I added a 16×24 print of the picture shown here to the wall behind my desk this week, and a friend commented that “it’s looking dark and gloomy back there.” The wall has a rather large picture of Hartford engulfed in fog, and a night view of Hartford with the full moon peaking though some fast moving clouds. I joked that “I don’t want people to think they can come to me for clarity” but at least with today’s picture, I see potential, not obscurity. In a few months, that field will be draped in shade cloth and tobacco plants will be thriving. It’s the same story for SharePoint; this seems to be the time of the year that we start new things.
I don’t have much in the way of actual progress to report, but here are a few of the projects that you can expect to be reading about on this blog in the coming months:
Quote Preparation and Tracking – Granted, there isn’t usually a line of people at the door waiting to buy a nuclear liability insurance policy when I get to work, but we do get asked to prepare quotes on a regular basis. The limited activity has kept us from automating this in the past, but we did build some spreadsheets to plow through the calculations. We recently started a project using these spreadsheets as templates for Content Types in a SharePoint library and automating the processing and storage of prepared quotes. Thanks to a little HarePoint magic, we will be pulling data out of the stored quote and sending an email to the person requesting the coverage.
Contacts, Contacts and Contacts – People are finally getting tired of maintaining lists of names and addresses here, there and everywhere. We have been trying to convince people to make better use of SharePoint Lists for a long time, but the uptake has been slow. I’m not sure whether we are wearing them down or if they are seeing the benefit in the lists that we have created, but the tide is starting to turn on this subject. The key benefit we are working to deliver is to build the list(s) once and put the contacts everywhere we need them. Sometimes, that means copying them to a different Farm, but we have shown that we can do that.
Libraries Galore – If you have been following this blog in recent weeks, you know that we are removing the shared folder option for document storage later this year. That announcement has already stimulated a strong interest for new libraries. Of course, we are holding firm on the requirement that new libraries contain basic metadata, and we are working to stay involved in the creation process. I would love to see more people building and configuring SharePoint sites, but we are hovering fairly close to the ground on any new initiatives – I do not want a series of web-based share drives.
Remodeling Efforts – Some of the people who have had us build special purpose sites or workflow driven processes on SharePoint are now finding the need to couple those with the content we are forcing them to move off of the K: drive. In some cases this is a relatively simple process of adding a few more libraries, redefining some site columns and / or modifying an existing library of process. In other cases this means rethinking the goals and requirements and building out a new home for the collective content. This is when I love SharePoint, because we can blend the old with the new in ways that are transparent, and we can relocate the older content later. I guess some things can be hidden in the fog.
Mobile – As people get used to more and more of their content being on SharePoint, they are asking us about mobile access. I find this curious because they never had mobile access to the shared folders, but I’ll put this in the win column anyway. About two thirds of our employees are carrying company issued iPads, and we can connect those devices to SharePoint in a number of ways. Microsoft keeps hinting that a version of Office is coming, but upgrades to Office HD2 added the ability for us to Track Changes, which was the only missing feature that people were complaining about, so I’m good. Between SharePlus for a basic connection, iPad enabled pages on our Internet-facing server and Harmon.ie’s iPad app for SharePoint and Exchange content; we have a mobile solution for anybody that needs one.
I am definitely looking at the picture and seeing the signs of spring beneath the fog. SharePoint has proven itself here, in terms of fundamental content management capabilities, and we are prepared to build on those basic features.