Category Archives: SharePoint

A Little Annoyance Carried Forward…

SP2010 is very cool stuff, but I wish they would have adjusted the language on list and libraries settings’ pages when it comes to managing content types:


The same language was in place for WSS/MOSS.  Just change the word “delete” to “remove” and it will just plain make more sense.

Subscribe to my blog.

Follow me on Twitter at


New Article, “Mastering SharePoint”

My latest article for is up and kicking here:

Here’s a teaser:


This is basically a pretty short and condensed version of my most popular public presentation on “On to Learn SharePoint.”  No banjo jokes, however.

Check it out!


Subscribe to my blog.

Follow me on Twitter at

SharePoint On Line // BPOS – Some Hands On Experience

(Note: this article was cross-posted here:

Update 09/01/09: Based on twitter feedback, I need to clarify that InfoPath is supported in the sense that BPOS provides forms libraries.  What I mean when I write "not supported in any way" is that InfoPath forms services functions are not supported.  That means that you can’t publish an InfoPath form to BPOS and and have it render in the web browser.  It also means that some out of the box workflows, which use InfoPath (even in MOSS standard edition) don’t work in BPOS because their initiation and other forms use InfoPath.  Hopefully that clears things up.

I had a chance to really dig into Microsoft Online’s offering earlier this year and specifically the business productivity online suite (BPOS).  This came along before I even hard a firm plan to set out on my own at Arcovis.  I immediately saw, however, that BPOS could be a key part of my company’s internal infrastructure and over time, it has become exactly that.  Arcovis, uses it on a daily basis.  I thought I’d share some of that experience from a practical perspective in case you want to evaluate it for yourself or are just curious about it.

As the word “suite” in BPOS implies, you get a small bundle of applications:

  • Exchange
  • Live Meeting
  • Communicator
  • SharePoint

You can buy each of them separately, I believe.  It’s all spelled out relatively clearly on the Microsoft online site.  You may be able to get better deals through MSFT partners.  Arcovis has been working with Cloud Strategies and they seem to know their stuff, so I’d include them in your list of vendors if you do a multi-vendor search.

I outline my experience and thoughts for each of these respectively.


This is a hosted exchange environment and from my perspective, it works like any other Exchange server I have ever used.  It’s fully integrated with all of my fellow Arcovis partners’ environments and gives me access to the calendar (which is huge).  Good stuff.

It also provides the Outlook Web Access (OWA) interface.  That means I can get my email on any machine that has a web browser.

My HTC mobile phone, running Windows Mobile 6.1(?) connected to it nicely via Active Sync.  It did this in exactly the way I expected and wanted.

I don’t consider myself much more than a casual outlook and exchange user so there may be really important Exchange features that just aren’t supported and I wouldn’t necessarily know it.

I think the strongest recommendation I make for this is that I am completely unaware that my exchange environment is “somewhere else.”  I don’t know see any difference in Exchange and how I use it on a daily basis versus the half dozen or so other times I used someone’s exchange environment.  In fact, this is better because it simply works.

Bottom line – hosted exchange is what it needs to be and I’m very happy with it.

Live Meeting

This is a truly indispensible tool when you’re in the consulting business.  I fire up instant live meetings several times a week to show intermediate work product to clients, to watch them break my solutions so that I know how to fix them, do sales presentations, etc.  Live meeting is bundled with BPOS and it’s very easy to use. 

I’m even less of a live meeting expert than I am on exchange.  However, for my purposes, it’s great.


So far, I use communicator almost only for presence information.  I say “only” but have that presence data available to me whenever I’m connect has become addictive.  With communicator installed and running, my colleagues know when I’m available, what my schedule is like at this moment, and can IM me (though the IM interface is pretty dull, at best).  It’s one of those things that I really miss when I don’t have it.  I actually get a little annoyed when my colleagues aren’t running communicator because the presence information is missing.

The presence indicator feels pervasive.  It shows up in SharePoint whenever their name appears as an author to a document, assigned a task, etc.  It shows in email, embedded right in outlook.  It shows up in the communicator client itself. 

For the most it just sits there running in the background and decorates my outlook and SharePoint screens with real-time presence information.  It’s very cool.


My favorite bit, of course, is SharePoint. 

BPOS provides a modified version of MOSS standard edition.  I’ll explain “modified” below.  We’ve been using our BPOS SharePoint portal for stuff like:

  • Marketing information
  • Sales (proposals, lead tracking) –> we do plan to invest in a CRM solution but for now, SharePoint is working out as our CRM solution.
  • Partner and customer contacts
  • Search
  • Client project information
  • Billing (mainly for storing our invoices)
  • Discussions
  • Prototyping solutions
  • Building out demonstration sites (e.g. new hire management HR process)
  • Time sheets
  • Document collaboration

Basically, all the stuff you’d expect to use SharePoint for.

Along the way, we use technical features like:

  • Alerts
  • SharePoint Designer
    • Workflows
    • Branding
  • Content types
  • CQWP
  • Document libraries with version control
  • Custom lists for all kinds of things (like our time sheets)
  • jQuery (and all the goodness that can come from that, including AJAX calls to SharePoint web services)

What can’t I do with it?  There are a bunch of things that would be nice:

  • I cannot provide anonymous access.  In fact, i don’t think I can do that for any price.  I could be wrong, or hopefully MSFT will change this in future.
  • No InfoPath of any kind.
    • This has the slightly strange side effect of blocking a few standard MOSS workflows that rely on InfoPath.
  • No server side code.  That means, among other things:
    • No event receivers
    • No custom SharePoint designer actions
    • No custom field types
    • No proper SDLC (i.e. features/solutions).
    • No access to stsadm
  • No access to a shared service provider. 
    • The last bit is a little sad because we can’t do as much search configuration I would like. 

      You basically give up a lot of technical capability and are forced to live within the confines of out-of-the-box SharePoint functionality.

      I can live with that.  I have found myself wanting to slap together an event receiver or use a custom action once or twice,, but for the most part, I don’t notice the lack.

      I should add that this is not a comprehensive list of the differences between a hosted “on prem” MOSS environment and SharePoint on line.  Cloud Strategies has a very detailed presentation that goes into all that if you’re interested.  I’m speaking from the perspective of a business owner leveraging the tool.

      Ease of Use

      Microsoft provides a nifty desktop application that enables quick and easy access to all of the BPOS functions:


      You don’t need to use it, but eliminates the need to log into each of the applications separately and for live meeting, It’s quite nice because you can do a “meet now” session with just 2 clicks (one on the “web conferencing” button above and another on the web browser that pops up).  It’s also nice to get OWA with one click, though you can just put that in your browser favorites as well.

      The other major advantage with this desktop application is that it provides a background kind of single sign on service.  As long as this is running in the background, I can open up web browsers and connect to my BPOS environment without ever needing to enter credentials.

      Full Disclosure

      Microsoft made BPOS available to me for free so I am not currently paying the monthly per user fee at this time.  However, I see value there and you can accept on faith (or not) that I would pay for this service.  The fact is that I can’t count on Microsoft providing this for free forever and it’s become so strongly integrated with my business that moving … the mind quails.


      BPOS is an insanely feature rich platform.  Exchange, SharePoint (MOSS Standard!), presence, instant live meetings – it’s a lot of functionality that I would sorely, sorely miss if I had to live without it.  My business would be severely impacted without it.  Could I find replacement functionality?  Probably, but I think I would have to cobble it together from a variety of other vendors, complicating my life.  BPOS has so far proven itself to be stable and reliable.  For the right kind of customer (like my company), BPOS is worth strong consideration.


      Subscribe to my blog.

      Follow me on Twitter at

      Efficiently Follow Microsoft SharePoint (and Other) SharePoint Forums

      I have been following MSDN forums for well over a year (and possibly almost 2 years at this point) and every now and then I hear from someone how “hard” it is to do that.  I find it quite easy and thought I’d share my “technique”.  This technique also works for (

      Taking MSDN as an example, I first go to standard forum page such as the General Questions for SharePoint main page here:

      You should right away notice that the forums are RSS enabled, as shown:


      I’ve been using Google Reader for managing my RSS feeds for a long time now (  I go there, add the RSS feed for the forum and now I’m getting all new forums posts via RSS.  My Google feeds for SharePoint forums look like this:


      Google provides me a nice view of the posting itself:


      And finally, Google lets me use the keyboard to scroll through the postings in the forums this way.

      I can quickly scan through posts and focus just on those I feel I can make a useful contribution.

      Alerts close the loop.  Updates to posts don’t come through RSS (though I think they used to a long time ago).  However, if I post a response to a forum posting, the forums alert me via email and IM that someone responded in turn.  Or, if I can’t make a useful contribution but I want to know what others have to say, I can drill into it and explicitly request alerts when others do respond.

      In an hour or less you can set this process up and and in a week of regular use, learn the various keyboard tricks and shortcuts so that this becomes second nature.

      I use the exact same technique for End User SharePoint.Com’s “Stump the Panel” forums.  This is their RSS feed:

      Forums are an awesome way, possibly the best way short of direct personal experience, of learning the product and getting a nice survey of how the world, at large, uses SharePoint.  Give it a try!


      Subscribe to my blog.

      Follow me on Twitter at

      Technorati Tags:

      Governance is a Marketing Plan Too

      The reason we spend so much time (or should, anyway) working out governance plans is because we want the SharePoint solution to be as effective as possible.  We want good infrastructure and rules to keep it humming and safe in case of disaster.  We want good security processes to both properly secure the environment but also make it reasonable to manage.  We want a good information architecture that will stand the test of time, ideally managing to survive a major organizational change in the company. 

      To achieve that desirable objective, a governance document and plan can devolve into a bunch of “thou shall” and “thou shall not’s”, as in:

      • Thou shall not create SharePoint security group; use AD instead.
      • Thou shall not create folders in document libraries; use content types and views instead.
      • Thou shall create all document content types based off a specific custom base type.
      • Thou shall not create an information taxonomy based off today’s company org chart.

      “Thou shall” and “thou shall not” certainly have their place in the governance plan.

      A more successful governance plan will also have a strong marketing angle.  It should sell and justify itself to the maximum extent possible.  A truly successful governance plan relies upon the voluntary cooperation of all SharePoint users.  (There are fringe cases where community cooperation is not needed, such as when SharePoint is used by a very small number of tightly managed users; I’m sure you can think of others).  If the user community doesn’t buy into your governance plan then it will be partially successful at best.

      I use that word “buy” deliberately.  The community will buy the governance plan if it’s fundamentally sound and you go to some effort to sell them on it.  Selling leads to marketing and that’s why I think that a governance plan should be considered a marketing plan too.  Convince your end users that they need to follow the governance plan and they will voluntarily follow it.  If you can get a critical mass of people following the governance plan then the plan’s benefits follow and you’ll have a stronger environment for it.


      Subscribe to my blog.

      Follow me on Twitter at

      Using MSDN (and other) Forums for SharePoint Support

      I could write on at great length about MSDN forums, etiquette, naming conventions, search, etc.  I may do that, in fact.  I wanted to point out a small thing which may help people have a better overall experience.

      I’ve lately been telling people that if you run into some kind of problem with your SharePoint environment, development project or other SharePoint related activity, post a question to the forums earlier in your action chain rather than later.  I know for myself that when I have a problem, a number of potential solutions present themselves right away.  I order these potential solutions in terms of likelihood, applicability and how easy they are to investigate.  I go through that list and by the time I’ve gotten to #10, I’m making registry changes to a key “/foo/bar/almostThere/isThisIt/noThisIsNotIt/iCantBelieveIAmDoingThis/finallyThere!” on the advice of a blog found on page 8 of a Google search.  When that doesn’t work, I finally post a question to MSDN (e.g. here:

      I suggest that you reverse that approach.  Post the forums much earlier in your investigation because:

      • It’s free to you anyway.
      • There’s no guaranteed SLA (of which I’m aware, at least).
      • Therefore, it can take a long time for people to respond.
      • People often do respond eventually.
      • If you wait until 2 or 3 days after the problem first surfaced, you’re frantic for a response and forums are not a good place for emergency help (unless you’re lucky).

      So, basically, it’s easy and free and you have a good shot at getting some kind of answer, but it will take a while to get that answer (again, unless you’re lucky).

      I used to think that I should hold off on looking for community help because I don’t want to waste someone’s time asking for help when I could find it out myself.  Some forum moderators and active participants may feel that way, but I don’t (at least, I don’t feel that way any more).  I don’t see any downside.  The worst case is that you post a question and then answer it yourself some time later, possibly “wasting” some one’s time.  I don’t see a big risk in that and there’s value in the researching of questions like that in any event.


      Subscribe to my blog.

      Follow me on Twitter at

      Technorati Tags: ,

      SharePoint Predictions for 2009

      I’ve read a few retrospectives on 2008 and this has got me to thinking about 2009.  Here are my guesses at the future of SharePoint in 2009.

      Small Disclaimer

      I’m a SharePoint MVP and as a result, I sometimes get a little advance information before it’s public.  I am NOT making any such information public.  I really haven’t been around long enough to be entrusted with that kind of stuff anyway.

      With that out of the way, on to the predictions …


      I believe that FAST will become a very hot topic in 2009.  It’s already well known in the enterprise search community.  However, everyone that plays around with SharePoint in 2009 will soon be interested in this product and what it can do for them.  New consulting companies will spring up around it and existing partners will work and scramble to add it to its portfolio.  This time next year, almost everyone in the SharePoint community will have heard of and have an opinion about FAST.

      FAST is targeted at large companies and that will continue.  I think there’s at least an outside chance that Microsoft will release a more focused version of the product that is accessible to smaller companies.  Failing that, they will open up the SharePoint search engine so that it can be customized along the lines that FAST can be customized.  For example, FAST uses pipeline architecture for consuming content and indexing it.  FAST admins and developers can assemble pipeline components per data source and even create new pipeline components.  We don’t have this flexibility with SharePoint today.  If FAST remains firmly targeted at very large companies, SharePoint search will adopt some of FAST’s features.

      SharePoint V.Next

      I believe it will come out in 2009.

      I believe that it will provide us the ability to secure views on a list or document library.  This may be more of a hope than a belief 🙂

      I hope it will provide some better support for end users in SharePoint Designer and particularly workflow.

      I don’t know much else,  I have been actively tracking what I do find here:

      Vendors Will Create Business Applications

      Today, most SharePoint vendors seem to be gadget oriented.  Take Bamboo or Corasworks for example.  They have a huge following and great portfolio of products.  However, they seem sort of gadgety to me or developer / tool focused.  Admin tools, workflow tools, etc.  That’s not a criticism at all because SharePoint can definitely use some gadgets.

      In 2009, some vendors (and very possibly Bamboo themselves, if I read this correctly) will put together verticalized business applications in the form of templates, features, solutions, etc.  I’m thinking about the fabulous forty templates today but tailored to specific industries.  I’m sort of surprised it’s not already exploited this way.  SharePoint is a platform for delivering these kinds of things.  What’s everyone waiting for?  They won’t wait any longer in 2009.

      At the same time, Silverlight and other cool .NET stuff will fuel new, better and more interesting gadgets. will become the essential community catalog of these products.

      End User Focus

      2009 will see the emergence of the End User as a major focus for bloggers, organizations and Microsoft themselves.  Mark Miller’s End User SharePoint.Com played a big role in 2008 and will continue to do so in 2009.  End Users will begin to blog, help to transform user groups into less technical venues and even convince someone or organization to launch a pure End User focused conference.

      Conferences, User Groups, Code Camps, etc

      Speaking of conferences – they will continue to expand and grow in number and focus.  Aside from end user content, they will continue to cater to developers and administrators.

      Virtual conferences will start to pick up and existing conferences will provide live feeds to remote attendees who cannot or choose not to attend in person.

      Free venues will expand, such as Mike Lotter’s (et al) SharePoint Saturday.

      This is going to be very important because there will continue to be a large influx of new developers, admins and end users who will be craving the kind of information these groups provide.

      Social Computing

      Demand for social computing features will rise.  All things being equal, companies that implement effective social computing strategies will do better and be stronger than their competitors.

      Smaller companies will adopt these features more quickly and effectively than large companies.

      Large companies: beware 🙂

      Best Practices versus Remediation

      In 2008, a lot of SharePoint bloggers and organizations and Microsoft themselves spent a lot of time figuring out the best way to solve certain problems (usually technical problems).

      There are still opportunities to define and foster adoption of best practices.  However, while we’ve been figuring out the best way to install, configure and manage SharePoint, hundreds and thousands of companies have been installing, configuring and managing SharePoint without those best practices at hand.

      In 2009, a lot of companies are going to realize they have some deeply rooted problems to solve and will be looking to the elite members of the SharePoint community and Microsoft for help to fix them.  I think this will extend well into 2010 and possibly spawn a cottage industry providing remediation services for companies that really need and use SharePoint, but are hurting badly because of poor decisions made early in their implementation.

      The Mother Ship Will Return

      In 2009, the Mother Ship will return and bring Bob Fox home.

      Final Thoughts

      I didn’t start working with SharePoint myself in any real way until January 2007. It seems to me that SharePoint has really taken off and proven itself capable of delivering a lot of value in these two years. I think that in many ways, it didn’t really straighten itself out until the infrastructure update. It still has its bugs and problems, but we’ve all come along way since 01/2007. 2009 is going to be a banner year for SharePoint.


      Subscribe to my blog.

      Follow me on Twitter at

      Technorati Tags: , ,

      Employee Training Schedule and Materials Template — Seat Count Bug PLUS Security Fix(?)

      This is a fairly popular "fabulous 40" template.  It also has a bug which is widely known (I’ve even blogged about how to fix it).

      Sogeti released a codeplex project this week that fixes the bug (which is nice by itself, but not earth-shattering) but they also claim to have solved a much thornier problem: security.  The fab 40 template requires a very generous security setting (users needs contributor level access to virtually everything).  Not any more!  According to the codeplex summary:

      "This template also includes a new custom workflow action which enables the template to work without having to give all users contribute permissions to the courses list."

      That’s good stuff and worth checking out.


       Subscribe to my blog.

      Technorati Tags: , ,