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Randy Drisgill has more than ten years of experience developing, designing, and implementing Internet based software for clients ranging from small business to Fortune 500 companies. He was recognized by Microsoft in 2009 when he was awarded the MVP status for SharePoint Server.

Drisgill recently announced at his blog that he will be joining Michael Hinckley, David Griffiths, John Ross, and Dave McNamee as hosts of SharePoint Saturday on June 9th in Orlando Florida. Here’s a description of the event,

Join SharePoint architects, developers, and other professionals that work with Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 for ‘SharePoint Saturday’ event. SharePoint Saturday is an educational, informative & lively day filled with sessions from respected SharePoint professionals & MVPs, covering a wide variety of SharePoint-orientated topics. SharePoint Saturday is FREE, open to the public and is your local chance to immerse yourself in SharePoint!

Perhaps you’ll also be in the Orlando area at that time for the TechEd Conference taking place from June 11th to the 14th. It seems to be a good time to catch some of the great tech minds that will be in attendance. The article covers the basics of the SharePoint Saturday event and links to get registered, if you’re interested.

Building a SharePoint network over idea-exchanging conversation is a major perk of the free SharePoint Saturday events. But whatever your SharePoint interest level, you’ll want to check out Smartlogic. The Semaphore technology and content intelligence fits seamlessly into SharePoint and maximizes your business’s information assets while minimizing information risks.

Ken Toth, May 1, 2012

Host Named Site Collections in Microsoft SharePoint Explained

Wednesday, April 25, 2012
posted by alice

In “What Every SharePoint Admin Needs to Know about Host Named Site Collections,” Kirk Evans aims to share everything needed to know about host named site collections so that you can decide if they are appropriate for your environment. The educational article defines site collections, how to use them, and some limitations to consider. As an intro, Evans provides a simple explanation of the feature:

A host-named site collection allows you to address a site collection with a unique DNS name, such as “http://fabrikam.com/”. Typically you will create a SharePoint web application, and it contains many path-based site collections that share the same host name (DNS name).  For example, Team A has a site collection at http://contoso.com/sites/teamA, and Team B has a site collection at http://contoso.com/sites/teamB. These are referred to as path-based site collections, and are the recommendation for most corporate scenarios. Host named site collections enable you to assign a unique DNS name to site collections.  For example, you can address them as http://TeamA.contoso.com and http://TeamB.contoso.com, which enables hosters to scale to many customers.

Limitations, such as the number of application pools allowed and maximum content sources per search service application are also listed, which is a handy way to understand the boundaries that apply to your farm.

The in-depth article received positive feedback from the SharePoint community and is a comprehensive resource worthy of a bookmark. And while continuing your education about SharePoint through online resources is important, we also suggest a maximized SharePoint experience with a third party solution, like Smartlogic. The Semaphore Content Intelligence Platform uses semantic technology which enriches metadata and adds value to your information assets.

Ken Toth, April 25, 2012

Wictor Wilén recently posted on his blog that he successfully passed the Microsoft Certified Architect – SharePoint 2010 (MCA) Certification. Many in the community responded to his announcement with congratulations, but also wondering what exactly an MCA is. Wilén explains the certification in, “What Is a Microsoft Certified Architect?

Wilén first explains that the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) exam, as opposed to the MCA, is the most highly technical exam in the Microsoft world, technical being the key word here. With that in mind, he goes on to explain the MCA:

The MCA takes the certification to another level, and focus on the business side of SharePoint (or the other MCA eligible products; SharePoint, Exchange, SQL and AD). The MCA is not a course, it is not something you sit in class and learn for a couple of weeks, it is not something you can study for – it is something you learn over the course of several years of experience with the products, in real business cases together with one or more customers.

The MCA involves submission of a portfolio, which often contains details about real customer gigs, your CV, and other documentation to prove your accomplishments and work in real-world business. Wilén also comments on the value of an MCA certification, including tangible benefits (like increased pay and recruitment), but also the intangible value of evaluating one’s body of work and identifying areas of weakness to improve upon.

It is no doubt the MCA is a high honor in the SharePoint world. We noticed that two of the six competencies for MCA certification are about designing and governing solutions that meet requirements, such as cost-effectiveness and innovation. Look to boost your portfolio by researching third party solutions that can really extend SharePoint capabilities. Here you can read about the tight integration of Semaphore with SharePoint as a comprehensive solution for precision and recall optimization. Read more about adding the findability advantage to your system at www.smartlogic.com.

Ken Toth, April 19, 2012

The Importance of Knowledge Management for Microsoft SharePoint

Tuesday, April 17, 2012
posted by alice

SharePoint for Knowledge Mangement” by Chris McNulty talks about the importance of knowledge management for any information system architecture to provide meaning and context for the information.

Decision-making is the probably the most important reason to develop knowledge management systems. Few organizations have disciplined processes in place for decision-making or capturing the reasons behind a decision as part of a self-learning process. Getting to knowledge is hard, but it’s not impossible.  Insurance underwriting, package routing, and medical scheduling are all good examples of properly designed decision systems.  Information architects (and business intelligence designers) should ask themselves if they understand the kinds of decisions – or decision processes – that will use their designs.

In order to accomplish this, the article lists six key characteristics of an effective knowledge system.  The first is that the data should be purposeful and relevant, otherwise it is not worth saving.  The second is that it be recoverable, which means that it should be able to be moved from the originators without interpretation.  It should be recontextable, which means granular information should be able to make sense outside of its original context.  According to the article, it should be “recreatable,” although the explanation for this is not very clear.  The final characteristic of being translatable, makes perfect sense, however, as it emphasizes that the information needs to be able to transcend storage, frameworks, and formats.

Another important aspect of knowledge management that could have been mentioned in the second characteristic of recoverability mentioned in the above article is the ability of SharePoint out of the box search to navigate and retrieve the information.  If you find shortcomings, turn to the Sempahore Content Intelligence Platform from Smartlogic.  This semantic system enriches your SharePoint investment with quality subject metadata to deliver high-quality search results.

Ken Toth, April 17, 2012

Information Architecture Explained by Peter Morville Via Prezi

Wednesday, March 21, 2012
posted by alice

Over at Bob Mixon’s Mastering SharePoint Blog, there is a link to the presentation, “Understanding Information Architecture – by Peter Morville.” Mixon shares Morville’s Prezi with this comment:

“Peter Morville created a movie/presentation describing the evolution of Information Architecture.  Very well done Peter.”

The Prezi has received lots of positive feedback. The presentation aims to easily explain information architecture. He highlights the issues that evolved when small sites grew into big messes in the information age. Morville points out three major problems with “messy” sites: usability and findability disasters, content management nightmares, and costly redesigns.

Morville also explains that information architecture has developed beyond usability to encompass improving the quality of the user experience in information search and find. The Prezi is easy to follow and the illustrations are engaging and relevant. To summarize, Morville qualifies an information architect as a “bridge builder” that connects users and content, strategy and tactics, units and disciplines, platforms and channels, and research and practice.

Building relationships is a key component to information organization in order to facilitate findability and usability. Consider building bridges between your users and content with a comprehensive solution that doesn’t require complex training sessions. With a friendly user interface, the Semaphore Content Intelligence Platform tightly integrates with SharePoint to extend capabilities and give you the most return on your enterprise search investments. Here you can read about the benefits of the Microsoft SharePoint solution, “to help enterprises manage and users find, discover and reuse their content.”

Ken Toth, March 21, 2012

Efficient and Effective Microsoft SharePoint Architecture in 5 Steps

Thursday, February 23, 2012
posted by alice

5 Steps to Making SharePoint Architecture Work for You” gives some useful tips for making your SharePoint structure the best that it can be.

The article begins by explaining that information architecture creates a structure and tools for information to allow it to be stored, retrieved, and managed through appropriate categorizations.  The first step is to identify attributes, which is usually a process of identifying the content that your organization needs to store and retrieve.  Each piece of information has attributes such as dates or ID numbers that can be used for this purpose, but you should try to identify only the most important ones to begin with, which is the second step.  It helps to think of information as belonging to one of two categories: essential or accidental.  The essential attributes will be at the top of the hierarchy or hierarchies.

Third, identify values, which means decide how specific they need to be.  The example in the article is whether you need to call a color “red” or “Pantone 1935C.”  Fourth, create ranges and groups with meaningful breakdowns.  You may need to use poly hierarchies for this.  Finally, design navigation and search, which will connect your information architecture to the visual design.

Content navigation is built into SharePoint in terms of summary links, but creative use of search can automate some level of the massive task of adding content navigation. For instance, you can add a search web part, which shows all articles authored by the same author, on the same topic, or around the same time. The design of search itself is mostly about which attributes will be able to be used as facets to refine searches but will include the creation of scopes to create different subsets of the search index in which people can find their answers.

An excellent way to complete the fifth step of your SharePoint information architecture is to enlist the aid of Smartlogic.  Smartlogic’s Semaphore Content Intelligence Platform uses search web parts to enhance findability.

Ken Toth, February 23, 2012

User Challenges When Searching the Intranet: An Analysis

Tuesday, February 21, 2012
posted by alice

Paul Culmsee over at the CleverWorkarounds.com blog recently published a four part series of articles about user challenges when trying to find information on the intranet. The series showed his analysis using Issue Based Information System (IBIS) of a detailed linear discussion on LinkedIn. If you don’t have the time for the whole series, check out his executive summary of sorts in, “Why Can’t People Find Stuff on the Intranet? – Final Summary.”

To put the article in context, it helps to know that Issue Mapping is a technique that lets you visually capture discussion rationale and graphically represent it in a powerful, visual structure called IBIS. IBIS allows all elements and rationales of the conversation to be captured in a way that can be easily reflected upon. Culmsee’s Final Summary article provides a link to the map and a brief textual explanation of the analysis. Culmsee explains the main intranet search challenges:

For what it’s worth, the summary of themes from the discussion was that there were 5 main reasons for users not finding what they are looking for on the intranet.
1.       Poor information architecture
2.       Issues with the content itself
3.       People and change aspects
4.       Inadequate governance
5.       Lack of user-centered design

Culmsee breaks down each of these reasons into sub issues. For example, Poor Information Architecture rests on issues like vocabulary and labeling problems, lack of document naming convention, and lack of metadata. The article is a good resource to check out so you can better understand why your users experience the same challenges.

To overcome the search and find challenge, complete your SharePoint system with a third party solution like Smartlogic. The Semaphore Content Intelligence Platform takes metadata to a new level, where “tagging” is just the first step. With text mining and automatic classification, the out-of-the-box solutions at Smartlogic effectively and efficiently connect your users to the right information at the right time.

Ken Toth, February 21, 2012

Using Brute-Force to Support Multiple Workflows in SharePoint 2010

Tuesday, February 21, 2012
posted by alice

If you ever used Groove, you know its workflow supported multiple items and that model seemed to disappear when Groove Workspaces were merged into SharePoint Sites and Workspace. Many have looked for that feature in SharePoint 2010, and Eli Robillard explains how to unlock the capability in, “SharePoint 2010 Workflow for Multiple Items (Architecture).” Robillard says yes, it is possible with brute-force, as was the case in SharePoint 2007.

First, the brute-force method in 2007: While each workflow is associated with a single list item, there is also a property bag available on the workflow where you could store references to additional items, or a reference to a second workflow running in parallel, depending on how the processes for each document need to interact. The caveat is that this strategy is both complex and code-intensive.

Robillard discusses the three new constructs in SharePoint 2010 that can make it easier to build a workflow for multiple documents: Document Sets, Site Workflow, and List Relationships.

Here you can read about Smartlogic solutions for your enterprise search needs with the newest version of the Semaphore Content Intelligence Platform. With contextual navigation and multi-lingual capabilities, you will find the features you need to drive business workflow.

Ken Toth, February 21, 2012

Organizing your Information Environment with PowerShell and Visio

Thursday, November 24, 2011
posted by alice

Organizing your company’s information is a daunting task – where to begin? A visual solution is explained with step by step instructions and screen shots in “SharePoint Information Architecture Diagram Using PowerShell and Visio.

“Sometimes, as we all know, our environments get away from us and site owners start running frantic – sites are created without our knowledge or placed where they shouldn’t. You have had enough and it’s time for reorganization (and perhaps a new security model) – but how do you know what you have now in order to thoroughly plan things out? Technology to the rescue! Let’s use the “power” of PowerShell and Visio to do this for us.”

The final result is a Visio Information Architecture diagram that presents a single page, hierarchal breakdown of the root site, site collections, and subsites. The interactive diagrams let you save it as a Visio Web Drawing file and publish it to SharePoint 2010, allowing users to click any site to view its owners, creation date, templates, etc.

A handy tip, no doubt. Proper indexing and tagging is necessary for facilitating findability across your enterprise. When you implement enhanced content tagging with Smartlogic, you will want to have current architecture diagrams for your Smartlogic deployment planning. Learn more at: http://www.smartlogic.com/

Ken Toth

November 24, 2011

Microsoft SharePoint BCS Architecture Explained

Wednesday, November 2, 2011
posted by alice

There is a useful high-level view of SharePoint BCS architecture found at “Business Connectivity Services High-Level Architecture in SharePoint” from the SharePoint Developer Team Blog.

Business Connectivity Services for SharePoint 2010 is an extension of the technology found in the SharePoint 2007 Business Data Catalog.  BCS allows you to connect SharePoint to many kinds of external data sources, including other database systems, Customer Relationship Management systems, or Enterprise Resource Planning systems.

“BCS provides a developer with a means of pre-defining all the information needed by an application to connect with and manipulate this external data through External Content Types (ECT). The most important aspect of ECTs is that once the developer creates it, the ECT will be available for use by SharePoint users to connect and use the external systems without knowing any code.”

BCS can reveal external data from enterprise applications and Web 2.0 services, provide Office Type behaviors, provide complete interaction with the data, enable offline use of external data and processes, and bridge the gap between documents/people and structured data locked in external systems.  The article also includes a diagram that shows how the components of BCS all work together.

Business Connectivity Services is essential when implementing the Semaphore Content Intelligence Platform from Smartlogic.

Ken Toth

November 2, 2011