Can I Navigate Here

By DANIEL ANTION posted 02-29-2012 16:49


With all the talk of cloud-based applications, mobile access, digital everything and big data (I know that I’m missing a couple John, but bear with me)is my small shop going to be able to thrive in the new world of Information Management? In case you don’t know, we have about 35 employees trying to navigate the sea of change that is coming. Is this going to work for us, and others like us, or are we going to drift into groups of haves and have-nots?

Ships competing for space in the channel

Let’s see, I’ve written about why I’m not impressed with cloud-based applications and software-as-a-service. In a nutshell, although these things seem like they might be a good match for small companies that might suddenly grow into big (ger) companies, they often fall short for companies that are more than likely going to stay small. Big data? In terms of the data we create and consume, big isn’t a word I use very often; we still fit comfortably in double-digit terabytes. Then again, if I really study the new imperatives, I have to say I find a reason to think about the 6 imperatives that John Mancini outlines in his recent blog posts. I’m not going to blather aimlessly today (or is that AIIMlessly) about all of these, but I am going to start the process of picking these apart one-by-one. I am going to start with the Cloud, because as much as I don’t see us moving applications to the “cloud”, I do see our applications becoming more consistent with cloud-based solutions, and that includes the things that we do in SharePoint.

Late last week, we began a serious effort to investigate the ways in which we can use out-of-the-box SharePoint features to work with business data residing in SQL Server. We constructed External Content Types, Data Sources and Linked Data Sources. We dropped External Lists into SharePoint sites, and we wired up a web part page of Data View Web Parts to look up and modify some simple data tables. Our first reaction was “this is really cool!” However, as we started to think about how we would use these capacities, we had what might be called a cloud-based-moment.

If you have ever built a web part page, you know that you can put almost as many web parts as you want on a page. I actually don’t know if there’s an upper limit, but clearly, you can put more parts on a page than would be tolerated by your users. We decided to take a much more minimalist view. Why make a complicated solution when it’s so easy to make a bunch of simple solutions.

The application data we are working with right now is the table of company vendors. We don’t keep a lot of information about these guys, but we keep more than we may need to have on the page. For example, if a vendor tells me that they want the name on their checks to change, do I really need to see 15-20 data columns? If a vendor moves, do I need to see anything more than their address? So rather than wiring up a Vendor Edit page, we are planning to wire up many such pages. We hope to link these to a “What do you want to do?” page – “Where do you want to go” having been taken and having not really made much sense in the first place. The result would be a sequence of “I want to change this guy’s address” followed by a click and then landing on a dirt simple page on which you can look up a vendor and change their address, and leave. Our experience tells us that these small, single-purpose pages render very nicely on an iPad. Oh wait, I’m drifting into a different imperative. More later…

#iPad #SaaS #sharepoint #SharePoint #mobile #cloud