SharePoint New and Enhanced Products

Product news for SharePoint admins, devs, and end users

Transforming to a Paperless Office with SharePoint

Dark Blue Duck's Scanning Enabler for Microsoft SharePoint 2010 4.X scans documents to SharePoint directly from the SharePoint UI, via existing desktop scanners, a shared desktop scanner, or Multifunction Printers (MFPs) via network TWAIN. It creates searchable .pdf/a, .mdi, .tif, .jpg, and .gif formatted documents. It adds scanning functionality to new and existing document libraries and lists and uses Microsoft Office Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to create searchable documents. Compatible with SharePoint Search and FAST Search for SharePoint, it supports all SharePoint server farm architectures. Licensed on a per-server basis, it is available in several editions, include Scanning Enabler Small Business Edition, which supports up to five scanning workstations; and Scanning Enabler Medium Business Edition, which supports up to twenty five scanning workstations. For more information, visit Dark Blue Duck.

SharePoint Managed Services and the View from the Cloud

I spoke to Scott Gode, VP of Marketing and Product Management at Azaleos. In addition to helping migrate customers to Microsoft Exchange 2010, SharePoint 2010, and Lync, Azaleos is also a Microsoft expert and deployment partner for Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS) and Office 365.

Are you seeing interest in the cloud?

"With customers, there is that uncertainty and fascination … that people are feeling facing the cloud. Should it be public cloud—BPOS? Private cloud—data center? A lot of BPOS/Office 365, it's very much helping customers learn what's best for them. BPOS-S is a fairly straightforward migration—Microsoft works with the customer. BPOS-D is more complex and we do BPOS-D professional services.

The times when we see BPOS being purchased, it's really not purchased with SharePoint or OCS in mind—companies are looking at it for email. For the cases where they want a robust SharePoint implementation, they say ‘if I want a robust environment, that's a private cloud.' Again the majority of those companies are 1,000 seat-plus companies. Their needs for security and document management are for far more robust solutions.

To customers, it's not the features of Office 365 that are important, though there are great improvements. Talking to CIOs/VPs about Office 365, it's more of yes, the back-end infrastructure has been designed for the cloud; yes, you're getting 2010 versions; yes, you're getting the option to have a hybrid environment, you're not locked into an all-or-nothing proposition."

What are you seeing so far in people's reactions to the beta of Office 365?

"I just had a prospect ask me about FAST Search in Office 365—FAST is pretty processor intensive. FAST Search will not be in SharePoint Online for Office365. With Lync and OCS (Office Communications Server)—obviously BPOS—the biggest missing piece is that OCS and Live Meeting were an add-on or afterthought, specifically the voice components. That's not an inhibitor for deployment, but people wondered. Fast forward to Office 365: Microsoft has done a lot to add OCS functionality, but if you want Enterprise voice you have to buy a separate Lync server.

Whenever we sell Lync as on-premises, we recommend they not do the telephone piece—start off with IM. Then maybe six  to 12 months afterwards try connecting Lync—a staged best practice. With Office 365, one of the biggest surprises that we encounter from customers who may come close to BPOS is the lack of management dashboard or control. It's simply not there in BPOS and is not improved in Office 365. Part of Microsoft's rationale is, ‘hey, you're paying us for op ex and simplicity, you're buying into this notion so why do you need to have detailed insight into the moving pieces?' That's one of the trade-offs. Low cost equals minimum requirements that IT admins get to see.

With SharePoint Online vs. SharePoint in BPOS, what I'm seeing is that the app dev honeymoon is slowing down. Customers are saying ‘I've got my apps and I have my ROI, but I haven't thought about my storage.' This requires admins play a more active role as opposed to devs playing a more active role. If you apply that to BPOS or Office 365, there is still a set of constraints about apps that can be used in SharePoint Online—you have to not use apps or you have to put apps in sandbox for several weeks. It's rational for Microsoft, but for enterprise customers it's a show stopper and cancels ROI for them."

What about going with a hybrid environment—on-premises and hosted?

"A hybrid environment is much more directly applicable to the Exchange scenario than to the SharePoint or Lync scenario. Most apps I see for SharePoint, it's not an app used for one department, so it's hard to take out for a hybrid environment."

Why do companies come to you?

"Customers are saying ‘we've got email under control but need help with SharePoint—we have licenses but we don't have the skill set.' Our model is one of the monitoring and management of systems—no hosting. We act as outsourced IT admins for implementation. In the enterprise, it's rare that IT loses jobs when we're hired. Especially in the Exchange space, the person moves over to another job."

Deliver Apps for Web, Cloud, and SharePoint

Iron Speed Designer lets you create database applications that run directly in SharePoint, with the UI features you expect in custom applications, without the programming. It handles complex databases with hundreds of tables, foreign key relationships, and database views. The latest version, Iron Speed Designer 8.0, adds usability improvements including an improved application wizard and a simplified UI. The improved data access layer lets you create custom audit trails, set field values when initializing, displaying, or saving fields, as well as other events. A Data Sources tab lets you see all SQL queries and other data sources in one place and allows quick customizations of queries. Iron Speed Designer comes in an enterprise, standard, and free edition. To learn more, see the Iron Speed website.

SharePoint Development Tool with Point-and-Click

Telerik, an end-to-end provider of software application lifecycle and content management solutions, recently unveiled its CTP release of SharePoint Acceleration Kit. It lets developers integrate line of business data into SharePoint 2010 projects and empower business users by leveraging a rich set of ready-to-use Web Parts.  Among the features bundled in the SharePoint Acceleration Kit are Grid, Editor, Charts, Scheduler and ListView Web Parts. For more information, visit Telerik.

Increasing SharePoint User Adoption

"Changing technology is easy—changing behavior is hard," says David Lavenda of harmon.ie. "As the market evolves, we see collaboration as an evolutionary process—people adding on things as opposed to ripping out and replacing something wholesale."

Lavenda spoke with us about creating harmony between various platforms—specifically between SharePoint and Outlook (with harmon.ie for SharePoint, Outlook edition), and SharePoint and Lotus Notes (harmon.ie for Notes). The company, formerly known as Mainsoft, aims to address a problem that's a pain point in the SharePoint industry: user resistance.

A lot of companies buy into the concept of SharePoint, do everything by the book, run focus groups, create business cases, promote their deployment of SharePoint, Lavenda says, only to find that after all the work has been done, users don't want to use SharePoint.

It's not stubbornness, nor is it stupidity—it's that using SharePoint adds steps to their work processes, rather than streamlining them. For some users, he says, it's been documented that just handling a document in SharePoint and sending it to someone can take up to nine steps. And the clicking between multiple windows of multiple applications takes time and focus away from the user.

Security is another reason customers use when implementing harmon.ie. With some companies, Lavenda says, the primary business driver is data leakage—the financial, legal, and PR costs of sending the wrong document to the wrong person. Employees can inadvertently compromise the security of data by sending attachments via email. By switching to harmon.ie, they no longer send attachments but rather links to data within SharePoint, which require the proper permissions and access to be able to click and read.

Taming "document chaos" is another reason customers have for using harmon.ie. The product's email management enhances integration of email with SharePoint, from automatically mapping email headers to SharePoint columns to storing email by projects.

Then there's that argument for user productivity. The addition of multiple steps to a user's duties not only takes more time but also adds distraction, as multiple opportunities for stopping the flow of work are added.  Lavenda cites a New York Times article that said workers are in "digital detox" and that the average business user working on a computer changes windows 37 times an hour. "The whole topic of distraction in business is about reducing context switches," Lavenda says, by bringing everything into one window.

The company puts on a "SharePoint user challenge" at various conferences as a way to highlight the differences between using SharePoint alone and using it with harmon.ie. The company videos volunteers doing various tasks and publishes the times and results. To view the videos, and the results, visit weareallonthesamepage.com. To learn more about harmon.ie for SharePoint Outlook Edition and harmon.ie for SharePoint Notes Edition, visit harmon.ie.

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