part 2: The Long Filename Debate

Guest Author: James Love
Chronicles of a Chronic E-Junkie

I caught wind recently of an email sent to others in my organization where the user complained that Windows allowed 255 character length filenames but SharePoint didn’t. I wanted to see what the issue was so I asked a good friend and colleague of mine to forward me the message to see the library in question. The result was a folder within a library, filled with files named using a familiar and archaic nomenclature.

The naming convention he had was YYYY-MM-DD-NN-Title.PDF, where NN was the initials of the author, and the Title often being very long and complex report titles. After thinking about this for a moment, and trying desperately not to defend SharePoint by thinking of the technical reasons why (such as use of the "title" as unique identifiers in the SQL database, perhaps), I had thought of why this limit was in place.

I remembered soon after that each file in a document library also has a "Title" field. And therein lies the rub.

If you have issues with long file names in your SharePoint environment, then you probably have deeper issues with your Information Architecture.

Storing metadata about your file (the file author and date, in the above example) in the filename itself is a very limited approach. What if you wanted to only display files by a certain author? Or created within a certain date range? Or how about, as in the immediate requirement, to store long and complex report titles?

SharePoint already has fields to store file creation dates and authors. There is also even a field built-in to store the Title separate from the filename! Transferring a file system straight from a shared drive to a SharePoint document library might be easy, but the hard part is making use of the elements that make SharePoint great for storing files and records, especially if you’re transferring a large document set from a file share to SharePoint.

Going one stage further is educating your users of these features, making them aware that they’re there and why they’re useful.

In summary, SharePoint can be designed (and is such, out of the box) that you shouldn’t need long filenames.

Guest Author: James Love
Chronicles of a Chronic E-Junkie

James Love works as an Information Officer for a small non-profit organisation in York, UK. Whilst developing solutions for the company’s intranet environment, he also spends time looking after IT operations and strategy. As well as web development & design, James has a keen interest in Information Architecture best practices for the corporate environment. He is a regular attendee of Sharepoint User Group UK events in Northern England.

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SharePoint: How Can Companies Kill the Things that Kill Productivity? – Part 3: That�s Not What We Do (Anymore)

Guest Author: Steve Russell
Global 360 Inc.

In this third posting on how to Kill the Things that Kill Productivity series, I thought it would be helpful to take a look at change and agility – probably one of the most commonly heard marketing drum beats in enterprise software for the last few years. Everyone in enterprise software wants to enable agility in one way or another, and to read some of their literature you would think business was in a constant state of upheaval, but I don’t really think that’s the case.

Business processes do change. Occasionally, they change in dramatic ways due to corporate events such as a restructuring or a change in strategy, new product launches, and regulatory changes. More often however, they change in subtle ways due to a new step in a procedure, an extra field to be coded, or another spreadsheet to reference. Individually, each change is hardly noteworthy, yet their cumulative effect is real and eventually very costly.

Dealing with the problem requires a move away from big IT support in favor of incremental user updates that are implemented as quickly as possible. Let users have control of the tools they need to keep their applications relevant. This has been a big part of the success of SharePoint. The business has more control over the solution and new applications and changes to existing applications do not require full IT change management cycles. By enabling users to have more control over their applications and the tools used to define them, technology can be more responsive to business needs.

I’m not advocating that IT close their doors and that end users (or more accurately, end power-users) should manage and maintain everything having to do with core business applications. IT plays a very important role in ensuring that company policies and governance is implemented, systems continuity is maintained and a host of other extremely important functions. My point is that when all application maintenance is owned by IT, small incremental changes to how business gets done is rarely reflected in the systems that support the business.

With each business change, the existing applications and systems satisfy a diminishing percentage of the business’ needs. Productivity slowly degrades as workers accumulate additional manual or “extra” steps they are required to perform – steps that are not supported by their legacy systems. SharePoint offers the opportunity to immediately assimilate change into the application environment and prevent this extra work from evolving. Once legacy systems are turned into services providing data and transactions to SharePoint-based applications, the strength of SharePoint’s flexibility can be highly leveraged. No longer do you have to wait on IT to add new fields, reorganize screens or include relevant information.

Wikis, notes and other SharePoint productivity tools can help address this problem. Procedure manuals and sharing of tribal knowledge is not only facilitated, it can be saved, indexed, reviewed and pushed to everyone. This doesn’t require any computer system changes. All it takes is giving the people doing the work, the tools to let everyone benefit and adapt as business changes.

Businesses can further restore productivity by implementing a dynamic case-oriented solution leveraging the inherent agility of a business process management platform to continuously maintain and update a process. Once enabled with a business process solution, organizations have an economically viable platform for maintaining alignment between their current business processes and their supporting applications.

Let IT do what they do best; maintaining and delivering the core transaction systems that underlie and support how companies do business. Let the user community have access and control over tools to make those transaction systems more dynamic and responsive to all of the little changes that vibrant organizations face every day. By doing so, the automation that everyone depends on maintains its relevancy and organizational productivity is optimized.

In the next article we are going to look at the opportunity (and low cost) of increasing user morale. Low Morale: “Did you see that?” looks at the benefits of using SharePoint to provide feedback and motivation to business users.

Guest Author: Steve Russell
Global 360 Inc.

Steve Russell is the SVP of Research and Development and CTO for Global 360 Inc., based in Dallas Texas. He has over 25 years of experience as a technologist developing enterprise process and document management software platforms. Steve has extensive experience with large, mission critical systems development and deployment within Fortune 2000 companies.

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