Category Archives: Adoption

SharePoint: New Packaging Requests in a Team Site


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Editor’s note: Contributor Ellen van Aken is an experienced intranet adoption manager. Follow her @EllenvanAken

2013-11-10-NewPackaging-01.jpgThis is yet another example of streamlining a process where incomplete information was given via various channels.

What was the problem?

One of our global brands was struggling with their packaging process. Being in the fast-moving consumer goods business, there were always many new products being introduced and many promotions going on at any given time. Very often (such as: “now 20% extra!”) this meant that a new packaging had to be designed and printed.

For reasons of cost-efficiency and standardization, all packaging from one brand had to be centrally purchased. The purchasing manager was receiving incomplete information through various channels. Next to that, the requests were often received too late to allow the supplier the necessary lead time. Consolidating all information and ordering exactly the right amount of the right product at the right time was therefore not an easy task. I assume you will recognize this2013-11-10-NewPackaging-02.gif.

What is the solution?

You take one Team Site, as per my usual recipe2013-11-10-NewPackaging-02.gif.

We have turned an Excel form (which was used occasionally) into a Team Site custom list.

We made use of mandatory fields to force people to add information they often forget, such as the budget number, or whether the seconday packaging needs to be changed temporarily as well.

A calculated field is used to determine the deadline for artwork. So, if you want your new packaging to be ready on October 1, you MUST deliver your packaging designs before August 1. This was one of the more frequent problems. With the new process, delivering late is no longer allowed.

A workflow allows the purchasing manager to check if all details have been entered correctly. All approved requests are visible to all members.

The packaging supplier has read-access to the Team Site. The official ordering is done in the supplier’s system.

What are the benefits?

Although marketeers did not really like the limitation of their freedom, (especially where artwork deadlines were concerned), the new process has had many benefits for the total organization:

  • The process has saved time for the purchasing manager because she now receives complete and correct information.
  • All artwork is now being delivered on time, reducing last-minute stress for all. This is more a result of the implementation of the process, rather than the Team Site itself, of course.
  • The purchasing manager can now combine different requests and get better conditions.
  • The supplier knows beforehand what he can expect.
  • All requests are creating a large database. Marketeers in different locations can see what their colleagues are doing or have done, so they can share experiences with a certain action, or combine a promotion and therefore save costs.

Once again, this is not rocket science, it does not even use sophisticated new code, it is just regular SharePoint with a bit of thinking.

This screenshot shows the data entry screen.

2013-11-10-NewPackaging-03.gif
New Request Data Entry

Below you see the Homepage with all approved requests on the left, for everyone to see and share. On the right, a web part with only My Requests waiting for confirmation. (In the real situation, this would be all My Requests, but since I have created all requests, I had to use another filter to show a difference2013-11-10-NewPackaging-04.gif.

2013-11-10-NewPackaging-05.gif

SharePoint: News Translations in a Team Site


You may also be interested in: O’Reilly – SharePoint 2010 at Work


 

Editor’s note: Contributor Ellen van Aken is an experienced intranet adoption manager. Follow her @EllenvanAken

This example may be interesting for Communication employees in multinational organizations.

What was the problem?

As in many international companies, the company language is English. Most people can read that, but general survey feedback showed that employees would really appreciate to read important business news in their own language.

So the Communications team decided that those messages would be translated into 14 different languages. Hiring an external translation agency was easy, but how to handle all those primary, draft and final documents (some of which were unintelligible for the Comms team) without getting confused?

What is the solution?

We set up an external Team Site with 2 libraries:

  • One library for the primary document, in English. The agency set an Alert (Added Documents, Immediately) so they know when they have to start translating.
  • One library for the translations. The agency uploads the translations to this library, using a special naming convention, adding the language as metadata, so we can group the documents by language.
    Designated local employees then check the translations, making sure that the texts fit country and company culture. These employees have set an Alert (Added Items, Daily) so they know when they have to correct a document. They can make changes online. When a translation is OK, a box is “final” is checked.
    (Since the Alert can not distinguish beteen languages, we suggest a Daily e-mail to avoid getting too many irrelevant emails)
  • Communications has also set an Alert to the Translations library, to monitor progress. (All Changes, Daily)

All documents with”the “final” checkbox are made visible to employees in special views by language.

(for advanced users: in a separate Team Site we have created one Web Part Page per language, and “project” the documents, filtered by language, on that page using Corasworks)

What are the benefits?

This setup is not ideal, since the information is still hidden in documents and there are no Alerts per language. A truely online process with targeted news in the correct translation on people’s Homepage would be better, but that is not available at this moment. Still, this setup does help to streamline the process:

  • All documents are in one place.
  • Notification emails that “you have work to do” are being sent automatically.
  • Documents are properly tagged with metadata.
  • No confusion with loads of documents in individual emails.
  • The data can be used for KPI’s, such as turnaround time, learning curve of the translation agency, and projected costs.

Another example of how some thinking and experience with SharePoint can solve those all-too-common business problems!

This is the Source library, containing the original English document:

2013-11-03-EmployeeDirectory-01.png
Source Library, containing the original English documents.

And this is the Target Library, where the translations can be uploaded.

2013-11-03-EmployeeDirectory-02.png
Library for the translated documents

SharePoint: Employee Directory and a Team Site


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Editor’s note: Contributor Ellen van Aken is an experienced intranet adoption manager. Follow her @EllenvanAken

Maria was one of our most dedicated administrators of the Employee Directory. She was working in one of our larger locations, and she was very motivated to keep her part of the Directory up-to-date. If you saw an employee profile from her location, you could trust it would be 100% accurate. Being that dedicated also took her a lot of time. So she asked me if there was a solution to her chasing everyone for the correct information.

What was the problem?

The Employee Directory was not (yet) connected to another system, so it had to be updated manually.

Maria’s location included many manufacturing and marketing employees, who changed jobs frequently. She received information about changes from various channels: e-mail, documents (via e-mail or snail mail). chat, fax, telephone and visits to her desk. Hardly anyone provided the full set of details needed, so she always had to ask people for the additional information.

What is the solution?

We set up a simple SharePoint custom list for her, in local language. We used pre-filled Choice or Lookup columns where possible, to make it easy for the requester and guarantee consistent information. We made two views: “In Progress” (default), and “Completed”.

Maria set an Alert (Added Items, Daily Summary) so every morning she knew the changes she had to make.

When she had made the required change for one person, she would tick the box “completed” in the request and the item would move to the “Completed” view. This way she always knew which requests were still waiting for her, and she also had an archive of finished requests.

What are the benefits?

  • Maria saved time, because the information she received was complete. There was no longer any need to chase someone for missing information.
  • The business was happy, because the changes were processed faster, making the Directory more accurate and trustworthy. (Of course they grumbled a little when they were confronted with a new process, but Maria sold the benefits very well – and simply refused to process any request via another channel2013-10-27-EmployeeDirectory-01.gif)
  • Many employees were now working in SharePoint lists, and this sparked ideas for other applications.
  • This was a very generic process which could be replicated to other locations easily. So even though this project did not generate many financial benefits, the project had a high priority because it was a very reproducible solution.

Another inefficient process was streamlined with little effort!

Please find below some re-created screenshots.

2013-10-27-EmployeeDirectory-02.gif

2013-10-27-EmployeeDirectory-03.gif

SharePoint: Telesales in a Team Site


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Editor’s note: Contributor Ellen van Aken is an experienced intranet adoption manager. Follow her @EllenvanAken

2013-10-20-Telesales-01.jpgOne of the teams spends their days making telephone calls to customers, asking them about a brochure or telling them about a new product or a special offer. This team has many calls to make each day, the more the better!

All phone numbers were in an Excel file, which was shared in a Team Site. Every Call Agent looked through the Excel file for the numbers assigned to them, and after the call edited the line item with the outcome of the call, as well as changes in information that they had learned during the call. (E.g. new contact person, change in telephone number).

What was the problem?

  • Opening the file and finding their assigned phone numbers took a long time.
  • Editing the item and saving the information caused waiting time (if the file was checked out by another call agent) or overwriting issues, (if a call agent forgot to check out)
  • All customers were in the file, whether they had been called or not
  • Management was always asking “how things were going” because they were curious and nobody had an overview of progress or results. This meant Call Agents had to spend time on ad-hoc reporting, which took time away from their calling time

What is the solution?

We opened up the Excel file by importing the data into a pre-configured Issue list in a Team Site. We created different views, such as:

  • New calls to be made, as well as call-back appointments, grouped by Call Agent
  • Completed calls, grouped by Result Code for a quick overview with sums (e.g. Appointment, Not interested, Business Discontinued, Offer)
  • Export view to export the data back into an Excel file for detailed analysis

By removing the finished calls to a different view, every call agent can see quickly which and how many calls he or she needs to make, without making mistakes.

We also added some real-time Excel graphs for management, so they can see progress and outcome of any promotional action in real-time. These graphs can also be used to evaluate the Call Agents’ performance and to share tips for a succesful approach between Call Agents.

What are the benefits?

  • Call Agents know exactly which customers to call or follow-up; editing a line item is much faster than editing a file so they can do their work more quickly
  • Call Agents make less mistakes in calling a customer twice or overwriting someone else’s edits
  • Management has a real-time overview of progress and outcomes, and they can see that without bothering the Call Agents
  • It is now possible to see progress as you go along, enabling the Marketing Manager to make adjustments during the promotion
  • It is clear which Call Agent is most succesful, which enables exchange of good practices between Call Agents

All in all, this simple Issue list has enabled the Call agents to make TWICE as many calls a day as before!

So, small wonder that other departments have embraced this solution as well – by now there are 3 teams calling in this way.

Another succesful cure for Document Addiction!2013-10-20-Telesales-02.gif

Please find a screenshot below, this shows the real-time Result Codes (e.g. Call, Written Proposal Requested, Meeting Requested, Already Bought This; Not Interested etc.) on the horziontal axis. Vertical is the count of this result code. The graph is slightly distorted because screenshot was made early in the Action, when there were still many calls (3344) to be made.

2013-10-20-Telesales-03.gif

Below is a screenshot of the results by Call Agent. On the horizontal axis the names of the individual Call Agents, on the vertical axis their stack of different result codes. This enables management to monitor both their productivity (# calls made) and their effectiveness (# of calls that have a favourable result). Please note that Call Agents do not all work fulltime.

2013-10-20-Telesales-04.gif

SharePoint: CRM in a Team Site


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Editor’s note: Contributor Ellen van Aken is an experienced intranet adoption manager. Follow her @EllenvanAken

One of the most successful “SharePoint solutions” has been the Incident Log of one of the APAC companies. It was built to be a temporary (1.5 years) site to solve an urgent business problem, until SAP would provide the proper CRM functionality. Due to postponement of the SAP rollout, it is still heavily used today (more than 3 years later). The site is praised for its user-friendliness and transparency. In fact, rumors are that users are NOT looking forward to changing this system to SAP 2013-10-10-CRMTeamSite-01.gif

What was the problem?

The country’s Customer Service Desk received their customer complaints in various ways: from 7 different systems, via email, snail mail, telephone, fax and by going to the Customer Service desk. Information provided was seldom complete, and there was no central system or agreed process to log and manage complaints. Many complaints were lost during the process, and if they were not, turnaround could vary from 2 weeks to 2 years.

All complaints were reimbursed to the customer, because it was almost impossible to properly investigate a complaint.

There was no insight in root causes of complaints, so it was not easy to make any improvements to systems or processes.

What is the solution?

The country organized a workshop with all involved disciplines, describing the current and the desired process. The Business Process Owner Order-to-Cash and I worked together to turn an Issue List into a streamlined Incident Logging, Processing and Managing system, that would enable all involved parties (Customer Services, Quality Assurance, Warehouse Managers, Finance, and even the external Transport Company) to quickly add, review and edit information. Every complaint was one list item.

On the Home Page an overview of all open incidents, and their accumulated value, are shown as a very high-level dashboard.

2013-10-10-CRMTeamSite-02.gif
The Homepage is dashboard for open incidents and process information.

We added some Corasworks tricks, such as a Search function and an automated email that would copy much of the Incident’s information into an email to the transporter, in case a delivery had to be taken back to the Warehouse.

Of course, with a major process like this, it took a long time to get this realized. But as usual, thinking was the most work. What is the current process? Where does it hurt? What is the best flow? How can we make it complete, but keep it simple and workable? How do we train people? How do we manage changes? How do we make this truly a part of a new way of working? The BPO and I spent long hours discussing both the process and the functional implementation.

2013-10-10-CRMTeamSite-03.gif
First part of the data entry screen.

What are the benefits?

  • The country now has one database for all Incidents, enabling different ways to sort, group or filter: by Product, by Complaint Type, by Customer, Open for longer than 2 weeks, etc.
  • Key Performance Indicators have been agreed and can be monitored.
  • System and process are agreed and transparent, eliminating the need to discuss the process repeatedly
  • Turnaround time has decreased to as low as 2 hours due to more insight and less handling
  • Due to the better insight it has been possible to improve processes and performance. One transport company has already been discontinued since they caused many problems. Others have been given a warning. Changes have been made in the factory to solve certain issues. This has decreased the total number of Incidents by about one-third.
  • Significantly less money has to be paid to customers. Now that the process has been agreed, it is easier to assign responsibility. If the customer has caused the problem, no money is reimbursed. If the transport company has caused the problem, they have to pay.

All in all, this Team Site has saved the company hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, and there is much less discussion about the process.

Why Do People Hate SharePoint?

 

Editor’s note: Contributor David Lavenda is Vice President of Product Strategy at harmon.ie. Follow him @dlavenda

During the third week of November 2012, Microsoft hosted its annual SharePoint conference, an extravaganza of everything and anything that has to do with SharePoint, at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas. The conference crowd was an avid and passionate group of SharePoint boosters and the buzz around the show was electrifying. People who recently spent their vacation there, might jump to the conclusion that everyone LOVES SharePoint.

However, working with customers all over the world, we often hear the opposite opinion about SharePoint. Typical business users don’t love SharePoint, when forced to use it, many will openly admit their aversion of SharePoint. Why’s that? Here is a list of common reasons why people hate SharePoint:

  1. Deployment time takes too long – According to a Forrester survey over 40% of respondents reported that deployments ran over the allotted time and approximately 60% of these respondents claimed it was due to technical difficulties. Delays in IT projects such as SharePoint deployments can cause organizations to lose valuable time and money.
  2. SharePoint can’t be used “out-of-the-box” – Organizations learn that it is very hard to use SharePoint “as is.” They quickly discover that third-party tools are needed to augment SharePoint to address their business requirements. According to AIIM, the biggest on-going technical issue with SharePoint implementation is governance, specifically the management of metadata and taxonomies, and over 54% of organizations are either using or planning to use a third-party add-on product.
  3. “The proverbial Swiss army knife solution to every content”- From document management, project management, blog, wiki and even corporate intranet; SharePoint promises to delivers on a wide variety of needs, yet the end result is often “nothing more than a landfill for documents.”
  4. Poor user experience- In a Forrester survey, when enterprises were asked “In what way is SharePoint not meeting your expectations?” over 30% said that their users don’t like the SharePoint experience. 30% said that their end users prefer other tools such as email. This isn’t surprising since the typical business users revert back to their original business workflow once they encounter difficulties with a newly introduced platform.
  5. Poor mobile device access to SharePoint- In a study done by AIIM, 90% of survey respondents expressed some level of dissatisfaction from SharePoint’s Mobile device access. The business users want to stay productive in the office or on the go.

What Does This Mean?

How can we reconcile these reactions to the tremendous value that SharePoint brings to organizations and to its almost universal deployment? The underlying root cause of people’s dissatisfaction with SharePoint stems from poor preparation and unrealistic expectations about what SharePoint provides ‘out of the box.’

To ensure a successful SharePoint implementation and happy users, employ the following ‘tried and true’ strategies:

  1. Create a well-defined deployment process that takes into account the needs of not only tech-savvy IT people, but also your typical business users.
  2. Make sure your project focuses on a business solution and addresses the business users’ needs, such as making it easy to access SharePoint from the office and also when on the road.
  3. Integrate SharePoint into the typical business users’ everyday workflows.
  4. Follow Gartner’s advice4 and look to third party tools to plug functional deficiencies in SharePoint.

Following those 4 guidelines, will ensure that even the harshest of critics will fall in love with SharePoint.

2013-10-04-DontLikeSharePoint-03.jpg

SharePoint: Facebook in a Team Site


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Editor’s note: Contributor Ellen van Aken is an experienced intranet adoption manager. Follow her @EllenvanAken

“We need something like Facebook’s the Wall”, one of our Field Sales Managers told me. It was interesting to see that a popular external tool was triggering people to think about a similar solution in the company. They could not use Facebook because their information is confidential, but by describing it in that way, it visualized their needs very clearly.

What was the problem?

It turned out that 16 Sales Managers, all working outside the office, had a habit of sending a daily report of their store visits, including pictures, to all 15 colleagues + Manager + 10 back-office employees, by email.

You can guess the situation: everyone stored lots of emails, with the information hidden in documents, not tagged or categorized, and their email boxes were all too large because of all the pictures. So, what they needed was one central place where they could upload their Sales Memo’s and pictures, and where the back-office could find all reports per customer, or on a certain category.

What is the solution?

Well, we did not have Facebook, but we could do that in a Team Site. I used an Announcement list for the Sales Memo’s, adding mandatory customer and category dropdown fields, and a Picture Library was added for the pictures (also with customer dropdown).

2013-10-03-FacebookTeamSite-01.gif

I added a search function and told everyone how to set a Daily Summary Alert, to enable everyone to know if something had happened.

The last 5 Sales Memo’s were shown on the Homepage, with the name of the creator, which triggered all Sales Managers into adding all their Sales Memo’s immediately. This little vanity trick helped speed up adoption!

2013-10-03-FacebookTeamSite-02.gif

What are the benefits?

  • Less emails sent & stored
  • A central transparant database is created
  • Information is easily searchable due to the customer and category metadata
  • Less time and irritation while searching

And when it was properly implemented, the Field Sales Manager asked me another question…but that will be another Blog item. 2013-10-03-FacebookTeamSite-03.gif

Do you have an example where a popular tool shows people the way to working more efficiently? Please share it!

SharePoint: State machine or sequential workflows. What is the future of business processes?


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Editor’s note: Contributor Pawel Misiurewicz is CEO and shareholder of Datapolis. Follow him @pawelmis

In today’s corporate world business processes are present everywhere. But their sequential automation is not sufficient anymore. It reduces the people taking part in them to simple machine-like elements. Fortunately, in the SharePoint environment apart from sequential workflows we can use another type: state machine workflows. This article will show which type suits your needs better.

State machine and sequential workflows

The concept of workflow comes from the time when work was rather mechanical. People (and later machines) were supposed to repeat precisely defined steps in a fixed sequence. Any deviation from prescribed path, any thinking or improvising was not welcome.

Let us take a look at the example probably familiar to most of us: a GPS navigation. When you set your destination, the GPS shows you the way with detailed instructions where to turn or where to go straight ahead. There is only one itinerary and one sequence of moves. You follow them by mechanically performing instructions defined by your navigation system, neither thinking nor making decisions. It’s a sequential process.

On the other hand, imagine a map with just a starting point and your goal. You want to reach your final destination, but on the way you make some decisions that may change your course. You may decide to visit another city, take a scenic route instead of a highway, stop for lunch or go back to the city you already visited. Of course choices are not unlimited so eventually you will reach the end point, but you decide how to compose your itinerary. It’s a state machine workflow. The journey moves from one state to another whenever you decide it.

Coming back to business processes, imagine a Contract Approval workflow that has to include three approvals: one from the Legal Department, one from the Finance Department and one from your boss. Let’s assume you may get them in any order. In a sequential process that order is predesigned, for instance first Legal Department, then Finance, and finally your boss. You cannot change it. In the state machine process, however, it’s the user who decides which approval he wants to get first. The only requirement is that in the end he has to get all three.

State machine model clearly separates states in which a process awaits a specific action to be performed (approval of a document, its verification, rejection, asking for corrections etc.), and transitions which may be a single action or a sequence. Usually states are places where people make decisions, while actions are programmed and performed by a machine. Sequential model mixes it all in one schema.

Sequential workflows are therefore predictable and in control of the process. State machine workflows in turn are controlled by external factors (people, for example) and may have many paths leading to the end point.

How does it affect business?

Let’s take a look at the first example – Contract Approval – to better understand the problem. As we mentioned before, we have to receive three approvals: Legal, Finance and Boss.

The sequential process will look like this:

2013-09-30-StateMachine-01.png

The state machine process will be:

2013-09-30-StateMachine-02.png

At this point the sequential process is a better choice. It clearly guides you from start to end.

But in many cases users may have their own preferences about the order of approvals. They might, for example, know that the lawyer makes many changes, so they want him to be the first. Or perhaps the boss is going on holiday so it is he who should now approve the document? You might like to put all these choices in the process.

With state machine process we don’t have to change anything because the order of approvals is not built in the design. Sequential process, however, has to have all the choices and alternate paths hardwired, so the final schema will look like this:

2013-09-30-StateMachine-03.png

What will happen if we now add a fourth Approver (Second Boss, for example)? In state machine we need to add just one more state:

2013-09-30-StateMachine-04.png

In a sequential process we have to add fourth approver in all branches, plus fourth condition ("if") and new branches. Try to imagine what the chart will look like!

Advantages of state machine workflows

This gives us the first very important advantage of state machine workflows: flexibility, both in the way the workflows are run and in implementing changes.

A quick look at both diagrams instantly shows us the next difference: readability. Business processes require cooperation of many different people inside and outside of the company. A common platform understandable by everyone is the first important thing to enable cooperation. If this requirement fails, it makes collaboration very difficult, if not impossible.

It’s also critical for the user to see and understand the whole process in order to make a decision. Here readability is the key to process management. Managers who have a broad picture of the current state of action can see in which phase all the processes are at any given time. Then they can analyze them, find bottlenecks and optimize the process by finding shortest (or quickest) paths based on its current behavior and history.

State machine is the human approach to workflows. When we think about processes, we are usually wondering about their current status (state of the workflow) and what will happen or should be done next (action). When one draws the process representation, it looks more or less like this:

2013-09-30-StateMachine-05.png

That’s exactly what a state machine process diagram looks like. Why to translate this into a sequential workflow if we can leave it in the same form it was designed?

2013-09-30-StateMachine-06.png

2013-09-30-StateMachine-07.png

Summary

Most, if not all, workflows may be implemented using either of those process types. If you want people to follow only the narrowly defined path with low level of control over the process, sequential workflow may be, in some cases, desirable. However, state machine workflows have clear advantages and are the most prospective choice in rapidly changing business environments.

SharePoint: Software Cost Reductions in a Team Site


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Editor’s note: Contributor Ellen van Aken is an experienced intranet adoption manager. Follow her @EllenvanAken

In the series of “Do More With SharePoint-Examples” this time I will explain a process where a Survey saved our IT-department lots of time and effort. Technically/functionally it is one of the most simple, but from a change management perspective, and because the idea is easy to transfer to other organizations, I thought I’d share.

What was the problem?

Many employees had rather expensive Software X on their PC, and local IT wanted to reduce the licensing costs in their country by providing alternatives. There was a simple alternative to the software on every PC, or people could request a free open-source version with functionalities comparable to Software X.

Usually these projects were done by emailing back and forth with all users of the software, but with about 100 local users of this software, that was promising to be quite messy2013-08-25-SoftwareCost-01.gif.

From a priority point of view, this project did not generate a lot of financial benefits, but since this was a regular action at IT (and worldwide) the project received a high score for “re-usability” and extra “intangibles” points because we wanted IT to become more familiar with the functionalities of SharePoint. It also scored well in “Required time investment” because it was easy to set up.

What is the solution?

We created a Survey in a dedicated subsite of the IT-Team Site, with 2 questions:

2013-08-25-SoftwareCost-02.gif

Upon clicking “Finish”, respondents arrived at a Thank You page, with information about the next steps.

IT sent an email with explanation to all users of Software X with the link to the survey. They set an Alert to keep track of responses.

What are the benefits?

First of all, no emails had to be received, opened, scored and filed. Every answer was in the survey, as well as the total number of responses.

Next to that, there was immediate visibility of the outcome. From the moment the replies started to come in it was clear that 30% of the population did not use the software at all, and that about 40% of the users were willing to try an alternative. That was such a good result that there was no need to challenge those people who really wanted to work with Software X. (Which was just as well, because some employees were upset or even angry when they received the email2013-08-25-SoftwareCost-03.gif)

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The Graphical Summary gives a quick overview of results

Software X was removed from about 70% of PC’s and some open-source packages installed.

The local IT-manager was so enthusiastic about the ease and speed of this solution, that he decided they would repeat this yearly with Software X, would repeat this with other expensive licenses, and he shared his success with his international colleagues.

We showed them how to set up a survey themselves, how to lead people to a ”Thank You page” and how to export the results after each project for archiving.

Well, you and I know how SharePoint can facilitate data collection in this way, of course, but for my IT-colleagues it was a welcome new learning!

The ABCs of compliance within SharePoint are actually QRS


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Editor’s note: Contributor Roger Beharry Lall is the Director of Product Marketing at Adlib. Follow him @adlibsoftware

If you’re like most IT managers, you’ve probably spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars all related to compliance.

Compliance is a critical consideration whether requirements stem from legislation like Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX)… bodies like FDA in life sciences… long-term content archiving for NARA… or any other alphabet soup… FINRASECFSAEPA… or merely internal branding, legal, or corporate standards.

Yet despite all the talk of compliance, I still find customers struggling… often focusing on the system, which is erroneous.

Don’t get me wrong… records management is critical… having a retention schedule, establishing standard taxonomy rules, and automating defensible deletion, despite rumors to the contrary can, and should all be done in SharePoint.

In many cases however, the success or failure of a compliance program lies at the document level – which is often the most neglected.

While there are dozens of granular issues I could explore, I offer the QRS of compliance – 3 broad categories of ways in which documents are often ignored in the race to comply…

Quality

I don’t mean whether the actual document was well written (that’s a whole other issue which my high school English teacher can probably rant about better than me). I’m referring here to the fidelity of the document… does the final look like the original? Is a PPTX the same as a PPT? Is Word 97 the same as Word 2010? The answer might surprise (disturb!) you.

2013-06-03-SharePointCompliance-01.png

On the left is the Excel original. On the right is the free PDF rendition.

Most of our clients use PDF, and even with this ‘standard’, I’ve seen all sorts of variations, some trivial (i versus 1… 3 versus E), and others quite disastrous (missing text blocks, re-formatting, and missing hyperlinks).

Readability

Again, I’m not talking about whether the prose are (sic) perfect (again, my English teacher would have a field day with some of my efforts).

Can everyone in your organization read your documents? Can external stakeholders read your documents? It’s not much use to be “compliant” if it can’t be shared. Recently I sent a Visio diagram to my team… turns out no one could read it, because they didn’t have Visio on their desktops. And Visio is fairly standard. What about CAD drawings, Corel draw images from the 1980’s, or function/industry specific apps? And to make matters worse, try viewing these documents on a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet.

Our clients typically use PDF (though some use TIFF for regulatory reasons) to increase share-ability; eliminating the need for source/legacy software at the desktop level while allowing compliant collaboration.

Searchability

A compliant document isn’t much good if it can’t be found.

Interestingly, most organizations ignore this aspect, which although technically compliant, is disastrous when it’s time to find the information.

The enterprise search capabilities in SharePoint leave something to be desired… you can only search for what the system can see… hence the many 3rd party add-on applications in the market.

Did you know that not all PDF’s are searchable?

And TIF (a common format for incoming documents… faxes… scanned invoices), is even worse, as it’s essentially just a graphical image.

Automatically transforming documents to make them readable and searchable allows you to make stored or archived material not only compliant, but also useful.

So as you look at your compliance programs and SharePoint… keep in mind not only the system requirements, but also how you address the documents themselves. Remember the QRSs of compliance in SharePoint.

Do you depend on end users to tag, title, store, and convert documents manually and accurately?

Do you have a content transformation strategy in place? If so, is it automated?

Does your compliance program stop at the system level, or does it extend to touch the end user at the document level?

Agree? Disagree? Think I’m off in left field?