Advancing Productivity and Operational Efficiency through Apps, Cloud, and SharePoint

How Software as a Service is transforming BPM and Line-of-Business Systems Integration

It’s not too long ago that most companies had no systems, and everything was a manual process. People, binders, and papers were the system. Long running processes, errors in data capture, and lack of visibility where the norm. A resource’s area of expertise was to a large degree the silo then, and as long as they spoke the same language the challenges of “integration” mostly involved data capture through paper and pen. Then came the Digital Revolution, the beginning of the Information Age, and solutions began to emerge targeting all sort of repeatable processes that could be easily automated. Economies of scale broadened the reach and accessibility of these focused solutions or offerings, and economies of scope bundled them together into the silos we’ve been working with over the last couple of decades.

Take just about any company’s IT operation today, and you’ll find a series of silos across their critical systems: HR, Finance, Customer Management, Supply Chain, Opps… But companies don’t operate on silos, and many (if not most) critical business processes rely on data and interactions that span across several of these systems; and so we fall back on manual processes,  and/or custom scripts and modules, written in various programming languages to provide some level of integration. The manual processes; error prone, with little insights to improve upon. The scripts and custom modules; with few people (if anyone) able to update them, and just enough familiarity to keep them running.

Now as companies begin to move their systems to the cloud, and the ability to integrate these systems starts shifting to the service providers; what was once a burden to IT begins to take shape into an opportunity. For service/solution providers, an opportunity to stand out from the competition by offering more and better integration options; for businesses consuming those services, an opportunity to offload some of the burdens, and improve upon existing processes that lack and so desperately need more integration.

We can already see a lot of this taking shape. With Office 365, the burden of integrating Exchange, SharePoint, and Skype, has virtually been eliminated. Integrating these wasn’t always an easy matter; now with Office 365, giving our users the ability to attach a file from OneDrive to an email via OWA (Outlook Web Access) requires no configuration, Skype presence, and Office Web Applications just work. These benefits aren’t limited to the staple Office 365 products; they also extend to Project Online, and CRM Online which recently announced, Immersive Excel, OneNote Integration, and folder based email tracking.

But it’s unrealistic to assume that any company’s critical systems and services will all be hosted by a single provider. And even for the services that are, integration can still be a challenge. This becomes quickly apparent when looking to build apps or automate processes that are closer to the core of your business; those unique enough that they cannot be built for the masses; and every business has them.

Enter the world of solutions that offer BPM (Business Process Management) with forms, line-of-business (LOB) systems integration, and workflows. This isn’t a particularly new breed of solutions, with many of the vendors having been around for many years. But it is evolving, and at a very rapid pace. LOB systems integration has always been at the core of the best of these offerings; unfortunately, inconsistent implementations of the various systems along with several other factors were always a challenge.  Now, the move to cloud and Software as a Service offer a level of consistency that’s completely changing the landscape. There aren’t many varying factors (if any) across one customers implementation of SharePoint Online from another’s; except how they use it and organize information. The same goes for Exchange Online, CRM, Salesforce, Box, DropBox. For BPM solution providers, this presents an opportunity to develop and offer levels of integration that simply weren’t possible or cost effective before. If it works for one customer, chances are it’ll work for them all.

But not all BPM solution providers are leveraging this opportunity, and some continue to rely heavily on requiring customers to configure web services and leverage assemblies for integration. Which means that if a customer wants to integrate with another system or service, they often must research, go through complex web service configurations, and sometimes develop the various integration points themselves. When evaluating solutions that offer BPM, Forms, and Workflow; look for vendors that are investing in building connectors, and offer a strong community of partners and developers that are extending them. These should not only reduce the effort involved in connecting to other systems, but also provide consistent experiences and reduction in errors; both of which should be core principles of any company offering solutions for BPM, Forms, and Workflows.

Formularios móviles con capacidad “offline” (sin conexión) para SharePoint utilizando K2

Con la introducción de SharePoint 2013 y OneDrive para la Empresa hace un par de años, Microsoft introdujo mejoras significativas a la facilidad de uso en cuanto a archivos sin conexión, y la sincronización de estos archivos. Pero con estas mejoras y la eliminación de SharePoint Workspace vinieron ciertos sacrificios: el manejo de metadatos de archivos (que no sean de Microsoft Office) sin conexión ya no es posible, y también perdimos la habilidad de editar y luego sincronizar listas.

Claro, con la ayuda de InfoPath y alguna creatividad utilizando las capacidades rudimentarias de flujos de trabajo en SharePoint, aun podíamos capturar datos utilizando formularios InfoPath. Y luego sincronizar esos datos con nuestras listas utilizando flujos. Pero desde hace algún tiempo, Microsoft anunció la inminente eliminación de InfoPath, y los muy esperados Formularios de Listas para SharePoint (FoSL) han sido cancelados.

Aunque parece que Microsoft continuara el soporte para formularios de InfoPath en esta siguiente versión de SharePoint ¿Sigue siendo InfoPath la mejor opción, o incluso una buena opción? Especialmente para el desarrollo de nuevas soluciones. ¿Y qué tal su estrategia móvil? ¿Incluye soporte para dispositivos electrónicos con iOS o Android?

En el siguiente video demuestro lo fácil que es desarrollar formularios móviles con capacidad “offline” utilizando K2 smartforms para listas de SharePoint. Y como utilizar la aplicación “K2 Móvil” en iOS o Android para capturar y mostrar datos utilizando esos mismos formularios.

Formularios móviles para SharePoint utilizando K2 smartforms from Rafael Perez on Vimeo.

SharePoint and Content Deduplication

Let me start off by saying that in this short posting, I don’t intend to provide or discuss any solutions, that specifically address de-duplication of content in SharePoint. But rather explore the idea, that duplication of content is often mistaken for a problem its not, and that while de-duplication may seem like the most logical solution; it may really cause more problems then it solves.

I believe that when the topic of duplicate content comes up it generally revolves around content discovery, primarily the impact that duplicate content has on search results. While duplicate content is quickly pegged as the culprit, it’s really more of a discoverability issue around authorative content. Removing duplicate content may not really be the solution, but perhaps effectively surfacing authorative content by reconfiguring search result page(s), fine tuning your search configuration, and doing a better job leveraging refiners and scopes.

As a user who sometimes copies documents and presentation from other areas into my own collaboration or personal sites, I wouldn’t be in favor of a solution that automatically removes my copies. I believe that in trying to remove duplicate content, you’ll quickly find many such users, and you may ultimately find yourself trying to change too much about how your users get work done.

Of course, discoverability may not be the issue you are trying to solve with de-duplication, in which case it may ultimately have to do with storage. If so, it may point to a bigger issue around information architecture, lifecycle management, and content expiration… But I’ll leave those topics for another time in the interest of keeping this posting short.

SharePoint 2010 ActivityEvent Owner vs Publisher

I was recently asked to provide some clarification around the differences between ActivityEvent.Owner and ActivityEvent.Publisher. Each of these are properties of SharePoint ActivityEvents, that is the actual activities in your SharePoint activity feeds; these are the feeds that you would typically see in the “My Newsfeeds” section of your “My Sites”. I’ll assume that if you are reading this posting you are looking to understand what the differences are between these 2 properties and already have a relatively good understanding of the SharePoint 2010 Activity Feed model; if you don’t, I highly recommend you start by looking at the following blog posting Activity Feeds, Social Ratings, Tags and Notes which provides a good overview of the Activity Feed underlying architecture in SharePoint 2010.

As far as the differences between the ActivityEvent.Owner and ActivityEvent.Publisher, we need to take a quick step back and reflect on the overall activity feed architecture; specifically how each activity event propagates and how each user ultimately has their own activity feed. In essence, if I generate an activity such as tagging or liking a document, that activity event gets created in my activity feed; but it wont appear on my colleagues activity feeds until its been propagated (in a way duplicated,) to their personal activity feed.

So with that in mind, when an ActivityEvent originates, the publisher and owner would probably the same; it first get created in the originating users activity feed (hence that user owns it), and he/she is also the person that performed the activity (the publisher.) Once the activity propagates to another users activity feed, such as that of a colleague, that other user would be designated as the owner of the newly created (propagated) activity (its in their personal feed), while the publisher would remain the originating user.

Office 2010 Migration Guides

Microsoft has made available 6 migration guides to make it easier for users transitioning to Office 2010. Whether you are new to Microsoft Office or upgrading from a previous version, each guide provides useful information such as; the most frequently used commands, how to use the Ribbon, the Quick Access Toolbar, the File menu and the Office Backstage, and using Key Tips.

There is a migration guide for each of the core Office products; Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Access. Each put together based on feedback from users.

Check them out at: Tags: ,

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Announcing Exchange Active Sync Support for Hotmail E-Mail, Calendars, and Contacts

The Windows Live Blog just announced exchange support for Hotmail E-mail, Calendars, and Contacts. Check out the announcement at

Office 2010 Web Apps on Facebook

By now you’ve probably heard the news that the Office 2010 Web Apps are available for all Windows Live Customers, essentially anybody with a Windows Live or Passport ID. If you haven’t heard, logon at  and check out the “Office Link” in the top menu or go directly to
Click here for the original announcement.

What you probably haven’t heard, is that the Office 2010 Web Apps are also available in Facebook via the “Docs” application; from where you can easily create, upload, and share your MS Office documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) with your friends, or everyone for that matter.


You can even designate your friends as editors, and collaborate on documents, worksheets, or presentations. Once you are done, you can easily post it to your wall and share with everyone. All via your Web Browser.


I’ve uploaded several presentations to “My Facebook Docs” for you to check out (you must be logged in to Facebook).

Consumer Reports recommends against buying iPhone 4

Consumer Reports arrived at this conclusion after testing three devices purchased at three different retailers, and testing them in a controlled environment. Their findings call into question the recent claim by Apple that the iPhone 4’s signal-strength issues were largely an optical illusion caused by faulty software that “mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength.

Check out the posting at:

Changing SharePoint 2010 Managed Account Passwords with PowerShell

A SharePoint 2010 Managed Account, is essentially a Service Account whose credentials are managed by SharePoint, which can automatically change the password of the account based on a given policy / schedule. Check out the posting “Managed Accounts” in Bill Baer’s Blog for more detailed information.

While most of the configuration of managed accounts will likely take place in Central Administration, at some point you may need (or simply prefer) to change the password via PowerShell. Personally, I ran into the need, as my farm account password had been changed and the Central Administration site would not run.

I used the following PowerShell script to change the Managed Account password.

$ver = $host | select versionif ($ver.Version.Major -gt 1)  {$Host.Runspace.ThreadOptions = ReuseThread"}Add-PsSnapin Microsoft.SharePoint.PowerShellSet-location $home

$inManagedAcct = Read-Host 'Service Account'

$managedAcct = Get-SPManagedAccount $inManagedAcct

$inPass = Read-Host 'Enter Password' -AsSecureString$inPassConfirm = Read-Host'Confirm Password' -AsSecureString

Set-SPManagedAccount -Identity $managedAcct -NewPassword $inPass -ConfirmPassword $inPassConfirm -SetNewPassword

Click here to download the PS1 file. You may need to remove the first few lines that load the SharePoint PowerShell snap-in, if you intend to run the script from the “SharePoint 2010 Management Shell” console.

Outlook 2010 Cool Feature – Notification of Automatic Reply before sending out email

Yet another fantastic feature of Office 2010, more specifically Outlook. If you’ve ever spent any significant amount of time, writing an urgent e-mail to someone in your organization only to find out after hitting the “Send” that the recipient is out via an “Automatic reply”; then you’ll love this new feature.

Outlook will automatically let you know that you will receive an “Automatic reply” from the moment you specify the recipient.


Its these little details that make all the difference.

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