24 August 2009

Article: How to Monitor your SharePoint Environment

As SharePoint becomes a more critical component of your infrastructure, it also becomes a service that needs to be more closely monitored to ensure its availability. But many organizations mistakenly try to treat SharePoint like other application servers, such as SQL Server. The reality is that SharePoint can be incredibly more complicated.

The most common misconception is that it's SharePoint that you have to monitor. This false belief will lead most operations personnel to overlook the fact that SharePoint is really a combination of services that act together. Because these services are tightly integrated, your monitoring strategy needs to be multidimensional.

For more information, read “How to Monitor your SharePoint Environment” on SearchWinIT.

17 August 2009

Updated ECM vendor evaluations available today from CMS Watch

CMS Watch has released their updated ECM vendor evaluations. One of the key findings is that nearly all of the ECM vendors sell a SharePoint connector, leading to coexistence with MOSS instead of competition.  Another interesting finding is that ECM vendors are finally starting to focus on mobile computing.

If you’re in the market for an ECM package or need to better understand the capabilities of a tool you already own, I would recommend reading this report.

08 August 2009

Social Networking on Intranets (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)

A friend and taxonomy expert, Stephanie Lemieux (Earley and Associates) passed along a link to Social Networking on Intranets, on Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox.  The article reinforced recommendations we typically make to our clients.  And although the title suggests the article is strictly about social media, it was also an excellent list of how to be successful in intranet development generally. 

If you don’t have the time for the full article, here’s a summary:

  1. Employees use social media in their private lives and have come to expect the those same tools to be available inside the organization.  As Nielsen states “[s]ocial software is not a trend that can be ignored. It's affecting fundamental change in how people expect to communicate, both with each other and the companies they do business with.”  Some organizations we’re working with fear that the words “social software” will prevent executive buy in.  If that’s true, change the words, but don’t ignore the advice. 
  2. In fact, Nielsen goes on to say that most executives don’t generally support social media because they themselves don’t use these tools personally.  However, organizations “don't have to teach or convince younger workers to use these tools; they expect them and integrate them as easily into their work lives as they do in their personal lives.”
  3. Tools don’t matter – it’s the problems the tools solve.  Consejo is often called to help organizations implement SharePoint.  In many cases, these enterprises don’t have a good sense of how SharePoint will help solve business challenges; they simply own SharePoint licenses and now want to use them. Nielsen suggests that “organizations are successful with social media and collaboration technologies only when the tools are designed to solve an identified business need.”  In other words, the “build it and they will come” approach to SharePoint deployment won’t work unless there’s a clear business benefit and employees can easily identify how SharePoint helps them to realize that benefit.
  4. One surprise finding was that Nielsen recommends integrating new tools into the intranet without fanfare and let employees discovery the functionality naturally.  Advertising new tools as “new” won’t help spur adoption and that some terms (used to describe tools or features) may be scary – Nielsen uses RSS and social bookmarking as examples of “scary” terms.
  5. Support both content contributor and content consumer communities within your intranet.  Nielsen states that “[a]s with the open Internet, there's substantial participation inequality in enterprise communities: some employees participate a lot, while others mainly lurk… value a community based on a combination of posting and use...”  As I mentioned in my previous post on SharePoint governance, successful intranets must create vibrant content contributor and consumer communities (filed under Poole’s Rules regarding giving encouragement and show appreciation).  Further, as a part of measuring success, you should count both types of participation equally.
  6. Search is only as good as the content it indexes.  Truer words have not been spoken.  Many organizations lament about poor search quality.  Unfortunately, those same enterprises fail to take the necessary steps to improve results.   As Nielsen states “[t]raditional methods for relevancy scoring on the Web don't work as well on the smaller scale of most intranets: for example, counting links works only if you're doing so across a huge base of links. But, even if only a few employees tag a page with a given keyword, it's likely that the page will produce a good search result for that query in your organization's context.”  In a recent “Making Basic SharePoint Search Work” (a free Jumpstart call with Earley and Associates), I discussed how to improve SharePoint search results using out-of-the-box techniques for tagging.
  7. Nielsen found that “it’s essential to provide a single, unified search across all intranet resources.”  Many search products, including SharePoint, can search across many different kinds of source repositories.  Critical to search success is finding the most relevant content, regardless of its location.  Playing on the theme in Nielsen’s article, enterprises should include social media and collaborative spaces in search results, even if the content is not completely “final” or authoritative.
  8. “Content-is-King 2.0”  The tool is nothing without content to consume.  This finding supports actively encouraging content contributors during an initial roll-out and ensuring there’s ongoing content authoring.  As Nielsen states, “[a]n empty wiki can be a lonely place and also hard to sell to users.”
  9. Employees should be able to use the intranet will little or no training.  If users have to “figure out” how to use a tool, they’ll tend to avoid it.  Further, you need to ensure the language you use is familiar.  Nielsen points out that describing something as “Twitter-in-the-enterprise” or “micro-blogging ” will be equally inaccessible to users not familiar with the concept.  One approach, used in our Fast Track to SharePoint, is licensing training materials like SoftwareFx Virtual Training Center for SharePoint 2007.  It can be embedded in your intranet, accessible at any time.  The training is provided as 100 modules that are 30 seconds to 4 minute videos delivered through a flash video player.   Users are shown the features in action instead of just being told.
  10. Open communication is a requirement.  Nielsen suggests that communication groups need to adapt to the speed at which employee communications need to be developed: “Corporate communications must adapt to social media’s real-time culture and become more proactive than in the past… procedures that required days or weeks for approval need dramatic streamlining…”  It may be unnerving to executives to have an open discussion of company policies on the intranet, but it may mitigate the risk that the same employees will use more public internet services.  However, Nielsen cautions, there is still a place for “official” communications and that the two must co-exist.

04 August 2009

REVIEW: Samsung Jack and Windows Mobile 6.1

I recently replaced my 1st generation Samsung BlackJack with the latest generation Samsung Jack.   I had spent months agonizing over what new mobile phone to buy (partly because of equipment and partly because I wanted to wait for the oft-delayed Windows Mobile 7).  I looked at the obvious non-Windows contenders like the Apple iPhone, the RIM Blackberry Bold, as well as other Windows Mobile smart phones, but still came back to the Jack.

In the end, I chose the Jack for a few reasons, listed in order of importance below:

  1. I really wanted to stay with the Windows Mobile platform.  Windows mobile is often maligned for poor performance and even worse battery life.  However, I’ve had pretty good luck with both my Audiovox SMT5600 and Samsung BlackJack.  Both phones worked quite well and I’m usually near a computer, giving me access to trickle charges when necessary.  I’ve not suffered any of the performance problems and I’m tied to an Exchange e-mail account; synchronizing between a Windows smart phone and Exchange is mostly flawless.
  2. Despite some issues with dropped calls and terrible customer support, I wanted to stay with AT&T.  I’ve used both Verizon and Sprint in the past, but found AT&T to be an equal carrier for the locations I visit.  As for custom service, issues and frustrations seem to be universal.  That said, Verizon certainly has much better coverage in less densely populated areas, but I am usually in a medium to large city.  Even when I’ve made it into “the country,” I’ve not had any challenges with AT&T.  Finally, AT&T has international coverage (although expensive), which I’ve used a number of times without incident.  Besides T-Mobile (whom I didn’t consider at all), none of the other U.S.-based mobile carriers handles roaming internationally (at least not well).
  3. After looking at all of the Windows mobile equipment options with AT&T, it came down to the Samsung Epix and the Jack.   Most of my elimination criteria centered on talk time (very important), size (important) and price (important).  The two phones were generally equal when it came to talk time.  The Epix seemed to have the edge on functionality, but was larger than the Jack.  The screen resolution was also higher on the Epix, but I couldn’t get past the relatively small, but noticeable size difference.  Plus, virtually every other aspect of the phones was imperceptibly similar or the same.
  4. AT&T offered a $49 deal to upgrade to the Jack (after a $100 rebate that I have yet to mail in).  I was not able to get an equal deal on the Epix

I’ve been using my new Jack (which looks hauntingly like a Blackberry Bold) for about a month.  In that time I’ve made the following observations:

  • The phone is light, slim and unobtrusive.  It’s slightly shorter than my old BlackJack, but the slick plastic housing is a bit more of a challenge to grip compared with the matte, rubberized finish on the BlackJack.  However, it fits nicely in my pocket without the bulk associated with larger phones.
  • Battery life and management seem to be quite a bit better than my old BlackJack and SMT6500.   I can typically go two days, with moderate usage, without recharging the battery.  My other phones would barely last a day or less before complaining of low power.
  • Windows Mobile 6.1, which is what the Jack shipped with, is much improved over Mobile 5.  I really like the “Slide” interface and haven’t had the any issues with lockups or glitches. 
  • Overall, there just seems to be more intelligence in the design to both the phone and operating system.  I particularly like the single touch button for many functions like mail (which the BlackJack had) and the camera.
  • I really dislike the GPS and AT&T buttons.  The GPS button is tied to the AT&T Telenav application/service.  It’s an extra charge to use the service on AT&T’s network and I’m just as happy to use Bing Mobile or Google Maps Mobile; both work well, though I think I’m more favorable to Bing Mobile at the moment after some very positive early experiences, though neither have audible driving directions.  As for the AT&T button, it seems like a hold over from Cingular and it navigates me to a 404 page; not a fabulous experience.
  • When the keyboard is locked, Mobile 6 has the same faulty behavior that Mobile 2003 had in that it will allow you to dismiss a meeting reminder, but not “snooze.”  Mobile 5 had corrected this oversight, but I think Microsoft forgot to add that functionality back to Mobile 6… weird.
  • I really like that you can now invite others to meetings you schedule with your phone.  That was functionality previously missing from the Windows Mobile platform.
  • Mobile 5 had the ability to send a picture or video shot with the phone through a pre-defined mail account.  This functionality worked flawlessly on my old BlackJack.  However, it fails to work on my new Jack.  When I’ve tried to send a phone or a video, the phone reports that I don’t have any e-mail accounts setup (except that my phone has been synchronizing and sending e-mail through Exchange since day 1).  I thought I may have missed some setting somewhere, but I can’t find it.   I’m hoping the problem is easy to fix, but I haven’t spent enough time investigating.
  • The phone could do with more onboard memory.  It came with only about 2/3rds of the onboard space available.  After installing apps like Bing and Google Maps, I’m closer to half full.  Also, my phone was filled with a bunch of junk I can’t seem to uninstall (like demo games that want money to play).  I could care less about the spamware AT&T installed on the phone, but I could really use that space back.  Unfortunately, none of these games (or the other silly things AT&T insists on adding to my phone – like links to web sites that don’t exist) are listed in the Remove Software option on the phone. 
  • The keyboard is laid out differently than my BlackJack and is a little smaller.  The layout and size seem similar to the BlackBerry.  I’ve generally gotten the hang of it, but I still find myself hitting the space bar instead of the 0 (zero) button when dialing numbers; previously the zero and space were the same key.

In the end, I like the phone (I withhold a modifier like “really” until I have more time with the device).  I think it was an excellent upgrade from my BlackJack and if you’re looking for an upgrade to your Windows Mobile phone, I would recommend it.