Thursday, 8 December 2011

How Good is Your SharePoint?

In this week’s blog I am going to include a simple rating scale to let you quickly see how good your SharePoint environment is.

However, before then I must say sorry to all my readers because it has been nearly two months since my last Posting. I might have made a good Catholic if I hadn’t been born a Methodist. So what is my excuse for lack of postings? I could blame the Christmas rush, the public strikes or the appalling football the Villa are playing, but the truth is I have just been really busy bee. 

The second half of 2011 has seen a major boom in the number of SharePoint 2010Projects across the UK. At Office Talk all the SharePoint Consultants have been in constant demand for their SharePoint skills. No, that isn’t an opportunity from any Recruitment Agencies to start ringing us! It appears that more and more organisations are now ready to trust SharePoint 2010 and with support for 2007 going soon , (well it is 5 years old) they are choosing now to migrate.

All the corridors look like this
I have spent many nights recently working away from home (well my home until I move next Thursday) and have become an almost permanent guest at a popular chain of hotels. I won’t say which chain of purple hotels or mention Lenny Henry just in case I write anything they don’t like. Now, normally I stay in one that is quite near to the centre of the town, but today as Christmas is approaching there was no room at the Inn so I have had to go to one that is about three miles north of my normal one. At first glance they look identical with even the same purple pictures above the bed and identical bathrooms (at least I only have to learn one lot of shower controls), but then you start to spot little differences. The woman on Reception is less friendly here, the pub restaurant here is far classier (they even do something clever with red cabbage), the breakfast sausages at the other hotel are crispier and the lead on the hairdryer here is longer. I mention the hairdryer because it seems the ironing board and iron are booked out all night so I am trying to de-crease my shirt by drying it with the hairdryer after wetting it in the shower. The long cord means that I can hang it in the open-plan wardrobe as I dry it. So there are pluses and minuses for each of the two hotels. I think I prefer the normal central one but I am not sure. This got me thinking about what makes a good SharePoint environment.   

So here goes with a festive ‘How Good is your SharePoint? Perhaps I should make it into a board game or make it a TV show on some remote TV station.

You start with 50 points and each question could involve you either subtracting or adding to your score. Don’t worry I will keep the maths simple.

1. Was your last successful SharePoint Backup (including SQL Server) more than 48 hours ago? [If you said ‘yes’ lose 50 points]

2. Has your landing page been changed in the last five days? [If you said ‘yes’ gain 20 points]

3. Have most your End Users had at least one hours SharePoint training? [If you said ‘no’ lose 20 points]

4. Do you have a list of all users with Site Owners permissions? [If you said ‘yes’ gain 10 points]

5. Does your Search currently work? [If you said ‘no’ lose 30 points]

6. Have you got any of the following on your SharePoint?
a) Holiday System
b) Purchase Order System
c) Expenses System
d) Staff Directory
e) Risk Assessment System
f) Incident Reporting
g) Visitors Book
h) Web Enquiries
k) IT Helpdesk

[For each one gain 5 points]

7. Have you created any Content Types? [If you said ‘Yes’ gain 20 points]

8. Have you enabled any Libraries to receive emails? [If you said ‘Yes’ gain 10 points]

9. Have you used any Active Directory Security groups in your SharePoint permissions? [If you said ‘Yes’ gain 10 points]

10. Have you created any of the following?
a) Discussion Groups
b) Surveys
c) Blogs
d) Meeting Site
e) Wikis

[For each one you have gain 5 points]

11. Do you have Super Users / Advanced Users clearly defined? [If you said ‘no’ lose 20 points]

12. Do your End Users have access to a manual for your SharePoint? [If you said ‘no’ lose 10 points]

13. If your SharePoint is over 12 months old has it been reviewed in last 12 months? [If you said ‘no’ lose 5 points]

14. Are the Event Logs on all servers in the SharePoint Farm monitored or checked daily? [If you said ‘no’ lose 30 points]

15. Have you created any Template Sites? [If you said ‘yes’ gain 10 points]

16. Do you have a Change Request system in place for your SharePoint? [If you said ‘no’ lose 15 points]

17. Do you have an area on SharePoint for all your Organisation’s policies? [If you said ‘no’ you lose 20 points]

18. Do you have a ‘Social’ area on your SharePoint? [If you said ‘yes’ gain 20 points]

19. Do you have a Disaster Recovery procedure in place for your SharePoint? [If you said ‘no’ lose 20 points]

20. Does over 70% of your organisation use your SharePoint? [If you said ‘yes’ gain 30 points]

This is just for fun but hopefully will get you thinking.

This is what the scoring means;

Over 200Wow you’re good do you want to be a SharePoint Consultant?

– Your SharePoint is going very well take a bow.

100-149 – Not bad, but maybe worth reviewing your SharePoint how you can improve it.

50-99 – Needs some work.

0-49 – Oh dear do you really feel think you can afford a Christmas break?

Below 0 Please don’t let anybody know that you read Andy Dale’s blogs!

For those people who scored over 100 it is probably time for some Christmas fun. At SharePoint Village we are again running our popular ‘Secret Santa’ competition. Where if you find the six hidden Santa’s you have a chance of winning a superb Xbox 360 Kinect. Sadly I can’t enter, but please have a go at  

As we are talking about an Xbox I have to bring you back by popular demand the Ronnie Corbett Blackberry sketch.

I am off now to fill the kettle and then wait about ten minutes for it to boil. Why are hotel kettles the slowest in the world to boil? Oh, and how are you supposed to fit them under the basin tap to fill?


Wednesday, 19 October 2011

SharePoint doesn't have to be a frustrating Flatpack.

On Sunday 9th October we opened two large boxes of what claimed to be a wooden desk. In fact it contained 22 pieces of wood, four bags of varying screws, a tube of very sticky glue and an eight page 'easy' assembly guide. The guide claimed it took two hours to assemble; so straight away I was a worried man (remembering the wardrobe of 1998 that claimed one hour and took a whole weekend). But I can now happily report that on Monday 17th October we successfully finished building the desk. Sadly with a few extra holes (as you'll see in picture below the dowels were quite hard) but these have now been disguised by skilfully arranging items on the newly assembled desk. Also quite a few screws left over for future projects (hopefully well in the future).

It didn't all go quite to plan along the way to building the desk
So why am I sharing my lack of DIY skills with you in this SharePoint Blog? I suppose it is because although SharePoint is fairly easy to build it is still very difficult to get the sites to look exactly how you had envisaged and for them to behave in quite the manner you had required. So unless you are a SharePoint expert I would recommend two different ways of building your SharePoint Environment.

Option 1 is the one that many companies do and can make projects run a lot smoother. Is to hire a SharePoint Consultant. I would have loved to have hired a Desk Consultant who would have quickly assembled the desk for me or shown me step by step what needed to be done. Including how far to insert my dowelling rods.

Option 2 is to buy a SharePoint already built. I would have been very happy to buy a desk already built even if it would have been a challenge to manoeuvre it through the study door. So how can you buy SharePoint already built? One way is to buy Site Templates that you can just upload straight into your Solutions Gallery and then you can be using in just minutes (I mean real minutes not Flat Pack Assembly minutes). This is what many customers of Office Talk have been doing and our set of 11 Department Templates have proved very popular. We originally created a set of Templates for SharePoint 2007 (they also worked with WSS 3.0) and then early this year converted them all to SharePoint 2010 (and Foundation).

This Post is turning into an advert for the Office Talk Department Templates , but there are plenty of other SharePoint companies selling Templates too. Office Talk have used their understanding of how both Private and Public Sector organisations work to design templates for the Human Resources Department, Information Technology Department (or whatever IT is currently called), Finance Department, Purchasing Department, Training, Project Departments and the most popular of all the Health & safety Department. Each of these templates contain Lists and Libraries that are relevant to that department. For example the Health & Safety Department includes an 'Incident Reporting System' and the IT Department one includes an IT Helpdesk System.

So my advice if you are looking at implementing SharePoint is to either get expert help with your Flat Pack installation or buy some ready built sites.

At least the desk is now looking sturdy and the drawers are gliding in and out quite freely. Perhaps after around 20 hours of work and several blisters I am reasonably pleased with what Claire and I have created. I might even risk putting a heavy book on it later.

If you want to buy one or all of the excellent Department Templates then please visit the Office Talk website now

Just make sure if you call in the experts that they really are experts. Never forget when the Trotters claimed they were expert Chandelier cleaners on the classic 'Only Fools and Horses'.

Monday, 26 September 2011

SharePoint Search and Lost Socks

This week I am going to talk about something that I believe is very close to a lot of men’s hearts. I am going to talk about the phenomena of disappearing socks. The way that no matter how many pairs of socks you have you are always left with just a pile of odd socks. I have never worked out the mystery of where they go although I have often suspected the tumble dryer, but never been able to prove it.  Somewhere there must be a mountain of odd socks that exactly match the drawer full of odd sock I have by the side of my bed. So why am I using my SharePoint Blog to moan about my lack of footwear? Well, I was thinking wouldn’t it be great if in the house you had a facility like the SharePoint Search. A little box where you could just type in what you are searching for. For example just type in ‘Aston Villa Lion sock’ and the missing one would turn up. Of course, it isn’t limited to socks it could help you find your car keys or your Tax Disc Reminder. The possibilities are endless. SharePoint Search is the answer because it lets you search every individual item in the SharePoint Environment even down to words in documents. Yet amazingly, in my experience of SharePoint projects, it seems very few End Users actually use the Search.

So why do End Users not use the SharePoint Search? One reason often given is because it finds them too many results. This can be true especially when SharePoint Administrators have not spent time thinking about what needs to be included and more importantly excluded from the SharePoint Search Scope. There are two ways of doing this. Firstly, defining the Search Scope in Central Admin. The second way, is to change individual Site, Library or List settings in SharePoint. There is always an option to include in Search and by default this is selected. But always think if you really want it included. For instance if the list is for employee Holiday Requests then why would you want it to be searchable.

Another reason given is because the Search simply does not work. Unfortunately the Search part of SharePoint can cause SharePoint Administrators many sleepless nights because it is prone to error, but all these errors are recorded in the Application section of the Event Viewer on the Server. It is important that these logs are checked daily and that alerts are set up to inform the Administrator of any problems with SharePoint and especially the Search. It is common for crawls to stop or not run. A common reason like many things in SharePoint is permissions. So it is important the Administrator is alerted as soon as a problem has occurred so they can fix it before it becomes and issue for the End User. Alert monitoring software like the brilliant IPMonitor from Solarwinds are great for setting up alerts when problems happen.

The Search facility in SharePoint is one of its most powerful features so if you are a SharePoint Administrator and you are reading this blog please take time to just check your Search is working correctly. Also have a look at your Search logs to find how many people are actually using the Search. If it isn’t being used much them you have to ask yourself why. A high proportion of users would not think twice about using Google so why aren’t they using SharePoint Search. Is it a lack of training or maybe something silly like the Search Box is not really prominent on the page? Think about your End User Training sessions (these are available in UK from Office Talk if you are interested) and how much time is spent on demonstrating the Search facility.      

So now back to try and find at least two socks that look very similar. If anybody knows where these missing socks go please comment below.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

SharePoint Walk of Fame

Regular readers might be surprised at my extra posting this week, but I am very excited about the brand new SharePoint Walk of Fame that is being unveiled at SharePoint Village as part of their 1st Birthday celebrations on 1st September. They are following our lovely Queen and having a Birthday Honours List with the four honoured SharePointers been inducted onto the SharePoint Walk of Fame. Also I want to tell you how to get free SharePoint help.

SharePoint is a remarkable in the way that so many people are so ready to help other SharePoint Users. When I was involved in creating SharePoint Village I was keen for it to be a showcase not only for the best products in SharePoint but also the SharePoint Community. This is why you will find many of the woldwide SharePoint User Groups listed there as well as links to great SharePoint resources like 'SharePoint Magazine' (now available as a glossy magazine to order) and  'Nothing But SharePoint' (home of the famous 'Stump the Panel').

The SharePoint Community is massive so if you are involved in SharePoint never feel you are on your own. If you have a problem don't quickly get your credit card and buy a support call from Microsoft try the SharePoint Community first. There are two great ways of getting instant free help with SharePoint and one of these I only came across yesterday. Like many of you I twitter and have started using the hashtags even though I didn't really understand them. But it seems that if I type #avfc lots of Villa fans even ones who don't follow me will see my twitters. Also #sharepoint means I can annoy the SharePoint community, but the best new one if you seriously are asking a SharePoint question and need help is simply #sphelp. I tried it and within seconds had found the answer to a problem that I had spent hours scratching my head over. So to all you tweeters don't forget the #sphelp tag.

The second way to get quick and very helpful SharePoint help is to join the yahoo group 'SharePoint Discussions'. Then when you have a question or problem (ideally SharePoint related) you just email and within seconds the group will try and help you with your problem.

So let's take time to say thank you to some of the real SharePoint Super Stars who go the extra mile to help us all. People whose passion for SharePoint shines through and who can communicate it so well. If you know a SharePoint Super Star then don't keep it to yourself nominate them for the SharePoint Village Birthday Honours list and then perhaps they might end up being one of the first four people on the SharePoint Walk of Fame. Visit to nominate them now before the closing date of midnight 31st August 2011 (same time as the transfer deadline for the Premier League).

So who will be on the Birthday Honours List?

Good luck to Villa as they take on local rivals Wolves on Saturday and try to return back to the top of the premier league. To link the mighty Villa with the SharePoint Walk of Fame it was great to see this week that entire 1982 European Cup winning team is set to be inducted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame, in October. The Villa side who beat Bayern Munich in an unforgettable night in Rotterdam were managed by the late Tony Barton who took over from the great Ron Saunders two months before the final. 

Monday, 22 August 2011

SharePoint Success - Howzat?

So what does it take to make your SharePoint Project a success? I am typing this whilst watching the last day of the final cricket Test Match in the series between England and India.It has been a series which will end with England being the number one test nation in the world. As with SharePoint projects I have been involved with, as part of Office Talk, it is interesting to try to work out why England have become so successful. After the Botham, Willis and co. years English cricket suffered twenty years in the doldrums. Years were the Aussies often whipped our bottoms and an England Test match victory was as rare as a Gordon Ramsay swear-free sentence. So why are we suddenly so good?

I believe there are 5 reasons why England cricketers have become so good and these are as follows;

1. They have good coaches and mentors. Players who have been there like Graham Gooch.
2. They spend longer training.
3. They have good players in all areas. Best batters, bowlers and fielders.
4. Teamwork.
5. They have a winning mentality.

So back to SharePoint then and the best way of steering a successful SharePoint Project. The best starting point is the five points we included for the successful England cricket team.    

Firstly, good coaches or mentors. It really helps to have somebody involved who has been there before and knows about the pitfalls and the hidden gems of SharePoint. I strongly recommend you use a SharePoint consultant at least for the early weeks of your project. Somebody who can transfer their knowledge to your SharePoint Project team. I will, of course recommend Office Talk if you are UK based but there are lots of other SharePoint Consultants you could use. Look for ones who are only involved in SharePoint and have experience of working with similar companies to you. If you want a quote from Office Talk please email

Secondly, make sure that you Project Team (and Super Users) all have the necessary training. These are the people who will be working the most with SharePoint and sharing their knowledge with others so it is vital they have the correct teaching. Also provide all your End Users with at least a one hour training course and then once a year offer some more training. The more training users have the more likely they are to use the system and use the extra features. You wouldn't just give somebody a bat and expert them to be able to bat against a world class fast bowler.

Thirdly, have the best people on the Project Team from all areas of the business. Having all IT personnel won't mean success in the same way as having just a team of bowlers won't. You need people in project team who know how the business really works and can help provide a SharePoint environment that enhances procedures that are already in place and develop new ways of working that can improve the business.

Fourthly, the Project Team needs to be a team and whenever possible work together. Consistency throughout sites and document libraries will help the overall use of the SharePoint. Different Project Team members will have different qualities that they can bring to the team. Shared experiences can help to find and resolve issues even before piloting.

The fifth cricket one was 'a winning mentality'. I don't know if this one is really relevant to SharePoint, but I do feel that it is vital that both the business and all the Project Team members fully believe in SharePoint and what it can bring to the organisation. Any negativity from the Project Team will be passed to the End Users and can prevent success. The England cricketers have a belief that they can now win any Test Match and this is why they never seem to give in. What a great way to celebrate 30 years since Botham's Ashes.

The cricket season might just be coming to an end but the Premier League is very much back with us in England and on Saturday night my beloved Aston Villa FC were top of the league. I celebrated by pressing the pause button when the league table came up at the end of match of the day and filling in my SharePoint Premier League Performance site. You can follow the Villa's performance on SharePoint by visiting . There is also the chance to claim your own free 'My Premier League Performance' SharePoint Template by clicking here.   

Come on Villa lets starts challenging for trophies again as we were in the early 80's.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Which SharePoint? Foundation or Server?

Many companies are now taking the plunge and moving to SharePoint 2010 to help them improve their internal systems whilst reducing their overheads, but which version should they chose?  There are actually 5 different versions although two of them are just Internet versions of the ‘Standard’ and ‘Enterprise’ editions so in this blog we will just focus on the main three.

It is not an easy choice and whilst Office Talk’s SharePoint Consultants are happy to advise it really depends on your organisations budget, requirements and technical expertise.

I have a similar decision to make at the moment because for the first time in twelve years I have decided I need a new telly. With the digital switchover happening in my area in just a few weeks and my old chubby Panasonic TV from the 90’s now looks quite outdated it is time to decide which new TV I should purchase. As with SharePoint it depends on my budget (which is probably around £500), which features I would like and which features I am actually going to use. Do I choose a plasma, LCD or LED? It seems to depend on what kind of programmes I am going to watch and what size telly I want. Reading reviews and online articles has probably confused me even more, but in the showroom the LED backlit ones seem to give the best picture. This could of course be because the sales staff just tune them in better because they make more money on them.

 Even when I have decided on LED I have to ask myself do I want a ‘Smart TV’. This isn’t a statement about the look of the TV, but whether it comes with Internet features. It seems that people want to use Twitter, Facebook and even Skype at the same time as watching ‘Coronation Street’. If it is a ‘Smart TV’ should it be wireless or am I happy having a Ethernet cable running behind my sofa? Then do I really want to see my Sky Sports in future in 3D (scary thought of seeing Iain Dowie in 3D)? Then there is the question of if I really want to try and balance those special 3D glasses on top of my normal specs?     
So back to deciding which SharePoint version is right one for you.  The main three SharePoint 2010 versions are ‘Foundation’ (the one that is sort of ‘free’), ‘Standard Server’ and ‘Enterprise Server’.  First consideration is cost and if money is no object then the Enterprise Edition is for you. If you have a very limited budget and already have Windows Server on a 64-bit machine then you can just download SharePoint Foundation 2010 with no licensing costs.  For many the middle one ‘SharePoint Server’ is just right. Sounds like Goldilocks and the three bears beds.

Each of these three versions have different features and thanks to Dave Coleman’s SharePoint EduTech I have listed all the feature differences below;

SharePoint 2010 Version Comparison
Access Services
Advanced Content Processing
Advanced Sorting
Audience Targeting
Basic Sorting
Best Bets
Browser Based Customizations
Business Connectivity Services
Business Data Connectivity Service
Business Connectivity Services Profile Page
Business Data Integration with the Office Client
Business Data Web Parts
Business Intelligence Center
Business Intelligence Indexing Connector
Calculated KPIs
Claims-Based Authentication
Chart Web Parts
Click Through Relevancy
Client Object Model (OM)
Colleague Suggestions
Colleagues Network
Compliance Everywhere
Configuration Wizards
Connections to Microsoft Office Clients
Connections to Office Communication Server and Exchange
Content Organizer
Contextual Search
Data Connection Library
Decomposition Tree
Deep Refinement
Developer Dashboard
Document Sets
Duplicate Detection
Enterprise Scale Search
Enterprise Wikis
Event Receivers
Excel Services
Excel Services and PowerPivot for SharePoint
External Data Column
External Lists
Extensible Search Platform
Extreme Scale Search
Federated Search
High-Availability Architecture
Improved Governance
Improved Backup and Restore
Improved Setup and Configuration
InfoPath Forms Services
Keyword Suggestions
Language Integrated Query (LINQ) for SharePoint
Large List Scalability and Management
Managed Accounts
Managed Metadata Service
Metadata-driven Navigation
Metadata-driven Refinement
Mobile Connectivity
Mobile Search Experience
Multilingual User Interface
Multistage Disposition
Multilingual User Interface
My Content
My Newsfeed
My Profile
Note Board
Organization Browser
Out-of-the-Box Web Parts
Patch Management
People and Expertise Search
PerformancePoint Services
Permissions Management
Phonetic and Nickname Search
Photos and Presence
Query Suggestions, “Did You Mean?”, and Related Queries
Quota Templates
Read-Only Database Support
Recent Activities
Recently Authored Content
Relevancy Tuning
Remote Blob Storage (SQL Feature)
REST and ATOM Data Feeds
Ribbon and Dialog Framework
Rich Media Management
Rich Web Indexing
Sandboxed Solutions
Search Scopes
Secure Store Service
Shared Content Types
SharePoint 2010 Search Connector Framework
SharePoint Designer
SharePoint Health Analyzer
SharePoint Lists
SharePoint Ribbon
SharePoint Service Architecture
SharePoint Timer Jobs
SharePoint Workspace
Similar Results
Silverlight Web Part
Site Search
Solution Packages
Status Updates
Streamlined Central Administration
Support for Office Web Apps
Tag Clouds
Tag Profiles
Tags and Notes Tool
Thumbnails and Previews
Tuneable Relevance with Multiple Rank Profiles
Unattached Content Database Recovery
Unique Document IDs
Usage Reporting and Logging
Visio Services
Visual Best Bets
Visual Studio 2010 SharePoint Developer Tools
Visual Upgrade
Web Analytics
Web Parts
Windows 7 Search
Windows 7 Support
Windows PowerShell Support
Word Automation Services
Workflow Models
Workflow Templates

Although you can see that Foundation has a lot less features than the others it is still very powerful and there are many 3rd Party Add-ons that can add many of these extra features. It is like buying a telly that hasn’t got HD FreeView built-in and then buying a separate HD FreeView box.

Choosing Foundation Edition is similar to choosing a lower spec. TV. If you have never had ‘Rich Web Indexing’ you aren’t going to miss it, in the same way that if you have never had 3D on your TV you won’t miss it.

If I was recommending a ‘Best Buy’ for SharePoint 2010 and taking into account ‘value for money’ then I would nominate the Foundation Edition. But for larger companies (or organisations) who want the largest return on their SharePoint investment then SharePoint Server 2010 Enterprise Edition is the one to choose. It is like choosing a 3D Smart TV with built-in HD FreeView and WiFi.
Office Talk offers a free service to help UK companies to decide which version best suits your individual needs. Please email to find out more.  
So now I am off to the electrical store to buy my new telly ready for the start of the football season. If you haven’t claimed your free Premier League SharePoint Template yet please visit and click the ‘Buy It Now’ option.
Good luck to the Villa during the new season.