From No Pulse to a Live Pulse
For many organizations, SharePoint first appears on the scene as an intranet. Here’s the last installment of our conversation with three IT pros, Cory, Scott, and Ken, who were tasked with setting up a SharePoint intranet for their employer.
Were there any 3rd party products you found useful?
Cory: We had one third-party product and we worked with a consulting group, Quilogy \\[acquired in 2010 by Aspect\\]—they wrote some Web Parts for us. They wrote and supported them.
Scott: We wanted to make the main page more dynamic so we started looking at third-party tools. Some of these tools were pretty easy to configure and some were more difficult. But we noticed that these tools were costing us in performance. So we told the consultant what we wanted to do and they were able to provide us with a couple of cool features, such as a Spotlight that we could customize to our company’s needs. We are able to hard-code a user into Spotlight or we can have it pick a user every X number of minutes as long as they have a picture and have filled out one of the following fields: About Me, Interests, Skills, or Responsibilities. We also had them develop a Birthday/Anniversary/New Hire web part, which we can customize to display for X days or look X day’s into the future.
Cory: The Bamboo video still has a bug. We’re going to go back to Quilogy and see if they can write a video Web Part. The problem is the thumbnail’s not generating and they say they’ve fixed it in 2008 but we can’t get it to work.
Ken: The surprising part is you can find Web Parts on the Internet, but they’re not written real well. The support for third-party Web Parts has been a limiting factor: The original Spotlight that we downloaded, every time you wanted to do something it was scanning all the My Sites for it. You were seven to 10 seconds loading because it was scanning. We couldn’t have it on the home page because of the performance issue. We talked to Quilogy and in literally four to six hours of time, they built something that’s very, very efficient, and when we want a tweak, it’s just a phone call and then he loads it and we’re done.
What do you like about your SharePoint implementation?
Cory: One thing we really like is the Content Editor Web Part. Some people say that the Data View Web Part is the most powerful tool and maybe they’re right, but we think the Content Editor Web Part lets you do a lot. It’s a really useful tool. It’s handy for modifying streams, you can hide the style sheets, you can hide the left nav.
Here’s the code the guys used to hide the left navigation using a content editor Web Part:
Ken: The blog roll has turned out to be a fantastic piece for the home page. The nice thing about the blog roll is people can put info out there on the home page. You make a blog on your MySite and it’ll show up on the home page.
Scott: There were other blog rolls out there but we couldn’t customize them. We had Quilogy customize this one so Sharon, the CEO, whenever she blogs, hers will always pop up first.
Ken: Quilogy wrote this from scratch. But the interesting thing is, it’s not like this is a $5,000 effort—the blog roll cost us about a grand. For the price of that you could go out and download a Web Part, but we get support and we get the Web Part exactly the way we want it.
Any challenges with end users or site admins?
Cory: We have issues with each other, that’s about it.
Scott: Our team’s so small, we had to do whatever it took to get it done.
Cory: After launch now, we’re creating people as owners of team sites.
Ken: It’s just a strategy of getting people involved, rather than calling IT. SharePoint is like Excel—there’s people that will do simple Excel and people who will use the more advanced capabilities.
What would you have done differently?
Scott: The first go. But we learned a lot from it. The second time we got our act together pretty good.
What’s the plan for the future?
Cory: Scott and I are just happy to have stability on SharePoint.
Ken: It’s nice to have a stable site we can keep adding functionality to. Because of the cost, I don’t see us moving to 2010 this year.