Provide Read and Write access to your Line of Business Applications through SharePoint with BCS (Business Connectivity Services)

What do you think of when you hear the word SharePoint? Usually the answer to this question is: Collaboration. Which is correct! However, SharePoint is so much more than a group/team of people collaborating on their intranet. Today, I want to take a few minutes to describe how an organization can expose their line of business application data in SharePoint.

Here’s a common scenario:
A business currently has a home-grown system that they use. The interface has gotten outdated, but the information interfaced is still valuable to the organization and its employees. All the data is stored in databases (either SQL, Oracle, DB2 etc.). The question now is whether to build another home grown system from scratch?

A possible solution:
Use SharePoint as it was meant to be used – serving as the main presentation layer that interfaces data from various sources in the organization. All you need is SharePoint Server 2010 and SharePoint Designer 2010 and you’re ready to define your data sources using a functionality called Business Connectivity Services (BCS) – no programming required!

I have to tell you that one of the most frustrating things to office workers is having to remember which application to use for which purpose. It doesn’t have to be that way. If you have invested in SharePoint already (or planning to), make that a one stop shop for your end users by presenting and interfacing all line of business application data (such as SAP, Siebel, custom databases). It’s all possible with the power of BCS.

Here are a couple of video tutorials to get you started:

These videos and plenty more are in the BCS video package DVD developed by Raymond Mitchell (co-author of book SharePoint 2010 Six In One). These video tutorials demonstrate the step by step processes you would need to make proper use of Business Connectivity Services in your organization.

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SharePoint in Education

Today, I want to focus on SharePoint in academic organizations.

  1. How does SharePoint help educational institutions?
  2. How do on demand educational tools align to empower them?

The usual educational staff and teacher complaints stem from frustration with the time it takes to get access to needed data. More often than not, too many systems need to be utilized to get access to required data. This also subsequently requires remembering access information and passwords to all those systems.

SharePoint has been deployed at many K-12 and higher level educational institutions. Many of them have been our customers over the years. There are many different ways in which educational institutions can use SharePoint to provide a one-stop shop for all their constituents. Some of them are:

  • Staff Collaboration – Staff members and teachers can share resources and ideas using SharePoint lists and libraries. Documents can be shared across various grade levels.
  • Notice and Announcement board – Staff announcements and special notices can be surfaced up on SharePoint team sites.
  • Access to class specific data – Student attendance and evaluation reports on teacher portals.
  • Classroom and resource booking – An easy way to view and book availability of classrooms and resources directly through the teacher portal.
  • Students accessing their class materials – A student portal where students are able to see their own class schedules, assignments and other related material.
  • Email alerts for teachers – when a lesson plan is due, a teacher is alerted through email automatically with a link back to where the lesson plan needs to be submitted.
  • Substitute teacher management – Display to teachers which substitutes are available. If a substitute is assigned to a class already, display the scheduling details.
  • Analysis of data – Class reports, student reports, and class subject reports can be generated to understand the return on investment.

The one important thing that Universities and K-12 schools need is a firm set of best practices for SharePoint that is easy for administrators, teachers and students to follow. This is where on-demand education can help. With access to a SharePoint video library depicting the ‘How-to’ of SharePoint with keeping best practices in mind, users can:

Also feel free to check out the entire video library.

When it comes to maximizing the value of a SharePoint deployment, awareness and education are two of your greatest assets. When you are ready to learn more about how we can help, contact us online or give us a call at +1 630-786-7026. We can walk you through the possible solutions to see if it’s a good fit for your needs.

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