Train SharePoint Users within SharePoint sites

Training SharePoint Users within SharePoint sites

In my many years of training people, I realize that it’s much easier for users (especially end users, but others as well) to consume training when they are already within a familiar environment. SharePoint has become that familiar environment for many knowledge workers around the world now so why not provide the training they need directly within that environment.

Content of Training

Any training content that can be packaged up in video tutorials, documents and reference images can be served to users within a SharePoint site that they frequently visit. Example of these subjects areas are:

  • Onboarding new employees
  • Safety and regulation requirements
  • Vendor management process
  • Call center operation procedures
  • Branding guidelines

The above are just a few of many processes that companies often wish to train users in.

Challenge

How do you expose the same training modules to your marketing department folks that the human resources department is using?

That’s a common problem. If you just simply copy and paste the links to resources, it’s not dynamic anymore. What if the main list of resources change? Now your lists are not dynamic anymore. Not cool.

Solution

How about having all variety of your training content defined in one location farm-wide and then just simply dropping a web part on a page where you wish to see some particular content?

So for example, you define the metadata for each piece of training content (title, description, location to where it’s located, etc.) all in one central location grouped by the type of training it is: Onboarding, Vendor Management, Branding, and so on. Now, when a site collection administrator or even a site owner wants to show any of these training modules, they can do so on any of the pages they want by simply inserting a web part on that page and defining one parameter which tells it which type of training to show. Just by doing that, the web part will now show the dynamic links to the relevant training content. Something like the following image shows –

This feature is part of the VisualSPTM Help System. The VisualSPTM web part can be placed on any page to accomplish this goal. All content is live and changes to it can be controlled at the farm, web application and site collection level as needed.

Check out the following short video to see what I mean.

 

 

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SPTechCon coming to San Francisco on Apr 22-25, 2014

I have been going to, and mostly speaking at, SPTechCon‘s for a bunch of years now and I have to stay that I’m pretty biased towards the conference. Aside from Microsoft’s own SharePoint Conference, this is definitely the biggest conference attracting the best speaker talent from across the world.

A few weeks ago, I made a quick walkthrough of the SPTechCon site and highlighted a few things. If interested, check it out:


 

The question of ‘why SPTechCon when it’s so close to SPC’ has come up more than once in my conversations as well. Ted Bahr from SPTechCon explains it brilliantly here and I agree with him:

http://bz-resources.com/form/bzmarketing/viewhtml/9z1zh41t1btvmblfcili9rc1fp6u2n049dqjn0k0118

You can still regsister by Feb 7 and get $500 off your full conference pass PLUS a $200 Amazon Gift Card. Use code ‘AMZGIFT‘ and sign up today.

PS. I believe if you use my last name REHMANI as a code, you might be able to get an additional $100 off. Not completely sure about this, but if you do try it and succeed, let me know 😉

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Microsoft Cloud Show

A couple of the biggest names in the SharePoint community have recently started up a new initiative called the Microsoft Cloud Show.

Andrew Connell and Chris Johnson have been around in the SharePoint community for a Really long time now and are very well respected in the community. It’s great to see them start up an initiative like this to keep the community informed regarding the whole Microsoft cloud direction – something that many people and organizations are still trying to get a good grasp on.

The video below provides a quick intro of the show. Check it out.

 

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Online Class – Building SharePoint 2013 Apps – on Nov 12, 2013

SharePoint MVP Yaroslav Pentsarskyy will be teaching the Apps class on Tuesday, Nov 12, 2013 titled:

Building Robust SharePoint 2013 hosted Apps for productivity and profit

This is promising to be an Awesome class to teach developers how to build SharePoint 2013 Apps and sell them through the SharePoint App store.

Topics covered are:

  • SharePoint 2013 Apps development model
  • Tools, environment and deployment options for Apps
  • Main components of SharePoint 2013 hosted Apps
  • Deploying lists and libraries with Apps
  • Migrating your web parts as Apps
  • Submitting your App in SharePoint 2013 App store
  • and much more…

 

Also, a bunch of pre-built App projects will be given away by Yaroslav:

  • List Provisioning App
  • Image Slider App
  • Extended Images Slider App
  • App Branding Project

 

Check out the quick video below which talks further about what the class will cover.

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SharePoint Workflows Tweet Jam Topics and Guidelines

On Thursday, Oct. 3rd from 9– 10 am PDT / 12– 1 pm EDT, we will host a tweet jam to discuss trending issues and questions regarding SharePoint Workflows. In attendance will be Chris Beckett – certified SharePoint expert, author, trainer, and consultant. Chris has over a decade of experience building workflow solutions with SharePoint and will be there to contribute to discussions, provide answers to your questions and share some helpful tips!

What Exactly Is a Tweet Jam? 

A tweet jam is a one-hour discussion hosted on Twitter. The purpose of a tweet jam is to share knowledge and answer questions on an issue relevant to a specific group (in this case SharePoint users building workflows). Each tweet jam is led by a moderator (SharePoint-Videos.com) and a dedicated group of experts  to keep the discussion flowing. The public (or anyone using Twitter interested in the topic) is encouraged to join the discussion.

In attendance will be:

  1. @sharepointbits – Chris Becket, Microsoft Specialist, Trainer, and Author on SharePoint Workflows
  2. @asifrehmani – Asif Rehmani, SharePoint Server MVP, Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT), and Author
All experience levels are welcome to join in, just tweet all questions and/or responses throughout the Tweet Jam by using the #SPWorkflow hashtag, messages will automatically become part of the discussion.

 

Participation Guidelines: 

Whether you’re new to Twitter or an avid Twitter user, please follow these guidelines to keep the discussion useful to all.

  • Have your first #SPWorkflow tweet be an introduction: name, occupation.
  • Subsequent tweets should start with the question number being responded to and the #spworkflow hashtag. For example, “@sharepointbits Q2 -what new features are available in SP Designer 2013? #spworkflow”
  • Do not use the tweet jam session for product or service promotional announcements. The goal of the session is to exchange knowledge and stimulate discussion on the topic.
  • Keep the discussion professional, but informal
  • A tweet jam is an open public forum – please be focused and thoughtful in your postings.

 

Discussion Topics

Planned discussion points include anything relevant to “workflows” in SharePoint with a few hot topics such as:

  • How do you upgrade SharePoint 2010 workflows to 2013?
  • Will SharePoint 2010 workflows run on SharePoint 2013?
  • What is Workflow Manager? Is it included with SharePoint 2013?
  • What are the Top X considerations for preparing to deploy SharePoint 2013 workflows?
  • What is the Workflow Interop Bridge? Why would I use it?
  • What are the Top X new features that I should be excited about with SharePoint 2013 workflow?
  • Can you still write custom workflow extensions for SharePoint 2013 workflows?

We’ll have plenty of power users, developers, content managers and experts in attendance to respond to your questions, provide useful tips and we look forward to hearing your input as well!

If you have any questions prior to the event or would like to join as a participant, please direct them to Kari Bennett: kari(at)sharepointElearning(dot)com. We anticipate a productive and informative chat and hope many of you will be able to join the discussion!

If you do miss the tweetjam, please feel free to join Chris in his online SharePoint Designer 2013 No-Code Workflow training class on October 10th from 11 am – 3 pm EDT.

SharePoint Workflows Online Class

 

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To InfoPath or not to InfoPath… that’s the question these days

Disclaimer: The following information is just humble opinions derived from available information publicly and in chatting with fellow SharePoint-ers. Treat them as opinions of a fellow SharePoint guy and nothing more please. It is true that I am a SharePoint MVP, however, I never have been and am not a Microsoft employee.

I still remember the first time I started teaching courses involving instruction on InfoPath 2003 (back in early 2005). It was a product way ahead of it’s time – completely built to be based on and handle XML like no other Office application. A great way to create and manage dynamic forms with or without SharePoint. No one knew where it was headed, but it had a special feel about it. Not many companies adopted it at that time due to its lack of support for web forms, but with the release of forms services (to serve web forms using SharePoint Server Enterprise), it took off like wildfire. Companies were formed solely focusing on InfoPath support, products and training (like my good buddies at Qdabra and Texcel systems ) and loads of companies were using it to replace their everyday business forms.

Present day InfoPath story
Fast forward 8 years and today the future of InfoPath seems uncertain once again. Almost no new functionality was put in InfoPath 2013.

People started whispering a while back regarding the longevity of this product. Will Microsoft make InfoPath vNext or is this the last version..? No one knows for sure to be honest (at least not that I have heard of). All we can do is look at the evidence at hand and take our best guess. So that’s what I would like to present to you today. Take it for its face value and don’t read into it too much because I am not trying to lean heavily on either side of the argument.

Evidence at hand
The last time anything was posted on the InfoPath blog was about 2 years ago:

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/infopath/

It seems that the InfoPath Tips guy has also stopped writing about the product since October, 2012.
http://infopathtips.com/

I guess there just isn’t anything new and exciting to write about, right..!?

 

For Developers
On the other hand, when you look at the InfoPath story for developers, it has gotten much better . I’m not a developer anymore for many years now, but here’s some information that even I can understand regarding how this is a major improvement for developers: “The Microsoft Visual Studio Tools for Applications IDE that was integrated with InfoPath 2010 has been removed in InfoPath 2013. To write or edit form code in InfoPath 2013 now requires Visual Studio 2012 with the Microsoft Visual Studio Tools for Applications 2012 add-on installed.” So there definitely has been some investment in the InfoPath realm which makes it easier to for developers to code around it.

The remainder of the information on that page pretty much talks about the same thing that InfoPath 2010 could do as well – so nothing new there

Workflow forms
When you create a new workflow form in SharePoint Designer 2013, it doesn’t generate InfoPath forms anymore like it did in 2010. It instead creates aspx forms like workflows did back in SharePoint 2007:
http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/help/sharepoint-server-2013-known-issues-HA102919021.aspx
(look for the following text on the page: “Workflow form changed from InfoPath form to ASPX form”)

Well… actually you still can edit workflow forms with InfoPath if you were creating SharePoint 2010 type of workflows (which you can still make in SharePoint 2013) and not the SharePoint 2013 ones. The 2013 ones have the newer, cooler functionality of course such as looping, staging, calling web services etc. All of that is based on the Workflow Manager which must be installed on a separate server and provides the awesome workflow services to SharePoint 2013. For these workflows, the forms are back to being ASP.NET forms.

Look and feel
The interface for InfoPath 2013 matches the other Office 2013 applications. So Microsoft did spend time making that happen. Also, now you know who you are signed in as when designing the form since just like every other Office app, InfoPath has the account login info displayed on the top right. There is also another small addition under the Insert tab. You can now add online pictures (clip arts and such) in addition to uploading pictures from your machine. Small, but very useful addition.

Managed Metadata
What about Managed Metadata support you ask? This is one thing that has bothered a lot of folks. When you have a list with a column of type Managed Metadata, you can’t customize it’s list form with InfoPath since it doesn’t support that type of column. A bunch of us were hoping we would get that in this release, but no luck there. Check out the following thread for some info on this and the response by Patrick Halstead, InfoPath MVP, who talks about a new REST API endpoint for Managed Metadata that can be queried without the need for programming:
http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/sharepointitpropreview/thread/5a5372d2-017c-4edf-93a2-a7b98e2f57eb/
Definitely sounds promising if you are willing to dig into it.

 

 

InfoPath 2013 is still a supported product by Microsoft. However, Microsoft acknowledges that “In this release, InfoPath 2013 has not introduced new functionality or scenarios.”
http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/office/jj229830%28v=office.15%29.aspx#odc_off15_ta_WhatsNewforO15Developers_InfoPath

We, at SharePoint-Videos.com, have had an InfoPath 2010 DVD for a long time now, but decided not to produce the 2013 version. What would be the point? We don’t focus on programming InfoPath anyway so it would be the same exact information that’s in the 2010 DVD (aside from the newer looking interface and the cool new online pictures button 😉 ).

 

So you must be thinking: “what does this all mean and what should I do?”
InfoPath has not been deprecated in this release and it’s still a great tool for creating powerful forms to be used in SharePoint. Your 2010 based forms will continue to work in 2013.

I wish I could guarantee the path for you going forward with this tool, but I can’t. I doubt if anyone can at this time. This is the ‘wait and see’ period. I can definitely guarantee that Microsoft is looking to enhance the overall forms strategy for future releases. That’s for sure! Whether InfoPath will be part of that plan… I don’t know to be honest. The only fact I do know is that thousands of companies out there are using InfoPath currently. Many in a smaller capacity with a couple of forms and others who have created some business critical processes around their forms. So the hope is that if you are already using InfoPath, there will be a clear strategy to migrate them to whatever the new strategy produces. Maybe it’s simply an all powerful InfoPath vNext or maybe something else…

If you wish to dig deeper into InfoPath and ask questions or simply browse through the wealth of info out there, check out these online forums:
InfoPath Dev
Microsoft’s forum

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My Geolocation video on MVP Award blog

This week I shared one of our videos (Displaying Location Maps within SharePoint Lists using Geolocation column in SharePoint 2013) on the MVP Award blog. Glad to have shared it and I hope folks are able to benefit from it.

Note:
The geolocation column is available out-of-the-box in SharePoint 2013. However, it is Not turned on by default. I have used the following PowerShell commands to turn it on in my environment. Please check with your SharePoint server admin before turning it on.

$weburl = “http://<webAppAddress>/”
$fieldXml = “<Field Type =’Geolocation’ DisplayName=’Location’ />”
$web = get-spweb $weburl
$field = $web.Fields.AddFieldAsXml($fieldXml)

$web.Update()

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Empowering the SharePoint Champions

Are You the “SharePoint guy/gal”? If you think you are or want to understand what I mean and how this might relate to you, read on please…

The person responsible for the SharePoint initiatives to be successful in the organization is the one called the SharePoint guy/gal. This is the person who empowers herself and the other power users and SharePoint evangelists in the organization to take better advantage of the SharePoint platform. This SharePoint guru does not necessarily possess the development or IT architecture knowledge. However, this person has been tapped as the person responsible for this thing called ‘SharePoint’ which the executives want everyone in the company using.

Does that sound like you or someone you know? Well, there are thousands of these SharePoint guys around the world and many hundreds of them I have had the pleasure to meet personally throughout my SharePoint tenure. Read on forward to understand why this newsletter is focused on You!

Challenge faced by the SharePoint guy in the company

After having now worked with SharePoint for 11 years exactly, I can tell you very confidently that many companies using the SharePoint platform are not taking advantage of even half of the capabilities that SharePoint has to offer. The SharePoint guy in the company is not able to handle implementing and supporting it all. Many companies end up doing one or more of the following:

  • Using only the out-the-box functionality
  • Hire a developer to custom program solutions on top of SharePoint (but many forget that they would have to support it themselves afterwards…)
  • Buy a 3rd party product that enhances SharePoint

 

Not that there is anything wrong with any of those things, but there is a 4th way which is extremely powerful when executed properly:

Empowering the SharePoint power users and champions in the company with the on-demand knowledge they need to be successful working with and building rapid no-code solutions and customizations within the SharePoint platform!

Chances are pretty high that you have very talented people in the company who have background in visual design, creating reporting mechanisms, automating processes, administering simple content management systems, managing Access based solutions, creating visually appealing dashboards, and more. These folks are usually not comfortable with SharePoint initially. However, if empowered properly with the SharePoint specific knowledge they need to be successful, they can perform wonders and create amazing solutions for the team or company as a whole without the use of programming!

The art of empowering the SharePoint champions

To truly empower the SharePoint champions means to provide them with the knowledge they need (when they need it) and to also grant them with the proper access they need to implement their solutions. I’ll focus here on the on-demand knowledge part of the equation.

Training the SharePoint champions with a 1 day to 5 day class (internally or through an external vendor) has been the preferred solution. It’s great knowledge that’s learned at the time. However, the reality is that you are not able to use much of the knowledge learned in the class right away. And by the time you are ready to use the knowledge, you don’t quite remember the ‘why and how’ parts of much of the functionality learned in class.

Technical books have been and still are great to impart in-time and as-needed knowledge. A well written technical book you can reference can save you a lot of time and frustration.

Written word can only go so far however. As they say “A picture is worth a thousand words”. I’m sure you have heard that, but have you also heard that “A one-minute video is worth 1.8 million words”? (according to Forrester Research). It is very true that we are much more engaged and learn at a much faster pace when we are able to hear and see the information we are interested in.

The solution

Apart from having a SharePoint trainer or consultant right beside you, guiding you with the best practices in mind to accomplish your goals, the next best thing is to have a recorded video tutorials produced by that trainer that you can watch anytime as needed.

Important Note: Please be advised that there are many ‘bad practices’ demonstrated out there on the ‘YouTube land’ as well. Please be cautious and use good judgment. Just because you are able to attain your immediate goal, doesn’t mean that it is the proper way of doing something. You don’t want it to come haunt you later down the line.

If you believe the strategy of on-demand video training can work for your team of SharePoint champions, you have a few options on how to proceed:

  1. Hire the proper talent to record the video tutorials for you specific to your environment (best option, but not very affordable)
  2. Qualify and gather the proper existing resources online to expose from your environment
  3. Find an existing third party resource that provides this solution already pre-built

Whichever way you decide to proceed, it is very important to provide guidance to your team of SharePoint champions before letting them lose on the training. If this is executed properly, chances are that you will see an enhanced understanding of and appreciation for the SharePoint platform thus increasing adoption company wide. The SharePoint champions throughout the company will become your biggest advocates in spreading the ‘good word’ on how the SharePoint platform can be leveraged to simplify and streamline the existing business processes.

This method of empowerment and support is not only for companies with internal SharePoint champions to train and support. This technique can work equally well for consulting companies looking to empower their on-the-road consultants with the on-demand support they need to be successful with the clients they are servicing.

Bottom line: SharePoint was never meant to be a turn-key product. The potential for enhancement in productivity and cost savings is enormous! However, it will be what You make of it. Best wishes!

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SharePoint Fest 2013 – Denver

SharePoint Fest rocks! I found that out when I first presented at the Chicago conference last year. Things that impressed me the most:

  • Focus on the locality (lots of Chicagoland based folks attended)
  • Great content and speakers
  • Nicely organized

This conference was professionally arranged and executed. There were no networking or scheduling issues that I noticed and I heard great comments from attendees afterwards. This conference was successful in providing great content to the folks who were just not satisfied enough with the content at SharePoint Saturdays and local user groups (no offense to either since they both do the best they can).

Now this conference is coming to Denver in March 2013 and I think it’s a great opportunity to folks in that locale. I’ll be doing 2 sessions there as well. Looking forward to it. Hope to see You there!

 

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How do I gain SharePoint experience and land a SharePoint related job?

The point of this post is to offer you thoughts on how you can gain SharePoint experience and eventually land a SharePoint related job hopefully. This post does not dive into gaining SharePoint knowledge. Check out the other post on SharePoint resources on the web for ideas on learning SharePoint online.

  1. Find out if a local non-profit organization in your area is starting with SharePoint. Help them out at a low salary or volunteer for free
  2. Become part of SharePoint User Groups in your area. Offer to help out and become more active in learning and even presenting your knowledge. Network with folks there to help connect you with companies in need of a SharePoint Admin or Developer. Personal recommendations can do wonders
  3. Register yourself with eLance and guru.com (or something similar) where you can offer your services. Since you have the knowledge, you should be able to offer certain services to companies who are in immediate need. This will definitely help you building your portfolio
  4. Look out for SharePoint Saturday events and attend them. They are free and great for networking. Even consider applying to present at an event. They are always looking for fresh faces to present
  5. Build up your LinkedIn profile and start connecting with more and more people. Even if they are not in the SharePoint space, they might know someone who has the need for a SharePoint ‘guy/gal’
  6. Write Blog posts on what you have learned and discovered. Post to a well-known entity that provides opportunities for everyone to post such as nothingbutsharepoint.com to maximize your exposure
  7. Get a CloudShare environment to practice and build your solutions on SharePoint. Making your whole environment from scratch for personal use could cost thousands of dollars. Instead, get a CloudShare account which provides you access to the pre-built virtual machine running all the software you need

If you have more ideas to offer, make a comment on this post. I’ll add them to the list above as well.

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