The forgotten layer of content management

An old, abandoned house in the woods, overgrown plants

Many organizations have Content Management Systems (CMSs) in place to house their business-critical content. CMSs offer a deep set of features and capabilities, including content creation/storage, provisioned access based on user groups or roles, compliance tracking/reporting and content metadata tagging for content retrieval and re-use. The type of content stored in a CMS varies by industry, but may include case files for law firms, documentation for software firms, digital image assets for photography studios, and UPC/SKU content for retailers.

Although CMSs serve a critical function, they cannot stretch to house and govern all the data generated by business users. Think of all the e-mails that users create and send on a daily basis. These emails are often a critical part of ongoing work efforts, but the emails themselves are not managed effectively. A single work issue may result in a series of inefficient emails sent to multiple users. Add in all the critical work data sitting in Excel spreadsheets on shared drives and you have a huge mass of unstructured, disorganized content.

Why do users create all this unstructured content? Because they need to keep business flowing. Remember, business users are responsible for keeping the wheels of motion turning. If they don’t have the time, tools, or expertise to design automated solutions for their information management problems, they fill in the gaps with manual processes built on e-mail, Microsoft Excel, etc. These gap measures are often critical to the success of the business, but the processes themselves are not regulated or optimized. The data trapped inside these gap measures is the forgotten layer of content management.

We’ve identified the problem. Now we need to bring our business data into the light. If we can standardize the content and drive consistency in when and how it is captured, we can build repeatable processes and workflows to automate our core tasks. If we store the data in a single location and route it to employees on an as-needed basis, we will reduce the noise our employees wade through every day. Reduction in email volumes alone can save hours a day per employee.

SharePoint can be an incredibly effective toolset to store, route and manage this forgotten layer of content management. If we structure our content in SharePoint lists, map out workflows to standardize our processes and use filters, views and audience targeting to route data to people on a just-in-time basis, we can streamline our work processes and automate manual tasks.

The table below outlines WHAT we need to do, WHY we need to do it and HOW we’ll build successful replacement solutions in SharePoint. Check out the related links below for details on how to choose your first project, gather your requirements and calculate the cost of your business processes.

Forgotten layer of content management - 01

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A visual approach to content type tagging for your document library

In a previous post, I dove into the scary underbelly of file repositories. Most document libraries are a hoarder’s paradise, complete with hundreds of sub-folders and thousands of files. These document libraries are 1-way streets. You can easily upload your content to them, but it is virtually impossible to go the other direction and find/retrieve files. In order to maximize usefulness and value, we need our document libraries to support 2-way traffic–file upload and easy file retrieval.

Document uploads are relatively easy. Most of our business users can figure out how to upload a document (or know someone with a few SharePoint skills that can teach them how to drag-and-drop in SharePoint 2013). Content retrieval is much harder. It relies on “advanced” features like metadata, content types, document sets and information policies to make documents find-able and retrieve-able. Unfortunately, metadata is often a tough sell. We try to convince our end-users that metadata can help them with document retrieval, but getting them to consistently apply metadata tags to the documents they upload is a nearly impossible task. Unless you’re working for a company (or industry) that requires document metadata tagging as a fundamental job requirement, your only lasting hope is to make metadata tagging simple, easy or automatic. This post walks through an everyday business scenario for document storage and outlines an out-of-the-box metadata tagging solution that was built to support it.

Business Scenario

You’ve just been assigned as the project manager for a new software development project. Since you’ve worked on other project teams and seen firsthand the challenges of storing project documents in gargantuan file repositories, you know you want to implement a metadata tagging scheme for your project content. The goal is to tag each project document as it gets uploaded to SharePoint, and then use the metadata tags to build a browse-able document navigation tree for your SharePoint site. The challenge is figuring out how to design and use tags that reflect both the document’s purpose and the project lifecycle stage that the document pertains to.

You sit down with your SharePoint SME (subject matter expert) to find a solution to this tagging conundrum, and together you devise a graphical model of your content:

ContentType26

Your model breaks down all project documentation into 6 categories: project discovery, project scoping, solution building, solution testing, solution deployment and iterative change management.

Each of these 6 content categories have different information needs. Discovery and Scoping documents, for example, need to be tagged with the assigned business analyst resources that will write/finalize solution requirements. Build documents need to be tagged with code review/release dates and Test documents need to be tagged with test status and tester assignments. All content categories need to be tagged with the release/version number they apply to.

Your SharePoint SME suggests using content types to organize your metadata fields. He plans to build one content type for each of your six project categories. Each content type can present targeted metadata fields that are specific to each project category AND provide default values where applicable. And because you’d be using content types and metadata fields to tag your content, you could store all your project documents in a single document library with (gasp) no file folders! The trick is designing a quick and easy way for users to upload and tag their project documents.

The approach

We know we’re building a single document library with six custom content types. But how do we quickly and easily enable users to specify which content type their file(s) belong to? An out-of-the-box solution doesn’t cut it, because we know our users won’t go through the process of selecting their appropriate content type when they upload their files.

Your SharePoint SME goes back to the drawing board and comes up with a creative idea. How about displaying buttons on the main page of your site….and make each button a clickable link? When users click on a button, they’d be taken to the document upload page for that corresponding content type (effectively bypassing the need to select the content type of the document they are uploading). Yes, your users would still need to add in metadata that applies to their document’s content type, but we’d be able to sidestep the content type selection in its entirety. We can also plug in default column values for each content type, simplifying the metadata tagging process. Sound interesting? Let’s take a look at the steps for building this out.

Part 1: Creating your new content types

  1. Click on Gear > Site settings.
  2. Under Web Designer Galleries, click on Site content types.
    ContentType01
  3. Click on the Create button.
  4. In the Name field, type Discovery.
  5. In the Select parent content type from field, select Document Content Types.
  6. In the Parent Content Type field, select Document. Your page should now look like this:
    ContentType02
  7. Click OK.
  8. You will be taken to a configuration page for your new content type. Click on the Site Content Types page header to return to the Site Content Types page.
    ContentType03
  9. Repeat steps 3-8 to create each of your new content types.

Part 2: Setting up your document library

  1. Click on Gear > Add an app.
  2. Select the Document Library app.
  3. When prompted, enter a name for your new document library.
  4. When you are returned to the Site Contents page, find and click on the blue icon for your new document library.
  5. While in your new library, click on the Library subtab and the List Settings icon.
  6. Click on Advanced settings and set the Allow management of content types field to Yes.
  7. Click OK.
  8. Go to the Content Types section of the page and click on the Add from existing site content types link.
    ContentType04
  9. Locate the dropdown field that controls the content type groups being displayed. Change the dropdown value from All Groups to Custom Content Types. Your newly created content types will display in the Available Site Content Types box.
  10. Select one of your new content types and click on the Add button. Repeat this step until all your new content types have been added (as shown below).
    ContentType05
  11. Click OK. You are now returned to the main list settings page.
  12. Go to the Content Types section of the page and click on the Change new button order and default content type hyperlink.
    ContentType06
  13. Uncheck the checkbox for the Document content type and click OK. Also make sure your content types are ordered correctly. Since we want our content types to be listed in the order of our project phases, our content types appear in the following order:
    • Discovery
    • Scope
    • Build
    • Test
    • Deploy
    • Change
  14. Now it’s time to create all the new columns for your document library. As you create your columns, be mindful of the new Add to all content types checkbox that now displays on your column creation page. If you leave this box checked, the column you are creating will automatically be added to each of your 6 project lifecycle content types. If you leave the box unchecked, you’ll need to manually add this new column to the individual content types where you’d like it to be used.
    ContentType12
  15. Once all your columns are defined, it’s time to determine which field(s) should display for each of your content types. To get started, go to your List Settings page and click on the hyperlinked name of one of your content types.
  16. When the content type detail page appears, click on the Add from existing site or list columns hyperlink.
  17. Add the fields you want to display for this content type.
  18. Use the Column order link to define the order in which the content type’s fields should display.
  19. Click on the Settings link in your page’s breadcrumb to return to the list settings page.
  20. Repeat steps 16-20 to define the metadata fields for each of your other content types.
  21. Now it’s time to set up the default values for your metadata columns. This step requires a bit of extra work in SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013. Go to your List Settings page and click on the Column default value settings link.
    ContentType13
  22. To enter a default value for one of your columns, click on the column name and follow the on-screen prompts. After entering my default values, my column default value settings page now looks like this:
    ContentType14

Part 3: Determining the upload URLs for each of your new content types

Now we need to build a custom upload URL for each of your project lifecycle content types. These are the URLs that we’ll associate with your document upload buttons. The first step in building these URLs is turning off the Minimal Download Strategy feature via your site features page. The Minimal Download Strategy feature impacts the length and character of your site’s URLs, making it harder for this solution to work.

  1. Go to your Site Settings page by clicking on Gear > Site Settings.
  2. Click on the Manage site features link under the Site Actions heading.
  3. Scroll down and find the Minimal Download Strategy feature. If there is a Deactivate button next to the feature, click it.
  4. Click on the Deactivate link to confirm you want to deactivate this feature.

Now we’re ready to build your custom upload URLs. Here are the steps you’ll need to follow:

  1. Go to the Library Settings page for your document library.
  2. Copy the URL that is displayed in the address bar of your web browser.
  3. Open a text-based editor on our computer (e.g. Notepad or WordPad).
  4. Paste your copied URL into your text editor.
  5. Find the word listedit in your URL and replace it with the word upload.
    ContentType15
  6. Go to the end of the URL in your text editor and type &Source=
  7. After the &Source= string, paste in the URL for the home page of your SharePoint site.
    ContentType16
  8. Go to the end of the URL in your text editor and type &ContentTypeID=
  9. Return to the Library Settings page for your document library and click on the name of your first content type.
  10. Look at the URL for your page and find the string &ctype=
    ContentType17
  11. Place your cursor in the URL and copy the entire string of characters that follows the &ctype= string. This is the unique ID for your content type.
  12. Return to your text editor and paste your content type ID after the string &ContentTypeID=
    That’s it! You’ve now built a custom upload URL for your first content type. Here’s a picture of the end result. All the parts of the URL I customized are shaded in yellow:
    ContentType18
  13. Now it’s time to test. Copy your newly built URL and paste it an Internet browser window. Validate that you can upload a document, have it auto-tagged with its corresponding content type and that all your default column values work as expected. If the link does not work as expected, re-build your custom upload URL to make sure it is working correctly.
  14. Repeat steps 1-13 for EACH content type in your document library. In the end, you’ll end up with a unique upload URL for each content type.

Part 4: Creating your upload images

Now it’s time to build the images you want to use as your document upload buttons. Feel free to create the buttons in whatever program or design you like—just make sure that you end up with 1 image file for each upload button.

I opted to create the following circle images in PowerPoint. I right-clicked on each image in PowerPoint and selected Save as Picture to save each circle as a separate .PNG file.

ContentType19

Part 5: Adding upload buttons to your site’s home page

There are thousands of ways you can lay out and style your site’s home page. The steps below provide one suggested way of laying out your upload buttons. Feel free to customize.

  1. Go to your site’s home page.
  2. Click on the Edit link in the upper right-hand corner of the page.
  3. Click on the Text Layout button in your Format Text subtab and choose the One column with sidebar option.
    ContentType20
  4. Place your cursor at the top of your page’s sidebar. Select the Heading 1 style from the Format Text subtab and type Upload Center on your page.
  5. Hit the Enter key and type Click on a circle to upload a document. Your sidebar should now look like this:
    ContentType21
  6. Hit Enter again.
  7. Click on the Insert subtab and then the Table button. Add a table with 3 columns and 2 rows.
  8. Place your cursor in the left-cell of the upper row. You’re now ready to insert your first image.
  9. Click on the Insert subtab. If your images are already uploaded to your SharePoint site, select Picture > From SharePoint and select your first image. If your images are not uploaded to SharePoint yet, select Picture > From Computer and select your first image.
  10. Your image will now be displayed in your table cell. If you want to resize your image, change the Horizontal Size and Vertical Size settings on the Image subtab. Since my images were a bit large, I’ve resized them down to 100×100 pixels.
  11. Now it’s time to add the upload link to your image. Click on your image to select it. Then click on the Insert subtab and select Link > From Address.
    ContentType22
  12. Copy the upload URL you created for this content type and paste it into the Address box of the Insert Hyperlink dialog box.
    ContentType23
  13. Click OK to save your changes.
  14. Click on the Page subtab and click on the Save button to save your page.
  15. Now it’s time to test! Click on your first upload button and validate that you can successfully upload a document. Validate that the document gets auto-tagged with its corresponding content type and that all your default column values work as expected. If the link does not work as expected, re-build your custom upload URL to make sure it is working correctly.
  16. Repeat steps 9-15 to upload your remaining images and link them to your custom upload URLs.
  17. If you’d like to remove the gridlines from displaying around your table cells, edit your page, go to your Design subtab, click on Styles and select the Table Style 1 – Clear option.

Here is my page now:

ContentType24

Part 6: Building your document library views and navigation

You’ve now built an easy way for users to upload documents and have them auto-tagged with metadata. Now you need to consider how your users will browse for and find documents that have been uploaded. Will you build out views for each of your content types? If so, how will your users access these views?

I recommend creating new views and adding them as links on your site’s Quick Launch bar. The results may look like the example highlighted in yellow below. Of course, you can get more detailed and elegant in building out these document library views. The important thing is to provide your end-users with easy-to-click-on links that provide a queried short list of documents that meet their specific information need.

ContentType25

Credits:

A big thank you to Matthew Ruderman (SP_Geek) for serving as a technical editor on this post. Without you, Matt, these manually generated upload links would have looked awfully ugly…

Land of Confusion: Why are our business processes so bad?

Work processes, like road signs, should be clear and direct. They should evoke a series of concise responses to effect a specific, desired outcome. The problem is, humans are organic. We start out defining a new process that will make our work lives easier. The new process may look like our straight line here–simple, efficient and productive.

EscapingTheLandOfConfusion-01

But then we’re asked to do more and more things. In an effort to meet business objectives, be more efficient and manage our time, we load up our processes with too many steps and too many desired outcomes. Unable to stand under the weight, our processes devolve. They morph into a convoluted string of manual tasks that everyone performs but no one understands. The result looks like this:

EscapingTheLandOfConfusion-02

In the end, we hate the very processes we hoped would save us. But the underlying need for the processes doesn’t disappear. So, inevitably, the cycle starts again. We abandon the overgrown processes we have come to hate, clarify our business needs, and voila! A new process emerges. Sound familiar? This is proof you are not alone! Process pain and mismanagement are epidemic. They exist in all industries, in all organizations and with a wide variety of toolsets. To prove the point, let’s go back to our road sign analogy. Here’s a road sign that works:

figure8-1

When you approach a STOP sign, you know what the process is:

  1. Bring your vehicle to a complete stop.
  2. Wait for traffic to clear.
  3. Proceed.

Are you ever confused by these steps? No. Do you ever think you should add additional steps to this process? Maybe get out and check your tire pressure or check to see if your brake lights are working? No. The purpose of this sign is clear, and there is no value in adding additional steps to the process. Now take a look at this road sign:

figure8-2

Are you confused? You’re not the only one. What are we supposed to do after seeing this sign? What’s our process? It looks like we should be sitting, but then do we wait to be impaled by a rectangle? I have no idea.

Now relate this back to the processes in your organization. Could you create a clear diagram or roadmap that outlines all of your common processes? What about stakeholders, key steps and end goals? All too often, our processes are nebulous. They don’t have a clear start, a clear end or a clearly defined singular purpose. As these inefficient processes grow in length and number, our employees start feeling boxed in (both literally and figuratively). They face a wall of work each day that keeps them from doing higher value-add tasks.

We also tend to forget the underlying cost of our inefficient processes. Every hour spent on a wasteful process costs your organization money. Money that goes to benefits, salaries, license costs, hardware costs, facility costs, etc. And let’s not forget the opportunity cost of having your time taken up with these arduous processes. Time spent circling the process drain is time you can’t spend on other value-add tasks. In many cases, that loss of time can result in a loss of revenue for your organization.

Calculating the cost of your inefficient processes

Every process in your organization has a dollar value. If you knew the dollar value of the processes you completed every day, would it change your perspective? Do you think your management team would want to “buy” those processes if they knew their true cost? For many of our required work processes, the answer would be a clear YES. Yes, we need to follow regulatory processes like HIPAA and PCI. Yes, we need to get payroll out regularly and file taxes. But what about all those processes with nebulous results and purpose? The ones that get bogged down with lots of additional steps that everyone follows but no one understands? Would your management want you to keep those processes if they knew their ultimate cost?

Here is a simple formula you can use to estimate the cost of your work processes:

EscapingTheLandOfConfusion-03

Here are some definitions for this formula:

  • Time to complete 1 iteration = The amount of time (in hours) it takes to complete the process one time end-to-end.
  • # of iterations = The number of times per year the process is completed. For a monthly process, the number of iterations would be 12.
  • Hourly rate = This is what an hour of time costs at your organization. I recommend working with your Finance department to arrive at this number. It should represent all appropriate costs, including salary, benefits, hardware and software costs, facility costs, etc. The rate should also be an average that spans all job grade levels and covers both full-time employees and contractors. (Having a single hourly rate to use in all process calculations will provide uniformity and enable you to easily compare process costs.)

Let’s walk through a simple example to show you how the formula works. Pretend you have a weekly process that takes 4 hours per week to complete. Let’s also say you’ve worked with your Finance department and determined that an hour of someone’s time at your organization costs $50. We’ll plug this data into our formula as follows:

EscapingTheLandOfConfusion-04

Based on the data provided, this weekly 4-hour process costs the company $10,400 per year. Now for the key question–can this process be optimized? Can you use a tool like SharePoint to eliminate manual steps from this process, thereby shortening the 4-hour time frame?

Let’s say you were successful in optimizing this work process. You eliminated a bunch of manual copy/paste steps by moving the data to SharePoint where everyone can access it. You structured the data in a single SharePoint list and built a workflow that notifies people when they need to take action. You also built filtered list web parts to give employees a work queue. This enables them to quickly find the tasks that are assigned to them. In the end, you were able to cut the process time in half so now it takes only 2 hours per week to complete. When you plug these updated process numbers into the formula, you now get a process cost of $5,200/year.

EscapingLandOfConfusion-05

If you take the difference between the BEFORE cost of $10,400 and the AFTER cost of $5,200, you determine that these process improvements save your organization $5,200/year. Now for the key questions–how much are your processes costing your organization? And can you use SharePoint to streamline them?

How do I disable the Edit link on my SharePoint 2013 pages?

Did you know that granting your end-users Contribute level access in SharePoint 2013 enables them to edit wiki and web part pages across your site (including your site’s home page)?

Site pages are stored in the Site Pages library by default. Since this library automatically inherits its permissions from the site, anyone with read/write access to the site also has read/write access to all site pages. Users with read/write access will see the Edit link shown below whenever they navigate to a site page.

EditPage-01

So how do you grant your users Contribute (aka read/write) access to your site and ensure they don’t get an Edit link on site pages? You change the permissions for your Site Pages library. If you grant users Contribute access to your site but read-only permissions to your Site Pages library, they will be able to view all your site pages but not edit them.

Here are the steps to modify the permissions for your Site Pages library:

  1. Go to your site.
  2. Click on Gear > Site contents.
  3. Find and click on your Site Pages library.
  4. Click on the Library tab and then click on the Library Settings button.
  5. Click on the Permissions for this document library link.
  6. Click on the Stop Inheriting Permissions button on the page’s toolbar.
  7. Say OK to confirm you want to customize the permissions for this library.
  8. Modify the library’s permissions as desired.

TIP: Make sure you give users read access to your Site Pages library. This will ensure they can see and access your site’s home page.

 

Finding the RIGHT first project (aka solving the SharePoint “bad hair day”)

Bad hair dayIf your SharePoint implementation is the equivalent of a bad hair day, listen up. You are not a lost cause. It is not too late to make a (new) first impression.

You are going to have to make some changes, though. You may need stronger IT support or a new executive sponsor. You may need to start planning your SharePoint upgrade or shore up the performance of your existing farm. And if you don’t have end-users banging on doors wondering how they can learn more (and do more) with SharePoint, you need a better plan for driving user adoption.

Too many SharePoint owners ignore user adoption, bequeath it unicorn status (making adoption the stuff of urban myth) or decide that mandating adoption is the way to go. Here’s the bottom line: User adoption is not a decree. You cannot wish it into being, legislate its growth or assume that an investment in tools will provide a corresponding user adoption “lift.” User adoption is also not a byproduct of system health. Yes, building a pristine SharePoint farm with solid disaster recovery and well-rounded admin/migration tools can help your cause. But IT strategy alone will not spur your business users to engage/champion SharePoint.

The best way to jump-start some SharePoint enthusiasm is focusing on the delivery of one key project. Consider this project your inaugural step in building a new user adoption strategy. You need to deliver a solid solution that saves time and money and turns your first customer into your first follower.

Why is a first follower important? Because your first follower is the person who will teach others how to follow you. Your first follower validates your vision and shows others how to jump on the bandwagon. If you invest in this first follower—delivering a SharePoint solution that meets that customer’s needs perfectly—he or she will become your first champion. And a champion is what transforms you from a lone SharePoint nut into a SharePoint leader.

Here’s your key to selecting this all-important first project:

project-01

First, you need to find something that causes people pain. You’re not looking for something that is mildly annoying. You’re looking for the soul-crushing, spirit-destroying work that makes your users want to gnaw off their own arms. A two-hour, 104-step process for logging time sheets would be a great example.

You also need a succinct problem that hits a lot of people. Your purchasing system may be hellish, but if it doesn’t impact a large number of people and can’t be broken up into small logical chunks for optimization, it’s not the right first project.

To maximize your efforts, you want to look for repeatable processes (processes that have a daily or weekly business rhythm). Optimizing frequent processes greatly amplifies your return on investment (ROI).

This inaugural project will be a partnership between you and a business owner or business team. Since you are hoping this first customer will become your first follower and your first champion, it is crucial you select the right customer. You want to work with innovators and early adopters. These are the people who like the bleeding edge, the people who are always the first to adopt new technology. They will be willing to go out on a limb, to take a chance and see where it leads.

But it isn’t enough to just find the early adopters. You need your first customers to be key influencers and change agents as well. They need to inspire the masses to follow them onto the SharePoint bandwagon. How do you find these key influencers? Look around your organization for the people everyone goes to when they have a question. Key influencers tend to be the informal help desk for their department. They are the ones who have all the contacts and know where to go and find more information.

Once you find the right process with the right people, you need to make sure the solution can be built quickly and easily with out-of-the-box features. You don’t need a complex solution with brilliant customizations. You need a reliable solution that you can build within a couple of weeks for FREE. As you’re building out this solution, remember that it will serve as a demonstration of what you (and SharePoint) can do. Consider the first impression it will make.

And let’s not forget the all-important ROI. This first project will serve as a calling card—a testament to how SharePoint can help your business achieve its goals. You need to be able to quantify and qualify the benefits this solution offers. Build an executive abstract that summarizes the business need, the solution you built and the benefits (both hard and soft) the solution provides. And don’t be stingy–share this project summary with your customer and ensure they get kudos for partnering with you. If this ROI summary makes you AND your customer look good, others will notice.

Now it’s time to begin the cycle again and find another “first” project. While you’re focusing on building the next great solution, your first customer will be doing their day job. Other people may see them using SharePoint and ask “what’s that?” The customer will innocently say, “This is my new XXX solution. Sarah Haase built this for me.”

Congratulations! SharePoint just made a (new) first impression.

SharePoint universal truths

I’ve worked with end users in many organizations. While companies (and their employees) vary wildly, there are underlying similarities in how they all work. I call these similarities universal truths. Understanding these truths can help you relate to your users, drive effective change management and (ultimately) increase SharePoint’s business value. So here is the starter pack of SharePoint universal truths:

1. Businesses shouldn’t be run via spreadsheets stored on shared drives. What would happen to your company’s bottom line if Microsoft Excel went off the grid tomorrow? Most employees would be at a complete loss. They use spreadsheets and e-mail every day to manage their work and move data around. Unfortunately, the labor costs of these “poor man’s workflow” solutions is high. The time spent creating, maintaining, organizing, and copying data between spreadsheets and e-mails is time lost.

If you are implementing SharePoint as a workflow automation tool, you can’t ignore the opportunity spreadsheets provide. Focus on converting large, unwieldy spreadsheets into structured SharePoint lists that include query-based list views and out-of-the-box or custom SharePoint Designer workflows and you’ll improve the lives of your end-users.

2. My job isn’t about giving users what they want. It’s about giving users what they really need. They may want massive Excel spreadsheets stored in a Documents library with unlimited versioning. But they may need a granular SharePoint list with workflows and automated email notifications. In the end, our challenge (and our journey) is to identify the “true business need” and raise awareness about SharePoint solutions that can change the way our business users work.

3. Users will be interested in functionality that can improve their lives. But most of the time they don’t have the time to investigate this functionality on their own. They need information architects and designers to paint the vision. Often I throw out 15 ideas for each individual idea my business users choose to implement. There’s nothing wrong with a 15:1 ratio. The key is to keep offering ideas. Even if they don’t implement your ideas right away, they will likely circle back to consider some of the ideas again later.

4. If information architecture is optional, most users will opt out. Many users are unfamiliar with information architects, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need them. The right information architect will take the time to understand the underlying business value SharePoint can provide. They’ll understand your content and use SharePoint’s feature set to build solutions that make a quantifiable difference in your organization. The trick is enticing, encouraging and (ultimately) requiring your users to engage in the information architecture process. If you can offer SharePoint planning services free of charge and leverage a solid reputation in your organization for delivering top-notch solutions, you’ll have the “carrot” you need to get people to buy into information architecture. If that’s not an option at your organization, you’ll need to identify other methodologies for engaging users in the information architecture process.

5. SharePoint markets itself…once you deliver your first couple of wins. I’ve managed several corporate knowledge bases, and they all have one thing in common. Regardless of the technology they’re built on, the amount we invested in them or the number of cool features they had, all these knowledge bases were giant, sucking holes of need. No matter how long I evangelized their use or offered incentives for people to submit content, they would never spawn a cult following. They would always require care, feeding, and emotional propping. SharePoint is just the opposite. If you build SharePoint solutions that automate business processes and save your end-users time and frustration, people will come—in droves.

6. Your SharePoint solution isn’t complete until you’ve measured its effectiveness. This is an astonishingly common “miss.” People build great SharePoint solutions—solutions that save their companies hundreds of thousands of dollars per year—and fail to quantify their success. Your job does not end when a new SharePoint site is launched. Your job ends when you have measured the site’s effectiveness.

These universal truths aren’t complex. They merely reflect the basic instincts of most business users. But understanding these universal truths gives you an edge—an edge your counterparts don’t have. These truths are the keys for obtaining buy-in, effecting real change management, and learning how to quantify your results. By incorporating these truths into your business process strategy, you will fundamentally shift how your business users view their tools.

Help Typhoon #Haiyan Victims and #SharePoint MVPs & Experts Will Help You #rescueph

A great way to help people that desperately need it. Please consider donating today…

@meetdux

On Nov 8, 2013 , the deadliest typhoon ever recorded in history devastated the Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan was stronger than hurricanes Katrina and Sandy combined. Countless lives have been lost and a lot of help is needed. It is estimated at least 10,000 people have perished.

Help Typhoon #Haiyan Victims and We’ll Help You!

Between now and December 31, 2013. Anyone who donates $99 USD or more to a charity of your choice that will benefit victims of Typhoon Haiyan and emails me  a proof of your donation, can secure a FREE one hour remote SharePoint consulting session ($99 = 1 hour session, $198 = two 1 hour sessions, etc) with any  of these global SharePoint MVPs & leading experts:

Name Expertise
Marc D Anderson Client-side development
Paul Papanek Stork Architecture, Administration, Development
Tom Resing Architecture, Development, Infrastructure
Vlad Catrinescu Infrastructure, PowerShell
Veronique Palmer SharePoint…

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Having trouble lining up your SharePoint 2013 app parts on your wiki pages?

If you’ve built any new wiki pages in SharePoint 2013, you may have experienced some issues getting your web parts to line up nicely–particularly if you’ve modified the text layout of your wiki page to have multiple side-by-side columns. The columns make it easy to line up multiple app parts side by side, but the wiki pages’ tendency to add in extra paragraph spacing above some of your app parts can make it hard to line up all your app parts on the same vertical axis point. Here’s an example of a page that is suffering from some extra paragraph spacing:

Spaces05

As you can see in the shaded yellow box, I’m getting an extra paragraph of space above my app part in the left-most column of my page. These extra spaces seem to occur on wiki pages specifically, and usually in the left-most column of my page.

I could solve this problem by creating a Web Part Page instead of a Wiki Page (since web part pages don’t throw in these extra spaces), but I still wanted to figure out how to troubleshoot this type of issue on a wiki page.

Here are the steps I followed to create the wiki page shown above:

  1. Go to Gear > Add a page
  2. Type in a name for your page. (I named mine Queue.) At this point a new wiki page is created and saved in the Site Pages library of your site.
  3. Set the text layout for the page. Go to your Format Text ribbon, click on Text Layout and select Three columns with header
    Spaces01
  4. Now you’re ready to insert your web parts. Place your cursor in your header zone, click on the Insert ribbon and select Web Part.
  5. We’re going to insert an image here, so click on the Media and Content web part category and then select Image Viewer and click on Add.
    Spaces03
  6. I’ll add in my image by clicking on the open the tool pane hyperlink in my new Image Viewer web part. Here’s our finished image:
    Spaces04
  7. Now we’re ready to add some app parts to the page to render our list data. I’m going to add 3 app parts to the page–one in each of my page’s 3 columns. Here are the steps I followed to add each app part:
    1. Click into a column.
    2. Click on the Insert ribbon and select App Part.
    3. Choose the list or library you want to use and select Add.

Once I finish adding my 3 identical app parts to my page, this is what I see:

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I tried simply placing my cursor in the extra space and hitting delete, but that deletes my app part entirely. The best way to remove this extraneous spacing is to edit the source of the page and remove the offending HTML paragraph tags. Here are the steps to perform this cleanup:

  1. Place your cursor in the extra paragraph space you want to get rid of.
  2. Click on the Format Text ribbon and select Edit Source.
    Spaces06
  3. Notice the spare paragraph tag located at the top of your HTML Source. (Shown highlighted in yellow below).
    Spaces07
  4. Highlight all the text on line 1 of your HTML Source and press your Delete key to remove it.
  5. Press OK to save your changes.

The trouble with filtering on workflow status columns…

Have you ever tried to filter a SharePoint list or document library view using a workflow status column? It’s harder than you’d think…

Workflow status columns report the current status of a workflow. A unique workflow status column is created in your list (or document library) automatically when you create a new out-of-the-box or SharePoint Designer custom workflow. Conveniently, SharePoint uses the name of your workflow as the name of your workflow status column. An example workflow status column is shown below (in yellow). This Email-notification column reports on the status of the Email-notification workflow.

wf-filtering-01

Being a savvy SharePoint user, you’d think you could use the workflow status verbiage as a filter for your list or document library view. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong. You cannot filter your list or library records using the displayed verbiage in your workflow status column(s).

Let’s take a look at an example:

I have a Team assignments list (shown below). It’s a very simple list that allows people to sign up for product areas they want to support. When a new item is created, a custom SharePoint Designer workflow runs and sends some automated notification emails. I can keep tabs on my workflows using the Email-notification workflow status column. As you can see, I currently have items in several different workflow statuses–2 of my list items are in Completed status while another 2 are in In Progress status.

wf-filtering-01

Now let’s say I wanted to create a new list view that only shows me list items that are in Completed status. I go to the List tab, click on Create View and set up my view filter to display only the items where Email-notification is equal to Completed. Sounds perfect, right?wf-filtering-02

Unfortunately, this view shows zero results–despite the fact that I know I have items whose workflow is in Completed status. Why does this happen? Because Microsoft actually uses numerical status codes to demarcate workflow states. While SharePoint displays “friendly” descriptors for their workflow states (e.g. In Progress or Completed), you need the numerical status codes to be able to filter against the workflow state. The difficult part is finding the correct numeral for the workflow state you want to filter against.

After doing some searching online, I found that the numeral 5 denotes a Completed workflow. When I update my view to filter and display only the items where Email-notification is equal to 5, my list returns the Completed workflow items I was looking for. Here’s a picture of my working filter:

wf-filtering-03

The trick, of course, is figuring out what numerals are used for the other possible workflow states. Here’s a quick list of the workflow states I typically filter against:

  • In Progress = 2
  • Approved = 16
  • Error Occurred = 3
  • Not Started = 0

For a more exhaustive list of workflow status codes, visit http://adayinsharepointv3.blogspot.com/2012/08/filter-list-view-by-sharepoint-workflow.html