SharePoint adoption is widespread in most organizations today, and a very common use case for SharePoint is as the core technology for an intranet. There are many features of SharePoint 2010 that make it an excellent choice for an intranet, including web content management, workflow, publishing and search. SharePoint offers a secure, scalable technology that empowers content owners to create, approve and publish pages in an easy-to-use, Microsoft Office-like user interface. With SharePoint, you get a great looking, high-functioning intranet that’s secure and easy to use. (In Jakob Nielsen’s “10 Best Intranets of 2013”, he notes 70% of the awardees are using SharePoint.)

With the release of SharePoint 2013, however, there are several new features that are worth noting if you’re thinking of upgrading your intranet from a previous version of SharePoint, or migrating from another product. If your organization is considering a redesign or a technology update of their intranet, SharePoint’s newest release is more compelling than ever as the platform of choice.

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If you have been following any of the news about SharePoint 2013, you already know that the workflow capability has been enhanced significantly. The most important change is that workflows now execute outside SharePoint. Please refer to the diagram below. (This diagram is taken from MSDN with some annotations.) As you can see, workflows are hosted externally. The external host for workflows can either be Windows Azure or customer-provided infrastructure.  Why is this change so important?  Recall all the knobs and switches we had to turn as SharePoint developers to prevent workflow execution from overwhelming the SharePoint farm. Read More…
Have you taken a look at the new SharePoint yet?

If you’ve spent any time reading our blog, you know by now that SharePoint 2013 introduces extraordinary new features to change the way you work, share, discover, organize and build sites. And now we’ve put together a quick guide highlighting the top features that may inpact your business.

Download The Top Reasons Why Your Business Will Love the New SharePoint now! (No form required,)

The Top Reasons Why Your Business Will Love the New SharePoint guide provides you with an overview of the latest and greatest that comes with SharePoint 2013, including:

  • Smarter Search
  • Simpler and Mobile-Ready UI
  • SharePoint App Store Model
  • Better Workflow
  • Social SharePoint…and more, including easy migration tools and lower costs.

Download your copy today!

And if you’re in the DC area, AIS is hosting an “Introduction to SharePoint 2013” event at the Microsoft office in Chevy Chase, MD on March 20th. Click here to learn more and register.

 

(UPDATED! Please note the new date. We’ll be presenting this session on March 20th, at 9:30 am to noon at Microsoft’s office in Chevy Chase, MD. We hope you can join us, as it’s shaping up to be a lively and very informative event!)

Reduced budgets, economic pressures and competition require our commercial and public sector clients to accomplish more with less these days.

After more than two years of early adoption research, analysis and technical readiness, AIS has determined that SharePoint 2013 has game-changing functionality as an application platform.  We leverage it because we can build great applications more quickly — and at reduced cost because we write much less code.

Most organizations own the product. But few truly leverage it as an application platform.  This free half-day session will present the major new capabilities of SharePoint 2013 and how they can be used for a new generation of applications, including:

  • Compelling User Experience, mobile browser support and productivity enhancements to delight users and drive adoption
  • Enhanced collaboration / social media integration
  • Robust and decoupled workflow engine to address even the most complex business process automation
  • Ability to re-vitalize and migrate Microsoft Access applications
  • Improved digital dashboard capability through PowerView
  • Cloud integration including seamless integration with Windows Azure and Office 365
  • Improved e-discovery and matter management via better centralized and aggregated records management

This seminar will highlight the many reasons to aggressively migrate to SharePoint 2013 by reviewing the many new and enhanced features, while providing context and insight into the new generation of application they enable.

AIS bloggers and team members Vishwas Lele, Jason Storch and Chris Miller will be presenting. For more background, you can read our full SharePoint 2013 blog coverage by clicking here. In particular, be sure not to miss Vishwas Lele’s entry on the SharePoint App Dev Platform: The Journey So Far & the Road Ahead.

When: March 20, 2013, 9:30 am to noon
Where: Microsoft Corporation, 5404 Wisconsin Avenue, Chevy Chase MD (map)

Please click here to register for this event, or feel free to email me directly. We hope to see you there!

It should come as no surprise that Microsoft’s strategy for SharePoint 2013 is cloud-based, SaaS, Hosted Services or whatever you want to call it.  Whatever the name, the outcome is that custom, server-side code is no longer the way to go in the SharePoint world.  This brings into question the fate of one of the workhorses of SharePoint since 2003: the Event Receiver.  Microsoft has done a great job of exposing web services and creating the Client Side Object Model to enable scripting, but that doesn’t work when your application needs to react to an event that occurs in SharePoint.

SharePoint workflow could provide some of that functionality, but there is an overhead cost to workflow.  When architecting a SharePoint-based solution and the question “Workflow or Event Receiver?” comes up, I always prefer event receivers until it’s proven that the process needs a workflow.  If all the process needs to do is fire off an e-mail or update a field in another list or database, then why incur the overhead of a workflow when an event receiver will do the job with minimal management and overhead?  But that doesn’t work in an app for SharePoint or in a hosted environment that doesn’t allow custom code…or does it?

I’m guessing you can tell from the title of this post what the answer to that is — yes, with remote event receivers.

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With the SharePoint Conference 2012 behind us, I have been reflecting on our SharePoint journey so far…and on the road ahead. And what an incredible journey it has been! SharePoint has allowed AIS to build mission-critical applications for various large federal government agencies and commercial organizations. And not just ECM or document management systems (which are great workloads enabled by SharePoint) but enterprise-class applications for tens of thousands users (such as the FBI’s Delta Project), built using SharePoint platform elements such as workflows, lists, libraries, search, etc.

This blog entry is comprised of two parts. The first part will focus on the SharePoint journey so far. Through a series of short video clips, I will present some of the key insights we have derived over the many years of building custom applications on SharePoint. We will end this the first part with a short demonstration of SharePoint-based Case Management application that brings together many of the key concepts. The second part will focus on the road ahead and the most important enhancements made in SharePoint 2013. Read More…

Over the last couple months, I’ve been working on a SharePoint app in my spare time. The app, which is SharePoint hosted, requires site collection permissions and reaches back to the Host App to inspect lists and other objects to identify common issues that impact the performance of SharePoint.

One of the first things I struggled with, though, was how to access the data through the SharePoint Client Object Model in the Host Web. Every code sample out there just works with data within the app, and doesn’t try to go back to the Host Web to get the data. Since there is a security barrier between the app and the Host Web, you can’t access data in the Host Web through the client context of the app. You must retrieve the site through a special method in the SharePoint API called AppContextSite.

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I recently attended SPC12 with many of my colleagues from AIS.  One of the sessions I really enjoyed was High Availability Solutions with SharePoint Server 2013 delivered by Bill BaerThis sessions was geared toward the ITPro (admin) audience and detailed the options when making SharePoint Highly Available.

During this session I found it interesting how much time was spent talking about mirroring.  Mirroring is now considered a deprecated technology but is still supported by SharePoint 2013.  Today I’d like to break down the session and talk about my thoughts on each point.

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Workflow, as far as I can tell at this point, is one of the most overhauled functionalities from SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2013. The first major difference is that it’s no longer contained within SharePoint. Workflow is now handled by Windows Azure Workflow (WAW).

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Does that mean I’m going to have to pay Microsoft some hefty usage fees to have Workflow in my 2013 environment? I really don’t see how that’s going to fly with the bosses,” you say.

Fortunately, no, that’s not the case. While I’m sure there will be a model for this, it’s not the only one. You can host WAW on-premises just like SharePoint. We’ll delve into that momentarily. Windows Azure Workflow is built on Windows Workflow Foundation 4.5 (WF4.5). WF4.5 introduces several new features as detailed in the MSDN article “What’s New in Windows Workflow Foundation.” This will require a separate install that can run on a SharePoint server or its own environment. We’ll also look at the architectural implications in a bit.

The “meat” of this post is going to focus on three areas: Architecture, Development, and how these would affect the design of an existing SharePoint 2010 Workflow project. The architecture changes only start with WAW and WF4.5. We’ll discuss the installation requirements, how it’s hosted, security, and the Pros and Cons of WAW. The development story has changed, at least to me, far more. I’ll explain the changes to coding (Hint: You can’t…directly), how web services can remedy the last statement, and custom actions. Finally, we’ll take a look at the project I discussed in my last post “Developing Multi-Tiered Solutions in SharePoint” and how that design would be changed for a SharePoint 2013 environment.

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Windows 8 Desktop

Microsoft has been a busy company this year with refreshes on most of its biggest solutions. Not only has SharePoint gone through a massive update, but so has Windows. If you’re still unfamiliar with the changes in Windows 8, then be prepared for a shocker. In the new UI, applications have been stripped of chrome and are full-screen solutions. Windows 8 was designed with touch as a first-class input method.

SharePoint 2013 brings several new features, but the two that will empower client application development the most are the greatly expanded Client-Side Object Model (CSOM) and the REST APIs. While the maturity of these features is important for Microsoft’s push to SharePoint Online and client-side development, it also opens up complex functionality for Windows, mobile, and external web applications. Read More…