One of my many interests has been Microsoft’s SharePoint product. I’ve deployed team sites using Microsoft Office SharePoint Services (used to be called Windows SharePoint Services) for a few organizations where they needed a more robust method of sharing files and collaborating with groups. Some implementations started off with enthusiasm but languished after my involvement; others never got off the ground, generally due to a lack of support.
In the beginning …
File sharing has been around since the Novell Netware days and continues to be the de facto method of storing files on a corporate network. Files are arranged in folders on disk drives with letters for their names or now with names for their letters. Users magically find a drive letter or a shortcut to a drive representing the place to put our files so that Mary and bob can get to them. But what does that really mean to users? Too often, in an Active Directory environment, a boundary arises between security groups having access to these departmental filing cabinets. Bob and Mary can update the Accounting Department’s file but Jill in Marketing needs the latest sales data that Bob provides in an updated spreadsheet that’s stored in Accounting/WidgetSales.
Many organizations are fine with that but many more have a desire to fix the security boundary and have people work cooperatively with each other. One method I found was to assign Everyone the “modify” permission on all of the data, so anyone could find and update anything in the company. Of course confidential files would be stored on their local computers. You know how this story unfolds …
An alternative to file sharing …
Welcome to SharePoint, an alternative way to store files and allow people to collaborate with each other in the corporate file cabinet. I’m not going into how to accomplish this with SharePoint in this post; nor am I going into topics like architecture, installation and customization. No, this is about how to gain some understanding of the product from the user’s perspective. What do I as a user need to know in order to make sense of what I’m seeing? What does this product do for me that my tried and true method of sticking files on the H: drive doesn’t? How do I use it? What are these lists, libraries, and links? And why do I need another calendar?
Well, that’s where Lynda.com comes in to play. Having a full subscription, I found a course that supposedly will help me in my quest for knowledge about the recently released SharePoint 2010 product. What changed from version three or SharePoint 2007 for that matter?
I found my answer with the “SharePoint 2010 Essential Training” course from Lynda.com. And guess who the presenter is? Simon Allardice from the “SQL2008 Essential Training” course reviewed in an earlier post.
SQL 2008 Essential Training was a combination video presentation with exercises that you could work with using your own copy of SQL 2008 Express Edition. Not so with the SharePoint 2010 course. This product is simply too big to set up on your own workstation. If you could the setup would be in a course by itself that would best be left to Microsoft or other 3rd party training providers.
SharePoint Essential Training is a total visual presentation – no exercises to run through unless you have access to SharePoint in your own company, a hosting provider or from Microsoft Online Services (Business Productivity Online Services, soon to be Office 365) in a 30 day trial. Hey, it’s a trial, you don’t have to buy it. You can read about my journey with BPOS as a volunteer with Eastside Legal Services (ELAP) in previous posts.
The course focuses on providing an understanding of the product functionality to the average user so they can understand and apply it to their work situation where SharePoint is available. Now just because you know how to type and know that you only press the “Enter” key in Word when you finish a paragraph, this particular skill does not make you an author. In the same manner, knowing how to navigate around a team site will give you the basic understanding, you need to take it a step further and work with your SharePoint administrator, managers, colleagues and your consultant / Service Provider in developing the overall objectives for using the product collaboratively, the architecture, policy and procedure to make it a viable solution. Ignoring the planning aspect will result in a web-based file share with the same problems and pitfalls found in a traditional file share.
What does this course do for you?
Simon starts the course with SharePoint 101, a slide presentation covering the overall structure of the product. Next, the core features, team sites, workspaces and meeting workspaces are covered with demonstrations. Expanding on the basics, Simon moves into site collections, libraries, integration with all of the Office 2010 products (Excel, Word, etc.), security and permissions and workflows.
One of the interesting aspects of SharePoint, I found intriguing is the concept of “content type” and “document sets”. Both work to add meta-data (content types) and organization, (document sets) to files to aid in developing an management policy. Simon takes it to the next step with the introduction of the Document Center and Record Center templates to create the respective sites.
Also included is a presentation on SharePoint Search for an enterprise as well as a site collection and team site perspective. One of the new features that bears some investigation by forward looking businesses is the concept of Business Intelligence based on Performance Point and other Office SharePoint Services, such as Excel. Connecting to data sources, creating Key Performance Indicators (KPI), collections and web parts and integrating them into a site collection or team site really takes SharePoint into the realm of the “C” level executive.
The course just scratches the surface in this exciting product. It is a vast improvement over the WSS 3.0 and 2007 products with its integration the Office 2010 suite which is also morphing into a cloud-based solution.
A steep learning curve for most people, this course provides a rich first step experience.This posting is provided “as is” with no warranties, guaranties or any rights whatsoever. All content is based on the author’s experiences and opinions and is not intended to influence the actions of the reader.