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Adventures at SharePoint Saturday – Chicago

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to attend SharePoint Saturday at McCormick Place in Chicago. It was an event where you could attend seminars, network with peers and make new connections. There were several MVP’s and MCM’s (Microsoft Certified Master) in attendance; Anthony Handley – Expression Blend, Asif Rehmani – SharePoint Server: Training, Becky Bertram – SharePoint Server: Development, Darrin Bishop – SharePoint Services: Development, Ram Gopinathan – SharePoint MCM, Bert Johnson – SharePoint MCM, Kris Wagner – SharePoint Server, Paul Schaeflein – SharePoint Services: Development, and Paul Stork – SharePoint: Development. Hersh Ajgaonkar – a co-worker from PointBridge (Welcome Back Hersh!) and his brother, Amol (When will you be back with PointBridge?) also presented at the conference on Architecture and Development of Metadata Management in SharePoint 2010, respectively. There were also several vendors attending to market their offerings, one of which I will be discussing later. Microsoft was promoting their new store opening 11/4/2010 in Oak Brook, IL.
Of course, I couldn’t attend all of the seminars so I mixed it up a bit. I used the shotgun approach Asif suggested in the keynote. He talked about getting the most out of the conference by sticking with a specialty area like design or development, going to seminars according to your experience level or using the shotgun approach. It was hard to choose which seminar to attend during each of the 5 time slots. The session categories were Architecture, Administration, Design/Technical, Development, End User and Special Interest. Here’s a link to the sessions which were presented. Karuana Gatima, the SharePoint Strategist, also gave a short presentation to how the conference benefits you and your customers.
The sessions I attended (and my review) were:
Translating from Design to Interface – SharePoint 2010
From the Development category and presented by Cathy Dew. Cathy discussed the pros and cons of design in SharePoint 2010. Her favorite tool for wireframes is Balsamiq Mockups because users can tell by the sketch look that it’s not ready to be put in production which is what happens when you show screenshots to a user. They sometimes think that the application is already done. She talked about how the Night and Day Master Page doesn’t include a Quick Launch – the menu is actually the top bar nav turned vertical. The priority of design in SharePoint 2010 is Themes, Alternate CSS and Master Pages. Themes allow for color changes, no content movement and are good for My Sites since it is easy. She stated that there was no easy way to save a theme. Alternate CSS also does colors and you can move some things on the page but not everything. With Master Pages you have complete control to the look and can move anything anywhere. There are 8 pages deemed necessary by SharePoint that will revert back to the OOTB branding if SharePoint doesn’t like your branding. She recommends Starter Master Pages for SharePoint 2010 by Randy Drisgill because they are highly commented by Randy. She recommends not using the UI to add an Alternate CSS – she lost her site collection by doing this and doesn’t trust it anymore. You should add it to your master page using the “after” tag.
PerformancePoint Services 2010: Build a Dashboard in an Hour
From the Development category and presented by Darrin Bishop. Darrin had some cool red Converse shoes. His presentation went smoothly. He started with a fresh SharePoint VM with the Contoso DW database – nothing up his sleeves – to create a dashboard using PerformancePoint Services 2010. The VM was a bit slow but he completed the dashboard in 63 minutes. He was able to have three bar charts, a report, a scorecard and a filter on his dashboard in that time. Pretty impressive! Next time Darrin promises to wear his lime green shirt, yellow pants and the red shoes so he’ll be a walking scorecard.
Enterprise Content Deployment: Why use content deployment
From the Architecture category and presented by Javier Barrera. Here’s the presentation. Javier was able to show in the demo the ability to move content from one site collection to another. He made a simple change and ran the job and voila the content was updated. His basic description for Content Deployment components was the Path – the road to get from A to B – and the Job – the car that drives you from A to B. There was a big caveat about not making any changes to the target site. SharePoint needs to manage it completely. Also, you need to create the target site as an empty site collection and not use the blank site template to create the destination site collection. A blank site actually already has content. Here’s a poster which describes the feature.
Creating an ECM Strategy with SharePoint
From the Special Interest category and presented by Karuana Gatimu. Karuana is an excellent public speaker and gave her presentation very eloquently. Her website is SharePoint Strategist. Her presentation was technology agnostic and focused on the business. One of her recommendations is to create an ECM Strategy document as an iterative document which outlines your requirements, approach & measurable goals for delivering ECM services to the enterprise. Here is an outline for the document: How to write an ECM Strategy – A Starting Point. It was a pleasure to attend her seminar and gain insight on talking on a business level with business users.
NO CODE Complex Workflows: Beyond Visio and SPD
From the Architecture category and presented by Jesse Shiah from AgilePoint. I was on the way to Amol’s Managed Metadata development presentation but met up with Asif. Asif is my SharePoint Designer advocate. His philosophy is all about no code solutions. He seemed very impressed with AgilePoint so I had to see what it was all about. I had already talked to the sales guy at the booth and wanted to learn more. Having been a BizTalk developer myself and having used SharePoint Designer workflows as well as created Visual Studio workflows, I can appreciate the restrictions and challenges each toolset brings with it. AgilePoint is more than workflow. It is a .Net Business Process Management System (BPMS). It allows for application composition using services. Jesse gave an overview of the product and its positioning. It basically relegates BizTalk to High Performance High Volume processes. He was able to create a workflow by using Visio with the AgilePoint components as add-ons to the tools in Visio. With Visio and SPD, you model the workflow but add the logic in SharePoint Designer and if that’s not enough you need to move up to Visual Studio workflow development. With AgilePoint’s Integration you create the executable workflow right in Visio. He was also able to change a workflow that was in process. In SharePoint, you either have to cancel or complete a workflow to use a new process. That in itself has advantage. Workflows using other third party tools are contained in SharePoint and installed as a feature in SharePoint. AgilePoint Server runs outside of SharePoint. This allows for easier upgrades of SharePoint. He also stated that the product could manage workflows in the SharePoint cloud – namely BPOS and the soon to be Office 365 – and it complies with the Microsoft Gold Customization Policies. It is also extensible so if the components provided don’t cover a process need, they provide a template for creating custom components. I was so impressed I had to let you know about it through this blog. Take a look and see where the future is going…

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David Sobiecki

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