Thursday, 20 November 2008

Show Me SharePoint

Much of this week seems to have been spent with my body pushed up against hot and sweaty complete strangers in tunnels. Yes, I have been travelling beneath our capital on the London Underground. With so many of Officetalk’s SharePoint customers being based in London I am becoming quite a tube expert and I think I am now quite skilled at finding the quickest routes around. Although the many exits above ground for each station does still disorientate me and I do still have to think if I want the South or Norhbound platform. Why are there no East or West bound platforms? To a new visitor the London Underground is daunting and everyone is too busy to help novices. Although I did comment to some very loud American Tourists yesterday that if they wanted to see ‘Kensington Palace’ that the stop ‘Kennington’ was in fact not the one they wanted. You can see why they were confused though. SharePoint can also be very confusing to the occasional user and although people soon become comfortable with it there is a steep learning curve . The great thing with Sharepoint is how all of the sections work in the same way. Once you understand how the Lists, Columns and Views work you can quickly do some pretty neat stuff. Armed with a pocket sized underground map (colour coded of course) you can work out the best way of getting from Buckingham Palace to Wembley Stadium (a journey which Prince William, as a Villa supporter, will hopefully have to make soon). So we need a similar pocket-sized guide for SharePoint. Interestingly, if you Google ‘pocket sized SharePoint guide’ the first result is a book called ‘SharePoint Products & Technologies Administrator’s Pocket Consultant’ which at 367 pages is perhaps a tad too big for the average sized pocket, although it would probably still get lost in the average woman’s handbag. As part of the half-day Basic SharePoint Site Administrator’s Overview course offered by Officetalk they provide a 2-sided (colour) A4 handout describing how to perform all the basic SharePoint functions. The useful tasks like uploading documents, editing Announcements or registering an Alert etc. If you drop me an email asking for a copy of the PDF to I will try and persuade our Marketing Department to send you a free copy that you can distribute it yourselves to your staff. What would be great down here on the Underground somewhere below the ‘Elephant and Castle’ would be a real guide (I mean the information sort not the ones in the uniforms) somebody who can show me exactly which way I have to go to get to Paddington Station. In the same way a virtual guide in SharePoint would be great for users. Someone who can guide through how to do all though little tasks that you learnt in the training course so many months ago. No, I am not suggesting the return of that annoying paper-clip Office Assistant. Instead I recommend that any organisation who use SharePoint purchase the excellent set of two minute video clips from CBTClips. You can find out more about these by clicking the SharePoint CBT Clips link. Despite the American accent (perhaps we should get Jasper Carrot to record a ‘Brummie’ version) there are 65 very good and clear clips of all the basic SharePoint functions. You can buy all of these in one bundle and best of all put them on the Home page of your SharePoint. So the next time somebody rings the IT Helpdesk asking how they go about exporting a SharePoint list to Excel, you just point them at the link to the CBT Clip. Eventually the IT Department can be left in peace to read the latest Dilbert cartoon.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Ooh Matron - Now Hospital SharePoint

Many NHS (National Health Service for the readers outside of England) and Private Hospitals in the UK are now starting to see the benefits of SharePoint. This week I have been working as an Officetalk Consultant on a SharePoint implementation at a leading Private Health Group. The kind whose premises are in grand old houses (the type where Dr. Nookie opened his private clinic in ‘Carry on again Doctor’). Unfortunately I didn’t bump into a young Barbara Windsor lookalike. Also this week I had to visit my local NHS City hospital for some tests. I must admit I was quite impressed with the improvements made to the NHS hospital which now even has a Greggs Bakery just outside the ‘Heart & Lungs’ Centre. Just what I needed on the way to my cholesterol level checked. SharePoint seems ideal for hospitals with the increasing number of forms they have to circulate, records they have to keep and guidelines they have to try and keep up with. Whether they need a record of the how many times partially-sighted Joan has fallen out of bed or to keep track of changes to the latest NICE Guidelines on ‘Induction of Labour’ SharePoint fits the bill. At my hospital appointment I found the address on my file was where I used to live five years ago even though my appointment was sent to my current home. It seems my records are stored in so many different places even different departments in the same hospital. X-rays of my broken wrist when I was twelve after saving one of my brother’s penalties are probably still stored somewhere in the hospital and somewhere else there is probably an ECG or two of mine. It appears to be an information overload and crying out for a SharePoint solution. With the addition of a few simple workflows SharePoint could have electronic forms rapidly being sent around the hospital. Incident reports could be responded to in days not months and be fully audited. As I sat waiting in the NHS Waiting Room I considered how many uses SharePoint could have in this hospital alone. It could book appointments, record/circulate results, monitor bed occupancy (restricting each bed to just one patient), record staff rotas, update patient details, keep track of ward cleaning, be used to order hospital meals, book Operating Theatres, monitor drug lists and so much more. Perhaps I am thinking too much about SharePoint these days I even thought about how it could be used when watching Holby City the other night. When the nice surgeon who used to be Nigel in ‘East Enders’ was waiting to receive some important results of a scan for one of his patients. SharePoint could have sent an alert to his pager as soon as the results were available then he could have just logged on at his nearest PC to have seen the results instantly. Instead the nasty female doctor intercepted the results. SharePoint would have been so much more secure. SharePoint Workflow can have many hospital uses and one possible use I noted, as an old man at the Reception Desk was chasing up his hospital transport, could be to include a ‘Transport Required’ section on the electronic booking system. So in the current financial climate can hospitals, either private or NHS, afford SharePoint? Firstly, do they need full MOSS as many already run Windows Server 2003 so WSS is just a free download from Microsoft? Probably MOSS is the way forward for Health organisations with the enhanced Search capabilities and improved reporting my blog post,‘Suits You Sir’compares the features of MOSS and WSS. Microsoft though are so desperate to get SharePoint into all hospitals that they are offering some great deals to the NHS under their NHS Licensing prices. So SharePoint is now an affordable option for many hospitals. If you are interested in introducing SharePoint into any type of Health Organisation, or already have SharePoint but feel it needs major surgery, then give one of our resident SharePoint doctors a call at Officetalk on 01386 833 535 or visit our website Ok we are not really called ‘SharePoint doctors’ but we are SharePoint specialists and we can provide your SharePoint with a health check. So put SharePoint at the ‘heart’ of your Information Management. Now, I haven’t mentioned the Villa much lately so I must end by congratulating the players on another good win last night in the UEFA Cup against Slavia Prague.