Boredom Interrupted

This week marks the second time an unplanned event saved me from writing an uninspired blog entry. The first time this happened was on the heels of the Microsoft SharePoint Conference (which I could not attend). At that time, the NY Times inspired what turned into a popular rant about the future of Microsoft. This time, I’m not ranting, I’m honored. Last week, Mark Miller of notified me that he was writing an article about this blog. He highlighted my entry on SharePoint Lists v. Excel and generated some of the highest views I’ve had. Now I have one more reason to appreciate the great work Mark does at EUSP.

The renewed attention on that post generated a few comments, tweets and emails. A few compliments tell me I’m on the right track with this blog, but it’s two challenging comments I want to talk about. One person pointed out that I left out a valuable feature of SharePoint Lists, that multiple people can make entries at the same time. The second person mentioned that the article was one-sided; well, it is SharePoint Stories, but it’s a point well taken; SharePoint isn’t the best tool for every task.

The result is that instead of writing a “look back on 2009” where I bore you with the course this blog has followed, I’m going to answer both comments with an update on a previous entry about a custom survey. The survey was briefly mentioned, ironically, in an article where I was thanking the SharePoint community, including ESUP.

This particular survey was designed to gather feedback from people attending a customer meeting we had just held. As the author of one of the comments pointed out, the beauty of using SharePoint for this task was the fact that I didn’t have to care when people responded. Using a Custom List instead of the standard SharePoint Survey let me attach a workflow to the survey which allowed us to automate the processing of the survey results. Now we all know, SharePoint is limited in its ability to present survey results – but, that’s where Excel shines. We exported the SharePoint survey results to a spreadsheet and gave that spreadsheet to one of my coworkers who does magical things with Pivot Tables. The result was a series of short, highly informative reports, easy to read charts and tables summarizing the survey data. Once the “survey”, the workflow and the spreadsheet were in place, the reporting process was just short of automatic. As one of the comment authors mentioned, the key is to “use the right tool for the job.”

Thanks again to Mark Miller for all he brings us through ESUP and for all the people who contribute to the SharePoint community; you make it easy to succeed. In fact, I just noticed that ESUP has a recent article on processing SharePoint Surveys without using a workflow. I look forward to all the interesting stories that are bound to be part of 2010 – Happy New Year!