3 min read

SharePoint 2007 vs. SharePoint 2010

By Praecipio Consulting on Feb 1, 2011 11:00:00 AM

There are many long, thorough comparisons of SharePoint 2007 and SharePoint 2010 out there. This isn’t one of them. Instead, we’ve created a brief list of what’s new in SharePoint 2010, so SharePoint 2007 users can quickly learn about the advantages of upgrading to 2010 and weigh their decision criteria.

We’ll start with the “big” new features. They include:

Office web apps. Work together in Microsoft Office web apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote) simultaneously and see team members’ changes in real time. The web apps allow light edits to documents; document formatting and content are maintained when changes are made from the web.

Co-authoring. With co-authoring, you can work together in Microsoft Office applications and see changes from other team members tracked in SharePoint 2010-hosted documents.

Easy access to templates. You can access document templates stored in SharePoint 2010 via the New Document wizard in Office 2010 applications.

Reusable, content-based workflows. SharePoint Designer 2010 supports reusable workflows and workflows attached to content types.

Online presentations. Audiences don’t need PowerPoint 2010 to view presentations; they can see the presentation with high quality online.

Direct saving. You can save Office 2010 documents directly to the SharePoint 2010 document library from Office Backstage view.

SharePoint 2010 also boasts these new capabilities:

Read and write capabilities. SharePoint 2010 allows you to create web parts that read and write data to external data sources.

Web analytics. An improved set of out-of-the-box Web Analytics reports, offering insight into the behavior of your SharePoint users.

Full-fidelity mobile viewing. It’s much, much better than 2007 mobile views.

Editing to mobile. Perform light edits to Office documents from your mobile device via Office web apps.

Contextual ribbon. Customizable, context-sensitive ribbon menu atop each SharePoint page. Informative Slideshare from Shai Petel here.

Microsoft Silverlight. SharePoint 2010 comes with out of the box Silverlight web parts, making the inclusion of Silverlight apps much easier.

                                         Typical SharePoint 2007 view

                   Enhanced view in SharePoint 2010, with customizable ribbon

You’ll also notice these improvements in 2010 – along with many unlisted improvements that make some 2007 operations easier to execute:

  • Metadata/tagging at the item level; tag clouds; tag profiles
  • Keyword suggestions
  • “Ask Me About” web part in profiles (helps users find answers from qualified co-workers)
  • Noteboard (enables users to comment on any SharePoint 2010 site)
  • Recent Activities
  • Bulk check-in/check-out
  • Organization Browser
  • Enterprise wikis
  • Compliance everywhere
  • Flexible records management
  • Shared content types and managed metadata service
  • Content organizer
  • Rich media management
  • Word automation
  • Better support for accessibility standards
  • Search “in context”
  • Social behavior improves search relevance
  • Thumbnail previews in browser
  • KPI details
  • Enhanced filtering
  • Javascript object model
  • Powershell scripting
  • Better fidelity with Excel workbooks
  • Integrated filter framework
  • Improved visualizations

At this point, if you don’t have SharePoint and are preparing to implement it, we strongly recommend you go with SharePoint 2010. Not only is this important to ensure compliance and compatibility for the future, but it allows you to take advantage of 2010 features. If you already have SharePoint 2007, you could do fine without upgrading so long as you’re okay with lacking the social features, improved mobile access, and better cross-browser performance of 2010 – that decision depends on what you need/value technologically. If you have SharePoint 2003, upgrading is becoming imperative in order to stay above water, so to speak.

Topics: blog mobile sharepoint workflows microsoft marketplace-apps
3 min read

The Post-PC Enterprise?

By Praecipio Consulting on Jan 25, 2011 11:00:00 AM

Former Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie said this in a memo released near his sudden departure from Microsoft in November:

As we’ve begun to embrace today’s incredibly powerful app-capable phones and pads into our daily lives, and as we’ve embraced myriad innovative services & websites, the early adopters among us have decidedly begun to move away from mentally associating our computing activities with the hardware/software artifacts of our past such as PC’s, CD-installed programs, desktops, folders & files.

Instead, to cope with the inherent complexity of a world of devices, a world of websites, and a world of apps & personal data that is spread across myriad devices & websites, a simple conceptual model is taking shape that brings it all together. We’re moving toward a world of 1) cloud-based continuous services that connect us all and do our bidding, and 2) appliance-like connected devices enabling us to interact with those cloud-based services.

Ozzie’s memo, now easy to find online, paints a portrait of a future of browser-based productivity offering similar functionality from a desktop computer, a smart phone, an iPad, and other future gadgets. For business, this implies that creating documents and collaborating with team members will happen anywhere, anytime. And it already is at a low level: emailing, light document editing, etc. It’s easy for anyone to see the trend toward more, as Ozzie said, “appliance-like” devices for these low-level tasks – but for high-level tasks like document design, photo editing, etc? These require robust software interfaces now…meaning that unless we can suddenly edit in Final Cut Pro from an iPhone, desktop computers will still be necessary to an extent.

In the bigger picture, though, no one can deny the shift toward cloud computing – toward what Ozzie’s talking about. It’s already begun. Hosted servers are proving more cost-effective than in-house maintenance; browser-based apps are enabling us to work from anywhere in the world; more and more work is being done from mobile interfaces. So what does this mean for the enterprise? For years Microsoft has secured long-term profit by monopolizing the business market. Indeed, today, companies are indebted to Microsoft since their entire hardware and software infrastructure is built on it; shifting from it would cost millions of dollars. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Microsoft’s business products are the best on the market – and are still, by far, a common medium for business interaction.

When we talk of businesses shifting toward post-PC infrastructure, we essentially talk of a post-Microsoft business. Sure, Microsoft has begun offering browser-based versions of Office and Exchange – but hence the context of Ozzie’s departure, things are way behind schedule. When will Microsoft-quality business productivity be available via cloud on a variety of connected devices? And when will someone produce a just-as-good office productivity suite that’s suitable across all appliance OS platforms? And what will justify the switch for the enterprise: lower long-term cost? Lower maintenance levels? Greater flexibility?

The post-PC enterprise is a long way off. And it won’t happen until better alternative technology and Microsoft-caliber software is available across all OS’s. But the momentum is gathering steam, as Ozzie indicates, and soon we’ll be answering the questions we can’t answer now. Tech Republic Editor in Chief Jason Hiner puts all of this in perspective in his 2 January 2011 post:

I will not predict that 2011 will be the year that thin clients replace a lot of desktop PCs…that’s never gained mass acceptance…rather, we are going to begin to see a lot more companies experimenting with desktop virtualization.

Rather than keeping software running at the desktop-level, Hiner says, companies will begin putting their software images on virtual machines – enabling company software to be accessed from a variety of, as Ozzie said, “appliance-like” devices, including a company PC, personal laptops, and smart devices. That way IT maintains control over the software and settings of the virtual machine, and performs less maintenance on the environments of individual ones.

To gather more perspective on this, read Ozzie’s blog post published shortly after his memo was released. 

Topics: blog business enterprise cloud computing microsoft productivity
2 min read

Confluence for the Gaming Industry

By Praecipio Consulting on Dec 7, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Atlassian’s Confluence is a key supplement to its Jira product. Confluence acts as a powerful project management component, breaking down information barriers within the development environment and keeping everyone on the same page. With an extensive list of plugins and Microsoft Office integration, Confluence can improve information sharing extensively – especially when working in tandem with Jira.

This post assumes the reader has a reasonable understanding of Confluence (if it’s unfamiliar to you, check out Altassian’s intro video). The post highlights how Confluence – as a component of Atlassian’s Agile approach – can streamline game development. Check it out:

Idea central. Confluence can easily serve as a repository for group ideas – and more importantly, offers more structured brainstorming. This is very important in pre-production environments.

Project central. Configuring Confluence to serve as a central portal for project information makes it easy for team members to get current project news from one place. In a hectic production environment, having a page that pulls in the data you need is great.

Personal homepages. Each Confluence user has their own homepage, and can easily write about what’s happening on their team, in their project, etc. This is much easier than navigating a wiki, and also allows developers to find team members with specific expertise.

Permissions. It’s important for all companies to have a mature permission scheme when it comes to file access. Confluence offers thorough permissioning options, so developers can feel confident in the integrity of their work.

Flexibility. Confluence and Jira are each flexible enough to be used differently by different project teams. One team, for example, may use Confluence to track milestones while another might use it to schedule individual tasks by the hour. Tom-ay-to tom-ah-to, it’s improving each team’s productivity by fitting their unique needs.

Documentation. Documenting applications is of course a critical part of the development process. Confluence makes documentation effective by making it searchable, ensuring users have access to up-to-date information on the fly. That’s extremely valuable since game developers need quick access to tech specs about game branding/design scheme/etc.

That’s how game developers are leveraging Atlassian Confluence to streamline project management in the development environment. And once again, it’s worth noting that much of what’s covered above applies to business of all types – not just those in the gaming industry. Check out our Confluence blogs to learn more about how Confluence (and other Atlassian tools)  can boost your operations.

Special note: We mentioned this in a recent post, but if you’ll be attending South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin in March 2011, stop by our booth at the SXSWi Trade Show. We’ll have a Confluence (and Jira) demo live, and have our developers behind the table.

Topics: jira atlassian blog scaled-agile confluence management project show sxsw trade documentation homepages integration microsoft
3 min read

How To Organize SharePoint: Getting Away from Folders

By Praecipio Consulting on Oct 5, 2010 11:00:00 AM

 

 

Humans have been coming up with new ways to organize their information for years. The need to find the information you need quickly has perpetuated for centuries. When information began to be digitized, that need transitioned into the digital world – and soon we found ourselves with a pile of virtual files wondering how to manage them responsibly.

Since the 1990s, the most common way to sort through this file pile – or at least the best way to arrange them coherently – was to put the files into a “folder tree.” Folder trees are complex hierarchies of file folders that, if you mapped them out on a whiteboard, would look like your typical Christmas tree – with the high-level folders at the top, slowing segmenting downward to reveal subfolders, and the subfolders of those subfolders, and the subfolder’s subfolder’s subfolder. Say that three times fast.

The problem with folder trees is that as a company grows, their folder tree can easily turn into folder sprawl. As the tree grows, files can be buried deeper and deeper – meaning the search for a particular file takes longer in most cases – not to mention the time it takes to save a new file in the right location. And the more time it takes to find something, the more company time is wasted. That’s inefficient.

“But what about the Search function?” you say. “Can’t you just search for the file?” Youcan, actually. But in order to find the correct file, you need to know all or part of the file name – which you can’t guarantee. In order for Search to be affective, you’d need to be able to search for the things about the file you DO know – like, for instance, when it was written, who wrote it, what it was for, etc.

That being said, a better way to organize information is to forget the folder tree altogether – or at least in theory. It sounds crazy, but if done right, it can make your information architecture far more efficient than you think.

The better way involves assigning relevant attributes to every file in your system – where each file has a set of attributes that describe it, telling us what it is, what type of file it is, when it was last modified, and who modified it. Consider a hypothetical worker’s compensation form, for example, stored in a content management system. If I didn’t know what the worker’s comp form was called, but knew it had to do with insurance, I could type “insurance” as a search query – and if “insurance” was a keyword or attribute of the form, presto. I’ve got it.

                                    Document Library in SharePoint

                                      HR Request List in SharePoint

Attributes should be unique to every folder, library, or department, users associate with documents differently depending on what they are. For example, this HR request list in Microsoft SharePoint looks a lot different from the Employee Agreements document library. For one, it stores requests – not actual documents. It’s meant to track requests made to Human Resources, so each request’s attributes tell who requested it, what type of thing was requested, some details, and its approval status.

By assigning attributes to every file in your system, you’re guaranteeing faster search times and implementing a more intelligent information architecture for your organization – avoiding the messy, high-maintenance folder sprawl we mentioned earlier. By making the search process more efficient and repeatable, you’re making your company more profitable long-term.

Good technology, good process, good profit. To more learn about that or tell us how YOU organize your stuff, visit our blog.

Topics: business library management sharepoint company documentation information intelligence microsoft organization
3 min read

Version Control in SharePoint

By Praecipio Consulting on Sep 23, 2010 11:00:00 AM

 

Listen to the video or read along below:

Some of you may remember when shared drives were a revolutionary way of sharing documents throughout a company. Business documents were stored on a drive within a massive tree of folders that most employees could access. The problem with shared drives was that whoever edited a document last won – and by that I mean if Joe in accounting and Sue in management were editing the same document, there was no way for them to know if anyone else was editing it at the same time. So if Sue saved the document and overwrote it on the shared drive, and Joe finished and saved it an hour later, Joe’s version would become the document – and all Sue’s work would be lost, resulting in wasted time, wasted money, and…well, extreme frustration.

This is why SharePoint‘s version control is so useful. Here’s how it works in a document library. Click on Settings, then Document Library Settings. // Here, under General Settings, click Versioning Settings. // Here’s where you’ll set this up. Content Approval’s asking if you want to approve or reject submitted documents or changes – you would want to do this if you didn’t want everyone with access to the library to see approved, pending, and rejected drafts…for this example, I’ll turn this off for the sake of simplicity. Document Version History is want we really want here. I want a new version to be created every time I update a document – and I want the old versions of the document to remain available in case I mess up and need to revert to a previous version. Right now, No Versioning is selected – so I’ll change that. I can choose major versions or minor versions. I recommend major and minor versions for precision – if someone merely changes the punctuation in the document, I don’t want the document to jump from 2.0 to 3.0.

Below, I can choose how many older versions to keep on file. 2.0s and 3.0s are considered Major Versions, while 2.1.1s and 3.1.1s are considered minor or “drafts.”

Draft Item Security lets you choose who can see every version of a document. You can choose to extend this visibility to anyone who can read items in the library, to those with editing capabilities, or only to users who approve changes. I’m not requiring an approval process for this library, so I can’t choose the last option – but I’ll choose only those who can edit documents, since those are the people likely to be on the team with access to this library.

Lastly, Requiring Check Out is very important. Checking out a document to edit it tells the rest of the world you’re editing that document – if you don’t do that, you revert to the shared drive scenario I mentioned earlier. I’m selecting “yes” here to require my team to check out a document to edit it. You can learn how to check documents in and out in a separate videoblog.

So now let’s test this…let’s say we need to update our Worker’s Comp Form. I’ll click Edit in Microsoft Word – notice I’m “about to check out and edit this” – // and in Word, I’ll make the changes. Now I’ll check in the document – and notice it’s asking me what type of version I’m checking in. These were minor edits, so I’m checking in a minor version or draft – so I’ll select that, and let people know what I did…then click OK.

Now I can click on the Version History of this document and see my latest version here. If I click the drop-down arrow, I can choose to view or unpublish my version – or restore the version below. I can also delete all minor versions – all the small drafts – and keep major ones, the 2.0s and 3.0s, to make things simpler.

That’s the scoop on versioning. Visit our blog for more.

Topics: how-to library sharepoint videos control documentation microsoft
1 min read

Client Spotlight: EPB of Chattanooga

By Praecipio Consulting on Sep 21, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Electric Power Board (EPB) is an electric and telecommunications company owned by the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee. EPB provides electricity, cable, and as of this month, the fastest internet in the US to greater Chattanooga.

EPB has showed itself as one of the most progressive public utilities in the US by, in addition to providing 1GB internet, actively building a 100 percent fiber-optic Smart Grid. EPB had already begun their Smart Grid program before the Obama administration included billions of dollars in grands for Smart Grid projects in the 2009 economic stimulus program. EPB’s internet offering piggy-backed off the fibers laid in place for their Smart Grid.

EPB’s Smart Grid has created a platform of innovation for the city of Chattanooga as a whole. In addition to offering an array of R&D opportunities, the Smart Grid has essentially invited companies from across the US to use the grid and 1GB internet streaming to work on complex projects and develop next-generation applications – a huge stimulus for the regional economy.

We’ve been proud to be involved with EPB’s innovative efforts since 2007. We share EPB’s passion for innovation, efficiency, and sustainability; sustainable energy practices and technology are critically important for our future. During our time in Chattanooga, we’ve:

  • provided Project Management for the development of EPB’s two new websites, EPB.net and EPBFI.com
  • implemented robust Microsoft SharePoint process frameworks for managing and facilitating legal matters, RFPs, and a host of other business processes
  • developed Process Lifecycle Management methodologies that have improved EPB’s operations
  • implemented ITIL-based methodologies and best practices, making EPB’s IT processes more consistent and repeatable

…and a whole lot more. Good technology supports good processes; good processes make for good profit and reducing expenses. It’s been great to help EPB reduce expenses during a critically important (and exciting) time.

Read more about EPB on their website – and check out the cool 1GB-powered things happening in Chattanooga at ChattanoogaGig.com.

Topics: blog assessments efficiency implementation internet management optimization process process-consulting project sharepoint smart development grid itil lifecycle microsoft bespoke
3 min read

FAQ's

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 31, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Since we’re a consulting firm with a funky (we prefer “unique!”) name, we’re always armed with answers to the questions that follow “we’re Praecipio Consulting.” It would be a little silly to have an FAQ page on our website for such questions – so we’ve set out to answer the popular ones here. Ahem.

What does “Praecipio” mean?

For starters, it’s not a food or spice. Praecipio is Latin for the English words anticipate, advise, and instruct. We chose the name because its meaning matches our meaning. Praecipio, by definition, is what we do. You can read the full scoop on our name in Praecipio: It's What We Do.

So you do process management and bunch of software stuff – doesn’t that mean you’re just IT consultants?

No. Our partners are experienced in consulting in numerous areas – process lifecycle management, project management, custom software development, etc…and, of course, IT. All ends of a company, though, impact one another. One department’s initiative may impact another department just like the motion of a foot can impact the balance of the body.

When we say we work in all of these different areas, we mean to stress that we have to understand how the body works if we’re going to operate on the foot, so to speak.

I heard you host Microsoft Exchange, but couldn’t find much information about that on your website. Is that rumor true?

Yes. We offer Exchange migration, hosting, and support for businesses large and small, available upon request. We don’t advertise this heavily because it’s not our primary offering; we currently host Exchange for a handful of small businesses and have the solution ready and available for our clients’ benefit. Hosting has become a truly affordable and secure way to manage corporate email and content management systems.

We also host Microsoft SharePoint, offer cloud backup solutions, and re-sell / offer migration to Google Apps. If you’re considering any of these hosting solutions, talk to us now. We’d be happy to offer you advice and perspective.

You mention Microsoft technologies extensively. I run a Google Apps-based business – are you relevant to me?

Of course. Again, we re-sell Google Apps – and offer migration and configuration guidance to businesses who choose to “go Google.” Microsoft solutions aren’t best for everyone just like Google solutions aren’t best for everyone. We suggest the solutions that are best for our clients – not those with a particular brand name.

We do, however, have extensive experience with Microsoft SharePoint in particular. We have implemented SharePoint-powered solutions that have greatly lowered our clients’ operations expenses. Due to the success, we want to market that kind of solution to people we may be able to help, offering the proven track record as assurance. It’s rewarding to see our clients reduce their costs and grow using our solutions. Our SharePoint solutions have done just that, and if you think you can reduce your costs with a similar solution, we’d love to talk to you to learn more.

I’m a small business that doesn’t have an IT department or anything like that. Can you help me? Or do you just cater to the enterprise?

Yes, we can help you too! Partnering with smaller businesses (even one-man shops) offers us the chance to help you grow over time – which is essentially what we’re after with any work we do. Small businesses can take advantage of our free two-hour consulting sessions (we offer this to any first-time customer) for guidance and perspective. They can then have us as a point of reference as they grow.

Our hosting opportunities (Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, cloud backups, Google Apps) are most appealing to small businesses, since very few small businesses (and large ones, for that matter) want to own a server of their own. We take care of hosting and support for businesses who want to take advantage of those tools without all the overhead.

You mention “process automation” on your website. Are you taking away people’s jobs?

Certainly not. We’re not deploying robots, either. Read the full scoop in 4 Misconceptions of Process Automation.

I noticed you didn’t cover [this] on your blog. Do you plan to tackle that topic in the future?

Sure. If you have a topic you’d like us to discuss on our blog, just throw us the idea – we’ll have our quills ready. Call us, email us, tweet us…or just post a comment on the blog.

We’d love to meet you. Talk to us here.

Topics: management process project sharepoint tips tricks development hosting lifecycle microsoft bespoke
3 min read

Microsoft Office 2010 vs. Google Docs - Can They Compete?

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 30, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Microsoft Office 2010 vs. Google Docs conversations aren’t just happening in the break room. Microsoft and Google themselves have taken some careful shots at one another over the last few months – the most explicit of which include Google’s claim that Google Docs makes Office 2003 and 2007 better (don’t adopt Office 2010) and Microsoft’s counter blog claiming “that’s not true.”

If Google Docs and Microsoft Office 2010 were as similar as tom-ay-toe and tom-ah-toe, we could simply lean back in our chairs and laugh at this whole thing. Problem is, they’re not. There are still differences between the two’s capabilities. Here’s the skinny:

Google Docs. An innovative, free way to create, edit, and share documents online. The browser-based office suite includes slimmed-down comparisons to Microsoft’s Word, Excel, and PowerPoint – which allow you to do almost every basic operation you need.

The advantages:

  • Collaborative editing in real-time (though SharePoint 2010 now has real-time editing also)
  • Easy document sharing
  • Gradually maturing security platform and enterprise capabilities
  • Google Docs is free; Google Apps for Business is just $50 annually per user

The disadvantages:

  • Lacks formatting and template abilities compared to Office 2010
  • Lacks ability to open/save a wide variety of file types
  • Lacks integration with most enterprise IT platforms
  • Still depends heavily on an internet connection

Office 2010. Microsoft’s freshest batch of office tools – Office’s power set (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) plus OneNote, Publisher, Visio, etc. – accompanied by the debut of the online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Similar to Google Docs, these browser-based versions offer higher quality tools with lower quality collaboration. Their web apps marketing video indicates they’re meant for on-the-fly editing.

The advantages:

  • Scalability of the software – i.e. the ability to perform high-level operations
  • Broad formatting and template ability
  • Integration with Microsoft SharePoint; online 2010 version a la Google Docs
  • Established enterprise reputation

The disadvantages:

  • Software and licensing costs, plain and simple
  • Alleged “forced integration” with other Microsoft products – a claim Microsoft has reversed and applied to Google

Who Wins? That depends. As you can see, Google and Microsoft’s business suites have pros and cons over one another – the most notable of which is Google’s outright victory from a cost perspective. Businesses who don’t need extensive document formatting options may benefit from Google Docs while businesses who use their office suite for high-level operations may not.

One of the more “on the fence” issues here is security. The security of Google’s business suite has been questioned consistently in recent months. Those questions, however, are beginning to taper off as more large public agencies adopt Google Apps for Business as their office platform. Notable recent adoptions include Boise State University, the District of Columbia, the City of Orlando (FL), Kansas, and New Mexico.

The biggest news here occurred this Tuesday, when Google announced Google Apps for Government – an Apps Premier edition that meets the US’ federal security requirements. The new edition received an FISMA-Moderate rating from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – meaning it’s authorized to host sensitive (but unclassified) data if stored on servers within the United States.

While Google Docs doesn’t yet have an excellent reputation in terms of security, these recent adoptions indicate they’re gaining ground. The fact that most federal and public agencies are strapped for cash and looking to cheapen technology costs, however, doesn’t allow us to let go of our questions just yet.

That being said, the gap between Google Docs and Microsoft Office still remains – though it’s narrowing by the day.

Topics: blog business efficiency enterprise google management process sharepoint value collaboration microsoft marketplace-apps

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