Monday, December 6, 2010

SharePoint the Reality Series 5 ? The SharePoint maturity model

Errin O'Connor is cited discussing steps in the SharePoint Maturity Model. Written by Marc Solomon, Published on WorkflowManagement.us.

In the adoption of SharePoint, a four-stage maturity model is a great way to determine where knowledge gaps exist, what facets require additional education and how to help people expand their use of SharePoint. According to Lee Reed, a senior SharePoint strategy consultant with Northridge, departments will not progress in lockstep, which elevates the importance of the maturity model as a benchmarking tool for evaluating progress and showcasing the best practices of adoption leaders. The point, counsels Reed, is to include some “stretch goals” within each maturity level to encourage greater use of the platform.

“What is curious,” says Hugo Esperanca, SharePoint solutions architect and partner at Collaboris, “is that all companies adopting SharePoint seem to go through the same evolution path.” A maturity model helps to prioritize the right functions and how to phase them in to fit your business requirements. The goal is not to accessorize every feature.

Yet many enterprises are distracted by the shiny-toy factor. They focus on new product features instead of their own business priorities in which SharePoint solves their specific business problems. Success is not measured by how many features are turned on but what issues get addressed. To Russ Edelman of Corridor Consulting, that means automating key processes, reducing risks, simplifying cross-unit complexities and finding information more rapidly.

Stage 1—stepping back

Errin O’Connor of EPC Group (epcgroup.net) traces all SharePoint deployment roadmaps to one starting point: What’s the organization trying to achieve? Most are smatterings that reflect both wide opportunities and sponsor indecision. O’Connor believes it’s more instructive to point the question inward than to pivot on all the possible answers to where SharePoint can lead, including:

* intranet,
* enterprise content management,
* extranet,
* business process automation, and
* Web 2.0.

Chances are it’s either “all” or at least “some” of the above. Hence, O’Connor favors a phased in or hybrid approach that treats SharePoint as a platform that can accommodate an ever-evolving set of business needs. To Edelman, the roadmap is a timetable for testing readiness, developing consensus and translating intent into commitment. Those translations are adjustments to the roadmap that will later trigger the more detailed program and project plans.

For example, a Stage One deployment may roadmap the release of a firmwide intranet. Support for that goal hinges on anticipating future phases. Otherwise, half-baked site hierarchies and navigation schemas will need to be re-architected in future stages. According to Reed, documents are beginning to migrate from network drives, are stored in one location and are searchable. Some initial list creation occurs as task lists, team calendars, project timelines and Excel imports.

A word of caution to our pre-deployment readers: Stage 1 tends to be a learn-as-we-go proposition with many unsuspected detours masquerading as mission-critical decisions. For example, rollouts are often tripped up by the need to recreate their prior environments from scratch rather than reassembling them through a common toolkit and methodology. Call it the temptation to over-engineer. Call it the need to avoid a nightmare scenario: millions of documents with no permission structure or hierarchy.

As we saw in the second part of this SharePoint series, one best practice in Stage 1 is the emphasis that Children’s Hospital Boston (childrenshospital.org) puts on the critical role that training plays in building both SharePoint skills and the awareness of what it can do.

Stage 2—encore performance

Where Stage 1 is about finding the intranet on ramp, Stage 2 is about the ECM infrastructure. To O’Connor, that means building out the core metadata foundation and content types—the guidelines for applying it and ultimately managing the explosion of unstructured information waiting to be reckoned with in nearly any ECM.

That reckoning is driven by an unprecedented explosion in unstructured information. If content is distributed haphazardly, then SharePoint is where content goes to R-O-T (redundant, outdated and trivial). Here’s where a centralized approach to information management is critical to laying the groundwork. Indeed, it’s not a stretch to pin the success of your unfolding maturity model to a consistent, firm and well-communicated metadata foundation. That makes SharePoint not just a storage medium but the gateway into enterprise resource planning (ERP) and legacy databases, or what Edelman calls “the defacto portal to unstructured and structured information.”

The other key fork in the road between Stages 1 and 2 is that the architectural team is beginning to identify (if not master) the finer points of creating repeatable backups and restoring them to production. According to Esperanca, Stage 2 companies have found that SharePoint content and configuration can be moved across environments using backup and restore. As such they have a repeatable deployment process.

Stage 3—open innovation

According to Reed, “The first time someone says to you, ‘I wish people external to our company could access SharePoint,’ you know you’re on your way to Stage 3.”

When an enterprise reaches Stage 3, SharePoint is addressing its business requirements. By now, it’s the definitive data source for unstructured information, and function-specific workflows are being triggered by a blend of custom programming and out-of-the-box capabilities.

That describes the use of on-demand extranet sites developed by Fenwick & West for their legal clients (and covered in the fourth article in this series). The SharePoint plumbing is now extending out to the rest of the MS office portfolio through RSS feeds, inbound e-mail addresses, Excel imports, content type templates and departmental analytics via the Business Data Catalog (BDC), including links to backend systems. With executive dashboards and reporting guidelines come metrics for how well the solution supports intended process or other business improvements.

Even from a purely internal perspective those processes are designed with the capabilities of SharePoint in mind. One telltale sign: business units that require SharePoint delivery to honor helpdesk tickets, expense reports and custom reporting for outside members. We saw another winning example of this in the third article in this series, in which accounting giant Grant Thornton now ties site creation to its backend time and billing system—key to instilling discipline around the collaboration of its account teams.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Building the Right Road Map

Written by Errin O'Connor, Published on Oct. 27, 2010 in the SD Times

Many organizations are either in the process of upgrading to SharePoint 2010, preparing to upgrade, or in the process of developing their “internal road map” for the future due to all the available functionality in SharePoint 2010. In the past couple weeks, I have had conversations around such topics as:

• Our organization has SharePoint 2007, but we also have LiveLink and want to move away from it to 2010. Where do we start?
• My healthcare organization has a ton of PII-related data in SharePoint 2007, and we want to clean it out before moving to 2010. How do we do that?
• SharePoint Designer 2010 blurs the lines of the Information Worker and the Development team, so what do we do about workflows? Should we go with SharePoint Designer, Visual Studio, Visio 2010 or another third-party solution?
• How do we start to develop our enterprise content types? We have a retention schedule, but it has 600 fields in it. How does that translate into SharePoint?
• We have had eRoom for five years and want to migrate to SharePoint 2010, but we want to change the navigational hierarchy and clean up our data prior to the move.
• Our organization has SharePoint 2003 and Project Server 2007. How do we properly implement new SharePoint 2010 sites?
• We have a ton of SQL Reporting Service reports built with SharePoint 2007, but our executives want reporting with dashboards and KPIs. How best should we implement PerformancePoint 2010?
• We have Tier 1 and Tier 2 teams, but where does development fit into the equation? How do we set up a support model and what are the true roles and responsibilities we should implement for SharePoint 2010?

These are just a few of the issues facing organizations today. Your IT (SharePoint and Information Architecture Strategy) road map is key. So many organizations out there planned to move off their file shares into SharePoint 2007 but never did... Why is that? Well, there are all sorts of reasons why, but I can tell you from speaking to clients every day that this is going to end up happening all over the country in the next 12–24 months.

Can we finally put the file shares to rest? I believe we can, but again, a road map is key. A spring cleaning of your file shares this fall and winter needs to happen, and the internal political struggles over who owns what content need to work themselves out.

Governance is something that just can’t be ignored when it comes to SharePoint. You are probably tired of reading monthly articles and takes on SharePoint governance, why it’s so important, and why the lack of it is so concerning. I am here to tell you governance in SharePoint is all encompassing. Governance doesn’t just cover items like how large your file upload size limits are or what quota sizes you’re going to allow into your SharePoint sites.

SharePoint Governance also covers:

• Your support teams (Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3)
• SharePoint development and the related best practices
• Migration playbooks/strategies for getting away from file shares or other document management systems such as Documentum, LiveLink, eRoom, DocuShare, etc.
• My Site policies
• Content Type strategies
• Branding, or “look and feel”
• Integration with other systems
• Reporting, KPIs and dashboards
• Strategies for Power Users, and how to train the trainer

So building the right road map and support team for SharePoint is something that you must develop as soon as possible, and it should also fall under the umbrella of governance. Not just SharePoint governance, though, but your overall IT governance.

SharePoint 2010 is becoming the ecosystem it was promised. Whether it’s a large federal government institution, a Fortune 500 financial corporation or manufacturer, or a startup with 50 people trying to share documents and content, SharePoint has morphed from the “world’s largest Swiss Army knife” to something a whole lot more with SharePoint 2010’s release.

Develop your organization’s IT strategy and road map to not only include what you want to accomplish in 6–12 months but also in 24–36 months. Even if you’re not migrating completely off your file shares this year, but plan on doing it sometime next year, put a placeholder for it in your plan. Also, put placeholders in your road map for getting off all of “these other systems” and consolidate into SharePoint 2010.

SharePoint 2010 is so powerful that it can cause a lot of internal policy and political discussions, and raise concerns about internal IT changes, but that is a good thing, and it’s only going to continue to grow and snowball once SharePoint 2010 is implemented. So prepare for it and develop a road map with placeholders for future projects, even if they are a few years down the road.

Errin O’Connor is one of the leading SharePoint architects and evangelists in the U.S., and is the founder and chief executive officer for EPC Group, a leading SharePoint consulting firm.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Three of EPC Group's Own are Experts in Residence for SecretsofSharePoint.com

SecretsofSharePoint.com, an online community for SharePoint administrators, developers, and users, features Errin O'Connor, Dehun Benton, and Miranda Price as Experts in Residence. EPC Group is a sponsor of the online community.

Errin O’Connor

Errin O’Connor is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer for EPC Group. Errin focuses his efforts on implementing Microsoft Technologies in organizations throughout the country. Errin manages EPC Group’s corporate strategy as well as architects the proven methodologies around collaboration, enterprise content management, and custom application development that have set EPC Group apart from its competitors.

Topics of Expertise:

Fortune 500 and Large-scale Enterprise Architecture and Design
Leading Microsoft SharePoint Expert
Microsoft Information Worker Solutions
Microsoft Enterprise Project Management Solutions
Microsoft Advanced Infrastructure Solutions
Microsoft Business Process and Integration Solutions
Microsoft Network Infrastructure Solutions
Microsoft Secure Networking Solutions
Microsoft Data Management Solutions
Microsoft Custom Development Solutions
Microsoft Operating and Server Systems
Server and Network Virtualization
Microsoft Press Author and Noted Speaker

Errin answers questions about:

SharePoint Governance Best Practices

Dehun Benton

Dehun Benton has been designing and implementing Microsoft Solutions and networked based solutions for major organizations for several years. His experience includes Software Development, Microsoft Technologies, Business and Technical Analysis, IT Project Management, and Operating Systems Management.

Topics of Expertise:

Microsoft Enterprise Project Management Solutions
Microsoft Custom Development Solutions
Microsoft Operating and Server Systems
Microsoft Sharepoint Solutions


Miranda Price

Miranda Price is Vice President of Business Development & Marketing at EPC Group. She is responsible for strategic planning and organizational implementation of sales and marketing activities. Miranda leads EPC Group’s corporate vision as well as strategy, overall sales and marketing efforts, development of strategic relationships, and alliance profitability.

Over the past 10 years, Miranda has enjoyed various roles in direct software sales and executive leadership positions allowing her to develop, grow and lead successful sales territories, teams and organizations. Miranda has a degree in Marketing & Brand Development with a strong focus on Consumer Buying Behavior. She carries extended sales certifications, leadership and technology competencies allowing her to foster and grow client and employee satisfaction. Miranda focuses on developing, delivering and managing quality solutions for all EPC Group clients. She holds high standards for all engagements and closely manages the business needs of all clients. Miranda places a tremendous amount of focus on leveraging the power of SharePoint to solve critical business needs and return on investment to foster organizational success and growth.

Topics of Expertise:

Microsoft SharePoint Solutions
Microsoft Project Server
Microsoft Operating and Server Systems
SharePoint Systems Integration
Corporate Change Management
Client Engagement Management
Partner Profitability and Management
Brand Development and Marketing
Government Sales and Account Management
Healthcare Sales and Account Management
SharePoint Disaster Recovery

Check out SecretsofSharePoint.com's Experts in Residence site to learn more.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Continental Airlines Turns to SharePoint to Avoid Flight Delays

Written by Errin O'Connor
Published in the September/October 2010 issue of Intranets: Enterprise Strategies & Solutions Newsletter

In April 2010, the U.S. Department of Transportation put new regulations into effect regarding long tarmac delays. The Airline Passenger Bill of Rights says that delays of any type that go on for more than 3 hours can result in extensive fines per passenger. It lays out specific processes that must be handled at each hour of a long delay, such as access to food and water or even returning an aircraft to the gate and allowing passengers to deplane.

For Continental Airlines, transforming this regulation into a workable reality means ensuring that dozens of internal departments and individuals can quickly and easily communicate with any of a number of outside vendors at any given point. If a plane sits for too long without getting the appropriate food and beverage service, or if a delay lasts too long and the crew have to offer an option to return a plane to the gate, operations personnel on the ground need to know who to call in catering or at the airport to make arrangements.

Previously, such communications were handled by telephone and email. If a plane were delayed in Boston, for example, an operations agent at Logan International Airport would call someone at Continental’s operations center to relay information. The operations center in Houston would then create regular lists from this ad hoc information to keep the team updated. Meanwhile, if the plane needed something, such as a shift change or a return to the gate, it was up to the people on the ground to figure out what needed to be done and who to call, often using hard copy information stored in files around the local offices.

With the passage of the Airline Passenger Bill of Rights, Continental automated the process so people on the ground could get the information they need, and the central operations center remained updated on the status of any plane at any moment anywhere at 135 domestic airports.

Denise Wilson, senior manager of technology in Continental’s enterprise engineering group in Houston, was tasked with building a single system that incorporated an intranet containing all the necessary documents and information with a front-end dashboard to keep the operations center completely up to date. “For example, the flight operations department needed to know at which hour of a delay to call the catering vendor at the airport, or when and how to send out a service crew. With so many different departments working together, we need to be able to quickly find all information and also archive our response to the delay for legal purposes,” says Wilson. In short, her department needed to organize an enormous amount of electronic clutter in a short amount of time and on a budget.

“Previously, all the information was in emails or phone calls, so the operations people needed to sift through email to find the information and data they needed,” says Wilson. “We still use email for alerting, but instead of sending information there, we send a link back to the information, such as weather, diversions, or aircraft substitutions.”

Wilson chose to build the system on SharePoint because, based on her experience, she believed that once properly implemented, anyone, technically savvy or not, could easily populate and use the application. “Prior to undertaking this project, we had been rolling out SharePoint for our overall enterprise content management efforts,” Wilson says. “The senior director of the System Operations Coordination Center (SOCC) and executives in Continental Technology immediately saw the potential for using this as part of our flight delay response program, mostly because it’s user-friendly and operations directors wouldn’t need much training to configure an internal site for their own needs.”

Wilson chose to work with EPC Group to help Continental Airlines establish its initial enterprise content management (ECM) efforts, including building the platform and laying out the governance regulations. By creating a standardized and manageable site, the operations team within Continental was able to then create the intranet sites they needed in order to succeed.

PRE-DEPLOYMENT PROCESS
The overall goal for its flight-delay dashboard was to create an easy-to-use, flexible system that would be used by the people who needed it most. The dashboard itself is a series of lists that provide useful, updated information, so the value lies in the information behind that which resides in the core data repository.

“Before we built the SharePoint application, EPC Group coached us on how to determine what would work best for our needs. They provided us with the most important questions to ask our would-be users and worked with our business units to understand how we use our data,” says Wilson. “We started with a full audit of the information within the Continental Airlines group. That included documents in every department, from food services to corporate finance to HR to purchasing. In all, we analyzed several terabytes of information in millions of files.”

GOVERNANCE
It’s not enough to simply build a SharePoint application. In order to keep it running smoothly and efficiently, governing rules must apply. The success of an implementation such as this one depends on how the users take to the technology and whether it actually makes their life easier or becomes a nuisance.

Thus, EPC Group counseled Continental to take a more user-centric approach to its SharePoint implementation. While some consider a SharePoint installation a technical process that falls under the domain of the
IT department, the most successful deployments occur when all stakeholders and users are considered in the process.

Continental’s governance process can be broken into just a few key points:
• Encouraging usage at the corporate level
• Structuring the overall organizational SharePoint growth
• Structuring search and navigation to increase accessibility
• Encouraging user accountability and upkeep
• Maintaining content and site standards

Putting the rules in place is one thing; getting people to actually follow those rules and use the tool is quite another. In all, Continental had an initial goal of attracting 3,000 users to SharePoint. To achieve this, Continental focused on identifying 50 core power-users who would be key to getting the SharePoint implementation up and running. These people were trained on how to use the software; they were also those who would become internal evangelists to help get others on board.

Once the overall SharePoint implementation was up and running, Continental was able to use the platform to create a variety of portal types. In the case of the long tarmac delay program, the process started with an employee in the IT department creating a 16-page Microsoft InfoPath form that was then distributed to 135 airport general managers within the Continental universe. The process from inception to distribution took about 2 weeks, a time that included multiple iterations and a small group of beta testers. It took just another 3 days for the managers to fill the information and get it into the system.

To meet its objectives of unifying access to a large amount of information, Continental needed more than organized information storage. As Wilson notes, “Content management is extremely important, especially in time-sensitive situations. However, it’s not enough to simply store data, but it must be easily accessible.” To that end, Continental needed a structured search functionality across the organization to narrow searches and reduce the amount of time it takes to locate information. With a few technical back-end solutions combined with minimal user training, employees can quickly narrow down searches from thousands of responses to just a few.

Today, Continental relies on the native SharePoint search, but also created a system in which people tag the appropriate data on its way into the system. Some metadata is pre-populated automatically, such as the three-letter site code as well as the division and default retention policy. Each time a user creates a new document, they’re asked to select what type of document, such as contract or presentation, and that additional metadata gets added to the pre-populated information. These few actions in the creation or revision of a document lets employees know when a document can be safely deleted—freeing up storage space and also keeping the legal department happy.

THE REWARDS
The primary benefit of the system is regular access to real-time information. So while a plane is sitting on the ground in Boston, a person can look out the window, enter information into the system, and actions can happen in Houston and around the country. This ensures that customers are taken care of no matter the flight situation. While Continental can control its planes, it can’t control the weather and can’t control what happens at the airport level. Fast access to information can make all of customer service work better.

As an additional benefit, people have shaved several hours of work off of their day. Where they previously sifted through email to create lists of flight delays and information, all that is now handled automatically, leaving them time to get into action plans rather than just becoming list makers. In addition to helping the company avoid costly fines, Wilson says, “We believe that we’ve gained enough productivity from not having to create reports manually that the system has already paid for itself.”

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

SharePoint TechCon Platinum Sponsor

We've arrived..... In Boston that is for SharePoint Technology Conference 2010! We are thrilled to meet out friends and clients while spreading the world of SharePoint 2010.

Come meet our experts at booth 405 to win incredible prizes!






Hear our CEO & Chief SharePoint Architect deliver two Technical Classes:

Technical Class 403: SharePoint Foundation 2010: From the Inside Out

From the author of Microsoft Press’s new book on SharePoint Foundation 2010, Errin O’Connor will take you into a deep dive of real-world, in-progress projects from companies of all sizes. Errin will discuss the differences between SharePoint Server 2010 and SharePoint Foundation 2010, and he may leave you surprised to find out how “getting your feet wet” with SharePoint Foundation 2010 prior to upgrading your MOSS deployment to SharePoint Server 2010 may save your organization some serious time and provide you with a true ROI. SharePoint Foundation 2010 is 10 times more powerful than WSS 3.0, and with the BCS, SharePoint Designer, Office 2010, and some other governance and best practices tips thrown in, it will be a major player in the intranet, project-based, and application development platform space for many years to come.
TECHNICAL LEVEL: Intermediate
AUDIENCE: Architect, IT Admin, Business User, Developer
PLATFORM: SharePoint Foundation 2010

Technical Class 706: Fortune 500 and Large-Scale Government Deployments

Errin O’Connor has led some of the largest deployments in the history of Microsoft SharePoint, and he is currently working on several deployments with 200,000 to 400,000 users with terabytes and even (yes, it's true) petabytes of data. Errin’s firm, EPC Group, has developed a patented methodology around its SharePoint Center of Excellence approach to SharePoint that will ensure that Fortune 500-size companies, or massive government, DoD, or multinational organizations, do things right the first time and take Errin’s time-tested approach to working on these behemoth projects. He uses multi-language, secure data, HIPPA and 508 Compliance, integration with Oracle, PeopleSoft, SAP. Whether it's working with SharePoint deployments on rigs via satellite phone connections to store Coast Guard compliance documents, or working on some of the more-treasured national institutes, Errin encourages you to bring your questions to this session and bring up questions you thought you may never get answered.
TECHNICAL LEVEL: Advanced
AUDIENCE: Architect
PLATFORM: MOSS 2007, SharePoint 2010


ERRIN O'CONNOR
Errin is the founder and CEO of EPC Group, and the author of Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Inside Out, published by Microsoft Press. He has completed more than 93 individual SharePoint implementations and has worked with some of the largest organizations in the United States.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Internal SharePoint Marketing -- Tipping the Balance towards Power Users

Of all the interviews conducted for an ongoing SharePoint Reality Series in KMWorld, one of the simplest and most compelling ingredients of a successful deployment is put forth by EPC Group's Errin O'Connor, and his notion of power users. It’s not the extra licensing, the extra server farm, or frankly a 3rd party outfit like Errin’s that spells the difference. It’s the folks in your enterprise that connect the business goals of their team to a platform for delivering them. Sound a bit abstract? How’s this for incentive: they map their own job skills and career assets to their knowledge of SharePoint.

That’s why deployment teams should resist the temptation to provide introductory SharePoint training and opt instead for coaching power users and their teams – the more grounded in their day-to-day grunt work, the better. Power users self-identify as stakeholders. They're accountable but they're not stuck on precedent or tethered to the orthodoxy of an outmoded approvals process. Governance is not administrivia any more than innovation is free-form experimentation. There’s a balance between discipline and exploration. There’s also a duality between the power user’s role as SharePoint consumer and producer – someone on the hook for scaling the productivity gains of a wider adoption.

Power users straddle the line between trying anything once and building on what works. They don't answer to a central command or a rogue band of enterprise insurgents. They answer to results -- the most pragmatic of change agents.

O'Connor cites a full blown document management initiative at Continental Airlines, where the original goal was to get 50 power users to support 3,000 end-users at HQ in Houston. "These people all have day jobs," says O'Connor. They're not theorists or programmers but see SharePoint as an extension of the broader business goals that require an ECM platform like SharePoint to succeed: “How can I put you in a portal today?” is the used car salesman line that O'Connor invokes for describing Continental's playing of the power user card.

One internal marketing vehicle he recommends is to create internal SharePoint training sites. These are not introductions for generalists but just-in-time learning materials targeted to specific build approaches, workflow models, security, and architectural designs that help power users to leverage the webpart galleries,coding repositories and best internal practices that have been leveraged by their cross-functional peers. O'Connor encourages clients like Continental to download learning tools like Camtasia Studio and generate five minute training videos:

1.How do I enable inbound email to a library?
2.How do I set up a new list?
3.How do I add folks to my workspace, etc…?

These task-specific lessons are too granular for Microsoft to address but take on a more genuine team-building benefit for users familiar with the processes and players exemplified in these training demos. Think of it as ShareTube for your project leads. Whatever way happens to work O'Connor puts his finger on the Key to successful SharePoint rollouts: empower your technical business users. "These are natural SharePoint proponents and will see through what they start."

O’Connor likes to use a retail metaphor to describe enterprise adoption. In the SharePoint economy the system administrators are the mall managers while the store owner is the power user. It’s those shopkeepers that manage inventory and make sure content is relevant – they police the store.

Global and local champions – like any KM or document management initiative – need to keep the snowball rolling down the hill. Project leaders need to identify or seek out power users. In the absence of a formal rollout, they need to reward power users with incentive plans for their teams to utilize SharePoint – and reinforce that through internal marketing.

From a more central perspective those pockets of power users form a collective picture of what no single CXO or unit head can speak to with any real gravity or conviction -- that's the fundamental question: what are we using SharePoint for -- not the roadmap, but the reality. This can be a trick (and anxiety-laden) question because:

•SharePoint orchestrations are inherently complex, and
•No single group is leading the way

What O'Connor likes to call the world’s largest Swiss army knife can take an enterprise in any number of directions. The larger point that gets lost is that with so much functionality, a power user support mechanism is critical for defining and ultimately driving how current projects can map to looming priorities. For an enterprise that’s already embraced MOSS, there’s no better indication of how and where to pool enterprise resources.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

SharePoint Saturday NYC

For those of you that were not able to make it.... HUGE SUCCESS!

Our own Errin O'Connor keynoting the event to a packed room leaving the crowd impressed with this approach and knowledge on SP2010.




Make sure and check out our pics from the show!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/epcgroup/

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Best Practices for Managing Accessibility and Privacy Compliance within Colleges and Universities



On Thursday, July 22nd, join two of the leading SharePoint solutions providers as they share time tested experience on managing compliance and privacy specifically for Higher Education. EPC Group and HiSoftware will share best practices and real world experience on managing content compliance around Section 508 and privacy. Hear case studies highlighting how other universities have tackled compliance challenges within their organizations.

You will learn how to:

* Prevent Future Problems by hearing Real Life Experience and Challenges
* Implement Best Practices to Properly Manage and Prevent Compliance Issues
* Identify accessibility (Section 508) and privacy risks
* Automate and enforce regulatory guidelines and standards to stay ahead of compliance challenges before they become an issue

Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/725370929

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Spotlight on 2010: Healthcare Institutions Going Full Steam Ahead with SharePoint 2010

Since SharePoint 2010’s launch, healthcare organizations from all over the country have expressed interest in all facets of its functionality. The EPC Group has been working not only with government healthcare institutes but also many prestigious hospital systems from all over the United States.

Electronic Medical Records are being pushed by the U.S. government as a way to get hospitals across the U.S. off paper charts, graphs and the 1990s way that paper-based documents were managed. I still shake my head that in 2010 my doctor still has to call his nurse in to pull up my chart, or have it sitting in the plastic holder outside the waiting room when they call me in.

Epic and Cerner, the two major players in the healthcare software arena, definitely don’t want a firm like mine to “crack the code” or develop the API to seamlessly bring in HIPAA-compliant data into SharePoint; trust me, we have been trying. Only the hospitals and government institutions that own versions of these tools will let us “dig in their sandbox” to develop Web services in APIs with either MOSS 2007 or SharePoint 2010 and the BCS (with custom code).

Why shouldn’t SharePoint 2010 take over Epic’s MyChart capabilities, and have the healthcare organization’s document management, intranet and Internet-facing managed with SharePoint’s seamless (easy to use and affordable) interface?

I think we are getting ready to see it happen, and I have been working with my firm and with other institutes to try to build these solutions, but I can assure you that CIOs of some of the biggest healthcare institutes in the world are very interested in this, and I am predicting this will happen in the next few years.

For more information on this topic (as it is a passion of mine), please feel free to e-mail me at errino@epcgroup.net as I am getting ready to release a white paper through this newsletter on this topic in the months to come.

Errin O’Connor is the Founder and CEO of EPC Group. He is currently in the process of writing "Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010—Inside Out" for Microsoft Press/O’Reilly Media.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What is SharePoint 2010? Vision and Reality

What is SharePoint 2010? Vision and Reality

Most of our readers have a pretty clear idea of what SharePoint (news, site) is. However, many people misperceive its core functions. And Microsoft's product websites — with their broad ambitions — aren't always clear enough for new-comers. So for the confused amongst us, here's a concise response to the simple question: What is SharePoint?

What's In a Name? A lot.
Names are important and in some cases that goes for software too. In the content, document and collaboration industry it seems that everything needs to fit into perfect categories, so that we can better understand features and capabilities and be able to run side-by-side comparisons. Some vendors define new categories in their desire to set themselves apart. Some of these are deserved, others are marketing tricks.

How should you categorize SharePoint? That seems to depend on whether you are talking about SharePoint 2007 (see our SharePoint 2007 review) or SharePoint 2010 (see our SharePoint 2010 review). It also depends on who you ask and what your needs are.

For starters, the name SharePoint is a solid clue — this software product is first about sharing information and secondly about finding and collaborating on information at a specific place.

The Six Pillars of SharePoint, New and Old
Microsoft has released several generations of SharePoint, but you only need to be concerned with SharePoint 2007, which has been around for roughly 3 years now, and SharePoint 2010, which was officially released in May 2010.

In the pie diagrams below you see that Microsoft divided both SharePoint 2007 and 2010 into 6 different core functional areas, and that these core concepts have evolved from the 2007 to the 2010 version.


SharePoint 2007 and 2010 — Core Functional Area Comparison

In SharePoint 2007, the six functional areas include:

1.Collaboration
2.Portal
3.Search
4.Content management
5.Business forms
6.Business intelligence
This release of the product included the first forays into both web content management and connectivity with back-end business systems. However, for the majority of users, SharePoint 2007 was really used as a glorified file sharing service, with a bit of collaboration added on.

SharePoint 2010 aims to change this — to really move towards Microsoft's dream of SharePoint as an enterprise platform for many different information applications and information worker uses.

The 2010 release offers a number of improvements over the 2007 product, including user interface improvements, greater social capabilities, deeper business intelligence, advanced records and document management and better integration with with other systems.

SharePoint 2010: An Ambitious Enterprise Platform
In the following six sections I quickly walk you through the key parts of SharePoint 2010. As you read on, keep in mind that customers are in no way obliged to use all of these things. Some companies will use five or six of the core areas, some might only use one.

Regardless, to understand what SharePoint really is, you need to understand the highly ambitious agenda Microsoft has for the product. It is this: To become the single point for all information aggregation, search and collaboration in your organization.

That's a lofty goal. Let's look closer.

1. Sites: Building and Managing Internal and External Websites
While there have been a number of improvements related to web content management (WCM) in SharePoint 2010, CMSWire readers know that it's a stretch to call it a full-fledged web content management system. Nevertheless, Microsoft has stated that they believe SharePoint is a good platform to support your WCM needs, whether it's for an intranet, extranet or an Internet.

In short, SharePoint 2010 comes with native Web CMS functionality. Regardless of how you use SharePoint, you will likely use some of this functionality, at least for internal collaboration websites. Broader uses could include running your entire intranet on SharePoint, or running your public-facing website(s) on SharePoint. However, these are decisions you'll have to make based on thorough analyses. There very well might be other products in the market that will better meet your needs.

With that said, there are sensible people who are enthusiastic about SharePoint 2010's Web CMS capabilities. For example, Tom Resing, a Microsoft Certified Master in SharePoint, had this to say about SharePoint 2010:

"SharePoint is software from Microsoft designed to make publishing on the web as easy as using Word, Excel, Access + PowerPoint."

He went on to say that he's proving it by putting his own website on SharePoint as part of the "SharePoint WCM revolution".

Other people are more tepid on SharePoint 2010 as a Web CMS solution. Errin O'Connor, the CEO of the EPC Group, also believes SharePoint can be used for web content management, but that Microsoft really needs to sort out the licensing before we'll see it used more broadly for public-facing websites.

The 2010 release does bring a number of WCM improvements:

•A more intuitive content authoring/editing experience, with a similar look and feel to MS Office
•Better support for websites that need to be available in multiple languages
•Better organizing and categorizing of content
•Compliance with Web Standards like XHTML and WCAG 2.0 AA to ensure a wider range of users and devices can view your website
•Improved search, particularly via FAST Search, including more relevant results and more ways to view the results
•Integration of Web Analytics to see how your website is performing
•Personalization via Audience targeting
•Cross browser Support — view your site on most of the popular browsers today
Here is an example of a multi-national company which decided to run their website on SharePoint 2010:


An Example of a Public Website Powered by SharePoint 2010 (KraftFoods.com)

For more information on SharePoint 2010, see our recent article WCM is Better in SharePoint 2010 - Is it Enough?

2. Communities: Creating a Social Collaboration Environment
If you are on Facebook it's probably to keep in touch with friends and family, and stay mildly horrified by the lives of your old high school classmates. If you are on Twitter, it's about jabbering with friends and tracking topics or people of interest. We'll side step the online stalking dating aspects of these things for the moment.

Social capabilities like Facebook and Twitter are becoming normal for many of us, and for the youngest generation of workers, status updates and micro messaging have long been part of la vie quotidienne.

Now all this social media stuff is moving into the workplace, as part and parcel of the typical information worker's desktop. It all boils down to providing a modern approach to working together, collaborating and sharing knowledge.

So these capabilities need to be a component of every piece of software we use. SharePoint 2010 works towards this goal by supporting:

•The ability to create detailed user profiles (think employee Facebook pages)
•Use of modern tools for sharing and collaboration including blogs, wikis, RSS feeds and activity streams
•The creation of special interest groups (Communities) to share knowledge or work on projects (these often map directly to your company's org chart)
•Interactivity and engagement via commenting and discussions around content items, and social tagging/bookmarking of content
•The creation of separate personal spaces or dashboards called MySites where you can keep track of your own content, and the work you are doing in certain communities, projects and more

SharePoint 2010 — Rich User Profiles, Similar to Employee Facebook Pages


The most successful people in organizations rely on the talents and knowledge of other people to help them get their jobs done. Social tools like those listed above help people find the right resources — people, information and conversations — so they aren't always starting from scratch.

It is the integration of these capabilities with other functionality within SharePoint that points to its ability to deliver a full platform of capabilities.

3. Content: Managing Your Documents, Information and Records
In the 2010 release Microsoft greatly improved the functionality for creating and managing business documents. Organizations typically have two types of content: documents and information used to complete tasks and activities, and records. Records differ from the previous category in that they are documents and information that must be frozen and stored for compliance and/or regulatory purposes.

SharePoint 2010 provides the tools to help you work with both:

•Manage all of your organization's documents and other information including controlling who can read and update them
•Categorize them for easier search and retrieval
•Mark them as official records and lock them down from further changes
As part of Content functionality in SharePoint, you have direct integration with your MS Office environment, so you can work on your documents in a familiar environment.


SharePoint 2010 — In place Records Management with Disposition

Microsoft has greatly improved the usability of both document and records management within SharePoint 2010. They have evolved the platform from document storage system to a truely collaborative working environment.

4. Search: The Google for Your Organization's Private Info
It doesn't matter how large or small your organization is, when you need certain information or documents, you want it now. Rarely does that happen. Information is typically scattered around and often your internal search engines are not very effective at finding it.

In short, Google often makes your IT department look bad. That's why a strong search facility is critical to the success of a product like SharePoint — Google has raised our expectations and made search look easy.

SharePoint 2010 has two levels of search: the built in functionality which is greatly improved from SharePoint 2007 and FAST Search, offering additional functionality. Out of the box SharePoint search includes the ability to:

•Search for information and people, including particular expertise
•Index content and data stored outside of your SharePoint database
•Use your Windows 7 desktop search to find information within SharePoint
•Refine search results based on taxonomy and metadata (how content is organized and classified)
The addition of FAST Search bring enhancements, including:

•View thumbnails and previews of content within the result set
•Refine results based on user profile or audience
•The ability to refine search results with filters like Site, Author, Result Type and more

SharePoint 2010 Search Results Using FAST Search

5. Insights: Digging for Business Intelligence
A key goal in any business is staying ahead of the competition. Increasingly, the class of software called Business Intelligence plays an important role here. Business intelligence software is all about helping you make decisions and find problems.

There was a time when you needed a special role in your organization for someone to do all this data gathering and analysis. But times have changed and SharePoint 2010 provides a number of tools that put this capability in the hands of the average employee.

With this release you can:

•Use tools like Excel to gather and analyze data that is stored in SharePoint
•Use SharePoint's native Excel Services engine to crunch data and build web-based reports
•Pull together information from different systems and present it in SharePoint
•Create dashboards, scorecards, and other views — making key performance indicators widely accessible to information workers and process managers

SharePoint Business Intelligence Dashboard Using Native Excel Services

The key to remember is that everyone in your organization can have a hand in how well your business does — if you provide them with the information and tools to do it.

6. Composites: Integrating Your Business Systems
Another big improvement for SharePoint 2010 relates to its ability talk to — pushing and pulling data — your other business systems. Instead of having to work in multiple systems, you can create composite applications — mashups, if you like that term — on the SharePoint platform that pull together various data and content from different systems, including SharePoint content, to provide a single location for an employee to work.


SharePoint 2010's Business Connectivity Services (BCS) — Tying Information Together


Using SharePoint you can create web-based forms that update SharePoint databases or update external databases. These forms can even feed into Word or Excel documents — the disparate data can become a composite right inside your MS Office applications, or in your browser.

Data integrations are key for management dashboards and project management, but also for employees who may not need full access to the business application. It's important to note that SharePoint 2010 can both view and update external data via its Business Connectivity Services (BCS).


SharePoint 2010 — Business Connectivity Services

One thing we've all learned about enterprise collaboration tools is that for them to succeed, they need to be integrated with the productivity tools we already use on a daily basis. By tying SharePoint closely to things like MS Office 2010 applications and with email clients like Outlook, Microsoft is working to improve the probability of employee adoption of these new tools.

SharePoint As A Cloud Platform
In the era of the cloud, we're obliged to mention Microsoft's Software-as-a-Service (a.k.a. the cloud) strategy. Along with the on-premise version of SharePoint 2010, Microsoft will also be upgrading their cloud based version, known as Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS).

A number of improvements are expected, including:

•Completely customize the look and feel of your hosted SharePoint site
•Connect SharePoint data into your external apps via its web services
•BCS (business connectivity services), formerly BDC, will be available to connect external busienss applications
•Create applications that exist on the desktop and connect to the server for SharePoint Online
With the increased growth in the use of the cloud for applications like SharePoint, BPOS may be a way for you to get up and running quickly at a cost that would be much less then implementing SharePoint on premise.

Enterprise Collaboration — Vision, Tools and Reality
Microsoft has referred to SharePoint 2010 as a business collaboration platform, a kind of one stop shop for all your information worker needs. It is nice to think that you could come to work in the morning and only have to open the browser and merrily work away in perfect collaborative harmony with your most capable coworkers.

This is the vision of Enterprise 2.0 and the one Microsoft seeks to enable via their SharePoint platform and tools.

Understanding Microsoft's vision and SharePoint's capabilities is important. This article helps there. Moving your organization towards a more engaged and collaborative daily routine is a much more complicated task. Towards that end you might want to read our article: Architecting Participation with Enterprise Social Media. Tools without vision and vision without reality, neither combination will go far.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Spotlight on 2010: It's 'Go' Time

As the great General George S. Patton once said, “Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.” Now how best can one interpret this as we are handed a CD or download a copy off MSDN of one of the most powerful and versatile pieces of software released to date?

OK, maybe it’s not quite that dramatic, but SharePoint 2010 is here and organizations are piloting it and beginning to implement it. My firm, EPC Group, is currently engaged in several SharePoint 2010 implementations, and it really is an amazing piece of software. There are several truths that still apply, though, when implementing this juggernaut in your organization. At EPC Group, we make sure we stress these, regardless of a 2010 or 2007 implementation.

So, what makes for a successful SharePoint initiative?

•Proper upfront planning (The System & Information Architecture)
•Looking at the big picture and developing a SharePoint Roadmap for your organization (A Roadmap for six months, 12 months and 18 months)
•Executive Sponsorship/Executive Buy-in
•Enterprise SharePoint Governance: planning and enforcement
•Development of a rock-solid environment with a corresponding disaster recovery plan so you do not ever lose your users’ confidence or their content
•Developing a core set of Metadata/Content Type standards in the initial stages of your initiatives
•Finding and achieving quick wins to “wow” your users
I started implementing SharePoint almost 10 years ago (wow, how fast time flies), and I find these seven bullet points still stand true. But with SharePoint 2010 (either SharePoint Foundation 2010 or SharePoint Server 2010), there are whole lists of new bullet points and implementation methodologies that must be followed.

With SharePoint 2010, just a few new items we must contend with (i.e. govern) are:

• The Ribbon: It offers new functionality in the SharePoint 2010 user interface. The Ribbon serves as the primary command surface that you can use to interact with objects inside of SharePoint Foundation. In earlier product versions, commands were accessed across multiple surfaces and located in varying menus.

• User Interface (UI) Improvements:

•Master Pages: In SharePoint 2010, application pages now reference the site master page. Content and application pages now contain the same content placeholders in SharePoint 2010.
•Cascading Style Sheets: The cascading style sheets in SharePoint 2010 have been revamped. The CSS has been divided into multiple files to enable more targeted customization scenarios and to improve page-loading performance.
• Windows PowerShell for SharePoint: A new command-line tool and supporting scripting language from Microsoft complements Cmd.exe in the Windows administration context.

• Silverlight Integration and the Fluid Application Model: A built-in, extensible, Silverlight Web Part specifically designed to host Silverlight applications. Closely related to the new Web Part is the Fluid Application Model (FAM) that enables secure, cross-domain integration between external applications and SharePoint Foundation deployments.

• Workflow Improvements

•New Workflow Activities
•Pluggable Workflow Services
•Workflow Events
• Alerts Enhancements: SharePoint 2010 takes advantage of the new mobile messaging framework to enhance its Alerts feature. The mobile messaging framework is itself extensible, so you can create your SharePoint Foundation solutions that incorporate SMS messages that are sent to mobile telephones.

• ECM Improvements: Managing millions of documents, eDiscovery capabilities, and the whole kitchen sink.

• Business Connectivity Services (formerly the Business Data Catalog): Provides read/write access to external data from line-of-business systems, Web services, databases, and other external systems within SharePoint 2010.

So with all of this new functionality, it is absolutely critical to address your organization’s governance strategy, your global content types, your power users, and your long-term document management strategy, because SharePoint 2010 really can do just about anything other than take out the trash and wash the car.

To finish off with one more quote, Jerry Seinfeld once said, “Why do they call it a 'building'? It looks like they're finished. Why isn't it a 'built'?"

Just implementing SharePoint 2010 out of the box and letting your users start to utilize it without these proper strategies and methodologies is not advised.

SharePoint 2010 is here, it’s powerful, it offers massive ROI to your organization, and many CIOs, IT Directors, and business leaders are going to have to start making tough decisions around things like:

• How do we migrate away from our older existing ECM platform (like Documentum, LiveLink, eRoom, etc.) and into SharePoint 2010?
• Where do we draw the line on My Site Collaboration and social networking?
• What really is our organization’s retention schedule?
• How are we going to finally get off file shares?
• Our e-mail .pst’s need to go, how can SharePoint and the Office 2010 suite help me here to lower the litigation and risk of .pst's, etc.?
• How do we finally get all of our different SharePoint implementations under one centralized umbrella instead of several dispersed implementations?

It’s an exciting time and SharePoint 2010’s ROI is huge—it’s just a matter of doing it right the first time. So ask the tough questions of yourself and your organization around some of the topics mentioned above if you're thinking about either upgrading or pursuing a new SharePoint 2010 implementation.

Errin O’Connor is the principal at The EPC Group, a Houston-based SharePoint consulting firm specializing in large-scale and government deployments.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

EPC Group aids Continenal Airlines in Tracking Delayed Flights in SharePoint




http://searchcio.techtarget.com/news/article/0,289142,sid182_gci1512750,00.html

When new regulations regarding long tarmac delays went into effect recently, Continental Airlines Inc. was ready to react with a SharePoint installation that puts various aspects of flight operations -- aircraft status, pilots, crews and customer care -- on the same page.

"If they're waiting to take off, operations needs to know how to manage the situation," said Denise Wilson, senior manager of technology in Continental's enterprise engineering group in Houston. "Passengers on that flight need to connect downline with other aircraft. There's a lot of coordination that goes on, and [Microsoft Office] SharePoint is really helping us bring all those disparate pieces together."

Continental's Airport Services group came to Wilson after the Department of Transportation announced the new delay rules on Dec. 21, 2009, saying they needed to have a tool up quickly. The rules, which went into effect April 29, prevent airlines from holding passengers for more than three hours on an idling plane. A violation carries steep penalties of as much as $27,500 per passenger. "There was not a long time frame to make this [SharePoint installation] happen," Wilson said.

With help from EPC Group Inc., an integrator based in Houston, Wilson's staff created a standardized, user-friendly SharePoint collaboration presence, including an InfoPath form that allowed 135 general managers at Continental's domestic airports to fill out a 16-page online form without any training. The form includes the names and numbers of airport workers, from the airport authority to the person who drives the stairs to planes waiting on the tarmac.

"The general managers needed to specify what they would do with a one-hour delay, a two-hour delay, at two-and-a-half hours," Wilson said. "Questions like, 'Who would bring the pretzels?' and 'Who would deliver the diapers and Handi Wipes?'" she said. "The airline business is very complex."

The InfoPath form was in production well ahead of April 29; and last week, Wilson rolled out a custom SharePoint collaboration portal that features a dashboard for Continental's centralized system operations center. People in the system-ops center can use the dashboard to find information quickly and coordinate with pilots, crews and dispatchers in response to delays from weather or erupting volcanoes.

EPC Group helped Continental develop a framework for the portal to support content management and e-discovery, the legal process of finding documents under subpoena for a court case. This was the fundamental driver for the portal, enabling Continental employees to store and retrieve presentations, images, contracts and so forth, Wilson said. EPC Group helped the airline come up with a standard structure across the organization to narrow searches, reducing the amount of time it takes to find information.

For example, if Wilson were to search the portal for SharePoint documents, she would get 8,448 results. If she limited the search to the "engineering work order" document type, she would get 22 results. "You can find what you need from your department or another department quickly and easily," she said. "It's a huge savings in time. Metrics show that people spend a large part of their day just looking for things."

The general managers had to specify what they would do with a one-hour, a two-hour delay, at two-and-a-half hours: 'Who would bring the pretzels?' and 'Who would deliver the diapers and Handi Wipes?'
Denise Wilson
senior manager of technology, Continental Airlines Inc.

Like most people, Craig Roth doesn't like being trapped in an airplane on a tarmac. "I'm glad they're tracking delays," said Roth, who is vice president and service director for collaboration and content strategies at Burton Group in Midvale, Utah. "I've often wondered, as I'm stuck on the runway for hours, why they can't collaborate better -- or at least tell us what's going on."

Speaking in his professional capacity, Roth said airlines didn't need to wait for the new regulations to implement document management and collaboration software. Lots of packages give businesses a better shot at letting the right hand knowing what the left hand is up to. Oracle Corp.'s WebCenter (formerly known as the Plumtree Collaboration Portal), for example, overlaps with some of SharePoint's functions, but is more of a native portal with standardization. IBM's Lotus Notes, the granddaddy of collaboration software, is mainly client/server-based, with Web access, whereas SharePoint is a Web-based application. Roth also noted the Webster Community Portal as a possible alternative.

"Then there are whole new categories of social software that would count -- blogs and wikis," Roth said. "To track airplanes, you could set up a wiki and have people post to it. If it's more complex, certainly you could code without the in-between layer of SharePoint. If I was an app-dev person, I'd maybe want to do a mashup with some coding and available options."

Continental's Wilson said she did look at several leading document management products, but found they were not as flexible as SharePoint -- and very expensive, too. Moreover, Continental has internal .Net expertise and partners with Microsoft, so a SharePoint installation was "a cost-effective solution for us," she said. "The ROI is huge. We've done this on a shoestring compared to other Fortune 500 companies in Houston," she added. Without revealing how much the implementation cost, she added that Continental is "pulling numbers to build other applications like we did for system operations on top of the portal -- for groups in operations, as well as marketing and reservations."

Cost-effective document management

Continental's business is built on four cornerstone goals: Fly to Win (have a successful operation); Make Reliability a Reality (get the passengers there on time, with their stuff); Working Together (as a team with dignity and respect); and Fund the Future (save money where you can). The SharePoint implementation is a Working Together and Fund the Future program, according to Wilson.

When she rolled out the portal, "The project sponsor told me there were "oohs and aahs, high-fives," Wilson said. "Airport Services liked it so much that we got a request to extend it internationally." The system is so user-friendly that Continental's senior director of system operations, who manages 200 people, can configure it to his needs.

In the project's next phase, in partnership with EPC and other application development groups within Continental, Wilson plans to configure a connection between legacy flight operations in Continental's mainframe and SharePoint. The system currently is internal, located on Continental's wide area network and intranet. Asked whether the airline would ever take SharePoint into the cloud, Wilson said, "We're just now investigating the possibilities and how that would work for us -- cost and feature comparisons. Historically, we have hosted our systems internally. It would be a significant change."

SharePoint 2010 is here!


That means.... so is our new 2010 book.

Check it out!

http://oreilly.com/catalog/9780735627246/

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Putting applications into the cloud not so clear-cut a process

The enabling technologies of cloud computing -- the Internet, service-oriented architecture and virtualization -- have orbited IT for years, but experts say a convergence has reached escape velocity: The time is right for applications in the cloud. But how do CIOs choose which applications to deploy?

Cloud storage: Five best practices for moving to the cloud

Enterprise CIOs should identify the lowest-risk, lowest-value areas for initial forays into the cloud, according to Julio Gomez, co-founder of Innovation Councils LLC, a Concord, Mass. organization that brings together CIOs in various industries to discuss emerging technologies. "Council members are understandably reluctant to put sensitive customer data out in the cloud," he said. "But email archiving? Or even nonstrategic software development? There are many areas with clear ROI arguments that can be considered for testing in the short term."

Experts recommend that enterprises begin their cloud experience with non-mission-critical applications that take advantage of the cloud's "elasticity" to rapidly provision and deprovision resources. The cloud is ideal for such temporary needs as testing and development, for example, or for scientific simulations that need to run for a couple of weeks, then scale down.

The cloud also works well for cyclical demands, such as sales spikes in retail environments around holidays. It's a reasonable alternative to building new space for infrastructure expansion, a reliable strategy for disaster recovery and a sound spot for old emails. In fact, production email may be the cloud's killer app, with many enterprises moving mailboxes to Google Inc.'s Gmail.

Project-based applications also are a natural fit, according to Errin O'Connor, founder and CEO of EPC Group Inc. in Houston, a systems integrator that has spent the last decade implementing Microsoft's SharePoint Web collaboration application for such clients as Northrop Grumman Corp., Continental Airlines Inc., Chevron Corp. and the U.S. Navy.

"Say a project is six months long, and you need an area for users to collaborate on documents -- that's where the cloud shines," O'Connor said. "For example, an oil and gas company had a huge project to spin up between two organizations, with well drawings, project schedules and task lists. They couldn't just go to IT and say, 'hey, guys, we need a site set up for 7,000 users by Tuesday,'" he said. "But they could call a cloud provider."

The cloud is great for external access by distributed workgroups, O'Connor said, but the external security model of the cloud offering must be robust. "There are a number of different security models that work, but it's most important to match those models to both the internal functional requirements and the specific cloud offerings," he said. EPC Group built its own external security model for SharePoint that allows administrators to open specific and targeted content to external users without putting internal and secure data at risk. Users can register for external access, change their existing password and maintain their individual account information.

Inconvenient truths

Perhaps it makes sense to determine which applications not to move into the cloud. Experts agree that databases, with their high I/O requirements, are better left in a standing server. Also, if an application server is operating at 80% capacity, it might as well be left alone. Most servers, however, are operating at 10% to 15% capacity, a tremendous waste of compute power and capital expense, according to McKinsey & Co., a global consultancy based in New York.


The cloud is not going to replace everything; it's not good for everything. IT is very pragmatic. There are still mainframes.
Carl Meadows
senior product manager, The Planet

Another inconvenient truth is latency. Before moving an application to the cloud, consider whether it requires microsecond response time. "You're not going to get that over the Internet; it just takes too long," said Michael Salsburg, chief architect for Unisys Cloud Computing in Blue Bell, Pa. "You're going from microsecond speeds on a LAN to milliseconds on the Internet. WAN latency can increase by 500 times," he said. With the wind at your back, you can transfer about a terabyte a day to a server in the cloud; if you have tons of terabytes, you're better off putting them on disks and shipping them, he added.

Other truths will indicate whether putting particular applications in the cloud makes sense. Carl Meadows, senior product manager for The Planet, a Houston-based website hosting company with a free public cloud in beta, suggests that CIOs ponder these questions:


Does the application need to be highly available? "When it comes to IaaS [Infrastructure as a Service], you are buying a virtual instance that exists somewhere. High availability and global distribution is on you; it's not solved just by going to the cloud," Meadows said. CIOs should consider acceptable downtime: You can pay for high availability or recognize that it's an internal application that needs to be very available.
What elements of a workload can be scaled out? "If you can clone a workload and drop another image in, that's where orchestration on cloud services shines," Meadows said. You can also offload services to better tune a workload, like moving mail off servers.
What is the demand volatility? With a production workload in the cloud, you're trying to automate peaks; you need to determine the frequency of change, and pay for the most basic unit to support that. Hourly payment structures are great for project workloads and spiky activity, Meadows said, but with a steady-state application, you don't need an hourly rate.
What are the integration requirements? Does the workload need to integrate with an internal LAN? Is it an extension of a workload or a new workload?

"There's a common misconception that the cloud is going to replace all in-house datacenters in the next few years," Meadows said. "The cloud is not going to replace everything; it's not good for everything. IT is very pragmatic. There are still mainframes."

Unisys' Salsburg advises that enterprises align applications with the appropriate cloud: public, for nonsensitive, low-CPU apps, such as storage of old emails; private, for highly sensitive data like financials; and hybrid, for customer-centric applications that use a Web front end tied to back-end data. Workload requirements, such as transactions per second, storage requests, network traffic, among others, need to be evaluated as well.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Fierce Content Management with Errin O'Connor

Founder and Chief Executive Officer for EPC Group, a SharePoint integrator, where he manages corporate strategy. In fact, O'Connor has written a new book due out later this year called Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010. He previously authored Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Inside Out.

We asked O'Connor about the new release and why SharePoint has proven to be so popular in the enterprise.

FCM: What are the biggest changes in SharePoint 2010?

EO: The biggest and most exciting changes in SharePoint 2010 are around increasing SharePoint’s Enterprise Content Management capabilities. A large number of organizations with existing LiveLink or Documentum implementations also use SharePoint 2007 as a collaboration platform. Users tend to find SharePoint much more user friendly than their existing document management systems.

These organizations had concerns around the customizations that were required in Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS) to enable true records management, retention and the corresponding custom workflow development to match their existing systems. SharePoint Server 2010 offers a more powerful document management system than LiveLink or Documentum as well as an arsenal of other tools with business intelligence capabilities, seamless integration with other external data sources, enterprise metadata capabilities, powerful eDiscovery and professional networking.

What is so amazing about this is that a large number of these organizations already own licenses for SharePoint and can literally save millions of dollars a year by migrating away from their existing ECM solutions as well as other systems such as eRoom, WebSphere or even their existing Internet platform to have a single system that can be supported by a cross-functional staff.

The ROI in SharePoint 2010 with an enterprise governance model, support and run-time model, and single sign-on interface across the organization with true ECM, eDiscovery, BI, and supercharged collaborative features is something no other system can currently match.

FCM: Do you think Microsoft has done enough to address the major criticisms around governance?

EO: I have been working with more than 100 of EPC Group’s clients in the past four to five years on developing SharePoint governance and I believe the phrase, “Don’t blame it on SharePoint” should be acknowledged when it comes to organizations without a strong governance model.

This is due to the lack of proper planning prior to or during the deployment and not putting enough emphasis on SharePoint Governance but if there is one thing I can preach to the masses regarding governance and SharePoint is around the need for “Run Time” or “Operational” governance.

You need to know how to drive the SharePoint ship, maintain the SharePoint ship, dock the SharePoint ship, etc. Many organizations implemented SharePoint as an Intranet platform first without implementing site provisioning and enterprise metadata/Content Type Governance or identifying the Power Users who would support and champion the deployment and that, in my opinion, is why SharePoint has experienced criticisms around governance.

FCM: Why is SharePoint so popular?

EO: SharePoint’s popularity starts with its ease of use. This can be a double-edged sword though if organizations do not have a Site Provisioning plan in place. That being said, SharePoint is so popular because a user can request and get a site within an hour and be up and using it right away.

With a proper training model or simple things like the creation of a SharePoint training site with a collection of short three to five minute videos on “how to use SharePoint,” organizations can ensure their users are trained and quickly up to speed. With SharePoint 2010 and the Office 2010 suite, SharePoint is going to get even more popular. Can you imagine how powerful it’s going to be for users to create workflows in Visio 2010 and be able to then load them into SharePoint? With the addition of Silverlight, more powerful My Site capabilities, and the BCS (the upgrade to the BDC) this platform is in a class of its own.

FCM: What becomes of partners when SharePoint upgrades and begins to fill in some of the holes?

EO: My firm EPC Group has worked on more than 500 SharePoint implementations since SharePoint 2001 was first released and we have found that the more successful a SharePoint implementation is within an organization and the more we can empower our customers, we actually end up engaging in more projects with the client and end up building many more long-term relationships. My approach is not a “one and done”-type model where an installation is done and some gaps are filled but rather looking at the organization’s overall roadmap and helping them prepare a “platform” so that SharePoint can be relevant in their organization for many years to come. I find that the more successful the implementation is and the more buy-in, quick wins, and “wowed” customers we have to show real ROI, the client continues to engage EPC Group in many future phases.

FCM: How important are partners to SharePoint's success?

EO: I believe partners are critical to the success of SharePoint. Of course I am a SharePoint consultant and most would think I have a one-sided view on this. But people like me, and the dedicated folks at my firm, spend day-in and day-out “in the trenches” to understand the real business and functional requirements of the organization we are working with. Once a SharePoint implementation goes off the tracks, it’s twice as expensive to get it back in the right direction. These missteps could also cost you user support and give SharePoint a bad name within the organization. So the strategies that we have developed around SharePoint governance, site provisioning, power users, enterprise content types, tying in an organization’s retention schedule to the content types, etc. can save millions of dollars in litigation, increase user productivity and delivery real ROI.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

New Government Contract Vehicles..

EPC Group has finalized our ability to further our work with government organizations by offering 8(a) Stars, GSA, Minority Owned and Women Owned Business Contracting Vehicles. We are thrilled to continue servicing our government clients and look forward to working with new organizations continuing our goal of long term partnerships with our clients.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

SharePoint 2010 is almost here....

This is Errin O'Connor, Founder and Chief SharePoint Architect at EPC. We've been hard at work on SharePoint Foundation 2010 Inside Out by Microsoft Press and can't believe the time has almost come.

Check out my author page: http://answers.oreilly.com/topic/1172-how-to-save-content-from-office-documents-into-sharepoint-2010/

Follow our events, share feedback and ask questions.

We hope you enjoy our publication and we wish you all SharePoint success!!

Monday, March 29, 2010

How to Save Content from Office Documents into SharePoint 2010

Our first exceprt from the forthcoming "Microsoft® SharePoint® Foundation 2010 Inside Out" by Errin O'Connor and the EPC Group Team of Experts.

SharePoint Foundation 2010 and Windows 7 offer several ways to save content directly into SharePoint. The File Open and File Save As dialog boxes are the most popular and well-known options for saving content, and they will continue to be the most popular methods to save content directly into SharePoint. To save content directly into SharePoint, follow these steps:

1. In any Microsoft Office program, choose Open or Save As from the File menu.
2. There are several options for locating the SharePoint site in which you would like to save your content.


•In Windows 7, type or paste the site’s URL into the File Location box in the Microsoft Office application’s Save As window.

•Click Computer and then double-click a SharePoint site that was saved as a network location.

•In Windows XP, click My Network Places in the Save As dialog box to view the saved network places of any SharePoint sites.

3. The Save As dialog box should switch into Web view, displaying the Site’s Content. All the site’s document libraries will be displayed in addition to all related sites and workspaces.
4. Double-click the library that you would like to open and browse to the appropriate location within the library to save your file. In this example, the file is being saved at the top level of the document library. The user is able to view the other files that exist within the library.
5. If you originally chose File Open, you would follow the same procedure as in steps 1 through 4.


•If you chose Save As and want to overwrite an existing file, double-click that file. Otherwise, type in the file name you would like assign to the file and then click the Save button.

Saving documents directly from Microsoft Office to SharePoint is a best practice for information workers because doing so allows for one copy to be stored within a document library or SharePoint site. This builds on the “one version of the truth” concept for content because you are not saving it to your computer and then later uploading it to SharePoint.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Proven Governance Strategies from the Trenches Webinar....


Did you attend our webinar on March 25th? Let us know your thoughts!!! Share future topics, questions and feedback. We love to hear from our attendees.


Click on the banner to access the full video presentation.

Hello SharePoint Friends....

Thanks for joining EPC Group as we travel across the U.S. delivering the SharePoint word. Keep your eyes and ears open for local events, webinars and tradeshows in your area. As 2010 comes along... our team of experts will be delivering vital bits and pieces of information to aid your organization in SharePoint success going into 2010!