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    Guest post by Microsoft MVP Lead Heather Kostes

    We just got back from four action-packed days at Microsoft Tech-Ed North America 2011, where we had the pleasure to catch-up with MVPs from as far away as Macedonia and China. Of the more than 10,000 attendees to this year’s event, at least 200 were MVPs. Of those, more than 30% directly participated as speakers or by lending their expertise at hands-on labs and booths. Although the community has come to expect nothing less, the level of leadership MVPs bring to events such as Tech-Ed never fails to impress.

    To support their commitment to sharing their knowledge of Microsoft technology, MVPs were invited to six private side sessions at Tech-Ed. Here, Microsoft executives and members of product groups sat down with MVPs in small groups to discuss everything from SEO best practices to the future direction of some Microsoft products.

    Corporate vice president, Jason Zander, who also served as a Tech-Ed keynote speaker, led one of the most popular sessions. MVPs raved:

    “Excellent presentation. Really helps me understand the bigger picture presently + roadmap.”

    “Great content! Thanks for the honest conversation.”

     “Good session. Please do every year.”

    In addition to the private side sessions, throughout the day MVPs gathered with each other and members of the broader community in the MVP Award lounge. It was great to see so much networking and camaraderie in our little corner of the Tech-Ed Connect Zone, which attracted a whole host of techies, including some recently awarded MVPS, a few MVPs who had missed the MVP Global Summit, members of Microsoft product teams and Microsoft evangelists.

    We also were visited by folks seeking more information on the program and were able to gather information about a number of good candidates!

    The conversation continued beyond the lounge. Take a look at Twitter @mvpaward and this great short video chat.

    Windows Expert-IT Pro MVP Ed Horley summed up the experience: “Microsoft Tech-Ed 2011 in Atlanta was exciting for several reasons. I got to see several fellow MVPs present at TechEd whom I respect deeply and it was some of the best person to person networking I have had a chance to do. With the addition of MVP side sessions, getting to hang out with MVP Leads, seeing all the Microsoft community folks and taking in product announcements on top of all the parties and dinners the whole week was packed. It was completely worth the investment of attending. I look forward to continued relationships with all those I got to know at TechEd this year and hope others get the chance to have as dynamic an experience at future Tech-Eds as I did.”


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    SQL MVP Robert Cain has found the perfect use for all those backpacks and bags most of us have stuffed in the corner of a closet—donate them to displaced tornado victims. Robert lives in Alabama, which was one of the states hit by the recent rash of tornados that devastated parts of the southern United States.

    “Many people have been stranded with nothing,” said Robert. “We personally had two friends whose houses were damaged. One of them came home to find a concrete slab on his property where his house used to be.”

    At a donation center, Robert was told they have a big need for duffle bags, luggage—anything victims can use to carry belongings. “People are getting clothes, but have nothing to put them in,” said Robert. “I’ve got quite a few backpacks from events I’ve attended that I’ve dug out to donate, along with some of those cloth Wrox bags that members of the community put swag in for SQL Saturdays. It occurred to me many of us probably have attended a lot of events and have more of these backpacks or bags than we know what to do with.”

    Robert is inviting anyone who has spare bags to send them to him and he’ll get them to a donation center.

    Find out how to donate your bags and read more at Robert’s blog: http://arcanecode.com/2011/05/24/geeks-helping-out/


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    Just checking—did everyone see this week’s Business Insider report touting Microsoft’s customer support as three times better than Apple’s?

    If not, here’s a wrap up—On Tuesday, Business Insider revealed the results of its head-to-head comparison between Microsoft’s and Apple’s web-based customer support. Writer Mark Fidelman analyzed five categories and reported this result:

    Microsoft is the clear winner with a 3-1-1 (win, tie, loss) outcome.  Which for our purposes is a 3X victory for Microsoft. 

    One of our favorite findings came in the Community Driven, Social Support category: “The key to Microsoft’s social support is their MVP Program, its social recognition program for active support users, and its Questions and Answers site… According to Toby Richards, Microsoft’s General Manager of Communities and Online Support, these MVPs are thirty times more active than the average user. ”

    For his research, Mark met with executive teams from both companies. In addition to Toby, he spoke with Microsoft corporate vice president Barbara Gordon and concluded, “given how open Barbara and other team members are with answering questions and listening to feedback, it appeared to me that Microsoft is constantly checking the pulse of their support communities to ensure they are providing best-in-class customer support. Seems like the better approach.”

    You can read the full article here: http://www.businessinsider.com/why-microsoft-is-3x-better-than-apple-for-customer-support-2011-5#ixzz1NHJZDiD2


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    Editor's Note: The following is a guest post by SharePoint Server MVP Corey Roth as part of the MVP Award Program Blog's "MVPs for SharePoint" series. Corey Roth is a solutions architect at Stonebridge specializing in SharePoint solutions in the Oil & Gas Industry.  Corey has recently been awarded the Microsoft MVP award in SharePoint Server.  He has always focused on rapid adoption of new Microsoft technologies including SharePoint 2010, Visual Studio 2010, .NET Framework 4.0, LINQ, and Silverlight. When it comes to SharePoint, he specializes in ECM, Enterprise Search, and Business Connectivity Services.  As an active member of the SharePoint community, he often speaks at user groups, Tech Fests, and SharePoint Saturdays. Corey is a member of the .NET Mafia (www.dotnetmafia.com) where he blogs about the latest technology and SharePoint.  Corey is Vice President of the Tulsa SharePoint Interest Group.  He loves contributing to the SharePoint community and currently has four active open source projects on CodePlex.

    There is a ton of excitement around SharePoint Online, part of Microsoft’s Office 365 offering.  Developing applications in the cloud is really not much different than developing a sandboxed solution. However, when it comes to debugging, we need to think outside-of-the-box a little.  We’ve become a little spoiled by the great new SharePoint developer tools that came with Visual Studio 2010.  We can still use those tools, but unfortunately in the cloud we don’t have the luxury of F5 deployment.  In today’s article we will discuss some of your options for outputting debugging information in the cloud.  If you’re looking for breakpoints, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but hopefully you can leverage some of these techniques when coding your next SharePoint Online application.

    Start in the Sandbox

    If you’re not familiar with developing in the cloud yet, you might start by taking a look at my article, Office 365 How to: Build and Deploy a Web Part with SharePoint Online.  This article walks you through step-by-step how to create a sandboxed solution in Visual Studio 2010 using a local SharePoint environment and then deploy it in the cloud.  Another good resource is the SharePoint Online for Office 365: Developer Guide.  Some of the debugging techniques demonstrated today are based on recommendations in this guide.  These guides should get you quickly started creating applications for SharePoint Online. 

    When it comes to debugging, the best place to start is in your own local environment.  Obviously your local environment will never match the cloud exactly, but if you are deploying dependent items such as content types and lists via feature, you’re in a good place.  This means you have a reasonably good chance that your code referencing these items will work both in the sandbox locally and in the cloud.

    For today’s purposes, let’s start with a simple web part that adds a task to the built-in Tasks list of a Team Site.  Here’s what the code looks like.

    using System;

    using System.ComponentModel;

    using System.Web;

    using System.Web.UI;

    using System.Web.UI.WebControls;

    using System.Web.UI.WebControls.WebParts;

    using Microsoft.SharePoint;

    using Microsoft.SharePoint.WebControls;

     

    namespace SharePointOnlineDebugging.CloudDebuggingWebPart

    {

        [ToolboxItemAttribute(false)]

        public class CloudDebuggingWebPart : WebPart

        {

            private Label TitleLabel;

            private TextBox TitleTextBox;

            private Button SubmitButton;

     

            protected override void CreateChildControls()

            {

                // add controls to web part

                TitleLabel = new Label() { Text = "Enter Task Title: " };

                TitleTextBox = new TextBox();

                SubmitButton = new Button() { Text = "Add" };

     

                // attach event handle to click event

                SubmitButton.Click += new EventHandler(SubmitButton_Click);

     

                Controls.Add(TitleLabel);

                Controls.Add(TitleTextBox);

                Controls.Add(SubmitButton);

            }

     

            void SubmitButton_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)

            {

                using (SPSite siteCollection = new SPSite(SPContext.Current.Site.ID))

                {

                    using (SPWeb site = siteCollection.OpenWeb(SPContext.Current.Web.ID))

                    {

                        SPList tasksList = site.Lists["Tasks"];

     

                        SPListItem newItem = tasksList.Items.Add();

                        newItem["Title"] = TitleTextBox.Text;

     

                        newItem.Update();

                    }

                }

            }

        }

    }

     

    The code simply creates a label, textbox, and button.  When the button is clicked, it gets a reference to the Tasks list of the current site and then adds a new item.  I can first verify that this code works correctly by testing it locally on my own SharePoint server.  I can debug it and resolve any issues there before deploying the solution package to SharePoint Online.  Once you’re happy with your solution locally, it’s time to send it to the cloud.  Here is what our web part looks like when deployed to SharePoint Online.

    Before we start debugging, let’s take a look and see how SharePoint Online handles exceptions.  As an example, let’s produce an exception by specifying the wrong name for the Tasks list.  We’ll use this exception throughout the rest of the article.

    SPList tasksList = site.Lists["Tasks List"];

     

    When we try to insert a task, the reference to the wrong list in the above code generates an exception and this is what the user sees.

    This is not exactly a useful error message for the user or the developer.  At this point, we have absolutely no way to figure out what went wrong.  We can’t even go look in the ULS logs since we’re in the cloud.  So what do we do?  We have to go back to more traditional debugging techniques that some of us used years ago.   We have to add code to do our debugging.  This might sound archaic or even insane to some of you, but it’s really our best way to troubleshoot in the cloud.  Developers have been using techniques like this for years long before we even dreamed of breakpoints.  It really does work pretty well.

    To do our debugging, we’ll create a method to handle the debugging and insert a call to it in our code where we need it.  I know it’s not as glamorous as pressing the F5 button and a lot of it you may consider common sense.  However, I hope it helps spark some ideas in others to create unique debugging solutions.

    Literal Debugging

    We want to track down the cause of this exception, so I am going to add a try / catch block around our code.  When an exception is caught, we’ll use a new debugging method that we created to display the text of the exception.

    try

    {

        using (SPSite siteCollection = new SPSite(SPContext.Current.Site.ID))

        {

            using (SPWeb site = siteCollection.OpenWeb(SPContext.Current.Web.ID))

            {

                SPList tasksList = site.Lists["Tasks List"];

     

                SPListItem newItem = tasksList.Items.Add();

                newItem["Title"] = TitleTextBox.Text;

     

                newItem.Update();

            }

        }

    }

    catch (Exception exception)

    {

        DebugUsingLiteral(exception.ToString());

    }

     

    Our DebugUsingLiteral method simply adds a literal to the page and dumps the text of the exception to the page so that you can see it.

    private void DebugUsingLiteral(string message)

    {

        Controls.Add(new Literal() { Text = message });

    }

     

    Here is what the exception looks like now that it is caught.

    Not the prettiest solution, but at least we know what the issue is now.  It cannot find the list as we had expected.

    Comment Debugging

    That solution above works but it’s not very user friendly.  Let’s pretty it up a bit by writing the exception to an HTML comment.  This will allow us to view the source of the HTML to see the exception and the user won’t have to see it.  Let’s replace our calls to DebugUsingLiteral with a new method DebugUsingLiteralComments.  Here is what the new method looks like.

    private void DebugUsingLiteralComments(string message)

    {

        Controls.Add(new Literal() { Text = string.Format("<!-- {0} -->", message) });

    }

     

    When we try it out, we now no longer see the error message.

    Looking at the HTML source of our page, we can find our exception.

    Of course the user has no clue it failed either.  However, we can fix that pretty easily by adding a new control to our debugging method to display a user friendly error message.

    private void DebugUsingLiteralCommentsUserFriendly(string message, string userFriendlyMessage)

    {

        Controls.Add(new Literal() { Text = string.Format("<!-- {0} -->", message) });

        Controls.Add(new Label() { Text = userFriendlyMessage });

    }

     

    When the user gets the exception now, they see a more user friendly error message.

    Handling verbose debugging

    At times, we may also want to write verbose non-exception information to the screen as well. Now would be a good time to get reacquainted with the C# compiler directive, #if DEBUG.  Our strategy here is that if the solution was built using the Visual Studio debug configuration, we’ll output additional debugging information.  When in release mode, nothing will be logged.  We’ll use the same DebugUsingLiteralComments method that we used above.  Take a look at the snippet below.

    #if DEBUG

    DebugUsingLiteralComments("Getting reference to Tasks List.");

    #endif

    SPList tasksList = site.Lists["Tasks List"];

     

    #if DEBUG

    DebugUsingLiteralComments("Creating new item.");

    #endif

    The #if DEBUG tells the compiler to only execute the lines to output debugging information if the current Visual Studio build configuration is set to Debug.  When we execute the code, our HTML now has our debugging lines in it.

    Why did we not just put the compiler directives inside the DebugUsingLiteralComments method?  This is just a slight code optimization.  The release version of the code never has to call the method itself when the debugging configuration is not used.  It may be a minimal performance improvement, but since you have limited resources in the cloud, it’s probably worth considering.  I could be totally wrong of course.

    When we are ready to ship the code, we simply recompile in release mode and the debugging lines are gone.

    When you do compile in release mode, don’t forget to get your .wsp file from the release folder instead of the debug folder.  Another thing to note when uploading all of these solutions packages to the cloud is that you need to deactivate the existing solution first prior to uploading a new version of it.  However, you do not need to delete the existing solution package prior to uploading the new version.

    Debugging a using List

    The SharePoint Online Developer Guide recommends using a list for debugging.  This is a great technique because it allows you to view all of your debugging information in one place.  Plus, you can take advantage of all the features list have such as sorting and alerts.  For today’s example, I am going to keep things simple.  I want to create a new list with a few relevant columns to collect my information.  In a fully functional solution, we would probably create site columns, a content type and a dedicated class library to host the code to write to the list.

    Let’s start by defining the information I want to keep track of in my debugging list. This is on top of the columns we already have such as Modified Date.

    To save time, I will create this list using the SharePoint UI.  I’ll provide the complete solution including features to deploy the list using CAML in the future.  We’ll create a custom list named Logs.

    After we create the list, I create the columns listed in the table above (note: Title is already present).

    Now we just need a bit of code to write to the log.   We’ll put the logging code in a separate class that we’ll call CloudLog.  In that class, we’ll create a static method that takes parameters matching the site columns on our Logs list, title, severity, and description.  We don’t need to pass the URL field since we can infer that from the HttpContext.  For severity, I created an enum for convenience.

    public enum CloudLogSeverity

    {

        Information,

        Warning,

        Error

    }

     

    The code of the method itself should look pretty familiar.  We’re just inserting an item into a list like before.  Here is what the class looks like.

    using System;

    using System.Collections.Generic;

    using System.Linq;

    using System.Text;

    using System.Web;

     

    using Microsoft.SharePoint;

     

    namespace SharePointOnlineDebugging

    {

        public class CloudLog

        {

            public static void DebugUsingList(string title, CloudLogSeverity severity, string description)

            {

                try

                {

                    using (SPSite siteCollection = new SPSite(SPContext.Current.Site.ID))

                    {

                        using (SPWeb site = siteCollection.OpenWeb(SPContext.Current.Web.ID))

                        {

                            SPList logsList = site.Lists["Logs"];

     

                            SPListItem newItem = logsList.Items.Add();

                            newItem["Title"] = title;

                            newItem["Severity"] = severity.ToString();

                            newItem["Description"] = description;

     

                            SPFieldUrlValue pageUrlFieldValue = new SPFieldUrlValue();

                            pageUrlFieldValue.Url = HttpContext.Current.Request.Url.ToString();

                            newItem["Url"] = pageUrlFieldValue;

     

                            newItem.Update();

                        }

                    }

                }

                catch (Exception exception)

                {

     

                }

            }

        } 

    }

     

    We get a reference to the Logs list and then we just insert a new item.  Once we set the values on the list item we call SPListItem.Update() to write the entry to the list.  This code inserts items into lists which of course has the potential to cause exceptions.  I didn’t want exceptions in our logging code to affect the rest of the application so currently I have an empty catch block in the implementation.  I know that’s not really a good practice, but I really couldn’t think of a good option to catch additional errors like this.

    To call the method, I update the code in our catch block as follows.

    catch (Exception exception)

    {

        CloudLog.DebugUsingList("Error creating new item.", CloudLogSeverity.Error, exception.ToString());

    }

     

    When the exception occurs, an item is logged to the list.  We can then view the list to see the details of the exception.

    In a complete implementation, I could see additional overloads of the DebugUsingList method to serve a variety of needs.  We could allow the developer to pass in more or less parameters depending on his or her needs.  There could be methods that specifically log errors or information.  Perhaps, we could have methods that write additional data to the list.  There are many possibilities on what we can do to fully customize our debugging experience.

    One thing to note about this approach is that the user running the application must have write permissions on the Logs list.  If the user doesn’t, no information can be logged.  To do this, I stopped permission inheritance on the list and I added contribute permission (technically more than needed) to the Viewers and Visitors groups.

    To test my solution, I logged in as a non-administrator, Test User, and generated the error.  I then confirmed that the item written to the list was created by my Test User account.

    Another issue to consider with this approach is that you will likely need to perform some maintenance on this list.  On a large site with lots of logging, this list could grow quite quickly.  You will need to create filters on the list or purge it periodically to prevent list throttling.  You also need to be mindful that logging to the list will use some resources against your quota.  Your quota should be monitored if you intend to leave logging on for long periods of time.

    Debugging with the Developer Dashboard?

    When I was coming up with new debugging techniques, the developer dashboard was originally going to be my recommended solution.  Using the SPMonitoredScope class allows you to monitor the performance of your code and it allows you to write directly to the developer dashboard.  Unfortunately, this class is not available in sandboxed solutions so we can’t use it with SharePoint Online.  You still have plenty of other debugging techniques available to you that were presented in this article though.

    Community Involvement

    I think there is a great opportunity for the community to work together and build a great logging framework for SharePoint Online.  The solution I have shown you today is just the beginning of what could be a grand community driven solution on CodePlex.  The solution would consist of features to deploy, site columns, content types, the list, as well as classes you can leverage to do your logging.  If you are interested in helping out, feel free to contact me.  I think we can build a great solution.


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  • 06/02/11--11:33: Personalizing our Facebook
  • Have you visited our Official MVP Community Facebook lately? We recently gave our Facebook page a face lift! We created custom tabs so that we can interact with you on a more personal level and also so that you and your friends can learn more about the program and our team!

    On the left side of our page, directly underneath our MVP logo, you will see 4 new tabs have been added: Worldwide, Bios, Quiz, and FAQ. Each of these tabs has really fun features. I will take you through each page below, and then make sure to check them out yourself on our page!

    When you click on the Quiz tab you will be able to test your MVP knowledge! Once you complete the quiz you can share your score with your friends --and challenge them to try and beat it! 

    Note: You must “Like” us to take the quiz

    When you click on the Worldwide tab you will discover what's happening in MVP communities around the world. Make sure to become a fan of every official MVP page!

    But that’s not all! On the Worldwide tab (see below) you will be able to download our official MVP fan wallpaper! Show your MVP pride and download it today!

    Ever wonder about the Microsoft MVP Award team members we mention on this blog? When you click on our new Facebook Bios tab,you will be able to meet our leadership team and some of our MVP Leads from around the world and read about their role in the MVP Award program.  

    Last but not least, we have added a FAQ tab to answer commonly asked questions. 

    We hope that you enjoy these enhancements to our Official MVP Facebook page! Also look for us on Twitter and YouTube.

    Let us know what you think about these new features in the comment section below!


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    Editor's Note: The following is a guest post by SharePoint Server MVP Kris Wagner as part of the MVP Award Program Blog's "MVPs for SharePoint" series. Kris Wagner, SharePoint Server MVP, MCITP, MCTS is a Sr. business solutions architect for Synteractive. Kris focuses on cloud technologies, BI and designing solutions using SharePoint. Kris is an author, SharePoint evangelist, speaker, and blogger. Kris lives in Chicago and you can find him on his blog (www.sharepointkris.com) and on Twitter @sharepointkris.

    SharePoint Online comes with several amazing features and here I’ll cover SharePoint’s Extranet feature. Office 365 and SharePoint Online now allows  companies to truly collaborate with external users who are not apart the organization.



    SharePoint Online enterprise customers can create instant extranets with none of the major cost considerations  associated with traditional on permise solutions (hardware, secuity and consulting)  . The extranet cababilies built into SharePoint Online will save your company money, that’s the bottom line here. SharePoint Online makes it simple
    to collaborate and share. 

    External User Invitations:

    First enable to External Users in the SharePoint Online Administration Center for the site collection you want to share, clickManage Share By Email” and clickAllow” and the head over to your site collection. 

    Open “Site Settings”, under “Site Collection AdministrationclickSite collection features”. 

    Find the “External user invitations” feature and clickActivate” to turn the feature on. 

    ClickSite Actions” and then clickShare Site” (Invite new users to your site).

    Add the new users email address to the Visitors or Members groups by typing it in, add a message and change the subject if you want and clickShare”. 

    The next screen confirms you’ll be sharing access to the SharePoint Online site, clickOk”.

    Next the user receives an email invitation that looks like, asking them to accept their invitation. 

    When the user clicksAccept your Invitation!” they’ll surf to a sign in page and need to either use a Live/Hotmail account or use a Microsoft Online Services ID (if they have one).

    Instant SharePoint Online Extranet with external user support for SharePoint Online, workflow and collaboration!   Line I said, SharePoint Online makes it simple to save money.


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    Guest post by Microsoft MVP Lead Simran Chaudhry

     This year’s MVP Open Day for the Canadian MVPs was held at the Microsoft Headquarters in Mississauga, Ontario.  This was an invite only event for all of the MVPs in Canada to show our appreciation for their continued support and leadership of technical communities.

    Eighty MVPs had the chance to spend the whole day with fellow MVPs and key stakeholders from the local subsidiary including Audience Marketing Managers and the entire Evangelism Team.  The event was structured to include information from the MVP Team, DPE & various technical sessions on new and exciting products including Windows Live (Consumer), Office 365, Virtualization & Private Cloud (IT Pro) and Windows Azure (Developer).  The Canadian MVP team partnered with the Canadian DPE team to share their FY12 Plans with the MVPs and get their feedback on them.  The day also included a guest speaking appearance by Gladstone Grant, the VP of DPE in Canada.

    MVP Open Day in Canada 2011

    The after event social was a great success and many MVPs attended and enjoyed a Toronto Blue Jays Baseball game.  An opportunity for our MVPs and local sub stakeholders to socialize in a more relaxed atmosphere.

    The day was a huge success with lots of positive feedback from both Microsoft Canada and our MVPs.  



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    This weekend marks the launch of a new event in Japan—mvcConf@:Japan!

    The event is a collaborative project between Microsoft, publisher IT Media Inc., and four members of the MVP developer community: Naoki Osada, Tatsuro Shibamura, Takashi Takehara, Shuji Ono , and Daichi Isami.

    Takashi explained, “This event will provide the opportunity for members of the community to not only learn about ASP.NET technology, but also how to apply this technology on practical developments efficiently.”

    The community will gather at the Microsoft Japan Shinagawa Office in Tokyo, Japan, this Saturday, June 11. It will be the first event in the region to focus on ASP.NET.

    “My hope is that the event participants can feel how much these MVPs have a passion for this technology,” said Shuji.

    You can watch the event unfold at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/mvcconf-japan.

    Share your tips or words of encouragement below!


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    Editor's Note: The following is a guest post by SharePoint Server MVP Kanwal Khipple as part of the MVP Award Program Blog's "MVPs for SharePoint" series. Kanwal Khipple, is a Principal SharePoint Architect for BrightStarr.  Kanwal focuses on cloud technologies, ECM, WCM and designing solutions using SharePoint. Kanwal is an author, SharePoint evangelist, speaker, and blogger.  Kanwal will be speaking at TSPBUG on Practical Tips to Increase SharePoint Adoption, Branding SharePoint 2010 for Your Business at SPSIndia as well as Becoming a SharePoint Design Ninja at TSPUG.  Kanwal lives in Toronto, Canada and you can find him blogging on his personal blog and SharePoint Buzz.  Do what the cool kids are doing and follow him on twitter @kkhipple and @sharepointbuzz

    Congratulations, your company adopted SharePoint! You are now one of the hundred million plus licensed users that are using SharePoint within your organization.  In one form or another, many of you reading this blog are now responsible for maintaining SharePoint. 

    As Uncle Ben said, with great power comes great responsibility.  The same is true for SharePoint: as the adoption of SharePoint increases within your organization, it can get out of control if proper governance is not in place. 

    Follow along as I go through practical SharePoint Governance Tips for Everyone:

    What is Governance?

    In order to understand what Governance is, it’s important to know its origin - the word governance comes from the Latin word to steer.

    Governance is the set of policies, roles, responsibilities, and processes that guide, direct, and control how an organization's business divisions and IT teams cooperate to achieve business goals

    The goal of this post is to help you understand how leveraging SharePoint features effectively can help you govern your SharePoint site. Here are my tips on how to steer (govern) your SharePoint environments to stay on course. These tips leverage out of the box features and assist you in implementing Governance in SharePoint 2010.

    Rethink Folders and Leverage Metadata

    Folders are a familiar way to organize documents especially if you’ve used file shares or even your local hard drive. The problem with file shares is that we all have our own approach for how documents should be organized.  When migrating their file shares to SharePoint, many organizations inadvertently don’t rethink their use of Folders and leverage Metadata. 

    The problem with folders is that you are assuming you know today how you want to see your content tomorrow.  You are also forcing one structure of organizing documents.  Instead, consider using SharePoint columns – otherwise known as metadata. 

    Metadata is often described as data about data.  Here’s how I like to explain metadata:

    Take a good look at your favourite book’s cover.  The Front cover usually includes the title of the book, sub-title, publisher, author(s) as well as an image to describe what the book is about.  At the back of the book you will have a summary of the book as well as some review quotes. 
    This usually provides you a 10,000 foot high view of what the book is about. As the front and back cover, together provided you enough information about the book to make a purchase.

    Out of the box, SharePoint automatically captures the following metadata for you:

    • Created By – the authenticated user that created the document in SharePoint
    • Modified By – the authenticated user that last modified the document in SharePoint
    • Created (date time stamp) – the date and time when the document was created
    • Modified (date time stamp) – the date and time when the document was modified

    Take this a step further and capture additional metadata from users when they upload and work on documents. 

    How to Create a New Column

    Here’s how you go about creating metadata for your document library:

    1. Browse to your SharePoint document library
    2. From the Fluent Ribbon, click on Library Tools > Library toolbar
    3. Click on Create Column in the Manage Views group
    4. in the Create Column dialog box, specify the Name, Type as well as Additional Column Settings

    You can repeat these steps to capture additional metadata about each document that is uploaded.  Users will be able to quickly filter document libraries based on this metadata and for popular filters you will be easily able to create views for everyone to use. This will help everyone understand the document contents whether they have worked in your organization for the past 20 years or just joined.  The goal really is to improve findability.

    Metadata is better for organizing as it allows you quickly see what content is available, gives users the ability to filter / sort on the fly, create views with the Group By option as well as improves search engine results. And that’s just the beginning. 

    Simplify SharePoint Management

    There’s a fine line you have to walk between allow your employees working freely or putting too many restrictions on the level of access they have.   Many organizations, provide their users the ability to create their own site collections for collaborating on a project together by giving them self service features.  With SharePoint 2010, you now can configure notifications and automatic deletion of site collections that are not being used.

    Follow these steps to configure to Site Collection Use and Auto-Deletion settings:

    1. Log in as a Farm Administrator to SharePoint Central Administration
    2. Click Application Management link
    3. In the Application Management page, within the Site Collections section, click Confirm site use and deletion.
    4. In the Site Use Confirmation and Deletion page, within the Confirmation and Automatic Deletion Settings section, you the the following options:
      1. Configure Email Notifications - Select or clear the Send e-mail notification to owners of unused site collections check box. . If you select this check box you can configure how frequently you want to send notifications:
        1. Type the number of days (minimum of 30 days and a maximum of 365 days) after the site creation or after the site usage is confirmed
      2. Configure Email Notification Schedule - Specify a daily, weekly, or monthly schedule for e-mail notifications. The default schedule is daily. You can also specify the exact time (default time is 12:00 AM) to run the check for the site usage.
      3. Configure Automatic Deletion - Select or clear the Automatically delete the site collection if use is not confirmed check box.
        If you select this check box, type the number of notifications (default is 28 notifications) to send before the site collection is deleted.

    Additionally, with SharePoint 2010 Service Pack 1 (SP1) being released at the end of this month, you will want to check out the new Site Recycle Bin functionality which will allow administrators to quickly and easily recover site collections and sites accidentally deleted by their owners in a process similar to that of the Recycle Bin we have for Lists, Libraries, and Documents. If you can’t wait for the end of the month, then consider downloading the open source project  SharePoint Site Recycle Bin.

    What Are Your Practical SharePoint Governance Tips?

    Creating columns to leveraging metadata appropriately and configuring site collection use and auto-deletion settings are some of my favourite practical Governance tips. To keep this post concise, I have posted a few more practical SharePoint Governance tips on my blog. 

    The good thing is that governance does not have to be complicated, it’s the little things that can make the difference. Your governance plan will organically grow over time. It’s a set of rules that your organization will manage over time. 

    Now I’d like to ask you, are you already using these SharePoint features?  If so, what’s your experience.  For the benefit of everyone reading this blog, what are your favourite practical SharePoint tips?  Comment  below!

    Governance Resources

     


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    Do you have tough technical questions regarding SharePoint for which you're seeking answers? Do you want to tap into the deep knowledge of the talented Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals? The SharePoint MVPs are the same people you see in the technical community as authors, speakers, user group leaders and answerers in the MSDN and TechNet forums. By popular demand, we have brought these experts together as a collective group to answer your questions live. So please join us and bring on the questions! This chat will cover WSS 3.0, MOSS, SharePoint Foundation 2010 and the SharePoint Server 2010. Topics include setup and administration, design, development and general question.

     Please join us on Wednesday June 22nd at 9am PDT to chat with MVPs from around the world.  Learn more and add these chats to your calendar by visiting the MSDN event page http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/events/aa497438.aspx


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    The following is a guest post written by MVP Lead Abhishek Kant

    Q: What do you get when 60 techies talk tech 24x7 for 4 days?

    A: An Open Day. Did we say 24x7 talk? What else would it be for the Graveyard Shifts that started at 11pm and went on for about four hours?

    Microsoft IDC

    The recently concluded MVP Open Day in India scored big on the technical and the fun quotient in equal measures. Attended by MVPs from India, Australia and Sri Lanka, the objectives of the event included networking amongst MVPs and Microsoft and sharing the latest technical developments. Hosted by the Microsoft India Development Center (MSIDC), Hyderabad, India, the MVP Open day was an event eagerly awaited by the MVPs in the APGC region for the whole year. The event held from May 19 – 23, 2011, brought together all divisions of Microsoft India under one roof – Sales and Marketing Group, India Development Center, Microsoft Research, Global Technical Support Center and MTC— sharing knowledge and experiences with the MVPs. MVP Open Day featured a roster of keynote addresses and deep-dive technical sessions delivered by Microsoft. The speaker lineup included more than 20 speakers from MSIDC, five from MTC and five from DPE. While over 40 sessions were delivered during the MVP Open Day, the most talked about topics included Microsoft Cloud Offerings and Windows Phone. The Open Day sessions were divided into 3 tracks: Developer, IT Pro and Consumer with sessions in each track targeted towards audiences in these categories.

    The Open Day started a week earlier to the physical event with the MVPs engaging in online games that promoted networking amongst them and gave them opportunities to showcase their community work.

     The event kicked off with MVPs sharing their feedback and suggestions with the evangelism team on 

    MVPs discussing feedback

    MVPs presenting feedback to Microsoft

    various aspects of the community. The first keynote was made by Amit Chatterjee, general manager of Microsoft IDC, who talked about development excellence and how Microsoft development teams are evolving including deep focus on user experience. He highlighted the important contributions that MSIDC is making towards the Microsoft product lines. The day followed with deep technical sessions with the product teams. These high level technical sessions included future roadmaps of products and Concept Value Tests with a focus on getting feedback from MVPs on each one of them.

    Keynote by Amit Chatterjee, GM, MSIDC

    Dr. A. Kumaran, MSR

    On Day Three, Dr. A. Kumaran presented the keynote on Microsoft Research philosophy and the various projects in the works that are going to lead to development of technology in these areas. The last day of the event was reserved to explore industry solutions around Virtualisation and Cloud offerings.

    Ample networking opportunities for MVPs were weaved right through the event. The identification badges for the event carried MS Tags for sharing contact information. Product team members were able to network with MVPs over a relaxed dinner on the first evening. The paintball tournament between MVPs on the second evening enabled them to experience team work. The final evening went full throttle on fun with a theme party complete with dance performances and a dance floor that thumped with MVPs dancing to the party music late into the night.

    MVPs engaged in the PaintBall Tournament

    Dance performance at Attendee Party

    The really special sessions during the Open Days are the Graveyard Shifts that started at 11:00 PM. These are unstructured open discussions where MVPs discuss about myriad technology topics. 

    Graveyard Shift in Progress

    Graveyard Shift

    Some attendee accounts of the MVP Open Day 2011:

    http://www.amitbhawani.com/blog/microsoft-mvp-open-day/

    http://blogs.msdn.com/b/ujjwalk/archive/2011/05/29/mvp-open-days-2011-microsoft-idc-hyderabad.aspx

    http://www.kunal-chowdhury.com/2011/05/my-experience-at-mvp-open-day-india-day.html

    http://www.kunal-chowdhury.com/2011/05/my-experience-at-mvp-open-day-india-day_21.html

    http://www.kunal-chowdhury.com/2011/05/my-experience-at-mvp-open-day-india-day_23.html

    http://www.abhisheksur.com/2011/05/first-day-experience-with-mvp-open-days.html

    While on one hand, the event provided an opportunity for the MVPs to network and socialize with their community peers and share “real world” feedback with the product groups; on the other, it set the tone for the year ahead for the Microsoft communities and forged friendships that will last a lifetime. 


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    Editor's Note: The following is a guest post by SharePoint Server MVP David Martos as part of the MVP Award Program Blog's "MVPs for SharePoint" series. David Martos is Software Architect for Spenta Consulting (http://www.spenta.es) and has been working with Microsoft latest technologies for over 10 years. Since 2003 he has been specializing in the SharePoint platform and in particular on integration, extensibility, development and deployment areas.

    David has been also collaborating for the last years with Microsoft Corporation building the architecture for the Citizen Service Platform (http://www.microsoft.com/csp and http://www.codeplex.com/csp). Currently he is leading the development of Beezy (http://www.gobeezy.com), a Social Corporate Networking built on top of SharePoint 2010. You can follow @davidmartos on Twitter or read his articles on http://geeks.ms/blogs/davidmartos.

    Introduction

    Before explaining how to get SharePoint 2010 to authenticate users with an external system through ACS Azure v2 it is worth explaining the reasons that can push us to do so, so I will try to give my reasons in this introduction without digging too much into technical details.

    What options do I have?

    By default, SharePoint 2010 allows users to authenticate through Active Directory, but besides this, we can choose a different user repository maintained by ourselves, for example, a SQL Server database or even a completely external system such as Windows Live ID, Google or Facebook. In general, the first option is recommended for corporate environments due to high Office integration needs, while other options are generally recommended for public scenarios. This is not a mathematical formula, but it works in most cases

    Why an external system?

    If we are in a situation where Active Directory is not an option we can choose to implement our own data repository, or to use an existing one. The main reasons that push us to the second option are:

    No need to worry about keeping the information in our own system and ensuring its integrity.

    No need to implement mechanisms related to users management as, for example, user registration and password recovery.

    Our users do not have to maintain another set of credentials in addition to those already held.

    If we are clear that we want to use an external system the next question to ask ourselves is whether we need to use a single system or we want to federate identities of several of them. If we are in the second case there are two alternatives: ADFS 2.0 or Azure ACS v2, which could be translated as ADFS 2.0 in the cloud.

    Why using Azure ACS v2 instead of ADFS 2.0?

    Everytime we compare an on-premise system with the cloud version, we deal with the same list of elements:

    Scalability

    Manageability

    Cost (TCO)

    Performance

    Etc.

    Each one of the two alternatives will have different value for each element. If we put in the balance these values with the corresponding weight for each element we will have the answer for the question posted above.

    Get to work

    If, after answering all the questions above, you have come to the conclusion that you want to use multiple systems and want to use external authentication services provided by Azure; you will want to continue reading to learn how to configure SharePoint 2010 to make it work.

    Before any configuration, lets think for a while on what we want to implement; for the present example I plan to create a public portal using the url https://www.contoso-acsv2.com with anonymous access enabled and a private area where, in order to access, you will need valid credentials on Windows Live ID or Google. With this information we can begin to prepare our SharePoint 2010 farm to support this scenario.

    I assume that you have the skills to perform the high-level tasks that I specify below, but if you have any questions, do not hesitate contact me. In any case, at the end of this article I will post a link where you can access a totally prepared environmentm, which you will be ale to use at your convenience.

    Creating a web application for internal access with the following features

    Claims based authentication (IMPORTANT!)

    SSL not enabled

    NTLM Authentication

    Anonymous access not enabled

     

    Creating a site collection using the publishing site template. Before continuing reading the article ensure you can browse the site collection you just created. As you will see at the top right zone the user with which you have just connected is an Active Directory user.

    Before proceeding to the next task will need to create a digital certificate to sign tokens. Taking advantage of the fact that we also need a certificate for browsing the site over https and bearing in mind that what we do is only for testing, we can proceed as follows:

    In the SharePoint server, open a command propmt and navigate to the folder C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office Servers\14.0\Tools.

    Run the following command: MakeCert.exe -r -pe -n "CN=www.contoso-acsv2.com" -sky exchange -ss my

    Open the Management Console by running the command mmc.exe and add the current user  Certificates snap-in.

    Locate the certificate for www.contoso-acsv2.com in the personal folder and export it to your hard disk. Take this time to export it with (.PFX), and without private key (.CER) since you wil need both in different parts of this article.

    Note: In a real scenario you should use different certificates for signing tokens and for the web server. Also, it is not recommended using self-signed certificates for production environments.

    Once you have created the site collection and the digital certificate, the next thing we have to do is creating a namespace on Azure ACS v2 identifying our application and to to this, we must follow the following steps:

    Browse to the AppFabricLabs portal (https://portal.appfabriclabs.com)

     

    Note: This article will use the lab version of Azure ACS v2, which is free but cannot be used in actual production environments. The commercial version of Azure ACS v2 is available through the Windows Azure website.

     

    Locate and click on the bottom left of the screen, the Service Bus, Access Control & Caching link.

    Select Access Control in the navigation menu on the left and click the New Namespace button in the ribbon.

    Fill out the form indicating a namespace that is available and a region (for the moment we can only select United States)

    Click the Create Namespace button and wait until service becomes Active.

    Once created and activated the namespace, the next task is to configure it to support our needs. To do this, proceed as follows:

    Select the namespace and click the Access Control Service button in the ribbon. This will lead you to the namespace’s management portal.

    Click on the Identity providers link in the navigation menu on the left. You will see that by default, the system will allow us to use Windows Live ID as authentication provider.

    In this article we demonstrate the use of more than one authentication systems and, therefore, press the Add link and add Google to the list of identity providers. Alternatively, if you wish, you can add Facebook or Yahoo.

    The next screen will allow you to specify a text and an image to be used in the logon screen when we select the provider you use to log into the system. You can leave the defaults and click the Save button.

    Click the Relying Party Applications link on the navigation menu on the left and click the Add button on the next screen.

    Complete the form with the following values ​​and click the Save button.

     

    Name: contoso-acsv2.com

    Realm: https://www.contoso-acsv2.com/

    Return URL: https://www.contoso-acsv2.com/_trust/

    Token format: SAML 1.1

    Token Lifetime: 600 secs

    Google: option checked

    Live ID: option checked

    Create new rule group: option checked

    Token signing: Use a dedicated certificate (put here the values ​​that you obtained when you exported the digital certificate with its private key)

     

    Click on the Rule groups link in the navigation menu on the left and click the Default rule for contoso-acsv2.com link on the appearing list. Once there, click on the Generate link, leave the Windows Live ID and Google options marked and press the Generate button.

    The next screen will show the claims we receive from those systems we integrate with. In our case we will make a small change. Windows Live ID does not send the user email and we want to use this claim later, so we will add a new claim with the following values:

     

    Identity Provider: Windows Live ID

    Claim Input Type: http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/ws/2005/05/identity/claims/nameidentifier

    Claim Output type: http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/ws/2005/05/identity/claims/emailaddress

    Having our Azure ACS v2 namespace and the certificate ready we can proceed to configure the SharePoint 2010 trusted identity provider. To do so, follow these steps:

    Copy the text below and save it with ps1 extension on the same folder where you previously exported the digital certificate.

    $realm = "https://www.contoso-acsv2.com"

    $signinurl = "https://example-acsv2.accesscontrol.appfabriclabs.com/v2/wsfederation"

    $certloc =  (Get-ChildItem . -Recurse -include www.contoso-acsv2.com.cer).fullname

    $rootcert = Get-PfxCertificate $certloc

    New-SPTrustedRootAuthority "Azure ACSv2" -Certificate $rootcert

    $cert = New-Object System.Security.Cryptography.X509Certificates.X509Certificate2($certloc)

    $map1 = New-SPClaimTypeMapping "http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/ws/2005/05/identity/claims/emailaddress" -IncomingClaimTypeDisplayName "Email" -SameAsIncoming

    New-SPTrustedIdentityTokenIssuer -Name "Azure ACSv2" -Description "Windows Azure ACS v2" -Realm $realm -ImportTrustCertificate $cert -ClaimsMappings $map1 -SignInUrl $signinurl -IdentifierClaim $map1.InputClaimType

     

    Open the SharePoint 2010 Administration Console and execute the script you previously saved.

    We are ready to continue our work in the SharePoint Central Administration. The last thing left is extending the web application you created earlier in this article using, for this purpose, the following configurations.

    Port: 443

    Host header: www.contoso-acsv2.com

    Anonymous Access: Enabled

    SSL: Enabled

    Authentication Provider: Azure ACSv2

    Before you can access the web site you just created will need to perform certain tasks relating to certificates.

    Open the Internet Information Services console, select the name of our server in the section on the left and open the Server Certificates feature in the main window.

    Import the certificate with private key (.PFX) using the actions menu on the right.

    Right click on the website we created for access through SSL and click Edit Bindings.

    Edit the binding created by default and assign the certificate you have previously imported.

    Once this is done you can navigate to the url https://www.contoso-acsv2.com and, as you will see, the system will just redirect you to a screen where you see get the list of identity providers you have configured on ACS Azure v2 (in our example Windows Live ID and Google). But if you try to log in with your credentials you will receive an error. There is still a final step remaining. You need to go back to the Management Console and copy the generated certificate for www.contoso-acsv2.com to be found in the Personal folder to the following three folders:

    SharePoint

    Trusted People

    Trusted Root Certification Authorities

    By now, you can access the site but, obviously, you will get an access denied error. For demonstration purposes we will grant access to every authenticated user. To do this, follow these steps:

    Browse to the Manage Web Applications in SharePoint Central Administration and select the web application that we created at the beginning of this article.

    Click on the User Policy button in the ribbon.

    Select 'All Users [Azure ACSv2]' and assign total read permissions.

    In order to fully match the requirements at the beginning of this article, we still need to enable anonymous access at the site collection level, create a new subsite with specific permissions and disable anonymous access on it. I will skip these steps as they are high-level tasks not relateed to Azure ACS v2 but, again, if you have any doubt at this point do not hesitate to leave a comment.

    Finally we have our environment prepared. From now on, every time you access the URL https://www.contoso-acsv2.com the system will allow us to provide valid credentials on Windows Live ID or Google to access the system. Obviously this is only the starting point to begin working with Windows Azure ACS v2 as it opens a wide range of possibilities. If you want to start exploring this world and you don’t want to waste time preparing this environment, I posted a permalink with everything I've explained in this article fully configured that can be used at your convenience.


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    For the French translation, please scroll to the bottom of this post.

    "Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems.” This was the challenge for around 11,000 university and graduate students across the region for Imagine Cup France 2011—all hoping for a chance at the national final in Paris. To help them get there, six MVPs were selected to serve as coaches or judges.

    This was no weekend project: the MVPs were available to answer the students' questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week, online or offline, for about a year. Live meetings, conference calls, and offline meetings at Microsoft France are only some of the ways in which the MVPs were there for the participants.

    “Being technical experts themselves, and always up-to-date on Microsoft technologies and products, the MVPs connect immediately with the students, and help making the Imagine Cup the great environment and talent factory that it represents,” said Microsoft’s Vanessa Arnauld, who managed the Imagine Cup in France.

    This year’s MVP coaches or judges were:

    Philippe Puschmann for the Software Design category;
    Gregory Renard (also Microsoft Regional Director) for the Software Design category;
    Guillaume Belmas for the Software Design category;
    Thierry Joubert for the Embedded Development category;
    Arnaud Cleret for the Windows Phone 7 category;
    Valentin Billotte for the Game Design category.

    Thierry explained, “The Imagine Cup competition is a unique opportunity to share my experience in embedded technologies and my passion for this domain with students.  I have been part of the French finals as a coach and as a judge since 2008. Student teams usually come from engineering schools and they are talented. Our role during the French selection is to give them the spirit of the competition as they will be facing an international panel of judges and highly motivated competitors. The biggest challenge for French teams usually is to deliver a presentation in English focused on products and not technologies. The job of the coaches is to prepare them for this exercise. ”

    Guillaume added, “Taking part in the Imagine Cup is a tremendous experience year after year. Since 2006, I have always been very happy to participate in Imagine Cup as a judge: It is really super interesting to see the projects evolving along the competition and we always have good surprises between the first round, the bootcamp and French finals! The best thing in this competition is the imagination of the students: they surprise us again and again every year! To conclude, speaking about innovation and technologies, Imagine Cup is the place to be!”

    The competition is very popular in France, recognized by students as a great opportunity which literally can change their lives. About a fourth of all teams that take part to the international final of Imagine Cup create a start-up at the end of the competition.

    In fact, the 3rd classified at the international finals of the Cup in 2010 was a French team coached by MVP Valentin Billotte. The experience lead to the birth of the start-up Graphic Stream, whose game Arcane's Tower Defense, only a couple of months later, won Valentin the WP7 competition “Pitch Your App” and a hug from Steve Ballmer. (You can see the related blog post here.)

    The conclusion from the MVP Award team, Martine Thiphaine and Livia Formisani: Way to go MVPs! Or, as we say in France, “Chapeau!”

     

    French translation below

    Imaginez un monde où la technologie aide à résoudre les problèmes les plus difficiles.  Cela a été le défi pour les quelques 11000 étudiants et diplômés dans l'ensemble de la région pour l’Imagine Cup France 2011 — tous espérant une chance pour la finale nationale à Paris. Pour les aider à s'y rendre, six MVPs ont été choisis pour comme entraîneurs ou juges.

    C’était loin d’être un projet de week-end : les MVPs étaient disponibles pour répondre aux questions des étudiants 24 heures sur 24, sept jours sur sept, en ligne ou en direct, et ce durant un an environ.  Discussions en ligne, conférences téléphoniques, réunions en face à face à Microsoft France ne sont que quelques-unes des façons dont les MVPs étaient là pour les participants.

    Etant des experts techniques eux-mêmes, et toujours à la pointe sur les produits et technologies Microsoft, les MVPs se sont immédiatement connectés avec les élèves et les ont aidés à faire de l'Imagine Cup le grand environnement et la source de talents qu'il représente a dit Vanessa Arnauld de Microsoft France, responsable de l'Imagine Cup en France.

    Cette année, les MVPs nommés entraîneurs ou juges ont été les suivants:

    Philippe Puschmann pour la catégorie Conception Logicielle;
    Gregory Renard (aussi Microsoft Regional Director) pour la catégorie Conception Logicielle;
    Guillaume Belmas pour la catégorie Conception Logicielle;
    Thierry Joubert pour la catégorie Développement Embarqué;
    Arnaud Cleret pour la catégorie Windows Phone 7;
    Valentin Billotte pour la catégorie Conception de Jeux.

    Thierry a expliqué,  Le concours Imagine Cup est une occasion unique de partager mon expérience des technologies embarquées et ma passion pour ce domaine avec les étudiants. J'ai fait partie de la finale française en tant qu’entraîneur ou juge depuis 2008. Les équipes d'étudiants viennent généralement d’écoles d'ingénieurs, et elles sont talentueuses. Notre rôle au cours de la sélection française est de leur donner l'esprit de la compétition, car ils seront amenés à faire face à un panel international de juges et de concurrents très motivés. Le plus grand défi pour les équipes françaises est habituellement de faire une présentation en anglais qui met l'accent sur les produits, et non sur les technologies. Le travail des entraîneurs est de les préparer à cet exercice.

    Guillaume a ajouté, Prendre part à l'Imagine Cup est une expérience formidable, année après année. Depuis 2006, j'ai toujours été très heureux de participer à l’Imagine Cup en tant que juge : c'est vraiment super intéressant de voir les projets avancer tout au long de la compétition et nous avons toujours de bonnes surprises entre le premier tour, le bootcamp et la finale française ! La chose la plus remarquable dans cette compétition est l'imagination des étudiants : ils nous surprennent encore et encore chaque année ! Pour conclure, par rapport à l'innovation et aux technologies, l’Imagine Cup est l'endroit où il faut être!

    Cette compétition est très populaire en France, reconnue par les étudiants comme une grande opportunité qui peut littéralement changer leur vie. Environ un quart de toutes les équipes qui participent à la finale internationale de Imagine Cup créée une start-up à la fin de la compétition.

    Egalement, l’équipe classée 3ème lors de la finale internationale de la coupe en 2010 a été une équipe française entraînée par le MVP Valentin Billotte. L'expérience a conduit à la naissance de la Start-up Graphic Stream, dont le jeu Arcane's Tower Defense, seulement quelques mois plus tard, a remporté la compétition WP7 Pitch Your App et a valu à Valentin une franche accolade de Steve Ballmer. (Vous pouvez consulter l’article s’y rapportant ici.)

    Le mot de la fin de l’équipe MVP France, Martine Thiphaine et Livia Formisani: Bravo les MVPs, continuez ainsi! Ou, comme l’on dit aussi, “Chapeau!”

     


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    Editor's Note: The following is a guest post by Lync MVP David Lim as part of the MVP Award Program Blog's "MVPs for Office 365" series. David is a Lync MVP from Singapore and received the MVP Award earlier this year. He works as a Senior UC Consultant that focuses on Microsoft Unified Communication & Collaboration.  His expertise in Microsoft Unified Communication & Collaboration, based on Microsoft Lync, Exchange and SharePoint Solutions. He is also experienced in Microsoft Virtualization Technology.  Additionally he writes about these topics on his UC Space blog http://davidlim66.wordpress.com/

    Office 365 includes the Microsoft Office suite of desktop applications and hosted versions of Microsoft's Server products (including Exchange Server, SharePoint Server, and Lync Server), delivered and accessed over the Internet in effect, the next version of Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS).

    Microsoft Lync Online provides communications features including presence information, instant messaging, PC-to-PC audio/video calling and online meetings that can include PC audio, video and web conferencing with application sharing, whiteboards, and other collaboration tools. Lync Online is accessed through the Lync client. Lync Online also supports presence information and click-to-communicate features inside Microsoft Office applications. Currently the Lync components of Office 365 exclude Lync's Enterprise Voice feature set.

    One cool thing for Lync Online is you can instant message with Windows Live contacts View presence status.

    Let get started to setup Lync Online to federate with Windows Live and organizations that have Lync deployed on-premise.

    To start, you need to sign to Office 365 Portal.

    Open the Microsoft online portal as the domain administrator, and select “Domains” under the “Management” Section (on the left of the screen):

    Click on “Edit domain intent” button; enable the Exchange Online, Lync Online. Once you’ve selected the appropriate check-boxes and the domain is Lync-enabled.

    Click on “DNS settings”. You need to modify your public DNS.

    Updating public DNS can be tricky. It also depending on provider and management interface.

    If you are not sure whether your SRV is it correct, you may click “Troubleshoot Domain”. At the same page as the “Domain properties

    If you have update your public DNS more than 72 hours, select the 3rd option, and click “Next

    You will get the correct following screen.

    Now, the services are enabled and the DNS settings are correct. In the Management portal, select “Admin Overview”. In the center pane, there’s an option for “Lync Online”. Click on the “Manage” button to enter the Lync Online Control Panel:

    What inside the “Lync Online Control Panel”?

    • Domain Federation – this is to let the Lync Online domain to communicate with other Lync-enabled domains. These can be on-premise Lync environments with Lync Edge deployed, or other Lync Online enabled environments. This is “OFF” by default
    • Public IM – This is to let the Lync Online domain to communicate with public IM networks like MSN. This is “OFF” by default
    • User Information – This is to allow you to fine tune on your users’ behavior and permissions. For example, you may want to enable some user able to have permission to file transfer, to federate, to have public IM, or to have audio/video.

    So, let’s turn on the federation and public IM and start chatting. How? At the “Lync Online Control Pane” click on “Domain federation”, click on “Edit

    A pop-up appear, select “Allow federation with all domains except those I block” and click “OK

    You should see the following screen

    Next, Click on “Public IM

    Click on “Enable” You also will see your domain status is provision for federation pending.

    Once you click “Enable” a pop-up show “Are you sure you want to enable public IM connectivity?

    Click “Yes

    Enabling for public IM, it need about one day to provision. While waiting, you may click on “User information” and select the user that allows using Lync features.

    Here you can control what the user can do with Lync. 

    When you have decided the function, click “Next”, and click “Finish” at the summary page

    And you are all set! Enjoy your Lync!


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    We would like to extend a warm welcome to the 179 first time Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Awardees and the 827 MVPs who were re-awarded today! The Microsoft MVP Award recognizes exemplary community leaders from around the world who voluntarily share their passion and real-world knowledge of Microsoft products with others. 

    We award these independent experts each quarter and throughout the year more than 4,000 MVPs are honored. MVPs represent more than 90 countries, speak over 40 different languages, and are awarded in almost 90 Microsoft technologies. Together, they answer more than 10 million questions each year.

    Of the more than 100 million social and technical community members worldwide, only a small portion are recognized as MVPs. Because MVPs have a deep understanding of their communities, they amplify the voice of our customer to Microsoft. As part of their award experience, MVPs are invited to share their feedback through direct interactions with Microsoft product group teams.

    To become an MVP, candidates are nominated by Microsoft, other community individuals, or in some cases themselves. Candidates are rigorously evaluated for their technical expertise, community leadership, and voluntary community contributions for the previous year.

     Please visit our nomination page to nominate a community leader to be considered for an MVP Award.

     Stay connected with us daily! We are on TwitterFacebook and YouTube!

     Again, welcome to the new MVPs and welcome back to re-awarded MVPs. Thank you for making a difference in technical communities worldwide!


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    21 Dynamics MVPs are listed on DynamicsWorld.co.uk’s annual Microsoft Dynamics Most Influential People Top 100 list!

    More than 25,000 unique voters and over  500,000 votes solidified this prestigious list of contributors. In order to be recognized, there is a number of criteria that must be attained. Visit the information page for more information about the criteria.

    The following is a list of MVPs that have been recognized.

    #13 Erik Ernst – Navision

    #16 Mark Polino – Great Plains

    #19 Eric Wauters – Navision

    #22 Luc Van Dyck- Navision

    #30 Mariano Gomez – Great Plains

    #38 Mohammad Daoud – Great Plains

    #40 Umar Khan – CRM

    #44 Jurgen Beck – CRM

    #46 Jorg Stryk – Navision

    #51 Vjekoslav Babic – Navision

    #57 Frank Lee – CRM

    #58 Rene Gayer – Navision

    #65 Steven Weaver – Axapta

    #68 Leslie Vail – Great Plains

    #71 Matthew Wittemann- CRM

    #74 Mark Brummel – Navision

    #80 David Singleton – Navision

    #85 Victoria Yudin – Great Plain

    #88 Axel Kühn – Axapta

    #97 Leon Tribe – CRM

    #100Luc van Vugt – Navision

    Congratulations again to our Dynamics MVPs who were recognized  included on Microsoft Dynamics Most Influential People Top 100 list!


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    Editor's Note: The following is a guest post by Exchange Server MVP J. Peter Bruzzese as part of the MVP Award Program Blog's "MVPs for Office 365" series. J. Peter Bruzzese (Triple-MCSE, MCT, MCITP) an Exchange MVP, is the co-founder of ClipTraining, an Exchange and SharePoint Instructor for Train Signal, a well-known technical author for Que/Sams, SearchExchange and others, a product reviewer for MSExchange.org, a technical speaker for Techmentor, Connections and, at times, TechEd… and the Enterprise Windows columnist for InfoWorld.  In his spare time… well, with all that… let’s be honest… J. P. B. has no spare time. ;-)  Follow him on Twitter @JPBruzzese.

    All hosted email solutions include some form of online management through custom built browser-based tools that range from awful to adequate when compared to on-premises management tools.  Especially is this the case with Exchange 2010 where the Exchange Management Console and Exchange Management Shell provide such a wide array of configuration tools for an administrator to work with in their organization.

    Office 365 is unique in that there is a built-in universal management tool for both on-premises and hosted Office 365 environments called the Exchange Control Panel (ECP).  Released with the RTM of Exchange 2010 this is a browser based method of administration for Exchange that many admins aren’t even aware of yet, especially if they have been caring for legacy Exchange environments.

    How-To Access the Exchange Control Panel

    The ECP is connected to your Outlook Web App login.  So, whether you are accessing your on-premises mail or Office 365 mailbox, if you do it through Outlook Web App you can perform the following steps to see the ECP (note: you have to have the proper permissions to perform most tasks within the ECP, however even users can be granted permission to perform tasks through role based permission settings).

    So, to start with you want to log into your Microsoft Online Services portal as an administrator.  You could log straight into your Outlook Web App but it’s good to get a glimpse first of what control you have through the initial Admin oriented tools.

    The Admin Overview console for Office 365

    As you can see in Figure 1, you have all the basic options and links available to you including the ability to reset user passwords, add new users, assign user licenses, configure security groups and domains and so on.  But none of the real nitty-gritty options like ‘Create Transport Rules’ or ‘Configure Role Based Access Control’ that you might be hoping for.  Not to worry, these are all located in the Exchange Control Panel. (Note: There are some cool Support links in the bottom left that are worth checking out, but these are not going to help you configure your organization’s messaging).  Now you may be the kind of Exchange admin that says ‘hey, this is perfect!  I just set up the account and that is all I need to do in my case.’  But if you prefer to do more, or need to do more for your organization to be able to work with and trust Office 365 then you perform the following steps from here.

    1.  Click the Outlook link at the top of your Microsoft Online Services options.  This will take you into your Office 365 Inbox (shown in Figure 2).
    2. In the top right corner of the screen is an Options drop down arrow.  Select the arrow and choose ‘See all options’.  This will take you into your personal options under the Manage Myself settings (shown in Figure 3).
    3. Select the down arrow next to Manage Myself and choose My Organization.  You’ll now be taken into the portion of the ECP that has more control options for your organization than what you see from the Office 365 Admin Overview console (as shown in Figure 4).
    4. From here you can spend quite a bit of time selecting the main options on the left side and seeing their corresponding settings display in the center pane.

    Now keep in mind, the settings you see in the ECP with Office 365 are pretty much the same as what you see from an on-premises installation of Exchange 2010 SP1.  SP1 included even further enhancements to the ECP than what we got with the RTM and so we will no doubt continue to see more control within that ECP.  One notable difference is that the Office 365 ECP has a special link for Forefront Online Protection for Exchange (FOPE) that we’ll discuss in a moment.

    Outlook Web App (OWA) for an Office 365 mailbox with administrative permissions

    The Manage Myself settings

    The Manage My Organization Exchange Control Panel

    Features of the Office 365 ECP

    There is so much to point out if you have never worked with the Exchange Control Panel before.  We’ll go through an overview of the main features but in some cases these may be more than just features that you have to re-locate based upon your Exchange 2007/2010 knowledge but they may be new concepts that you have never even heard of before, like RBAC.  Remember, just because you are going with a hosted solution, in this case hosted Exchange 2010 SP1, doesn’t mean you don’t have to know what’s new in Exchange.  The more you know, the more you’ll be able to jump in with the ECP to provide a better experience for your organization.

    Here are the main nodes and their options:

    Users & Groups:  Through this node you can work with mailboxes by creating new mailboxes (or importing a .csv of user accounts to create new ones).  You can look into the details of a mailbox and make all sorts of adjustments to the mailbox as if you were working with the on-premises tools (shown in Figure 5).  You can also configure Distribution Groups, External Contacts and E-mail Migration.  As you might expect, E-mail Migration allows you to configure a connection to your on-premises solutions (including Exchange 2007 and later with Autodiscover, Exchange 2003 and later with manual settings and IMAP) and migrate mailboxes to the cloud.

    The Users & Groups node with the mailbox details showing for a user

    Roles & Auditing:  Here is where you can configure Role Based Access Control (RBAC), which is the new permissions structure for Exchange 2010 (shown in Figure 6).  It provides a much more flexible and detailed level of control than what we had with legacy Exchange versions and you can choose to place persons into built-in role groups with various roles assigned or create your own.  You can configure Administrator Roles for Discovery Management, Records Management, UM Management and more.  Under User Roles you can configure assignment policies for users and assign these.  And then you have Auditing, which allows you to run a variety of different reports and export mailbox and administrator audit logs.

    The Roles & Auditing node with RBAC built-in groups showing

    Mail Control:  If you have heard about, or had a chance to work with the incredible control provided through Transport Rules in Exchange 2007 and 2010 you will appreciate that through Mail Control you will have the ability to create rules as well.  The rules you are able to create are designed to meet the focus and function of your hosted environment.  In addition, on the Rules tab you can see Additional Security Settings (shown in Figure 7) that allow you to select and configure your FOPE settings.  You can work with Domains & Protection settings from the Mail Control node, as well as Journaling, Discovery and Delivery Reports.  Note:  You’ll only see Discovery if you have been assigned the Discovery Management role group.  Even if you are an administrator it is not automatic that you are assigned into that group.  Once assigned, you will have to log back in to see the Discovery options and now you can perform multi-mailbox search within your organization.

    The Mail Control Node with FOPE options to the right

    Phone & Voice:  From here you can configure UM Dial Plans, UM IP Gateways, ActiveSync Access and ActiveSync Device Policy.  Of these, the ActiveSync Device Policy is interesting because you can create the policy through the browser options, as shown in Figure 8.

    The Phone & Voice node with ActiveSync Policy settings being configured

    Final Thoughts

    Personally, I’ve worked with a lot of hosted email solutions.  Part of my job as a technical author and product reviewer is to deep dive into all the features and see to what degree I have control over a mailbox once it is hosted, as opposed to on-premises because that is one of the biggest problems admins have with putting their mail in the cloud when they’ve had on-premises for so long, the relinquishing of control. 

    What I love about Office 365 is that it capitalizes on the control through a browser already built into Exchange 2010 SP1.  And that control will no doubt grow with further Service Packs or flavors of Exchange, as we’ve seen already between RTM and SP1 and the enhancements provided.

    So, if you are on the Public Beta of Office 365 and have administrative permissions, take a tour of the Exchange Control Panel to see how much control you really have over your users.  If you thought all you were getting were those few simple options through the Admin Overview console you are no doubt relieved to see that isn’t the case at all.


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    Nobody knows better how to help small businesses get the most from technology than the people who do it every day. That’s the inspiration behind the SMB MVP Community Roadshow, which is bringing MVPs to cities around the world over the next year to reach around 6,000 Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard partners. The brainchild of Microsoft senior program manager Kevin Beares and Small Business Server MVP Jeff Middleton, the Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard-sponsored Roadshow was years in the making and launched this spring. “With this tour, we’re enabling the experts to go out and engage with and educate community. MVPs are able to present on a breadth of knowledge—not just SMB,” explained Kevin. “It’s a reverse model—we’re bringing the conference to them.”

    Microsoft partnered with Jeff and his company SBS Migration to organize and manage the tour, currently slated for stops in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Europe. Jeff expects to participate in about half the events, which currently are targeted to 66 cities, and is looking forward to connecting with MVPs around the world.

    “We’ve chosen locations based on their local community IT groups, and we’ll be teaming with them to create these events,” said Jeff. “We’ll be reaching areas that may never have had an event like this before.”

    You can sign-up for one of the upcoming events—or recommend your city as a tour destination—here: www.SmbMvpTour.com/register

     You can also follow the tour on these channels:

    http://blogs.msmvps.com/SmbMvpTour  

    http://www.youtube.com/SmbMvpTour

    www.twitter.com/SmbMvpTour

    http://www.facebook.com/SmbMvpTour


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    Editor's Note: The following is a guest post by SharePoint Server MVP Laura Rogers as part of the MVP Award Program Blog's "MVPs for Office 365" series. Laura Rogers is a Senior SharePoint Consultant at SharePoint911 and has seven years of experience in SharePoint implementation, training, customization and administration. Her background is in server administration, and current focus is on making the most of SharePoint’s out-of-the-box capabilities. She works extensively with SharePoint Designer workflows, InfoPath and Data View Web Parts. Laura’s latest book on SharePoint 2010 is Beginning SharePoint 2010: Building Business Solutions with SharePoint. Her blog is www.sharepoint911.com/blogs/laura.  Laura is currently working on a new book with Microsoft’s Darvish Shadravan, called Using Microsoft InfoPath 2010 with Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Step by Step.  Twitter: @WonderLaura.

    In the SharePoint Designer 2010 enterprise version, and in Office 365, there are three new workflow actions that use something called the Task Process Designer.  The three new task actions in SharePoint are called Start Approval Process, Start Feedback Process, and Start Custom Task Process.  When these are used, you are eliciting the new Task Process Designer.

    In the example that will be used, there will be an expense report that needs to go through an approval process.   When tasks are assigned in SharePoint, there’s always something, the thing that is being approved, and then the task that is being assigned.  Sometimes, all of these different items and different places to click can be overwhelming to the end users.  In this article, you will learn how to modify the task form so that it displays the pertinent metadata about the item that is being approved.  When people look at a task that is assigned to them, they will be able to quickly see the information that needs approval, and click a button such as to approve or reject.  With this kind of solution, there is no need for the users to open multiple windows. 

    The Components

    The following components will be involved in the expense report approval solution:

    • Expense Report - SharePoint list that contains all expense reports that Contoso employees submit for approval.
    • Tasks - This is the task list on the SharePoint site.  When people are sent expense reports to approve, all of the associated  tasks live in this list.
    • InfoPath Designer 2010 - This software will be used in order to modify the task form for expense reports that are assigned.
    • SharePoint Designer 2010 - This software will be used to create the workflow that assigns tasks each time a new expense report is submitted.

    The Expense Report

    The expense report contains the following columns.  For demonstration purposes, this form is extremely simple.  A typical expense report, and most forms in general, will have many more fields.

    The Workflow Steps

    1. Open your site in SharePoint Designer 2010, and click Workflows on the left side.

    2. Click the list workflow drop-down box, and create a new workflow based on the Expense Report list, and call it “New Expense Report”.

    3.  Since we want the employee’s manager to be the approver, inside of Step 1, add the action called Lookup Manager of a user.

    4. Click this user, choose user who created current item, and click OK.

    5. Add an action inside of Step 1, called Start Approval Process.

    Note that this also creates a site content type called “Approval”, and when multiple ones are created, it adds parentheses such as “Approval (2)”

    6. Click on these users.  This is the interface where the approvers are added in order, and the task title and due date are set up.

    7. Click the Address book icon next to Participants.  Choose Workflow lookup for a user.  Select the manager variable that was created in the previous step.  Click OK twice.

    8. Next to the task title box, click the ellipses button, which will bring up the string builder.  Type “Expense Approval - “, and then select use the Add or Change Lookup button to insert the Created By field.  Click OK twice.

    9. For the instructions, type “Please look at this expense report, and approve or reject it”.  For the duration per task, choose 1 day.  Click OK.

    10. Now, the workflow needs to be set up to run only when new expenses are submitted.  Click the Workflow Settings button in the ribbon.  In the Start Options section on the right, choose for the workflow to only be started automatically when an item is created.

    11. Publish the workflow.

    12. Now that the workflow has been published, notice something new.  Still on the workflow settings page, take a look in the Forms section at the bottom right.  There is a new InfoPath form called Approval.xsn.  This is the task form for the task that gets assigned to the approver(s).

    13. Click the name of the Approval.xsn file, to open it in InfoPath.  The next step is going to be to display the associated expense report fields in the task form of the task that gets assigned.

    14. Create a new data connection to receive data from the Expense Report SharePoint list.  In the data connection wizard, choose the following fields and click Next.

    15. Click Next.  Name the data connection “Get Expense Reports”, and uncheck the box to automatically retrieve data when the form is opened.  Click Finish.

    16. In the Data tab, click the Form Load button to create a new form load rule.  In the rules pane on the right, click the New button, and create a new Action rule.  The goal here is to query the list of expenses in order to retrieve the one expense related to this particular task, so that the data can be displayed on the form.

    17. Next to Run these actions, Click the Add button, and choose Set a field’s value

    18. Click the field picker box next to Field.  In the Select Field or Group box, click the Show advanced view link at the bottom.

    19. Pick the Get Expense Reports data source.  Expand the queryFields section, and select the ID field.  Click OK.

    20. The goal here is to set a query value so that one specific record can be retrieved, instead of returning the whole list of expense reports and having to sift through them.  In the task list, the only field that will have information about that original item that is being approved, is the Related Content field.  The data in the Related Content field is simply the URL to the item being approved.  So the matching information needs to be extracted from this.  The format of a URL in an item in a SharePoint list is http://yoursite/lists/yourlistname/dispform.aspx?ID=_ The ID is what we’re looking for, so the substring after the equals sign can be extracted and compared to the ID field in the expense report list.  So, still on the “Set a field’s value” screen, for the value box, insert a function.

    Note that even though the formula says “WorkflowLink”, the field that I selected was “Related Content”.

    21. Click OK twice.  Back in the form load rules pane on the right, click the Add button one more time, and choose Query for data.  For the data connection, choose Get Expense Reports, and click OK.

    22. Now that the data about the expense report has been obtained, all you have to do is display it on the task form.  In the fields pane on the right, click Show advanced view.  Change the Fields drop-down box to Get Expense Reports Expand the data fields section.  There are the fields from the associated expense report.  I find that the cleanest way to insert them on the task form is to use the Calculated Value field. 

    23. To take it a step further, you can customize the Expense Report form using InfoPath.  Then, once the form looks the way you want, copy the form and paste it over into the task form, just to get the general look and feel and structure.  Delete all of the fields, just leave the structure and labels:

    24. For the Purpose field, put the cursor in the right cell, and on the Home tab in InfoPath, click to insert a Calculated Value.  For the path, insert the field Purpose from the dataFields of the expense reports data source

    25. Do the same thing for each of the other fields in the form, in their respective places.  After each calculated field has been inserted, you can click on its Control Properties, and modify the Format As field, to format some as dates and some as currency, etc.

    26. Click the Quick Publish button to publish the workflow form.

    27. Test the solution by creating a new expense report.  The workflow will assign a task to your manager.  Open the task.  Notice that when the manager receives this, it is not necessary to also open the original SharePoint list item, since all that is needed is the approval, and no changes are being made to the original item.  

    If necessary, the original item can still be opened by clicking the link to it at the top of the task.  Also note that if other task processes are used on the same site, with the same task list, they will not be affected by this customization.  This customized form only applies to the tasks associated with the expense report approval.

    To read more about the task process designer, take a look at my article: “The SharePoint 2010 Task Process Designer” http://www.sharepoint911.com/blogs/laura/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=127.


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    Editor's Note: The following is a guest post by SharePoint Server MVP Natalya Voskresenskaya as part of the MVP Award Program Blog's "MVPs for Office 365" series. Natalya Voskresenskaya, had been working in the field of Information Technology for over 13 years. With experience in design, architecture, development and deployment of Web based applications, since early days of 2000 her main area of concentration had been development of portal solutions. Natalya delivers enterprise Portal applications and business solutions, as well as portal systems architecture, design, implementation, and best practices guidance. She has been involved in SharePoint Technologies since the 2003 version. An avid blogger at http://spforsquirrels.blogspot.com/ and writer, Natalya strives to share her passion for SharePoint and its community, and is often speaking at SharePoint community event as well as major conferences. Besides SharePoint, Natalya’s interest had been captured by another enterprise level search technology FAST, to her joy these technologies had been integrated to compliment each other’s functionality. In 2009, Natalya co-founded Arcovis LLC http://www.arcovis.com, a business solutions consulting company focused on high quality SharePoint delivery. She has been awarded the prestigious Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award for the first time in year 2008. Here is Natalya’s latest book on Microsoft Enterprise Search Professional Microsoft Search: FAST Search, SharePoint Search, and Search Server

    The SharePoint 2010 platform offers a wide variety of core features including document management, records management, BI, search, workflow and social networking to name a few. Microsoft and its partners have done a great job of showcasing the value of these features and have shared strategies to help organizations take advantage of them.   However, of these core features, it is my observation that the Social Networking aspects of SharePoint 2010 are underutilized by customers and therefore the full potential of their implementations are not realized.

    The most common objection I have seen to the notion of social networking within the enterprise has to do with a misconception that social networking platforms are not productive in the work environment.  I often see is a misguided comparison made to Facebook and other external social networking sites which management views as time-wasters. Other barriers to adoption include uncertainties about allowing uncensored comments by users, a difficulty in justifying the investment and the struggle involved with getting buy-in from the business.

     Below is a short list of key areas where Social Networking in the enterprise can create a competitive advantage for businesses.  I have found these points to be valuable in driving conversations with businesses that do not immediately see the value of investing in a social networking solution in their organization.

    Retain collective knowledge / protect IP

    The proliferation of external social networking sites poses an obvious risk for companies as employees can inadvertently reveal company initiatives, vendor connections or other confidential information (see the section below on planning).  By building social networks behind the firewall companies create a venue for employees to share this type of information internally instead of on a public site.  It also acknowledges that social networking is now woven into the fabric of our lives.  Employees are used to communicating this way and smart companies are capitalizing on this trend by encouraging users to share IP and connect with their peers in a way that benefits the organization.  When this information is shared internally, companies can more easily retain and reuse the collective knowledge and wisdom essential to running the business long after employees have moved on to other roles within the company or left the organization entirely.

    Minimize ramp-up time for new employees (informal training)

    Social networking behind the firewall creates an effective knowledge management solution that can drive formal as well as informal information and expertise sharing. Through SharePoint 2010 forums, wikis and blogs, companies are building strong support systems as well as comprehensive training materials. Social networking provides a platform where new employees can learn from the real experts within the company, minimizing the time it takes them to get up to speed and become productive.  Learning and taking pointers from people that have real-world experience working within the company and understand the culture of the organization can be more effective and less time-consuming than formal training classes.

    Information transparency and expertise surfacing

    Social Networking platforms allow organizations to unlock information silos and build connections across business groups where communication does not normally occur. Social networks facilitate a new communication pattern where sharing and collaboration foster collective problem solving.  The knowledge management and expertise surfacing facilitated by SharePoint user profiles, My Sites and news feeds as well as the ability to tag content, bridge the gaps between content repositories and can reveal important patterns, information and current activities that might otherwise go unnoticed.  

    Wikis and blogs can now replace inadequate file shares that have outlived their usefulness and community oriented sites can serve as project management, product development and support hubs where information along with social feedback is recorded.  Specialists that are authoritative sources in specific areas can be revealed through contributions to online communities, thus permitting organizations to discover hidden talents.

    Create more powerful portals by delivering context to the content

    Modern organizations store vast amounts of data and users can be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information available to them.  Adding a dimension of social context allows them to get their arms around the body of information by helping them identify information that is most relevant to them. 

    Many businesses place a lot of importance on their corporate taxonomy and use it to classify and organize their content.  This can certainly be very useful but it is generic.  Corporate taxonomies describe how a company views its information but in their day-to-day functions employees may find it much more useful to view information through the lens of their own context and that of their colleagues.  SharePoint provides a tool set that allows users to track colleagues’ activities and the content they author while search provides relevancy via social distance by boosting the relevancy of content authored by people closer to me within the company org chart.

    Search and Analytics

    Search, while not specifically a Social Networking feature is a critical component of any Social Networking platform.  A well-integrated search solution not only allows users to find social data but can also facilitate more transparency and help to “make sense” of information.  SharePoint Enterprise Search and analytics produce relevancy within user behavior and the business needs and direction along with gleaning of evolving content. The analytics help in understanding how to manage the social data and whether it can be self-managed, identifying talents and authoritative sources through monitoring of activities and tagging. It also provides an operational intelligence that captures development of trends and changes in user behavior.

    Why SharePoint

    When SharePoint is already deployed in the organization it is an obvious choice for creating Social Networking solutions.  Implementing a separate platform introduces a number of risks including creating information silos and creating additional overhead in maintenance, training, management, disaster recovery, backup, hardware, etc.  Additionally, integration with other systems that are critical to users may not be an option with other solutions while SharePoint is designed with this purpose in mind.  In fact, if SharePoint is already being used in the organization it is most probably already connected to at least one of the company’s core systems.  Lastly, if SharePoint is already implemented it does not cost anything to begin utilizing the Social Networking aspects of it.  Save money on implementation and licensing costs by simply taking better advantage of the tool already deployed in the environment.

     If SharePoint is not currently installed, it is still a compelling choice.  The most obvious reason is that it adds a huge amount of value in that it does not only provide Social features - it is a platform on which to build business solutions of many different types with Social features already integrated.  SharePoint is also flexible and easily extendable by nature which facilitates rapid development of custom functionality.

     It should also be noted there are a number of third-party add-on products to enhance SharePoint’s Social Networking feature set.  This may be a good choice for those seeking functionality that does not come out of the box but like the idea of utilizing SharePoint for this purpose.

    Planning

    One important point to make is that it is critical to plan ahead for Social Networking.  Whether you go with SharePoint or another solution, creating a useful, manageable Social Networking platform is not a matter of simply flipping a switch (beware of sales pitches that make it seem this way!).  In fact, when working with SharePoint customers, I always encourage putting some thought up front to Social Networking, even if the initial solution does not involve any social features.  This helps to foster a more organic, integrated experience vs. something that feels like an afterthought.

    On the subject of planning, something organizations may want to consider is the creation of policies and guidelines that spell out how employees are allowed to engage on social networking sites both internally and externally.  Internally, companies may find that social networking sites are self-policing - after all employees will be aware that their comments are being published to the company, including their superiors.  But on external sites, employees may not be interacting with the company’s interests in mind since when using these sites they have their “personal” hat rather than their “professional” hat.

    Conclusion

    Social Networking within the enterprise is distinctly different and provides a different set of values to companies than Facebook and other public social networking platforms.  Social Networking behind the firewall allows companies to own and protect their intellectual property and can provide real competitive advantages by growing and strengthening the workforce.

    Microsoft has invested heavily into the social networking features of SharePoint 2010, but poorly planned and managed online communities can be a barrier to their effectiveness. Planning up front and creating a road map will help ensure success over time and justify the investment involved in creating a social networking solution.


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