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Ever since I first read about the book “Creating and Implementing Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Real-World Projects” by Jennifer Mason, Christian Buckley, Brian T. Jackett, and Wes Preston, I was eagerly expecting its release as I was hoping for it to keep its title’s promise – describing how to implement SharePoint solutions that have a practical use.

After seeing the Table of Contents on Safari Online, I just had to purchase the Rough Cuts version (so basically the current Work in Progress). I created the PDF version of it on Safari Online, transferred it to my Touchpad, and started reading (well, browsing is more accurate, as I skipped most of the sections that describe how to do things such as create a library, or add a column).

I wasn’t disappointed. Here’s why:

The 10 chapters included in this book are:

  1. Building a Project Management Solution Within SharePoint
  2. Building a Training Registration Management System Using SharePoint Enterprise
  3. Building a Basic FAQ Solution Using SharePoint Foundation
  4. Building a Learning Center Using SharePoint Foundation
  5. Building a Help Desk Solution Using SharePoint Server Standard
  6. Building a Remote Teams Activity Site
  7. Building a Team Blog Platform using SharePoint Enterprise
  8. Building a RFP Response Solution
  9. Building a Contact Management Solution
  10. Building a Resource Scheduling Solution

As you can see, they cover an interesting range of business problems, many of them which are common to most companies (I myself worked on at least half of these solutions before, though with different scopes). The “Real-World” from the title definitely applies!

I also like the approach the authors take by standardising each chapter’s structure, which allows you to quickly understand the what, why, and how of each solution:

  1. Identifying the Business Problem
    Explanation of the business problem to be solved
  2. Gathering Information
    What are the requirements from the business side
  3. Designing the Solution
    How is the solution going to be implemented, which SharePoint features are going to be used
  4. Building the Solution
    How is the solution created (with lots of screenshots!)
  5. Managing the Solution
    What else can/should be done, but isn’t part of the book’s building process (mostly things that are driven by the individual company’s requirements, such as managing permissions)
  6. Reviewing the Platform
    Can this solution be implemented in SharePoint Foundation, SharePoint Server Standard, SharePoint Server Enterprise, and Office 365 (SharePoint Online)

The authors do not only explain how to do things (create a library, add columns, add a web part to a page), but if required also explain drawbacks of a particular approach, or also explain best practices (for example, when creating a columns, use a friendly name first). Definitely another big plus from my side.

The way I see it, this book is perfect for anyone working with SharePoint and implementing solutions with Out of the box features only. You’ll get to learn how to leverage simple things such as lists, libraries, and columns, and how to integrate them and create valuable solutions, often also with the “intermediate” tools such as InfoPath or SharePoint Designer Workflows.

While I didn’t read the final version of the book, the majority of changes that can be expected are more of a cosmetic nature (I saw several spacing issues, references to image file names, etc.), and the content should pretty much stay the same (have to mention that there wasn’t an introductory chapter in my Rough Cuts). The final version of the book should be available in March, but can already be preordered now on O’Reilly.


Today, I took the Microsoft SharePoint exam “Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Configuring” (70-667), and managed to pass it within 20 minutes (50 questions) with a passing score of 950.

I’m definitely not someone with lots of SharePoint administration experience, I never managed a server on my own except for my own virtual machines, so I didn’t quite know how well I’d do in this exam. As you can see, my knowledge was really enough to pass easily.

As for my preparation, I did it mostly with two things:

  1. Reading MCTS Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-667): Configuring Microsoft SharePoint 2010 (Training Kits) by Dan Holme and Alistair Matthews, and going through most of the practice examples (skipped a lot which I’ve already done before and felt proficient enough)
  2. Practising a lot in my own SharePoint 2010 virtual machine. What I didn’t know or had never done before, I did in here. As I already did the SharePoint 2007 exams (70-631 and 70-630), there was already a lot of content that I already knew as I had practised it back then. Other things (mostly the newer stuff such as service applications, for example) I had a closer look at to be more or less well prepared (didn’t know how much this exam would different from the 2007 versions)

the-sharepoint-2010-handbook-vol-1-cover

 

In June this year, Paul Beck was looking for people who want to contribute a chapter to a SharePoint 2010 book created by the community. Seeing this as a good chance to share some of my experience with others, I wrote a chapter, in total we had 13 authors and thus 13 chapters.

The book was just published and is now available on Amazon.com as well!

To give you a better overview of the different chapters, here are the introductions for all of them (Links to the LinkedIn profiles taken from Veronique Palmer’s blog):

John Timney – Structuring a SharePoint 2010 Practice

SharePoint 2010 is quite simply ?nothing like SharePoint 2007?! It is vastly more scalable, significantly more complex, and hugely appealing as an information management hub. A consequence of the successful re-architecture of the product to such a strategic hub product and the core of the Microsoft tools strategy is that programmes and projects Employers and recruiters need to think carefully about the new range of planning roles and skill sets required to satisfy a successful ?end-to-end? delivery of SharePoint 2010.

Demand and salaries for SharePoint 2010 Professionals across the board have increased dramatically as organisations perform a land grab on experienced staff. They have realised that those better placed will not only weather this skills storm but also grab a host of emerging new business opportunities.

Unfortunately, few recruiters understand the complexities of delivery and the demands SharePoint brings to staffing delivery programmes or emerging Practices. Typically, neither do internal Human Resource departments. One could argue that this problem is even evident in Microsoft literature as Technet and MSDN also have little information published on how to fill this void.

This chapter seeks to address that by explaining the range of roles and skill sets required to build a successful SharePoint 2010 Practice, to plan for internal career progression and assist with staff retention.

 

Justin Meadows – SharePoint Test Environments

Test environments for most information technology professionals are a no-brainer — major system changes should be tested once, twice, even three times to provide the best possible experience to end users with little to no interruption in service. Recent virtualization technologies have made this easier than ever; one only needs to spin-up a new instance of a virtual machine and off they go with an entire SharePoint environment at their disposal.

SharePoint administrators will painfully learn, however, that this testing model does not adapt well to the componentized structure underlying a well-built SharePoint system. In this chapter we will review a few SharePoint system fundamentals, basic testing guidelines, and explore the case for building and maintaining a fully scaled test environment that is architecturally similar to an organization’s production environment. We will also discuss the justification for why an organization might choose to build more than one test environment.

Using one or more fully-scaled test environments is the only way to understand the implications of a major system change. These environments also provide a mechanism for rehearsing system changes. With such a tool at their disposal, SharePoint administrators can maintain and administer their systems with confidence.

 

Veronique Palmer – SharePoint Adoption

There is a common misconception that merely installing SharePoint makes for a successful implementation. It is how the people in the company effectively adopts the solution that is the true measure of success. Have you asked yourself how you will get the business to use the service?

Anyone can cope when there is only one table booked in a restaurant; but what happens when you are booked to capacity with a waiting list – are you geared to cope with that demand. What if you get no bookings at all? Could you explain to your investors why no-one is visiting?

SharePoint user adoption is about how to get to a full house, how to be prepared for the rush, and how to manage it once it happens.

People will not =magically’ adopt SharePoint, there are measures you need to put into place to ensure that happens. Do this correctly and you will have a very high adoption rate; and consequently good return on investment for the capital outlay of the infrastructure.

This chapter is for anyone responsible for a SharePoint implementation, whether in business or IT.

 

Jasper Oosterveld – Social SharePoint

The word =Social has become a very popular term over the last couple of years. Everyone is familiar with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. These so-called Social sites attract millions of visitors per day! So how does this translate to SharePoint 2010? What Social features are available?

Social features were also available (albeit limitedly) in the previous version Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS 2007). The main feature was the My Site. This site is a personal page for every user within a SharePoint Intranet portal. The user was able to share valuable information with colleagues, such as a mobile number, e-mail address, manager or skills. Other users were able to use the MOSS 2007 search engine to find a colleague with the skill “Writing marketing material?, for example. By using these features, users were able to connect and share information with each other.

SharePoint 2010 improves on this and now more new features are available. This chapter describes these features, and how they can improve collaboration within your organisation.

 

Symon Garfield – The Art of SharePoint Success

Over the past five years, through engagements with hundreds of organisations, I’ve developed a framework for ensuring that investments in SharePoint deliv
er long term returns. This chapter is an introduction to the framework which consists of four key elements: Governance, Strategy, Transition and Architecture

 

Rene Modery – Exploring Different Options for Implementing SharePoint Solutions

An important decision to make while planning the implementation of any SharePoint solution is how exactly it should be created. Two commonly used options are leveraging the out of the box available functionality through customization in the browser and development of solutions using custom code.

SharePoint’s out of the box functionality empowers end users to create simple solutions with little effort and in a short time frame, however with a limited customization scope. Development of custom code solutions provides the most flexibility, however at a higher cost in terms of complexity and resource requirements.

Another option is to extend the standard SharePoint functionality with customizations that make use of JavaScript and the Data View Web Part. Using JavaScript has become a very popular way of extending SharePoint without having to rely on custom code. It allows users with some basic development knowledge to create their own more advanced solutions easily.

Considering all these possibilities, when evaluating the correct course to take for a solution implementation, organizations need to take into account the pros and cons of the different approaches, and weigh them against each other. This chapter will compare these approaches with each other and describe the capabilities, as well as the benefits and the drawbacks of each approach, allowing a decision maker to better understand which method is useful in which situation and choose the best option.

 

Paul Beck – SharePoint Server-based Data Storage and Data Access

This chapter guides readers through the basic storage and data access options available in SharePoint 2010 application development projects. The matching of application business requirements with the appropriate storage and data access technique is vital for achieving a successful project. We begin by contrasting SharePoint lists with SQL Server database storage. Thereafter, we shall consider using blob storage and web services for an agnostic storage provider. It is also necessary to consider the limitations of SharePoint to help better understand why particular storage strategies are preferable. Lastly, we examine various data access options that are available for server-side application development projects. SharePoint’s server-side object model is reviewed as well as LINQ, LINQ to SQL, LINQ to SharePoint, Web Services and Business Connectivity Services.

 

Suzanne George – SharePoint 2010 Automated Code Deployment

This chapter guides readers through a variety of SharePoint Code Deployment methodologies for 7×24 production intranet and internet facing farms. SharePoint farms requiring high availability often constrain and challenge the method of deployment and site administration due to customizations, full development and deployment documentation, and 100% reproducibility. In most deployments (old and new), the focus of planning and governance applies to the users and application management of power-users to ensure a deployment is successful immediately after an upgrade or new solution release. However, the same standards and planning guidelines should also apply to the SharePoint development lifecycle.

 

Conrad Grobler – SharePoint Security and Authentication Notes

SharePoint 2010 provides various options for user authentication as well as passing authentication information to external line-of-business systems. During the design and implementation of a SharePoint 2010 solution, the chosen authentication method could affect or restrict the availability of some SharePoint functionality and the options for interacting with external systems.

This chapter will discuss the different options and architectural considerations for user authentication and for further authentication to external systems.

 

Ashraf Islam – InfoPath 2010 – What is new?

This chapter is about highlighting the massive improvements incorporated in InfoPath 2010. The aim of this chapter is to provide enough information to the reader to be able to understand the products strengths and limitations. I will also review key information such as licensing that companies and decision makers must be aware of before selecting InfoPath as a form design solution.

InfoPath 2010 is fast becoming a mainstream product due to its integration with SharePoint 2010 however; it is unfortunate that there still exist some long trailing misconceptions about the product such as:

  • InfoPath web enabled forms need the InfoPath client installed on user desktop to be able to view forms.
  • InfoPath forms can only be designed in InfoPath Designer, etc.

These misconceptions will be reviewed and explained for the readers. This chapter covers points I see as being vital to implementing InfoPath SharePoint based solutions.

 

John Stover – Governance in SharePoint

Governance is one of the most popular words related to SharePoint today. For many, governance means management. Most people use ?govern? and ?manage? interchangeably. However, governance and management actually mean two different things, though they do go hand in hand.

Governance is a framework that defines strategic and goals and objectives. Governance defines who gets to make decisions, how decisions are made and how to communicate those decisions. Governance defines accountability and procedures for reconciling differences. Define governance in a documented
Governance Plan.

Management refers to the action, the processes, the editing process, and the enforcement of the Governance Plan.

Governance is worthless without management, and managing a SharePoint site without a governance strategy is trying to steer a rudderless ship. You have the tools, you have the personnel, and you will end up somewhere. But is it where you want to go?

 

Giles Hamson – Creating Dashboards using Business Connectivity Services, SharePoint Designer and other related technologies

This chapter guides readers into creating dashboards using some of the key technologies in SharePoint 2010.

Throughout my experience as a consultant, piecing together the various tutorials available on the web to achieve the dashboards Microsoft so heavily advertise alongside the SharePoint product can be daunting. This chapter aims to take you through from start to finish creating dashboards using the following areas:

  • Secure Store Service
  • External Content Types in SharePoint Designer
  • Business Connectivity Services (BCS), Business Data Catalog (BDC) permissions and actions
  • Dashboards including:
    Business Data, Filter & Excel Web Access web parts

Other technologies are available for creating dashboards within SharePoint including:

  • Reporting Services
  • PerformancePoint
  • PowerPivot
  • Visio Services
  • Chart Web Part
  • List Web Parts

These however will not be the focus of this chapter.

 

Mark Macrae – Building Business Intelligence Solutions with SharePoint 2010

Business Intelligence is an increasingly desirable commodity in the workplace. IT Managers wish to see how many support tickets are open, executives want to know how the business is doing against their key performance indicators – even I may want to see how much holiday I have remaining to use this year!

However, the answers to simple questions such as those above are rarely self-served, or answered in the timeframe you would expect. These questions often involve multiple people fishing through files or old emails, cutting and pasting figures in Excel or waiting on information to be fed through from an overseas office. Management are often frustrated that they cannot see at a glance how their department is performing without IT spending days developing a custom report, only to be re-engineered the next time the manager wants to know how his department is doing.

The solution to these common problems is a well designed and efficient business intelligence system, and a medium on which to surface dashboards tailored to the needs of the consumer. In the past, such systems have been expensive and generally aimed at the minority of users, however since Microsoft seriously entered the business intelligence market, a BI system can be implemented at an affordable price through SharePoint 2010 and its related technologies for the masses to enjoy.

This chapter explains how SharePoint 2010, and its large suite of business intelligence features, could be used to fulfil the needs of most business intelligence requirements in the workplace. We will explore the pros and cons of the feature set, and look at a couple of example use cases.


catIn their book Effective Time Management – Using Microsoft Outlook to Organize Your Work and Personal Life, the authors Lothar Seiwert and Holger Woeltje provide a practical guide to using Outlook (as well as OneNote) to create a time-management system. Simply said, they teach you how to become more structured and organised when using Outlook to manage email, tasks, and appointments.

What I really like about this book is that it covers Office 2003, Office 2007, and Office 2010! While Office 2010 is already around for some time, a lot of companies and people still use Office 2007 and even Office 2003. So, even if you have one of the older versions, don’t worry, this book gives you detailed instructions on how to do things, such as setting up views in all 3 versions of Outlook.

As for the content, I have to say that I didn’t benefit much from it, as I already used most of the advise contained in this book. However, if so far you’re using only ‘standard’ Outlook, meaning you don’t let Outlook filter emails for you, you don’t create different views for your tasks to get a better overview of what is the most important thing to do, or you don’t categorise your appointments to get a better overview of your week, this may be just the right book for you. You will get to learn how to approach each of the facets of Outlook (email, tasks, appointments) and get the most out of them to become more productive, both with techniques (“choose the most important thing that you would do if you could choose only one from your tasks, assign it #1. Then, continue with the others”) and ‘implementation info’ (for example how to customise views so that you get a better overview of your tasks).

Overall, it’s a very solid book with useful advise, but nothing really new for people who already looked at time-management methods and use them.


catPhil Wicklund’s (@philwicklund) book Microsoft SharePoint 2010: Deploying Cloud-Based Solutions came out just last month, and due to my interest in Office 365 I had to purchase it more or less immediately (as usual, ebook so that I can read it on my Kindle; also, I get it immediately and don’t have to wait for it, being in Singapore you sometimes need to order from the US). It has been one of the books I’ve been reading during the past 2 weeks, and it’s now time to share my opinion of it.

The book is divided into three parts: the first part talks about what ‘the cloud’ is and how SharePoint fits into it (basically, SharePoint Online as part of Office 365), and provides some information about its capabilities. Phil also dedicates a chapter to planning for SharePoint Online, including the Information Architecture, security, customisations, and training. In my opinion, extremely important in every SharePoint related activity.

The second part of the book, titled Deploying SharePoint in the Public Cloud, goes a bit more into detail how to start using and managing SharePoint Online. The most interesting chapter here is Chapter 6: Migrating to SharePoint Online, in which Phil lists several approaches of how you can move your content from its existing location (with a major focus on on-premises SharePoint) to SharePoint Online.

Lastly, the third part of the book talks about SharePoint in the Private Cloud. How can you set up SharePoint in your company inside your own Private Cloud, including all the relevant automation. Topics here include virtualisation with Hyper-V, a very good discussion about multitenancy in SharePoint, and how to configure tenant-aware service applications and site applications. While I initially thought that this part of the book is the least interesting to me, it gave me a much better idea of how Microsoft has (possibly) set up and configured Office 365, and why some functionality is not available at the moment (e.g. FAST Search).

What I missed a bit in the book was a better analysis of when and why it makes sense to use cloud technology. While there is a section in the first part of the book that covers this topic, I felt that it was a bit too short, and more information could have been provided. Another thing that confused me occasionally in the first and second part of the book was that there was not always a clear differentiation between SharePoint Online Standard (which you get as part of the ‘regular’ Office 365) and SharePoint Online Dedicated (which you have to contact MS for). While most of the time Phil notes what is available in or applicable to each of these two and what isn’t, I found myself thinking sometimes “this isn’t possible in Office 365″, only to realise that Phil was referring to the Dedicated version.

Overall, however, I would say that it’s a quite good book for anyone interested in learning more about cloud-based SharePoint, providing very useful information for any medium or large sized organisation.


catI’ve had the ebook of Microsoft Project 2010 Inside Out by Teresa Stover, Bonnie Biafore, and Andreea Marinescu on my laptop and my Kindle for quite some time now, but only now I can finally write a review about it.

Consisting of more than 1200 pages, this book basically contains everything you need to know about using Project 2010 to manage projects. Not only does it cover the fundamentals, but it also guides you through how to develop a project plan (Part 2), track the progress of your project (Part 3), and get reports about it (Part 4). Additionally, it covers more advanced topics such as how to manage multiple projects (Part 5), how to integrate Project 2010 with other Microsoft products (Part 6, talking about the Office suite and SharePoint), how to manage projects across your company (Part 7), and finally how to customise Project 2010 to suit your needs (Part 8). Each of these parts consists of several chapters, focusing on different topics related to the corresponding part.

In each chapter, you learn more about the relevant details, and you also get to know some helpful tips. On nearly every page you can find helpful screenshots that support the text well, making it easier to read (the topic becomes less dry!) and understand.

The book serves very well as a lookup resource if you quickly want to check how to do something in Project 2010. In my opinion, it can be considered as one of the standard books that everyone who’s using Project 2010 regularly should possess. For beginners to Project 2010, it may contain too much information for a start, Bonnie Biafore’s book Successful Project Management: Applying Best Practices and Real-World Techniques with Microsoft Project may be the better choice here.


After I wrote my review of the book “Microsoft® Office 365: Connect and Collaborate Virtually Anywhere, Anytime” by Katherine Murray, Microsoft made it available for free in PDF format.

After it was promised that additional formats will be available soon, you can now download the ebook in the formats .epub and .mobi (the latter is the format you need to read it on your Kindle; most other devices should be able to read at least the epub format): http://blogs.msdn.com/b/microsoft_press/archive/2011/09/23/free-ebook-microsoft-office-365-connect-and-collaborate-virtually-anywhere-anytime-now-in-more-formats.aspx