Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Andy Dale SharePoint Award Nominations 2013 Extension

I start this week's SharePoint Blog with some sad news. Maybe it was the holiday season or maybe interest in SharePoint is finally start to wane, but for the first time we have not received a full set of nominations for my annual SharePoint Awards. But here is some good news, I have decided to extend the nomination period for a further 2 weeks (closes now Sunday 13th October at midnight). Don't worry if you have already nominated as these have already been saved.

Here are a reminder of the rules for nominations and the categories this year;

Nominations Open Until 13th October for SharePoint Awards 2013
We have revamped the categories and this year there are just these six;
1. Best Overalll SharePoint Product (It must work on both 2013 and 2010. No price restriction)
 2. Best SharePoint Budget Product (Under £750 or $1000)
3. Best SharePoint Administration Tool (Permissions, Backup, Migration, Reporting etc)
4. Best SharePoint 2013 App (Must work on Office 365 Enterprise as well as onsite SharePoint)
5. Best Free SharePoint Information Source (Could be Blog, Twitter feed, Website, Videos etc)
6. Best SharePoint Supplier 
(Which company go the extra mile, offer the best support etc.)

So a reminder on how you can nominate your favourites this year. Nominations are made by simply leaving a comment here on this post. We don't even mind if you nominate your own product. What we do ask though is that each product is only nominated once per category (so please check first). The comment you leave needs to include the following though;

  • Which category are you nominating for? 
  • What is the name of Product or Information Source?
  • Which company offers it?
  • What is the approximate price (British Pounds or American Dollars, please)?
  • Which versions of SharePoint does it work on?
  • In one line what does it do?
  • What do you like best about it?
Then at the end of October I will short list 4 finalists for each category ready for the voting to begin on November 1st 2013 and run until the end of November. The voting like on 'Strictly Come Dancing' will make up half of the final score. The other half will come from a panel of SharePoint Experts.

So it is time to get nominating. What are you waiting for?

And finally.....

An interesting week for my beloved Aston Villa. On Saturday we sensationally beat Manchester City in an unforgettable game. Well done to Paul Lambert and the Villa players for somehow stealing all three points. Perhaps just rewards after the amazing robbery against Spurs last Tuesday. Now answers please to why this wasn't a penalty?


Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Andy Dale SharePoint Awards 2013

Now that the Premier League Transfer window has safely shut and Christian Benteke remains a Villa star it time to launch the 5th Andy Dale SharePoint Awards

Voting for this year's awards will take place here on this SharePoint Blog during October and close on Halloween Night (31st October midnight UK Time). Before I explain the rules for this year's nominations here is a quick reminder of last year's winners when over 20,000 people cast their votes;

Reminder of SharePoint Awards 2012 Winners

1. Best SharePoint Information Site 

2. Best SharePoint Application

3. Best SharePoint Training Packages

4. Best SharePoint WebPart
5. Best SharePoint WebPart Provider 

6. Best SharePoint Management Tool
7. Favourite Free SharePoint Product
8. Best SharePoint Blog

Nominations Open Until 30th September for SharePoint Awards 2013

This year we are changing the format to try find the real Premier League SharePoint Products.
We have revamped the categories and this year there are just these six;
1. Best Overalll SharePoint Product (It must work on both 2013 and 2010. No price restriction)
 2. Best SharePoint Budget Product (Under £750 or $1000)
3. Best SharePoint Administration Tool (Permissions, Backup, Migration, Reporting etc)
4. Best SharePoint 2013 App (Must work on Office 365 Enterprise as well as onsite SharePoint)
5. Best Free SharePoint Information Source (Could be Blog, Twitter feed, Website, Videos etc)
6. Best SharePoint Supplier
(Which company go the extra mile, offer the best support etc.)

So how can you nominate your favourites and how do we make it fair? The idea is that over the next three weeks nominations are made by simply leaving a comment here on this post. We don't even mind if you nominate your own product. What we do ask though is that each product is only nominated once per category (so please check first). The comment you leave needs to include the following though;

  • Which category are you nominating for? 
  • What is the name of Product or Information Source?
  • Which company offers it?
  • What is the approximate price (British Pounds or American Dollars, please)?
  • Which versions of SharePoint does it work on?
  • In one line what does it do?
  • What do you like best about it?
Then at the end of September I short list 4 finalists for each category ready for the voting to begin on October 1st 2013. The voting like on 'Strictly Come Dancing' will make up half of the final score. The other half will come from a panel of SharePoint Experts.

And Finally.....

If you are a regular reader to my SharePoint Blog you will probably be expecting a funny video. Well, this week I am going to be a bit naughty and promote one of my own YouTube videos. Sorry it isn't a SharePoint one but I hope it will make you smile.

For those you don't know when I am not following the mighty Aston Villa in my spare time I am a published writer and quite proud of my latest series of children's books 'King Derek and the Wonder Wizards'. So with a whiff of Jackanory nostalgia here is 'King Derek and the Purple Wizard'.

Let the nominations begin. Good luck to all the SharePoint companies.     

Thursday, 25 July 2013

SharePoint Designer Workflow Tips

SharePoint without Workflow is like 'Cheers' without Diane. Good but not brilliant. Workflow really brings SharePoint to life allowing many mundane information processing tasks to be automated.

As a SharePoint consultant with Office Talk I have helped many companies create a whole range of Workflows with the help of the 'free' SharePoint Designer.

These have included;

1. Project Bid Request Systems
2. Holiday Approval Systems
3. Automatic Document Disposals
4. Patient Appointment Systems

5. New SharePoint Site Requests
6. Purchase Order Systems
7. New Employee Setups

With only a little training writing quite complex Workflows with SharePoint Designer is fairly straightforward, but here are 10 tips that might help.

Office Talk do provide SharePoint Designer Training.  

1. If the Workflow includes changing any fields that the current logged on user is unable to change then in SharePoint Designer add an 'Impersonation Step' and place all the Workflow inside it.

2. If the Workflow only refers to one Content Type then make sure that your first condition removes any of the other Content Types.

3. Change SharePoint Farm Workflow configurations on your server. By default only 15 concurrent Workflows are allowed but this number can easily be changed to at least ten times their original values Find Out More

4. The addition of a 'Pause for Duration' is often needed to save the current information on changes Workflow has made to any field. A setting as low a 0 minutes can be used. It saves the recently changed fields.

5. Use the 'Approval Comments' field to add text that will stop Workflow from looping if it is set to run on 'Change'. (eg 'Approved Automatically' then first condition is Approved Comments does not equal 'Approved Automatically')

6. Use the 'Information Management Policy' to automatically start Workflows using  one of the Date fields. Warning though 'Calculated' fields cannot be used. If you need to use a 'Calculated Value' then your Workflow will need to include the step to copy calculated value to a Date field.

7. Add a variable (Date) to your Workflow that will allow you to manually enter a date to test that Workflow is correctly started on the appropriate date.

8. If you have a number of Workflows that need to be run sequentially then change the Workflow Timer Service in Central Admin to run every minute. This means the Workflow will start in at the most one minutes time.

9. If you need a Workflow to continually run then try creating the workflow twice and varying the length of the pause at the start. Every time one of the Workflow finishes the other will then start if they are set to start on 'Change'.

10. When setting Workflows to send emails always use the Text box to insert all the text and  fields you want. Don't forget to include a field value in the Subject again by using the text box.  

Hope these tips will help you when you start to use SharePoint Designer to create Workflows. But if you need any assistance then Office Talk are very happy to build these Workflow for you. Just give Frank a shout on 0121 3680055.

Outside of SharePoint a sad event this week for the death of the brilliantly funny Mel Smith. So I shall end with a video of Mel at his best.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

SharePoint 2013 Training Videos

Welcome to this week's SharePoint Blog with just a hint of football chat.

The new football season is only four weeks away and what a Premier League season is promises to be. The 'Special One' is back at Chelsea, Sir Alex has finally gone and Arsene Wenger is about to take the padlock off his wallet. Bring it on!

Down at Villa Park, slipping under the radar, Paul Lambert has been a very busy man shopping more than my ex-wife used to. He has been busy buying young potential from all over Europe. Now, I have to say that not one of his six signings (many full internationals) were names I had ever heard of but then I hadn't heard of Christian Benteke this time last year. But despite my lack of knowledge of these players I am still very excited. The reason is the media of video and the amazing YouTube. Within seconds of the transfer news that Villa were chasing Danish superstar Helenius all Villa fans were YouTube searching and what they found they really liked.

So maybe another goalscoring gem has been unearthed, but what about SharePoint? Well, Office Talk are delighted to now be able to offer the full range  of the latest SharePoint 2013 training videos.Over the last six years Office Talk have had many happy customers who have purchased CBTClips for SharePoint. They are a set of short video clips (no more than 5 minutes) showing the end user how to perform basic SharePoint tasks. A video can say so much more than a manual. It is like the Helenius video shows Villa fans so much about the forward they have purchased. We know what kind of shooter he is, how good a header, his pace, goal celebration and that he is built a bit like Peter Crouch.

Video is very much the media of twenty-first century so it makes sense to you it to back up your SharePoint End User Training. These SharePoint CBT Clips are also a great addon to any Help Centre. Where users can search for the help they need and  then watch a video that shows them exactly what to do. Over the past twelve months Office Talk have created 'Help Centres' on SharePoint for a range of companies. If you would be interested in us creating one for your environment please give Frank a call on 0121 368 0055.

If you haven't already check out these brilliant CBT Clips for SharePoint by visiting

Youtube is great for cute animal videos as well as potential Villa signings and SharePoint so let me leave you with two of my recent favourites;

1. The Baby Pandas on the Slide.

2. Cute Cats and Kittens

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Ten Things to Find Out on First Day at New Job

Starting a new job can be stressful and very much a case of going into the unknown. These are the ten things that I believe you need to find out on your first day at a new job;

  1.       Where the toilets are?
        2.       Is there a vending machine or coffee club?
        3.       What do people tend to do for lunch?
        4.       What do you do if you cut your finger off?
        5.       Who is in charge of paying you?
        6.       Where can you park your car that doesn’t cost a fortune?
        7.       Where are the main meeting rooms?
        8.       Who is your boss’s boss?
        9.       Where do you save your files to?
      10.   How early can you leave in the evening and still look conscientious?

Next week the famous Aston Villa report back for pre-season training and as they prepare to return to the top six, where they belong, have signed five new players. All five are in their early 20’s and from various different European countries. They must be petrified as they prepare for their first day but at least there will be others there in the same situation, even if they don’t speak the same language.

So what do you do when you want to find anything out? If you are like me you ‘Google’ it (Ok other Search Engines are available, but I still always Google first). I suspect that on average I google over ten times a day. It really is my first port of call. Just an hour ago I googled ‘what to clean fabric car roofs with’. I know, I could have walked upstairs and got the handbook out that came with the car, but the first thing I did was google.

So why are we half way through my SharePoint blog and I haven’t yet mentioned SharePoint? Well, that is because if the company you are starting working at has SharePoint the answers to all the ten questions might be nearer than you think. So the first question to ask is, ‘do you use SharePoint?’ If so get the web address and using the Search box like Google try to find the answers to these questions.

Many companies now use SharePoint as an Intranet as using it as a Document\Records Management System. So you just might get lucky. If they do have SharePoint, but this type of information isn’t there then there will be lots of opportunities for you to shine by suggesting how it could be enhanced.

If you are a Human Resources, Personnel, or Recruitment Department (or whatever the latest trendy name is for looking after staff) then it is worth seeing how you can make best use of your organisations SharePoint system. Office Talk, the SharePoint Specialists, are always happy to come and offer you advice, or training, on how SharePoint can maximise the availability of information in your company. Just give us a call on 0121 3680055.

Now, to buy my 34th consecutive Villa season ticket online. Villa Park is one place that I do know like the back of my hand.   

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Benefits of Office 365 Enterprise

We seem to spend so much of our lives waiting.  Children excitedly waiting for Father Christmas, Villa fans waiting for the next FA Cup triumph and businesses waiting for a truly affordable portable SharePoint solution. Well, Villa players have more important priorities at the moment, the elves have only just started making this year’s Christmas toys, but Microsoft have only gone and cracked it. Office 365 Enterprise really is what we have all been waiting for.

Office 365 is the ‘cloud’ based solution from Microsoft which includes Email, Instant Messaging, Live Meetings and storage. But the bit that really excites us at Office Talk is SharePoint 2013. Not only using it for Document Management and internal Team sites, but also to run the company Web Site. Yes, I know there have been many false dawns (no, I am not talking about Villa FA Cup runs), but Microsoft really have now given us FULL SharePoint capability. This is SharePoint without the Server. It has to be tried to be fully believed.

Like many of you Office Talk despaired with the limitations of BPOS and tried to hide our disappointment with Microsoft Online. But now pushed by the competition of the all-powerful Google (with their Google Docs and Google Mail) Microsoft have produced an absolute gem. The Office Talk engineers are a doubting lot, but after spending three months testing and trying to break Office 265 Enterprise edition the only conclusion is a big thumbs up.

So what are the benefits of Office 365 Enterprise then? Here are the things about it that makes me smile;

1. It really does include a fully working SharePoint Farm. With My Sites and User Profiles.
2. It comes with a Web Site powered by SharePoint and easy to configure. Including setting SEO optimisation.
3. You buy it per user and pay monthly. So even the smallest company can use it.
4. It comes with storage, a Sky Drive, for each user. Now I really can store my files securely and not have to panic about backing them up.
5. It works on my smart phone and my iPad. I even get it working on my old Blackberry.

6. It lets me create files straight in SharePoint without the need to having Office installed locally. Brilliant on the iPad.
7. It doesn’t need extra SQL licenses or SharePoint Internet licences or any complicated licencing calculation
8. You can easily add your existing domains. A couple of tweaks of ‘Go Daddy’ and your existing Website address can now be used for your email on Office 365.
9. No need to buy client copies of latest Office applications these can be freely downloaded as part of the monthly subscription.
10. Best to have ten benefits so I shall re-echo that it is FULL SHAREPOINT 2013. Central Administration and all.

So, you can see how excited we are about Office 365 Enterprise, but please don’t take my word for it, but try it out yourself. After all I was excited when I heard they were bringing back ‘Catch Phrase’.

To try Office 365 Enterprise with no questions asked or credit cards required please visit the Office Talk website.

As for the Villa I remain confident of Premiership survival. I think we require 40 points though to remain in the top flight. So we might have to beat Wigan on last game of the season. 

STOP PRESS : Villa 6 Sunderland 1 - Maybe next season the FA Cup if we keep Benteke.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Changing Network Shares to SharePoint Libraries

Yes, I know have been very quiet this year, but I am determined to get back to weekly SharePoint Blog writing. I could blame the worry of the Villa’s Premiership safety or the excitement at publishing my first threebooks, but in truth SharePoint has just gone a little crazy lately. With different the versions around the UK now stretched from 2003 to 2013. Office Talk now has customers on 4 different versions of SharePoint and that isn't even including WSS and Foundation.

Despite so many versions of SharePoint and it approaching its troublesome teenage years people still ask ‘What Does SharePoint Do?’ The answer is really whatever you want it to do. Well, maybe not make the perfect cup of tea or help Villa climb to safety, but when it comes to storing information it does the lot. It can be a reporting tool for your database systems, it can content manage your website, it can create surveys on what should the venue be for this year’s Christmas Office Party or it can add automation to any paper system. I am sure we could list over 100 polite uses for SharePoint, but the top one for most size organisations is ‘Document Management’.

Whether it is Private or Public Sector they all want to have a system for storing their ‘Controlled’ documents. The type of documents that legally shouldn't be deleted, the type that need some level of security, probably the sort that needs to keep old versions and be have an audit trail. As SharePoint puts a big tick in each of these boxes it is the tool that the majority of organisations turn to. The only issue is that they have had electronic documents for the last twenty plus years and they need a way to get these into SharePoint.   
Often organisations have very large shared network drives that contain lots of valuable documents. Now uploading into SharePoint is not quick but can be done. The popular Explorer View is always and easy solution, but there are drawbacks. The major one being that you lose the author name and date created straight away. It turns into the account used to do the upload and today’s date. It is as if the past never existed and there wasn't life before SharePoint. But we need to Time Travel back to get the original properties.

So how can we keep the original properties from the Network Share and take them into the Document Libraries? Many Office Talk customers already know the answer but for the rest of you I will let you into the secret…….

It is DocKit from Vyapin. Over the last three years DocKit has been Office Talk’s biggest reselling product. To find out more and try it out just visit the DocKit page on the Office Talk website.
If only the Villa could convert their recent good performances into Premiership points as easily. With ten games left I have calculated that they will get ten more points before the final game. I have also estimated that Wigan will get eight points before the last game. So if I am right the Villa will go to Wigan for last game of the season two points ahead. In the words of Sir Alex, ‘it’s squeaky bum time’.     

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Oracle to SharePoint List without the need for Lucky Pants

Before I write about a fantastic discovery for linking any version of Oracle data into a SharePoint List I think I should apologise for the lack of recent Blogs.

Yes, it has been far too long since my last SharePoint Blog, but I aim to publish more frequently in 2013. Especially as this is my 10th Anniversary Year. I have been involved with SharePoint now since I first became a fan in 2003. Yes, like the other consultants at Office Talk we have now worked on SharePoint 2003, SharePoint 2007 (when they called it MOSS), SharePoint 2010 and now the exciting new SharePoint 2013.

So why have my SharePoint blogs disappeared over Christmas? It is not as some of you might think that I have gone into hiding as the Villa defence has gained more holes than in a lorry load of polo mints. No, lack of blogs is probably more to do with a case of Festive Man Flu and a touch of fictional book publishing. To find out what books I have been writing please visit, oh and tell all your friends.

Back to the challenge of getting Oracle information into SharePoint. Now, at first this might seem easy 'Out of the Book' using the BDC, but the more you look into it the more challenging it becomes especially if you have a version of Oracle older than 11. It really is time to get your developers hat on. Even SharePoint Designer refuses to help you. Instead you will need Visual Studio and quite a bit of knowledge. It is nearly as difficult as getting the Villa to defend a corner. So after telling your manager you can import data from Oracle straight into the new super SharePoint you are left frantically Googling to try to find help. But fear not because Office Talk have the answer.

Office Talk are resellers of the brilliant SharePointboost products and one of these is a real hidden gem. It is called simply 'SharePoint Data Connector'. It just links the tables entries in Oracle, or SQL, with the entries in a SharePoint list. So simple and can be configured in minutes. All you need is the logon details from the database. It can even go both ways. You can set 'Database to SharePoint List' or 'SharePoint List to Database'. With the Oracle though you will need to install a client copy of Oracle to the SharePoint server, but this is painless and doesn't require any downtime.

So we have solved the challenge of Oracle to a SharePoint list. Now, if only fixing the Villa defence was that easy. I am still confident that the famous Aston Villa will be at Wembley in February though.