Thursday, 21 October 2010

About SharePoint Has Moved


Thank you for following my SharePoint Blog, with a hint of Aston Villa, on The blog has now moved to be hosted on WordPress to allow for more videos, pictures and audios of my 'Brummie' voice.

Please visit to find the latest postings including SharePoint TARDIS with a hint of Doctor Who and a real wedding celebration.

Happy SharePointing.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

SharePoint - Review It !

As you may have noticed from my photograph on the right I am a touch follically challenged but still last weekend I visited the hairdressers. It was slightly later on Saturday morning than usual because I had been watching Soccer AM which meant that for once there was a queue waiting, so I had to take a seat. However, I was delighted to see a copy of the football magazine Four Four Two even if everyone thinks this formation has had its day. I was soon engrossed in reading the magazine and about how England were going to win the World Cup in 2010 and that Ivory Coast could reach the semi finals. Soon I realised how out of date this May edition was in October. It made me think about how important it is to keep your SharePoint sites up to date.

SharePoint has the advantage over the printed word of being dynamic and hopefully up to date. It is important that individual departments do have Super Users who are responsible for continually checking the information is relevant and frequently changing. It is no good having a photograph of Rosie from Reception marrying her childhood sweetheart when she is now divorced shacked up with Tom from Packing. Also having a list of qualified First Aiders that include Ken and Harry who were made redundant in 2008 is also not acceptable. Your SharePoint needs to be monitored and frequently updated. It needs to reflect your company today. It is easy to create all your new documents in SharePoint but equally important to remove the ones that are no longer relevant.

Office Talk the SharePoint Specialists (ok company I work for) offer a one day workshop with the Super Users every six months to review the SharePoint Sites and see how they could be improved. If you would like us to hold a Workshop for you please drop an email to If you are using WSS 3.0 you might want to ask about upgrading to SharePoint 2010 Foundation but remember you will need 64-bit servers. There are lots of ways you can enhance your SharePoint 2007 sites though and easily add video, audio and lots of new Web Parts. Have a look at the Web Part section at the new SharePoint Village to see some of the great new Web Parts including a ‘Holiday Request System’ from Pentalogic.

It isn’t just your SharePoint that might need revamping. After two terrific years and nearly 100 posts on Blogger I have decided that it is time for a change and from next week ‘About SharePoint’ will be moving to WordPress. Now, first thing I know people will say is why not SharePoint? A fair question and really it comes down to three factors; Cost, Ease of use and SEO tools. I could easily write a whole blog on comparing WordPress with SharePoint but this has already been done by Bill Senser in his superb article “WordPress versus SharePoint, another big smackdown”.

So why am I changing from Blogger to WordPress? I suppose I want to try and keep up with other SharePoint Bloggers like Veronique Palmer who have videos, podcasts and pictures in their blogs. The chance to have some of my favourite funny videos (like this ‘Silly Walks’ one) embedded in the text is part of the appeal. So next week all being well this blog will contain more pictures, videos and hopefully get more readers. Don’t worry the address will still be the same and there will still be lots of mentions of the great Aston Villa FC.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

SharePoint Themes - Kitchen Full of Foam

I start this week’s SharePoint blog with a warning to you all; If you run out of dish washer tablets only put washing-up liquid in dishwasher if you have lots of towels at hand.
SharePoint 2010 is certainly proving a popular version of Microsoft fastest ever selling Server Product but it isn’t without its frustrations. One of these frustrations (ok annoyances) that regularly get debated at the Office Talk premises (near Birmingham) is the theme choices. Now Microsoft will argue that you now have unlimited choices of themes you can use as you have the option to change the colour of every individual section of the page. They even fanfare that you can do this with PowerPoint yet I would love to know how many people have actually used PowerPoint to create a theme. It might have helped it Microsoft had actually made the great themes that come with PowerPoint compatible with SharePoint 2010, but they didn’t. So why am I moaning like Victor Meldrew? Is it because I have a kitchen full of thick white soapy foam after my dishwasher mishap or is it because I miss the old-fashioned SharePoint themes of 2007?

In SharePoint 2007 you had ten distinctive themes. Ok they weren’t the best and probably only five were actually useable unless you were colour blind or high on drugs, but they were different. When I created the ten department site templates for SharePoint 2007 (WSS and Server) I was able to Showcase them each in their own individual style. Ranging from the trendy black one ‘Reflector’ which I used for the Project Manager one to the bright green one which I used for Purchasing, everyone was different. Keeping SharePoint simple was always fairly easy because as a SharePoint Consultant it was usually easy to find a theme that closely matched the company’s corporate colour scheme. Then everything changed in 2010. Ok maybe for CSS whizz kids it is possible to quite easily create new and imaginative colour schemes but for most they are just left with fairly drab looking SharePoint sites. As you will see in the other blogs I have written on SharePoint 2010 there are many great enhancements to SharePoint 2010 compared to its older sibling but, why didn’t they either create ten new colourful distinctive themes or just leave us with the old ones?

As I said you can still create great themes if you have the talent and time in SharePoint 2010 but it might be worth looking for companies that specialise in creating SharePoint themes especially if you are using SharePoint for your web site. One that I would recommend having seen many examples of their work is the interestingly named Pink Petrol. Often wonder why owner Sam Dolan chose the name Pink Petrol maybe it was to show that things can be any colour you want them to be. You can find out about Pink Petrol and see some of the examples of the themes Sam has created at SharePoint Village ‘the One-Stop-Shop for SharePoint’. But come on Microsoft please give us back our colourful if old-fashioned themes from2007.

Regular readers might be surprised at the lack of mentions of Aston Villa in this week’s blog well this is because it is an international break this weekend. Now, to tackle the kitchen floor before risking opening the dishwasher door, or should I just moan about Kevin Davies being named in the England squad?

Monday, 27 September 2010

SharePoint - Made for Sharing

The excellent security settings of SharePoint is one of its strengths, but some people take it too far. I have been struck twice lately by companies tying their SharePoint down so much the information is only accessible to a handful of people. This week I want to concentrate on explaining the advantages of using SharePoint to share information.

First though, an example of making things too secure from my weekend visit to a quaint country pub just outside of Wolverhampton. It was this Saturday afternoon and with the mighty Villa not playing until Sunday (when they were to beat neighbours Wolves 2-1 to keep their 30 year unbeaten run against the Wanderers going) it was the chance for me and my lady friend to grab a meal in the country. We found a nice looking pub with wooden beams in the ceiling and perused the menu full of delightful sounding dishes. It was nearly quarter to five and I had avoided the latest football scores on the radio with the idea to watch Match of the Day that night not knowing the scores especially the Arsenal verses Albion one. This hope was dashed when a rather loud local walked in singing at the top of his voice “three one to the Albion Boys, three one to the Albion”. At least I had the surprise that night of seeing that Arsenal actually pulled a late goal back.

Looking for a little romance after ordering two Hot Pots we found a quiet table away from the bar. We were then both quite excited to see a dart-board quite near us and I suggested a game of darts before our food arrived. My companion agreed and seemed quite excited by the prospect. So I asked the barman for the darts only to be told that they didn’t have any. So a dart-board and no darts, what is the point? Should we have bought our own darts or is this a new EU health and safety rule? This is when I thought about companies having a lovely SharePoint site but then restricting who can access it. At least we could see the dart-board many people cannot even see the information on their companies SharePoint because they have not even got ‘read-only’ access.

SharePoint is called SharePoint for a reason because it is aimed at ‘Sharing’ information. Yes, some information is confidential and needs to be hidden but I strongly believe that much of the information a company stores should be available to people who work there and who have accounts on the domain. Information that is held by the Marketing Department might be useful to the Sales or the Research Department staff. Also the more people know what is held by another department the less chance of duplication you have. Whenever I am working on SharePoint projects as a SharePoint Consultant for Office Talk and a customer starts restricting access to sites the question I always ask is “Why do you need to restrict it?” If they don’t have a reason I always advise that they let domain users have ‘read-only’ access. Communication is important to the success of every business and organisation and SharePoint giving them the chance to share information.

So always make your SharePoint available to people in your organisation that might benefit from the information.

Now, let me just end by moaning at the BBC. Why does the news just before Match of the Day always tell you the scores? In the old days they used to just put it on the screen and say look away now. These days they shout out the scores as well as having them on the screen. Please bring back Barry Took so I can write to ‘Points of View’.

Well done the Villa.

Monday, 20 September 2010

New SharePoint - New School

In the UK September is traditionally the back to school month. The time of year when the journey to work takes two times longer and the Internet suddenly becomes useable again. For some children and young adults it can be a scary starting a new school or going away to university for the first time. The transition is never easy and this is also true of moving from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010. You have to cope with new things like having a Homework Diary or wearing tie when you go to secondary school. Starting university means getting use to attending lectures instead of lessons and acquiring a tolerance for cheap alcohol. I myself was quite tempted by cheap alcohol after spending nearly a week trying to convert the Office Talk 2007 SharePoint Templates into a format that can be used in SharePoint 2010. I must admit to underestimating the job of redoing the HR, Safety, Training, IT, Purchasing, Finance, Projects, Reception and Media templates.

So why was the Template upgrade such a challenge? I tried first exporting to a spreadsheet in SharePoint 2007 and then creating a new list in 2010 using the spreadsheet, but with all the drop-downs and lookup fields this just added to my frustrations. Maybe I should have a considered just upgrading my whole SharePoint but as I had a number of additional third-party applications on my 2007 version this one was always going to be a step too far. So it became a very manual process and meant a few late nights. When finally all eleven templates (which for some reason Microsoft now call ‘Solutions’) it was then time to start selling the templates and to start hitting a recurring issue. Although, I had successfully tested the new Solutions on a number of SharePoint Environments (both Foundation and Server 2010) I received the same email back from a number of disappointed customers.

The error that was causing the customers (and me) frustration always read something like;
“Error creating site: "The site template requires that the Feature {a392da98-270b-4e85-9769-04c0fde26”.

To make it more interesting the code number never seemed to be the same twice. Even when I tried disabling all the Features in my original version before I saved the Template I still had users with the same issue. It was then that I found great article on the MS Adviser about how to find which ‘Feature’ was missing.

The address of this excellent article is!B4931A324B42E0BC!609.entry and basically it just tells you how in Central Administration if you right click on the ‘Site Collection Features’ there is an option to ‘View Source’. Now it might look confusing all the code but all you need to do is find the long code that the error gave you in the Source using Find command. Then scroll up a couple of lines and you will find the name of the Feature. Knowing the name is a real help because now you can simply activate the feature in both the ‘Site Collection Features’ and the ‘Site Features’. Now I have happy customers.

So the Office Talk customers are now happily able to install the eleven brand new Department Templates and if you would like to know more about these templates just visit

Today GĂ©rard Houllier begins life as the new Aston Villa manager today. Like moving from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010 some of the players will find it challenging having a new man in charge; especially Friedel, Warnock and Carew all players who Houllier sold when he last worked with them. Good luck Mr. Houllier I think we are in for some interesting times. Let’s start with beating Blackburn in the Cup on Wednesday. Let’s hope it is as good as last season’s game.

Hope you have all had a good look at the new SharePoint Village. If not please click the link at the top right of this blog.

Monday, 6 September 2010

SharePoint Design – Soap Dispenser Challenge

For the last two weeks I have faced a challenge that has got me quite frustrated. No, this isn’t a challenge with SharePoint or with the launch of our revolutionary new SharePoint Village but a challenge in my bathroom. It involves a very trendy looking soap dispenser plastic bottle. The kind where you press the top and pleasant smelling soap comes out of the tap like thing. The gold plastic bottle with the sweet sounding name and the fancy bubble writing on the side certainly looks the part. The only thing going against the posh little bottle is that I can’t get any soap out of it. Frustratingly despite many attempts I cannot get the pump part to work. I have read all the instructions in small writing on the back about having to twist and pull but still it doesn’t move. At least it looks good by the side of the basin, oh and don’t worry I have got a got an old-fashioned bar of soap as well.

So how does my soap dispenser dilemma fit in with SharePoint? I suppose the most important part of SharePoint is not how snazzy it looks but how easy it is for End Users to use it. If they can’t even find their department’s site on the Internet how are they going to feel the real benefits of SharePoint? It is always important to include some End user training in all SharePoint Projects. A couple of hours might be enough but don’t forget any New Starters as well. Also keep the navigation it simple and consistent. If a user moves department they shouldn’t be faced with a completely different looking SharePoint environment. Office Talk consultants always advise that the Top Link bar is kept constant to all sites.

The new SharePoint Village that opened last Wednesday breaks it’s shops into section that we believe match your SharePoint needs. Firstly all SharePoint projects need a little help so we have a section of shops called ‘Consultancy’ rented by companies offering SharePoint Consultants. Hopefully one of these could give you the best advice on how SharePoint Sites should be accessed. Just a pity there isn’t a ‘Soap Village’ I could contact.

Another section of shops is ‘Training’ so you can find the best company to train your staff in SharePoint including ‘Train the Trainer’ courses. It also has some very useful SharePoint video clips you can purchase for users to watch when they are back at the office. Maybe I might find a video on ‘YouTube’ about activating a pump operated soap dispenser.

Once you have thought about the structure and how easy it will be for End Users to use then you can try to improve the look of it and make it a bit more ‘groovy’. A set of shops at SharePoint Village includes ‘Design’ which includes the excellent SharePoint Design company ‘Pink Petrol’ who really can give your SharePoint a trendy look (just make sure it doesn’t hamper it’s usability). Pink Petrols’ Sam Dolan is very talented (even if he is a Newcastle fan who has been gloating since they beat the Villa six nil) and his designs are well worth a look.

Out of the box SharePoint has many great Web Parts but there are lots of extra clever ones available to enable you to perform a whole host of routine operations. The ‘Web Parts’ section of shops contains some of the top SharePoint web Part companies in the world.

So now SharePoint is working well, End Users are using it, it looks cool and it contains a few extra Web Parts so it is ready to expand. In the ‘Software’ section of shops you will find add-on applications to make SharePoint perform even better in your business. There are shops selling E-Learning solutions, backup solutions, permission management, enhanced reporting and many more.
We hope SharePoint Village will become a valuable source and a one-stop solution for all things SharePoint. Please if you haven’t already taken time to browse the shops there at

So now I am off to try yet again to open my soap dispenser while the Villa prepare to finally announce their new manager.

Monday, 9 August 2010

SharePoint 2010 Simply The Best

The Premier League season might be less than a week away but as I spent a number of weeks this summer talking about the World Cup I think it is time to talk about the other of England’s favourite sports, cricket. This year 2010 might be the year of simply the best SharePoint to date but 2010 could well be the year of England’s greatest ever cricket team. Already in 2010 England have won the Twenty Twenty World cup, beaten Australia in a one day series and now they have bowled Pakistan out twice for under 100 in a week. This winter England head down under for an Ashes series against the old enemy Australia. I expect the Australians are crying into their beer already. Hope that statement doesn’t come back to haunt me.

So why is SharePoint 2010 the greatest ever SharePoint Server? The truth is that SharePoint has developed well over the years since it started in 2001. In the same way that you can chart the start of England’s cricket revival to the Ashes victory in 2006 the launch of SharePoint 2007 really was a breakthrough. It was a package that really took SharePoint to a new level and integrated it more with Microsoft Office applications. So what do I think makes 2010 even better than 2007? Here are my top reasons;

1. Easier to Edit Pages
It is now even easier to change individual sites with less clicks involved than in 2007. New webparts allow you to incorporate video and audio easier. It is also easy to make changes to the site theme. You have access to a never ending array of colours and fonts.

2. Uniqueness Field
The setting to enforce Unique Values is a useful addition in 2010 and is a feature I have used a lot. When configuring a new column, the option ‘Enforce Unique values’ is listed as one of the additional column settings with the options of ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.

3. Spell Checker
If Pakistan had been given an extra run for every time I had been asked if there was a spellchecker in SharePoint 2007 they would probably have won the latest Test Match instead of England. At least SharePoint 2010 gives user the option to spellcheck all list items. Now I can finally mask my poor spelling.

4. Two Thousand item limit smashed
The frustrating SharePoint list limit in SharePoint 2007 of 2000 has now well and truly gone. The new limit is 30,000,000 items. As yet I haven’t managed to test this but thirty million sounds plenty. Interesting exactly the same amount as ‘former’ Villa manager, Martin O’Neill, wanted for England star James Milner (O’Neill resigned as I was typing this blog).

5. Digital Asset Library
Office Talk used to create their own Media Library site for users using SharePoint 2007, but still good to see a central Digital Library has been included in the new version. The library can be used to store branded corporate assets such as logos, artwork, and other digital assets, and uses workflows and policies to manage the content.

6. Offline – Workspace 2010
People might never have quite got into Microsoft Groove but the new SharePoint Workspace 2010 finally lets you work fully with SharePoint when you are not even connected to the network. It is worth a play as even allows multiple people to work on same document at the same time. Click Here to see what Paul of Microsoft says about SharePoint Workspace 2010.

7. FAST Search
The search in SharePoint 2007 always offered so much but then failed to really provide the Google-style search engine that users required. Now on SharePoint Server 2010 Enterprise edition we have the famous FAST Search. It really is impressive brings Best Bets, relevancy tuning, phonetic searching and even displays thumbnails of documents retrieved.

8. KPI Dashboards
KPI’s are available on all sites and you really can start incorporating Business Intelligence with SharePoint 2010. Click Here to see a great video on adding KPI’s to SharePoint.

9. Content Type Hub
One of features of SharePoint 2010 that I find useful is the new Content Type Hub (which is a part of the Metadata Service Application), this is a hub for all Content Types that you can set your Site Collections to subscribe to. So instead of like in 2007 when you had to change them in lots of different areas you now only have to do it once.

10. Better Office Integration
SharePoint 2010 has a real Office feel to it with a fully customisable ‘Ribbon’ complimenting the traditional dropdown menu. If you are using Office 2010 you can’t fail to miss all the features integrating it with SharePoint to offer you a complete experience.

If you want to find out more about any of the features of SharePoint 2010 please contact the SharePoint consultants at Office Talk and they will be happy to demonstrate them to you.

Explaining the game of Cricket;
You have two sides; a team that's in and a team that's out. Two men in the team that's in go out and when one of the men who's in is out; the next man goes in until he's out. When they are all out but one who is not out; the side that's out comes in and the side that's been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out.

When a man goes out to go in; the men who are out are trying to get him out; and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been out; and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Uses of SharePoint

As a SharePoint Consultant a common problem when trying to sell SharePoint is actually explaining what it can be used for. You see, the fact is that SharePoint has an infinite amount of uses. Nearly every day we at Office Talk hear of somebody using SharePoint in a different and unexpected way. This week Office Talk has designed a Football Template on SharePoint to monitor a Premier League team’s performance during the 2010/11 season, but you will have to wait until the end of this blog to find out how to get it. So what are the basic uses of SharePoint?

I have put together my Top Twenty basic uses of SharePoint and placed them in order;

1. Document Management
SharePoint is one of the best Document Management Solutions. It is ideal for managing manuals, policies and procedure documents.

2. Record Keeping
With easy to create and customise columns SharePoint can be used to keep electronic records of customers, employees or suppliers.

3. Inventory Management
SharePoint can be used to quickly keep track of equipment or supplies.

4. Helpdesk Systems
Easy and cost effective way to manage and monitor Helpdesk Requests. These could be IT Helpdesk or service requests from customers.

5. Websites
More and more companies are using SharePoint to not only manage content of their Websites but also to be their website.

6. Electronic Forms
Forms can be quickly created with SharePoint making it easy to automate systems like Expense Claims, Travel Requests, Holiday Requests or Purchase Orders.

7. Reference Centre (Wiki)
SharePoint can help store and share information. Information that an employee found helpful can quickly be available to other employees.

8. Reporting
SharePoint can take data from many different data sources including SQL and Oracle databases. This means it is easier to compile reports that even Senior Managers can quickly understand.

9. Contact Details
An easy way to store as much information as you need about either internal or external contacts. Saves the issue of the company telephone directory stuck by your desk always being out of date.

10. News Distribution
The Announcements section in SharePoint lets you easily share company or department news. Quickly let everyone know that Jane from Purchasing has given birth to triplets or that the staff car park is closed next Tuesday.

11. Surveys
To get feedback from a training course or the performance of a department SharePoint can create surveys that can be distributed in seconds.

12. Appointment Management
The Calendar feature integrates with Outlook and allows you to have shared calendars. It can be used to display weekly movements of key members of staff.

13. Catalogues
SharePoint allows you to list items and view them in customised ways. As it can also include thumbnail pictures in the list it is ideal for cataloguing.

14. Discussions
Employees can use the discussion boards to chat on various subjects and share ideas.

15. Storage of Digital Media
SharePoint can be used to store many forms of digital media including photographs, videos and podcasts.

16. Information Searching
Every word of every document on SharePoint can be indexed meaning that suddenly it is much easier to search and retrieve company information.

17. Projects Management
SharePoint can be set up to monitor and track multiple projects. Making it easy for managers to see which Projects are falling behind schedule.

18. Time Management
To record time taken on individual projects or to manage contractors SharePoint is ideal.

19. Meeting Management
With its Meeting Templates you can use SharePoint to plan agendas, create minutes and check on follow-up actions.

20. Blogging
Blogging is becoming more and more popular with an increase in internal business blogs. SharePoint allows site members to easily comment on these blogs.

These are just a selection of the business uses of SharePoint, but many companies are also using SharePoint to add some more social and light-hearted aspects to their company. The idea is that a happy staff will be a productive staff. SharePoint installations Office Talk have been involved in recently have included sections like ‘Coffee Break’ where employees can win prizes and see some funny pictures of themselves on company outings. These kind of social pages can not only help morale but also get employees using SharePoint.

Office Talk had great demand over the summer for their free World Cup SharePoint Site Template. Even if England were a letdown the SharePoint Template was very popular. So with the new English Premier League season now only two weeks away Office Talk have been busy again and now we are offering a new exciting SharePoint Football Template. We are giving away a ‘My Team’s Premier League’ Template that allows you to keep track of your favourite team throughout the coming season. You can keep track of your team’s transfers, fixtures, goalscorers and even see why the great Aston Villa are only the second team to have completed hundred seasons in the Top Division.

To receive the free ‘My Team’s Premier League’ SharePoint Template please visit the Office Talk website at

As part of the ‘My Team’s Premier League’ site you can predict the final places of all the Premier League Teams so here are my predictions;

1. Chelsea
2. Manchester City
3. Manchester United
4. Aston Villa
5. Arsenal
6. Liverpool
7. Tottenham
8. Birmingham City
9. Everton
10. Blackburn
11. Bolton Wanderers
12. Sunderland
13. Wolverhampton Wanderers
14. Fulham
15. West Ham
16. Newcastle
17. Stoke City
18. Wigan
19. West Bromwich
20. Blackpool

So don’t forget to claim your free Football Template and use it as many times as you want in your organisation.

Blog Bonus Video - The best penalty kick ever !!

Monday, 26 July 2010

SharePoint On Trial

Wherever you look these days people are trying to save money. My own football club, Aston Villa, are no exception with American owner, Randy Learner, tightening the purse strings. The Villa manager has been told he needs to reduce the wage bill before we can buy anymore players. Many companies are putting a block on any new spending. So projects which were in the pipeline are now being shelved. This has meant that a number of companies, both in the ‘Private Sector’ and ‘Public Sector’, have postponed SharePoint Projects. Even though long term SharePoint would offer considerable savings to these organisations it is the initial project costs that are making them think twice.

In English football, unless you are Manchester ‘Moneybags’ City, you have to watch how much you are spending. Sometimes it is better to use the loan system and take a player on loan for a few months to see if he is really going to improve your team. It is even possible to share the cost of the wages with the club he plays for as they are just keen to reduce their wage bill. If only there was a way of loaning SharePoint!

Perhaps Hosted SharePoint could offer a short term answer. Hosted SharePoint can be a way to try SharePoint out in your organisation without having to make any major investment and also without affecting your current computer environment. The advantage is that you can experiment with SharePoint and see how you could use it to streamline some of your business processes. If you only want to try it for a handful of users the monthly prices of Hosted SharePoint can be very cheap. It would probably cost less than replacing the toner in one of your laser printers.

There are so many companies worldwide offering Hosted SharePoint that it can be confusing knowing which one to choose. Although, as long as you are not paying too much each month and there isn’t any long tie-ins it doesn’t really matter which one you chose. Mind you, I would get in trouble at work if I didn’t mention the Office Talk Hosted SharePoint offering ‘Office Manager’. We even offer a one month free trial (pity some teams don’t do this with players Villa are interested in) and include over ten useful pre-configured department sites. Visit to try it for free.

So don’t let lack of money stop you trying out SharePoint because you will soon discover the many ways it could start to save your organisation money. Or you might after trying it decide it isn’t for you.

Now, I wonder if Liverpool would loan Villa Steven Gerrard for the next eight months.

Great News : 'My Team’s Performance 2010/11 Season’ SharePoint Template is available FREE OF CHARGE by clicking here.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Where to SharePoint Shop?

Yesterday was an interesting day, even if I did have no hot water at home, and it actually ended with me appearing on the TV news. The no hot water was caused by a broken boiler. It wasn’t broken until the Gas man came to service it last Wednesday. In this week’s blog I am going to blatantly promote the new Virtual SharePoint Shopping Centre ‘SharePoint Village’ which excitedly launches on 1st September. I want to share with you why I think it is going to become a valuable source to both SharePoint End Users and companies trying to sell their SharePoint solutions. But first back to yesterday and my eventful day;

Maybe I am slightly sad, but I decided to go and see the unveiling of the new Aston Villa shirt in Centenary Square Birmingham. The great thing where I live, near Wolverhampton, is there is a tram (called ‘The Metro’) that takes me straight into the Centre of Birmingham. As I approached Birmingham I noticed the stop for ‘Jewellery Quarter’. This made me think about SharePoint Village. ‘Jewellery Quarter’ is a place where all you will find is lots of jewellery shops. Even though many competitors are almost neighbours it works because people go there just for jewellery and it is locally very well known. If you want a special ring or a gold watch the ‘Jewellery Quarter’ is always a good place to start. Jewellers know that even if a visitor is interested in an item in the jewellers next-door there is still a very good chance they will pop into their shop as they are passing. This is the concept behind ‘SharePoint Village’. The SharePoint users, or potential users, get to know that for anything SharePoint the best place to go is ‘SharePoint Village’. For the shopkeepers (there is a limit on the number of shops in SharePoint Village to give them maximum exposure) they know that when a visitor looks at another one of the seven shops in their section (i.e. Web Parts) that the visitor will also see the entrance to their shop and hopefully, in Mr. Benn style, enter in.

As many of you know there are already a number of excellent SharePoint information sites available. For any SharePoint users looking for SharePoint advice, in basic English, then is a great place to start including the popular ‘Stump the Panel’. My favourite part is the area ‘SharePoint for Non-Geeks’. Another favourite site of mine and always worth checking out is SharePoint Reviews. This is a little like a ‘Which?’ guide to SharePoint. It offers unbiased reviews on many SharePoint products and services. So when ‘SharePoint Village’ is launched and you see a SharePoint product that takes your fancy then visit and see if anybody has reviewed it. The third SharePoint information site I always recommend is SharePoint Magazine. This is a superb online magazine dedicated to the ever growing world of SharePoint.

Sorry I got side tracked from the events of yesterday. Well, I arrived at Centenary Square just in time to see the unveiling of the new Villa shirt which was, surprisingly, a claret body with blue sleeves. The new away strip was mainly black which I really liked. After the unveiling was completed and the large crowd started to disperse I took out my blackberry to read my emails. My concentration was interrupted by two gentlemen. One had a large camera pointing at me and the other had a microphone and announced he was from the BBC. So my views on the new strip were later transmitted on the Midlands Today news and I was actually the first person to give my opinion on TV about the strip.

My lunchtime was then completed with a visit to the ‘Handmade Burger Company’ at Brindley Place. With a printed voucher in my hand that gave me a 50% discount I was ready for my dinner. It was only at the till that I realised that my voucher was in fact for the ‘Gourmet Burger Kitchen’.

SharePoint Village has its grand opening on 1st September 2010 to find out more please visit

If you didn't click on the shopkeepers link earlier and see the classic comedy clip then why not do it now?

Happy SharePoint shopping !!!

Friday, 9 July 2010

World Cup 5 - SharePoint ROI

Even though we are still having a World Cup theme ROI here means ‘Return on Investment’ not Republic of Ireland. At least France didn’t prosper too much from the dodgy goal against the Irish. Yes, I am going to try and explain how even in these difficult economic times the different ways that investing in SharePoint can bring a Return On Investment.

So what ‘Return on Investment’ (ROI) should companies expect to see then with SharePoint? A good starting point whenever trying to estimate ROI of any project is to break them down in to three types of ROI’s. The three are Hard ROI, Soft ROI and Risk Mitigation. Let me try and explain what these mean;

To keep my World Cup theme let’s look at the FA’s decision to not sack Fabio Cappello. A ‘Hard ROI’ is a direct saving of a system. So by keeping Mr. Cappello the FA don’t have to pay him a big wad of compensation. Also, they don’t have to have the costs of advertising and interviewing for a new manager. A ‘Soft ROI’ is an indirect benefit. For example, because Sir Trevor Brooking doesn’t have to spend days looking for a replacement manager then he can spend his time doing other things like finally setting up a National Football Academy. Another Soft ROI of keeping Cappello could be they will save on hotel costs for the 2012 European Championships. ‘Risk Mitigation’ is often the hardest to estimate as it is really what might go wrong if you didn’t do something. It is a bit like having car insurance. Although you might not have a crash how much would a crash cost if you didn’t have insurance. So if Cappello wasn’t kept on and the FA had employed somebody else who was a bigger disaster (remember Steve McClaren) and they had to quickly sack them, how much would the FA have to pay him?

So let’s now break down these ROI’s for a SharePoint Project;

Hard ROI
Will it replace any existing systems and associated licences?
Will it reduce any maintenance or support contracts?
Will it reduce cost of development work for third party solutions it replaces?
Will it reduce any training costs?
Will it reduce the amount of stationary to be purchased?
Will it reduce cost of physically transporting information?
Will it reduce cost of development work for third party solutions it replaces?

Soft ROI
Will it save employees time they can spend doing something else. - If there are 200 people in your company and everyone saves just 10 minutes a day, your company would: Recover the equivalent of £100,000 in salaries? Have the equivalent of an extra 5 man years?
Will it improve process speeds of information meaningless delays?
Will it reduce printing costs?
Will it reduce energy costs?
Will it encourage employees to be more productive as they have more information available?
Will it help relationship with customers or suppliers?
Will it help gain certifications or standards that will help generate more sales?
Will the shared information reduce marketing costs (i.e. all corporate images stored in one central location)?
Will having one main system reduce IT Helpdesk calls?

Risk Mitigation
What would be the cost if you lost paper copies or data?
Without it will you lose certifications and if so what would be the possible loss to the business?
How secure is the current data and what would be the cost if it leaked out?
Is the current system still supported and what would the cost be if it breaks down.

If you are starting a SharePoint Project then the Office Talk SharePoint Project Checklist is a great place to start and best of all (unlike sacking Fabio) it is FREE. Just click the link below to request your copy. Free SharePoint Checklist

So on Sunday is the World Cup Final and excitingly there will be a new country as World Champions as neither Spain nor Holland have won the golden trophy before. Good luck to both countries and I am going to predict a score of Holland 2 Spain 1, but then I thought England would be champions. At least the team of referees will be English. The big question though is who Paul ‘the psychic’ Octopus is going to predict the winner to be? If only he had not predicted Germany to beat England.

If you haven’t yet tested this SharePoint I keep going on about then why not try it for free now at promise we won’t ask for your credit card number or inside leg measurement.

Friday, 2 July 2010

World Cup 4 - Why Can SharePoint Fail?

Apparently the World Cup 2010 did not end last Sunday at a quarter to five so I writing my 4th SharePoint World Cup blog about ‘Why SharePoint Projects Fail?’

As I walked to Church last Sunday morning every other house seemed to be displaying an England flag and you could feel the belief that this was finally going to be the year of England World cup glory. I genuinely believed that we could beat Germany, Argentina, Spain and then Brazil to bring back those glory days of 1966. Five hours later my dreams like all the England flags had disappeared after we had been humiliated by Germany.

So this week the inquest into why England keeps performing poorly at World Cups has started. Front pages of newspapers, radio shows, Alan Hansen even the House of Commons all want to find somebody to blame. The finger of blame has so far been pointed at the players, the manager, the Football Association, the media, the Uruguayan officials, the Premier League and even James Corden. So who is to blame or are England really just not good enough?

Office Talk is often contacted by companies who are disappointed by the way their SharePoint is going. They sometimes feel it is failing because employees just aren’t using it or it just isn’t doing all the great things they hoped it would. So why do some SharePoint Projects Fail?

It is widely accepted that the English Premier League is one of the best leagues in the world yet the national team continually fails to deliver. Microsoft SharePoint (especially the new 2010 version) is one of the best Information Management Systems in the world yet again it can fail to live up to its hype.

I think enough people are discussing England’s reasons for failure so I am going to list some of the reasons that I think can cause SharePoint Projects to fail;

1. Expectations Not Reached

It is important that you set realistic expectation levels. Yes, SharePoint can do many impressive things but the SharePoint Project Team needs to agree an initial scope for the Project and let the users know exactly what is going to be delivered. SharePoint can integrate with many ERP systems and offer many cost saving benefits, but all these take time and effort so may not be part of the first phase of the project.

2. Not Enough Testing

A Pilot Group is vital in any project. It gives that chance to iron out any little problems and to see where users might struggle. It is interesting that Germany played with the World Cup ball for six months in the Bundisliga but the Premier League didn’t because of a sponsorship deal. Never be tempted to skip the testing phase.

3. Lack of or wrong SharePoint Consultant

It is an interesting fact that no country has ever won the World Cup with a foreign coach. Both Argentina and Brazil are doing well this year being led by managers who have played for them at World Cup Finals. With SharePoint it seems knowledge is so important to helping a project work. A SharePoint Consultant knows from experience how to make SharePoint successful so are vital to the project. Also consider a SharePoint Consultancy company that are fairly local and that you know talk the type of language that your Project Team understands.

4. Wrong Members of Project Team

Did Mr. Capello choose the right players? Putting together the SharePoint Project team is a very important part of the project. It is important to get the balance right and represent all areas of the organisation who will be using SharePoint. It is important to choose people who will give an input without being too dominating. All of Project Team needs to feel they have an equal part to play in helping develop the best SharePoint system for the company.

5. Poor Security

Data and Identity Security is so important these days with so many horror stories in the media. Every week there seems to be stories about how a long list of private information was left on a train or in a pub. SharePoint has many high level security settings included and it is important that all users know that the system is secure.

6. Security Too Tight

Security is vital, but if nobody can get to the data what is the point of it being on SharePoint. The key part of the name SharePoint is ‘Share’. Although, the information is totally secure to people outside the organisation don’t be scared to let other departments share certain parts of it. If you tie it down too much then users won’t get the full benefits.

7. Lack of Quick Wins

One of the best ways to sell SharePoint to employees is with ‘Quick Wins’. If there are things on there that will instantly make a routine task they do faster they will quickly starting using it. Included sections like IT Helpdesk, Holiday Requests, Travel Requests or Visitor Booking can earn a few points and get people to start using the system. Perhaps if England had beaten USA in first game things might have been very different.

8. Too Complex

If the SharePoint system is too difficult to navigate then users won’t use it. Keep it simple and where ever possible standardise so employees can easily know where to find information. Always take a step back and look at a site and see if it is obvious where you want a user to be clicking.

9. Lack of Training

Even though SharePoint should be simple to use all End Users will benefit from receiving a short Training session on how to use the system. Office Talk offer On-Site ninety minute End User training sessions to introduce the users to the new system. The Project Team should also receive SharePoint Administration Training (1 day) so they can understand the kind of things SharePoint can do before they start designing the system.

10. Not Flexible Enough

One of the great features of SharePoint is that it is very customisable. Some companies make the mistake of tying it down too much and leaving it very much under the control of IT. The more departments and individuals are able to customise it to meet their individual needs the more they will use it. Don’t be afraid to let them create sub-sites if they wish to. A lot of former footballers believed that the England formation of 4-4-2 was not flexible enough and restrictive.

11. No Leaders

SharePoint needs developing after it has been rolled out. A successful approach is to use the Project Team as Super Users who can assist members in their department to use SharePoint. Office Talk always advises customers to have review sessions to see exactly how SharePoint is being used and how it could be further enhance the organisation.

12. Information Not Good Enough

Are England players basically good enough? The most important part of SharePoint is the information it stores. If the information isn’t accurate or complete then the system will fail. With any SharePoint project one of the most important steps is uploading the information. Make sure good housekeeping is done first. Don’t just upload all the files you have stored from the last ten years. Remove duplicates or expired data before uploading them. Are Gerrard, Lampard and Terry expired?

13. Poor Performance

SharePoint depends on good connections speeds so it requires a good network infrastructure first. If it takes a user several minutes every time they access a file they will soon get frustrated and start reverting to storing them on local PC instead. The hardware needs to be able to cope with SharePoint and allow for expansion.

14. Reliability

It the system keeps going down users will soon lose faith in it. After three world cup failures I have finally lost faith in the so called ‘Golden Age’ of England players. It is important to continually monitor the SharePoint Servers, to consider virus protection options and to make sure you implement a suitable SharePoint Backup solution.

So back to the World Cup then and despite me predicting with the accuracy of a Uruguayan linesman last week I am going to try to predict the results of the four quarter finals;

Brazil 1 Holland 2
Ghana 1 Uruguay 1
Argentina 3 Germany 1
Spain 1 Paraguay 0

Oh well at least the Premier League starts again in only six weeks. Up the Villa !!!

Friday, 25 June 2010

World Cup 3 - SharePoint Support

What do the England football team and SharePoint have in common? The answer is they both need support. I suppose if we hadn’t beaten Solvenia last night the answer could have been very different. Mind you it is possible that by the time you read this posting England have been knocked out of the World Cup (hopefully not after losing on penalties to the Germans) or maybe even the record breaking tennis game on court 18 might even have finished.

The support England have had in South Africa has been immense and during the vital last group game they even made more noises than the vuvuzela.

Many companies seem happy to invest money in implementing SharePoint but then gamble by not having support. SharePoint is quite an easy to maintain system, but things do go wrong so it is best to think about Support. If you use a SharePoint Consultancy like Office Talk then it is worth asking what kind of support options they offer. Alternatively make sure that somebody in IT has completed a SharePoint Administration training course so they know the kind of problems you can encounter with your SharePoint.

When troubleshooting SharePoint there are four places you should be aware of on each of the SharePoint Servers. These are;

1. Application Event Log – Are there any red errors and if so when did they start? The description of the Error will often indicate where the problem is and frequently it might indicate that SharePoint cannot connect to the database. Don’t panic it might just be that somebody is rebooting the SQL Server.

2. Services – In Control Panel – Administrative Tools – Services check that none of the automatic services have stopped especially any SharePoint or Database ones. It is also worth stopping and starting the SharePoint Timer Service. If any services are hung and say ‘Stopping’ or ‘starting’ it is best to restart the server so that they can fully stop.

3. SQL Database – If you have SQL Manager then check on the state of the database and if possible take the SharePoint database offline then bring it back online. Even if you are using the inbuilt SharePoint database it is useful to install SQL Manager to allow you to manage the database.

4. IIS Manger – Check on the IIS Manager that the website listed for SharePoint and the Application Pool it is associated with are both ‘started’. If one says ‘stopped’ then try starting it. It is also worth using the command iisreset from the Command-Line Prompt.

So as you support England, or your own country, during this World Cup think about how well supported your SharePoint system is. Also and probably even more important is, how good is your SharePoint backup? If disaster strikes how easy would it be to rebuild your SharePoint and how quickly would you may be able to access all your data again? Make sure you either have the latest SharePoint Agent with your Veritas Backup Exec or invest in a third-party SharePoint backup solution like AvePoint’s DocAve . Remember your information is only as good as your last backup.

After I correctly predicted Germany 0 Serbia 1 last week I am going to predict the four quarter-finals now which you might note does not include the boys from Brazil.

South Korea v USA
Netherlands v Spain
Argentina v England
Paraguay v Portugal

Please let me know what you think of my predictions.
Now it is time to prepare myself for the tense job of supporting England. I just hope they have been practising those penalty kicks just in case.

Come on England !!!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

World Cup 2 - SharePoint with Flair

Is it only me and Alan Hansen who are becoming despondent by the lack of excitement in the World Cup? Every game just seems the same with countries more interested in not losing their opening game wow factor. Perhaps the games involving Brazil, Spain and Portugal might change things but at the moment the only real entertainment has been the Germans beating the aging Aussies. Mind you this hasn’t stopped me from watching two games every day. So still we wait for that moment of magic and the game to makes us go wow. Some SharePoint sites also lack flair so how can we make them more appealing?

With SharePoint the options really are endless. The use of video, audio and flash can so easily be added to add an extra dimension to any site. The very adaptable Content Editor Webpart can be used to add impact and flair. If your firewall doesn’t block YouTube then you can have access to millions of videos and almost certainly find one appropriate to you. All you need to do is copy the HTML code that you will find to the right of each video and paste it into the Source section of the inserted Content Editor Webpart. Not only can it be used for playing YouTube videos but all over the web for will find ‘Widgets’ and these also have code you can copy. Widgets are simple, fun, and useful applications that can be embedded on a webpage, blog, social networking page or for us SharePoint. Almost certainly you have already seen widgets, and used them, even if you didn’t know they were called ‘widgets’. You have probably seen a quiz or a game on a friend’s Facebook wall, well these are widgets. You may have seen countdowns to events, like the World Cup, on blogs or a YouTube playlist on your child’s MySpace page. All of these are widgets and they are great because they allow you to add customised content to your SharePoint with no coding knowledge necessary. All you need to do is insert that famous ‘Content Editor Webpart’. It works on WSS, MOSS 2007, SharePoint Foundation 2010 or SharePoint Server 2010.

One of the best places to get thousands of different widgets from is Widget Box where you can take code from widgets including Calculators, Dancing Penguins, Arnold Schwarzenegger sayings, Simon Memory games, Site Translators, Cat Clocks, Weather Updates, Space Invaders, World Cup Updates and many more.

Talking World Cup, as another game reaches half-time disappointingly goal-less, if you Google ‘Fifa widgets’ you can find a range of interesting World Cup Widgets that you can be added to your SharePoint.

So don’t let your SharePoint resemble a France against Uruguay World Cup game use the Content Editor Webpart to add some video or a widget.
Time now for my second set of World Cup predictions. The ones last week were not too bad even if England didn’t quite manage that second goal. I am going to start with England to beat Algeria one-nil.

My other three predictions are;

Group D – Germany 0 Serbia 1
Group F – Italy 4 New Zealand 0
Group G – Brazil 2 Ivory Coast 1

If you haven’t got your FREE World Cup 2010 SharePoint template yet please visit

Come on England !!!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

World Cup 1 - E-Learning for England

The World Cup 2010 in South Africa is about to start and I make no apologies for the fact that for the next five weeks (or until England are controversially knocked out) my SharePoint blog is going World Cup crazy. All the funny videos will have a World Cup theme and I will try to predict four matches from the coming week each time.

So England are getting used to being at altitude, Capello is losing his cool with photographers and still nobody knows who will be in the England goal. At least the England players have all the technology gadgets they could want with many having I-Phones even if they have been banned from Twittering or using Facebook during the tournament. So how could SharePoint help the England team?

I am going to this week focus on one of the current rapidly expanding uses of SharePoint - The Management of E-Learning. This is the ability to fully manage all SCORM compliant E-Learning courses using the familiar SharePoint platform. A package called ShareKnowledge has proved very popular in schools and colleges worldwide but now more and more private companies are finding it a very cost effective way to train their workforce. With it’s very easy to use and free companion ‘Author Tool’ it is very easy to create online training courses with relevant assessments. It can take information in seconds from Microsoft PowerPoint slides and turn them into E-Learning slides. It allows the use of video or sound and can make even the least technically minded Training Manager appear an E-Learning expert.

After you have created the impressive E-Learning courses it then takes only a few clicks to upload the complete course including questions into SharePoint and assign them to individuals or whole departments. The users can then be alerted on SharePoint when they have a course to do and after they have completed the training their individual training records are updated. It really does help reduce company training budgets and also can make it easier to ensure that even employees in far off places have completed the required training courses. So in between watching the World Cup games check out ShareKnowledge and if you are in the UK why not email Frank Faulds and ask for a demonstration.

So how could ShareKnowledge help England? This is my vision that might not be shared by Mr. Capello. All squad members have laptops or I-phones linked to a SharePoint system (suppose it should really be 2010). Then a first E-Learning course could be created entitled ‘How to tackle in training without injuring your captain’ this could then be assigned to all England players or just Emile Heskey. Other courses could be created and tailor-made for certain individuals, for example ‘The Art of Not Getting Sent Off’ assigned to Wayne Rooney before every game. Then of course the one that all members of the England squad have to study the most, ‘How to take penalties’.

With so much digital media now available to all of us E-Learning can be a very affective learning tool and SharePoint is the ideal platform for it. ShareKnowledge even works on the free version of SharePoint WSS so it could even be a reason to roll out SharePoint if you aren’t already SharePoint users.

So it is time for my weekly prediction and I am going to start with England’s first game against USA. I think it will be a struggle but England will just triumph 2-1.

My other three predictions are;

Group A - South Africa 1 Mexico 1
Group E - Netherlands 3 Denmark 0
Group H – Spain 3 Switzerland 1

If you haven’t got your FREE World Cup 2010 SharePoint template yet please checkout

Come on England !!!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

SharePoint and Britain's Got Talent

Like many men worldwide I am counting down the days to the start of the FIFA 2010 World Cup. With my FREE SharePoint World Cup Template installed I am planning my June television viewing. But to help us get through the last week before the World Cup in the UK we have got the Semi Finals and Finals of the very popular Britain’s Got Talent. Now, despite being a footy man I have to admit to secretly really enjoying Britain’s Got Talent and even set my Sky Plus to record it last night so please don’t tell me if the Wood Chopper gets through or not. I think I like the show because of its variety. There are potential stars from all different forms of entertainment and something for all the family. This I think is similar to SharePoint.

SharePoint has so many different uses and appeals to so many different departments. It doesn’t just focus on one area like Document Storage it also does such varied things as plays videos, receives emails, produces KPI’s and many more. It can do things that it was never even designed for. In the last month Office Talk have used it to monitor World Cup fixtures, record reasons employees leave a company, compile mailing lists, created mechanisms for sending warning when Projects are over-running and managed Risk Assessments. All of these were not obvious uses for SharePoint but once your organisation has SharePoint the possibilities are endless.

So what have been some of the best uses of SharePoint that Office Talk have come across in the last year. Let me go for a top eight approach like in a Britain’s Got Talent Semi Final;

1. A system to track feedback from Exit Interviews and automate a monthly report to their Senior Management Team. This included reasons for leaving, opinions of company, where they were going and what first attracted them to the company.

2. Storage of marketing digital assets including photographs and video. Making them easy to find and distribute to potential customers.

3. Acquire, record and manage feedback from trainees on both internal and external training courses. How good or bad was the trainer.

4. A forum to suggest and discuss new ideas for improving the company Intranet. This later included a section to rate each suggestion.

5. Storage and distribution of latest hospital guidelines (Included NICE guidelines). To show clearly new guidelines as they come out and distribute them accordingly.

6. An ‘In and Out’ board to record movements of managers and to say if they are contactable and if not who to contact in their absence.

7. Travel Booking System to allow employees to request different travel arrangements to be made for them to guarantee best price for the company. Arrangements included air, train, hotel and parking.

8. A system to distribute and manage an adaptable E-Learning training course for all new telephonists in a large Call Centre. Only when training had been completed could they start taking calls.

So those are just eight of the recent uses and it is very difficult to pick a best two without knowing exactly how much time and money each one saved their various businesses. So instead I will predict the top two in Britain’s Got Talent 2010. I think it will be between the gymnasts ‘Spelbound’ and the ‘Tina and Chandi’ the ballet dancing dog act.

As for the World Cup. Well it just has to be England.

Come on England !!!

* Don't Miss Dan Holme's SharePoint 2010 Masterclass 29th June. Click Here for details.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Pick Your SharePoint Team

Apologies for recycling an old blog topic, but Office Talk frequently get asked about who should be in the SharePoint Project Team. So especially with many people now considering SharePoint 2010 I feel it is a good time to revisit ‘what makes a successful SharePoint Project Team?’

As the World Cup countdown continues the 32 national managers have the task of whittling down their final squads to just 23 names. If you have already claimed your Free World Cup 2010 SharePoint Template you will be able to see who all these managers are. Each manager will have different ways of selecting their 23 but they will all make sure they have enough capable goalkeepers, fit defenders, midfield alternatives and forwards capable of scoring goals when they submit their final squads to FIFA. Their aim, like when putting together a SharePoint Project Team, is to try and get the best results possible given the resources they have.

A SharePoint Project is no different to picking your World Cup squad. Without the right players it can flop and you cannot even get past the first stage. But what are the 'right players' and where do you start selecting them?

The 'Well Built' SharePoint Project Team needs to include the following key players;

1. Project Owner - This must a member of the Senior Managers, or even the Managing Director, somebody who will push SharePoint out to all areas of the business

2. Project Manager - This person is in charge of the whole Project and they should have a good knowledge of the whole business. . I know it is tempting, but try to keep this away from the IT Manager. Choosing the IT Manager is like making a goalkeeper captain it never seems to work. Although, Dino Zoff was a famous exception to this rule.

3. Technical Leads - Now IT can get involved and it is also advisable to call on the expert advice of a SharePoint Consultant (I can recommend Office Talk in the UK). The SharePoint Consultant has done it before and knows the pitfalls. It is like adding some experience to your squad.

4. Project Team Members - These are key people from each part of the business where SharePoint will be used. These Project Members can also become Super Users after Go-Live so treat them well and get them some SharePoint training. It is important to make these Project Team Members fans of SharePoint as they will be the ones promoting it back to their area, or Department. The number of Project Team Members depends on how many Sites you think you will require although the best number is 6 to 10. These players need to know how the business works and yet also be keen on change.

So now the Project Team is in place and you are ready to kickoff your SharePoint with the first Project Team Meeting. The offer of a buffet lunch normally clears a few diaries and helps build morale ready for the campaign ahead.

Good luck to everybody who is considering a SharePoint project and good luck to all 32 countries competing in the World Cup (except the ones in England’s group or anyone England might face in the knock out stages).
If you haven’t got your World Cup SharePoint Template yet please Click Here

Come on England !!!

* Don't Miss Dan Holme's SharePoint 2010 Masterclass 29th June. Click Here for details.

Monday, 17 May 2010

SharePoint World Cup 2010 Template

Yesterday England completed their first World Cup triumph of the summer with their superb Twenty Twenty Cricket success. Now it’s time for the football team to follow their example and win the FIFA World Cup 2010. SharePoint Specialists Office Talk are supporting the three lions all the way and using the very latest technology SharePoint Server 2010 to do so.

In World Cups gone by I would eagerly blue-tak my World Cup Wallchart up by my desk and carefully write in every result until England were cheated out or lost on penalties. This year it will be different because I will be updating all the results on my exciting FIFA World Cup 2010 SharePoint Template. Yes, to show some of the great new features of SharePoint 2010 including the Uniqueness field, easier way to edit pages and simplified way to change colours on themes Office Talk are giving away an impressive World Cup site Template. Although, on SharePoint 2010 (both Foundation and Server) it is called ‘A Solution’ not a Site Template and instead of a .STP file it becomes a .WSP file (at least you won’t get confused with which version it is for) *.

So please claim your FREE Site Template Solution to let you have lots of fun during the World Cup. You can see all the fixtures, update live group tables, have online chats about World Cup, hold a World Cup Sweepstake for your employees, see who all the star players are, plan your TV viewing and look back at past winners. You can even customise it to order the half-time pizza. All you have to do to get this FREE template is simply send an email to with the subject being “World Cup Template”. Even though we are backing England at Office Talk this template can be used by any of the 32 countries. The challenge for Office Talk is to make sure at least one is requested in each country. So if you are in USA, Paraguay, Australia, Mexico or anywhere else please let us know.

Many of the readers though might have spotted a slight problem in this great offer though. Yes, you need to have SharePoint Server 2010, or SharePoint Foundation 2010 installed and very few people have as it has been out less than a week (see Stop Press *). Well, there is one hidden gem with 2010 that could be very useful to a lot of IT Managers and SharePoint Administrators. It will now run on a Windows client. There are requirements though so before you get too excited. It needs to be Window 7 Enterprise Edition or higher. Oh, and running 64-bit. If you have Windows Home Premium it won’t work because you need to have Windows Authentication, but providing you have the correct licence you can add Windows 7 Enterprise Edition on a separate partition (quite easy using Disk Manager).

So when you have got Window 7 Enterprise you then follow the install process (to the letter) in

Then you can request your free World Cup Template/Solution from Office Talk. This will be the first of twelve 2010 Templates\Solutions that Office Talk will be releasing during May. For further information please contact

Don’t forget also Office Talk’s special World Cup Offer on SharePoint Training.

If enough people ask nicely we will release a SharePoint 2007 version of the world Cup Template as well.

Come on England !!!!

* STOP PRESS : Due to phenomenal demand a World Cup 2010 Template that works on WSS 3.0 and MOSS 2007 is now available. Please email with the subject "World Cup Template 2007 Edition".

* Don't Miss Dan Holme's SharePoint 2010 Masterclass 29th June. Click Here for details.

Friday, 7 May 2010

How To Pick A SharePoint Consultant

So we have a ‘Hung Parliament’ so we might be looking at a replay. In this week’s SharePoint Blog I am going to compare the process of selecting a SharePoint Consultancy with deciding who to vote for.

Yesterday for the first time when I went to vote I had to actually queue before I was able to place my cross in a box. As I queued I just kept thinking why is this process still so old-fashioned? Why aren’t I just at home logging on to a website or pressing the Red button on my television and entering a pin number to vote? I expect give it ten years and it will probably become ‘X-Factor’ style voting when you can vote MPs off live on a Saturday night. I also thought about how people decided who they voted for. As I stood in the queue I was still a floating voter undecided whether to vote for the local man, a party leader who was a Villa fan or who had looked best on telly.

In the end I voted for the only person who had bothered to push a leaflet through my letterbox to even say they are standing. The fact that the others failed to do this seemed a poor show especially as I had received over ten Pizza leaflets pushed through in the last week alone. People seem quite happy to discuss who they have voted for this time and the reasons for their vote. One lady said she got to the booth and then just chose the only candidate who lived anywhere near to the area. Another person said that if she didn’t vote conservative she would never be able to look her dad in the face again.

With any successful SharePoint project the help of a SharePoint Consultant is important. Having somebody who knows the SharePoint pitfalls and has the SharePoint knowledge will help the project run smoother. Problem is that if you Google ‘SharePoint Consultants’ you will receive a list of 100’s and it is very difficult to know where to start. So how do you decide which ones to consider?

Well, like when choosing your MP maybe a factor to consider for your SharePoint Consultant is location. You don’t want your SharePoint Consultant to come from a different country and if they are local it might mean they are able to quickly come to site if needed. Interestingly, we at Office Talk are based in the Birmingham area yet most our customers come from outside the Midlands. It would be nice to have more Birmingham based customers even if they were ‘Bluenoses’ (Birmingham City fans). Another selection criterion could be looking at consultancies that have experience in your specific area. If you are a school does there website mention any work with schools. Maybe try googling ‘SharePoint Schools’. Office Talk have worked closely with Fire Services, Colleges and Health organisations, but other Consultancies might have more experience of Police Services or Estate Agents. It is important to think of any systems you are going to link your SharePoint to as well. If you are linking it into SAP has the SharePoint Consultancy got the expertise and experience to do this?

There are many other factors to consider when selecting SharePoint Consultants including;

- Are they able to provide training as well?
- What support do they offer after the project go live?
- Do they have good reference sites or have you heard good things about them?
- Do they have good knowledge of SharePoint third-party applications?
- How approachable are they and are they easy to communicate with?
- And perhaps one of the most important factors in the current climate ‘price’.

There isn’t a set rule for selecting SharePoint Consultants and as with choosing which candidate to vote for it is very much down to personal taste.

So as the political parties in the UK try to come to a deal after slagging each other off for the past three weeks the SharePoint world is preparing itself for the launch of SharePoint 2010 on Wednesday 12th May. So what will come first the new SharePoint or a Villa supporting Prime Minister?

World Cup Latest : New amazing World Cup offer from Office Talk CLICK HERE

Thursday, 29 April 2010

SharePoint Foundation 2010 - Is It All That?

So on May 12th Microsoft will finally launch SharePoint 2010 and then 30 days later we have the real important 2010 event, the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. So let me take another look at the new free version of SharePoint – Windows SharePoint Foundation 2010. We can leave worries about Rooney’s fitness, the effects of John Terry’s lovelife and England’s lack of a recognised goalkeeper for a few weeks. Although, feel free to leave any comments about the England squad just in case Fabio Capello does have a passing interest in the new SharePoint.

So what have Microsoft put into the new Windows SharePoint Foundation? Truth is quite a bit if you are a developer and they have finally put some order to the Central Admin (the bit on the Server where you manage the system), but they have not really included too many wow factors for the average end user. Mind you I don’t think they need to because the current Windows SharePoint Services (version 3) does a terrific job. It is very simple to customise and employees soon pick it up. Office Talk finds that a two hour End user course (which they provide at very reasonable rates) is all they require to get them using SharePoint. So apart from some fine tuning Microsoft decided all they really needed to do to make their leading package more appealing was to put a fancy ribbon on it. Very similar to the way Fifa have a winning product with the World Cup, but every four years will make some minor changes to the competition just to make it different to the last one.

So what do I think are the wow factors for SharePoint Foundation 2010? Well after hours of playing with it I have come up with a list of ten enhancements I like. Microsoft has their own much larger list if you want to see all the ‘New Features’. But here is my ten in no particular order;

1. SMS Alerts
Quite basic but pretty neat (even if they are probably in league with the mobile phone companies). As well as sending Alerts to Email addresses or groups of Emails you can now send them via SMS text messages to a mobile phone. Great for sending out announcements to on the road Sales staff to help keep them informed of product changes. Mind you a lot of them now have Blackberry phones so they already get their email on their mobile free of charge. It could be good also for sending offers to customers.

2. Health Analyzer
One problem with the current version of SharePoint is it is often difficult to know how it is doing and unless you are permanently monitoring the Event Logs the only time you know there is a problem is when the whole system stops. Although there are some free tools available that will let you monitor performance. So in SharePoint Foundation there is a built in Health Analyzer which automatically checks and notifies you of potential problems.

3. Enforcing Uniqueness
At first I didn’t get this new entry when creating a column but then saw the ability to check that the entry hadn’t been used before in that field was very useful. This is great for reference numbers or ranking items. In the World Cup it could be used for seeding the finalists (I know there is no seeding) and making sure each seed number was only used once. So when seed 6 has gone nobody else can be seeded 6.

4. Access External Lists
Very useful to give the free version of SharePoint some of the features available in the full Server bit. The ability to link to databases and external feeds is very useful. Helps link to other company systems like an ERP system.

5. Enhanced mobile support
In a world now being dominated my Iphones and Blackberry phones the ability to configure which webparts are displayed on mobile devices is pretty cool. I am 43 now and must stop saying ‘cool’.

6. Ribbon
Ok I am not a great fan and think it just reduces the amount of data displayed on screen, but some people (including our Marketing Manager Frank) like the ability of the ribbon to display all the functions that used to be hidden away under ‘Site Settings’. I can see the benefit and am starting to use the tabs more, but just wish I could customise it more and put icons in places that make sense to me.

7. Rich Text Editing
Now it is easy to make changes to any item on your SharePoint site and add text simply by being in ‘Edit Page’ view. You can change fonts, colours, sizes and insert images as you wish. You can even quickly add html code without the need to insert the Content Editor Webpart. This is probably the most pleasing edition to the software for the End user.

8. Central Administration – (configuration wizards)
Finally gone are the confusing ‘Operations’ and ‘Application’ sections and instead the revamped Central Admin is easy to navigate through. With sections to monitor what really is happening and easy access to backups. With the addition of a number of configuration wizards as well it is now easier to configure your SharePoint. Yes, a definite thumbs up here.

9. High Availability Fall over.
SharePoint works best when all the company data is stored on it so it needs to be available 100% of time. This is why this little extra which allows you to have a fall-over is great. It the main SQL database cannot be accessed it quickly flips over to a reserve one automatically.

10. FAST Search with Metadata
For many people the biggest disappointment with SharePoint is the searching. It promises so much but then fails to deliver (like the England football team of old). The need to buy third-party tools to enable wildcard searching has been a frustration. But now built on the FAST Search application the search is now a lot more powerful and can now easily be filtered by appropriate metadata. Oh, and yes wildcard searching is finally included.

So ten advantages of moving, but don’t forget even SharePoint Foundation 2010 requires a 64-bit server and as with all new software there will be teething problems. So maybe it is best to wait until the first service Pack is out or at least until after England win the World Cup.

To try a Hosted version of SharePoint (with free upgrade to SharePoint Foundation at any of May) just click the following link

So now to start thinking about the England 23 man squad for the World Cup and the even more important job of picking the England World Cup Song for 2010. There have been many interesting ones over the years here are some of my favourites;

1966 : World Cup Willy
1970 : Back Home
1982 : This Time
1990 : World in Motion
1998 : Three Lions (1998 remix)
2002 : We’re on the ball
2006 : Come On England

Please let me know which one was your favourite.

Oh, and just so my Scottish readers don't feel left out here is my favourite Scotland World Cup Song.

I Have A Dream - 1982

Newsflash : New amazing World Cup offer from Office Talk CLICK HERE

Thursday, 22 April 2010

SharePoint Money Saver - New Hosted Solution

Yesterday was quite an exciting day and not only because the Villa beat Hull and almost guaranteed my brother’s team Wolves staying up (meaning four West Midlands clubs in Premiership next season). Wednesday 21st April was also the launch of the unique Hosted SharePoint solution ‘Office Talk Team Portal’. OK not the most riveting of names but hopefully the extra features and applications will be its real seller. Oh, and the free upgrade to SharePoint 2010 within two months will keep it future proof.

So why have SharePoint Specialists Office Talk (that’s who I work for so please allow a little advertising here) decided to extend their SharePoint offerings to include a Hosted Solution? To explain I am going to use a football analogy (I can hear some of you groan ‘not again’ already) and let’s look at the final weeks of the Premiership season. We have an exciting title race, a race for 4th (which following last night still involves the mighty Villa) and a relegation fight between five teams. The sad fact is that when you compare the current league table with a table of attendances this season you see a very high correlation (you can tell I have got a Statistics A’Level). The higher the crowd you get it seems the higher in the league you are. The Villa are currently 7th in both the real Premiership and the attendance league. So the answer seems simple, get higher crowds and you will climb the league. Unfortunately only Manchester United seem able to keep adding seats to their ground for many of the other teams the answer appears to be to build new ultra expensive plastic grounds. This means putting the club into great debt and possible danger. Now having a big new ground means not only significant initial outlay, but many expensive running costs which is the same if you house your own SharePoint Servers. Maybe clubs should start to seriously look at ground sharing as even the top clubs do in Italy? I wouldn’t really be in favour of the Villa moving to a new supersized ground that they shared with Birmingham City (the two play each other on Sunday) but I can see the financial sense especially if the ground was owned by Birmingham Council. So ‘Hosted Football Grounds’ could save clubs loads of money.

Having your own full SharePoint Environment does not come cheap even if the business savings will eventually be considerable. Supporting any IT infra-structure is expensive with needs for dedicated server rooms, complex backup procedures, hardware support contracts and complex software licensing. For many small to medium sized companies getting started with SharePoint is just too expensive and also they just haven’t got the time. They haven’t even got time to try it out and it really takes a good day to configure and that is assuming you already have a server available to put it on. So the hosted SharePoint is now a great entry point for many companies and organisations. Either those who want to just dip their feet in without any real outlay or for those who want to securely store all their information on it SharePoint Hosted is the answer.

So what are the real benefits of SharePoint Hosting?

1. Saves Money
2. Data is Secure (multiple servers in multiple locations means complete peace of mind)
3. Reduced Support Costs (No need to worry about Backups)
4. Enhanced Security (https connections means data transmitted securely)
5. Available everywhere (with Internet connections everywhere even in McDonalds your staff can work)
6. No long term commitment.
The next question is why ‘Office Talk Team Portal’ and what makes it different;

1. A free upgrade to SharePoint 2010 within two months
2. Supported by SharePoint experts (Office Talk)
3. Designed to incorporate the best SharePoint Add-ons (Online Conference facility, CRM and Project applications already available with many more on the way)
4. Servers hosted by Rack Space one of leading global Hosted Providers
5. Access to the popular ten department templates designed by Office Talk
6. A free no obligation 30 day trial available which doesn’t even ask for your credit card or mother’s maiden name.
7. Up and running in under ten minutes.

So why not try SharePoint now whatever size organisation you are? Just click here to start your free 30 day trial of Office Talk Team Portal .

Now all the Villa have to do is win their last three games of the season and hope Spurs don’t win two. Not forgetting that Man City mustn't win three of their games. Did you follow all that?

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