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Monthly Archives: January 2009

Control Workflow Behavior with Custom Lists (Again)

Earlier this month, I put together an article originally planned for Mark Miller’s www.endusersharepont.com.  However, I instead used like Dustin Hoffman used a cross at the end of the The Graduate to fend off my (awesome! friendly!) editor at TechTarget.

This is another SharePoint Designer workflow article in the same vein as my more recent effort here: http://www.endusersharepoint.com/?p=1226 ("Use Control Lists to Create Flexible Workflow Solutions").

It starts like this:

HAVE YOU EVER wished you could temporarily disable a SharePoint Designer workflow? You may want to do this in order to mass-approve a large number of documents without setting off dozens — or possibly hundreds — of unnecessary workflows.

One way to accomplish this is to access the workflow using Share-Point Designer and disable it. To do that, you’ll need to open up SharePoint Designer, access the workflow, change its properties and re-save it. The problem with that method is that it’s a little messy and likely to ring lots of alarm bells at most companies.

In general, fiddling about with SharePoint Designer workflows is not a good practice in a production environment, nor is it part of a well controlled process.

The article then walks you through a solution to this problem that uses a custom list to turn the WF on or off as needs dictate.  Read the whole thing here (http://wp.bitpipe.com/resource/org_1127860336_240/SharePoint_vol5_v6%201_16.pdf). 

This article was inspired by a question asked on the forums here: http://www.endusersharepoint.com/STP/. Although I spend far more time on the MSDN forums, I strongly recommend that you have a peek at the EUSP forum as well, particularly for end user oriented questions.  It’s yet another source of good information and advice.

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Use Control Lists to Create Flexible Workflow Solutions

Last week, Mark Miller posted my latest SharePoint Designer workflow article for end users on his site (http://www.endusersharepoint.com/?p=1226).

It starts like this:

We technical types use a lot of jargon and acronyms in our daily routine such as “OOP” (object oriented programming), “CT” (Content Types), “SPD” (SharePoint Designer), “RTFM” (please read the manual), etc.  This article concerns itself with a particular bugaboo called “hard coding:” What it is, why it’s bad and how to avoid it in SharePoint designer workflow solutions.

I describe how we can use custom lists to store workflow control and configuration data.  Using this approach, we can avoid hard coding values such as approvers’ email addresses, approval dollar limits, etc. 

Check it out.

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Governance and SharePoint Search – It’s Never Too Late to Start

I wrote an article (http://searchwinit.techtarget.com/tip/0,289483,sid1_gci1345231_mem1,00.html#) for SearchWinIT.com on governance as it relates to SharePoint Search.  It’s not in my usual "voice" but that’s editing for you 🙂

Here is how it starts:

Although nearly every aspect of SharePoint can benefit from a strong governance plan, MOSS 2007’s enterprise search functionality benefits most of all.

Like all parts of SharePoint, there is good news and bad news about governance. For many organizations, the bad news is that it’s extremely difficult to incorporate a governance plan where none existed.

But here’s the good news: You can quickly configure and improve on enterprise search at almost any time. And when you implement a governance plan for enterprise search, you can see immediate results.

One of the problems with SharePoint and governance is that companies often get knee deep into SharePoint with no governance plan and by then, there’s no easy path forward to solve it.  No so with Search.  Read the article to get my thoughts on that subject.

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Upcoming FAST Presentation, Wednesday 01/28, Noon EDT

I’ll be doing my first ever online presentation hosted by the mighty EMC marketing machine at 12:00 noon EDT on Wednesday, 01/28. I have no idea what to expect from this, in terms of attendance.  However, since I’m leading it, I can tell you what to expect if you make time for it.

I’m going to be describing what we here at EMC mean when we talk about "Enterprise Search."  I’m distinguishing between regular old SharePoint Search (which is quite useful by itself) and Enterprise Search, which is a much bigger, nastier, interesting and perplexing problem to solve.

I’m going to make the argument that FAST is a good tool to use while trying to solve the Enterprise Search problem (and I make some analogies to canals while I’m at it).  This obviously ties into SharePoint and will be a part of the community’s fabric over the course of 2009 and beyond.  That’s the hook for anyone reading my blog here.

If you’re interested in FAST, I think you’ll find enough useful information to justify the time spent listening to me talk about it.

It’s a marketing presentation, but all of the marketing stuff is at the end, so you can always drop off at that point.

The mighty EMC marketing machine has provided me with a signup link, so please use it to register.

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Self-Service Site Creation Isn’t Exactly About Creating Sites

Like many SharePoint consultant types, I’ve been exposed to a lot of SharePoint functionality.  Some times, I dive pretty deep.  Other times I just notice it as I’m flying by to another set of menu options.  One of those is "self-service site creation."  I haven’t had a need for it until this week.

This week, I need to solve a business problem which I think is going to become more common as companies loosen up and embrace more direct end user control over SharePoint.  In this case, I’ve designed a site template to support a specific end user community.  Folks in this community should be able to create their own sites at will using this template whenever the urge strikes them.

I recalled seeing "self-service site creation" before and I’ve always tucked that away in the back of my head thinking that "self service site creation" is SharePoint lingo meaning, obviously enough, something like "turn me on if you want end users to be able to create sites when they want to."

So, I turn it on, try it out and for me, it’s not creating sites.  It’s creating site collections.   Pretty big difference.  That’s not what I want, not at all.

It is possible to let end users create new sub sites via a custom permission level.  This is exactly where I would have gone in the first place except that the label "self-service site creation" label deceived me.  Via twitter, I learn that it’s deceived others as well 🙂

I’m still working out how to provide a little bit of a more streamlined process while staying purely out of the box, but there’s a definite path to follow.  Just don’t get distracted by that label.

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Speaking at New York SharePoint Developers Group Meeting

I’ll be presenting at the New York SharePoint Developers group meeting in New York at the Microsoft Offices on 6th Ave on Tuesday, 01/27 at 6:00 PM (just over a week from now!).

Sign up here.

It’s going to be a technical presentation where I walk through the process of creating a custom workflow action that can be packaged and installed into a SharePoint environment and used by SharePoint Designer to create declarative workflow solutions.

Think this: http://www.codeplex.com/spdactivities

I’ll do a little evangelizing as I go along, making the case that developers should really think hard about the benefits of this kind of effort.  it goes something like this: Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, build him a custom workflow action and he can design and implement his own business process for finding fish (or any other food!) and leave the developers alone to do the heavy duty complex programming that developers are best at doing.

It’s obviously a developer oriented session, but I do encourage curious end users and admins to show up.  Even though the specific process of creating a custom action is targeted directly at developers, the meta conversation about one is not.

I hope to see you there.

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