Friday, 27 June 2008

SharePoint "Open All Hours"

There was a time when an English business like Dolly Parton worked from nine to five, but those days are long gone. Now many businesses are part of a global market and have to be available twenty-four seven, like the new Tesco near me, they never close. Although, why is it that the cosmetics isle closes at 10pm? Just something I have noticed. The increased popularity of Hosted servers, the faster Internet and the epidemic of mobile devices mean that many people can now do their work any place and at any time. Of course, it also means that they can check their Facebook every hour of the day. The business clock really doesn’t stop with Inboxes pinging all night long. But what happens the times that you finally manage to escape the range of the mighty Internet. Those times when you are visiting your old Uncle Ivor in the Welsh mountains, or you are sat on the underground somewhere under the heart of London. OK these are probably the times you want to be able to escape from work, unless your Uncle Ivor is really having one of his moaning days. But there are times when you still need to be able to work. You still need to be able to connect to the company Intranet (if only to find the phone number of your next customer to tell them you have got lost after leaving Uncle Ivor’s cottage). So how does SharePoint allow you to survive away from connectivity? The answer is that out-of-the-box SharePoint struggles to be portable. Yet again the SharePoint Project Team (often mistakenly referred to as ‘The IT Department’) is left to apologise for Microsoft’s failings. As if taking the blame for Vista wasn’t enough. But hold on, help is at hand in the shape of Colligo. No, not a world famous bald Italian referee, but an add-on that means SharePoint can be with you even when the Internet is not. Like Pierluigi Collina (the referee) Colligo Contributor has no frills but is very clear and easy to follow. With no training at all I recently had a group of six ‘sales’ staff using Colligo Contributor in less than ten minutes. How Colligo works is by copying a very basic version of selected document libraries and other SharePoint lists from the SharePoint portal to the local machine. It’s not fancy, but it certainly is clever. It gets even cleverer though, because it synchronises both ways. So when you are not connected you can edit forms or add new information and then the next time you do connect to the SharePoint Server Colligo automatically adds your changes to the server. SharePoint is now at the heart of many businesses and the addition of Colligo makes it an even more powerful tool and a saviour for the customer facing staff who travel the globe visiting existing and potential customers. No more do they have to beg for access to the corporate network or pay inflated hotel tariffs. They can now fill out forms on their laptop, safe in the knowledge that when they are back in the office the new information will be synchronised in a click. They no longer have to request wireless keys only for the customer’s IT Manager to arrive, sigh heavily and tell them he needs a written request with a month’s notice signed by two great-grandparents. Colligo really does let you have SharePoint anywhere. I can now make changes to my Villa fixture list for next season on my laptop and the next time I connect to the network Colligo will update my Villa calendar on SharePoint. Now isn’t that impressive? Let’s hope the Villa defence is as well synchronised next season!!

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