Friday, 18 December 2009

New SharePoint Templates - For All Departments

This week England’s World Cup 2018 Bidding Committee selected the sixteen venues they would use if we were to host the World Cup. Now some of them have caused a few people to look surprised. The choices of Milton Keynes, Plymouth and Bristol are hardly hotbeds of football, in fact Milton Keynes had to buy a club just to get people interested. Obviously Villa Park, the home of the great Aston Villa, was chosen so my seat might have a cosmopolitan bottom sitting on it in the summer of 2018 (perhaps one of those nice Brazilian ladies). So why have so many different cities been selected? The idea is so all areas of England can enjoy the World Cup and feel involved. This I think is also important when planning SharePoint. I feel it is important to make it not just a Marketing Project or an IT System, but instead from as early as possible get all the departments fully involved. Spread SharePoint around the organisation.

SharePoint, be it the free Windows SharePoint Services or the more detailed MOSS, has features that can benefit all departments. Some features help with common challenges we all face like managing documents, storing useful contact information and sharing calendar items, but other parts of SharePoint can be customised uniquely to fit individual departments. In the same way each city in our World Cup Bid offers different selling points for the bid. For example Plymouth can have great Fans Festivals on the beach, Wembley brings the historic buildings of London like Buckingham Palace and Villa Park brings the ethnic diversity of Aston.

Now please allow me to promote my own specially designed SharePoint Department Templates which are available individually or as a set of nine from Office Talk or all good online stores. Ideal as stocking fillers for your IT Managers. They are far too cheap with the set of nine only costing about the same price as my Villa season ticket. So what are these Department Templates?

Well, I have tried to think about the type of Departments that all businesses, or organisations, tend to have. The type that if the question on Family Fortunes was, ‘Which Departments would you find in a company’ would be popular answers with the one hundred people surveyed. The nine I chose were in no particular order Safety, IT , Purchasing, Media Library (storage of digital media, ok not a good answer on Family Fortunes), Finance, Projects, Human Resources and Training. Sorry if I have missed your department out.

For each of these departments I canvassed a few people (sounds like Family Fortunes again, bring back Les Dennis) to see the kind of routine task I could include in their SharePoint Template. Did I say that these easy to install templates can be used on either WSS or MOSS? So I have included sections like a Visitor’s Book for Reception, an Incident Report system for Health & Safety, a Hardware Inventory for IT and lots more useful ones.

You can buy these department templates individually or get all nine templates by visiting

Hope you will check out these templates and also let me know if there is a department that should have been my number ten. I am going to now think of what might happen before 2018. With the rate the Villa are improving (have already won at Anfield and Old Trafford this season) perhaps we will be winning our third consecutive Champions League then and it will be arise Sir Martin.

Monday, 7 December 2009

SharePoint Alert - Hot in the Kitchen

Friday night for me was nearly very eventful. After a day spent working on a SharePoint Project Management system with a Fire Service in the Midlands I very nearly found myself dialling 999 when I had a smoke filled kitchen. So this week I am going to talk about the importance of making regular checks on your SharePoint system be it full MOSS or WSS.

Let me start with how I nearly set fire to the house and how I managed set off smoke alarms on all three floors. Just to save you worrying I will tell you now that the only harm done in the end was to a saucepan and nobody was injured. The incident started at 9pm when I decided for my pudding to have an individual chocolate sponge pudding with caramel sauce. These come in individual plastic bowls and have a white film lid on them. The instructions said boil in just enough water to float for twenty minutes DON’T LET BOIL DRY. Now that seemed quite simple even for someone who isn’t the most imaginative cook how could it go wrong? I then started work on a Health & Safety SharePoint Template designed for Safety Departments at small to medium sized companies with custom lists included for Incident Reports, First Aiders, Risk Assessments and First Aid Book (drop me an email if you want hear more about this). It was going well and after working solid for two hours I suddenly noticed it was 11pm. I then more worryingly suddenly thought about my chocolate pudding.

Opening the kitchen door I was met by a very big cloud of thick black smoke and within seconds all the smoke alarms in the house were going off. At least it was a good test. All that remained of the pudding and container was what looked like a lump of coal that had a worryingly orange glow and I think I just got there in the nick of time. Still now three days later the smell of smoke in the house is very evident. So you see this is why regular checks are important and it also very important to keep a regular check on your SharePoint.

Regular checks you can perform on SharePoint include weekly checks of the Event Logs to see if any SharePoint errors have appeared. If they have act on them immediately even if nothing appears to be wrong because eventually they could catch fire. The best advice is often to just copy the event into notepad remove all mentions of your individual URL’s, or server names, and then stick it into Google. You will normally find you are not the first person to have this problem and I am sure you won’t be the last. Also keep checking that your backup system is working and whenever possible do a test restore (you’ll be surprised how many people never do this). If you cannot restore Sites or Libraries quickly it might be worth having a look at a SharePoint third party backup tool like AvePoint.

Another product that we at Office Talk recommends for helping to keep track of what is happening in SharePoint is Control Point (a product offered by Axceler). This allows you to monitor what is really happening to your SharePoint without the need to keep going in and checking. It would be like me being able to know what was going on in the kitchen without having to go in and check. Maybe then I wouldn’t now be trying to still scrub the black soot off the base of the medium sized saucepan, part of a set of five we had as a wedding gift. Any advice on how to clean burnt sauce pans would be appreciated. Perhaps Kim Woodman might have some advice now she has left the jungle. If you have ControlPoint it lets you monitor, protect, analyse and even control your MOSS SharePoint system like having CCTV . With ControlPoint, you now have the facility to identify and manage the growth of sites like I should have monitored the depth of my boiling water or lack of it. The result is Control Point allows you to restore order before your environment gets out of control. It lets you quickly identify problems and, even better, act upon them before you have to call an emergency helpline.

Now I need to go and start working on a SharePoint World Cup 2010 template now the draw has been made and it looks quite good for England. Maybe we can finally go one stage further than we did in Italia 90. But I will cook my dinner first.