SharePoint Decision Guide – A Best Practices Roadmap and Organizational Strategy by EPC Group - Part 3

By Errin O'Connor posted 11-24-2013 21:12


This is the 3nd  in a 3 part “SharePoint Decision Guide – A Best Practices Roadmap and Organizational Strategy” white paper developed by EPC Group to provide you with key information and in-depth analysis that will assist your organization in developing a best practices 24-36 month SharePoint \ Office 365 Roadmap and related implementation strategy. Part 1 of this white paper can be accessed here and Part 2 can be access by clicking here.

Business Intelligence Considerations in SharePoint 2013

Business Intelligence (BI) capabilities in SharePoint 2013 are vast and in many cases are achieved with a combination of SharePoint and Microsoft Office or SharePoint and SQL Server’s capabilities. I have worked with a variety of organizations in presenting SharePoint 2013’s BI capabilities and have found that it is best done by showing examples rather than speaking in abstract so I have included a larger number of screen shots in this section with brief summaries as I believe this is the best way to get a complete grasp of SharePoint 2013 and BI.

The following image details SharePoint’s different tiers of BI which include SharePoint, Office and in many cases Excel, as well as SQL Server:

Business Intelligence Center

SharePoint 2013 provides a Business Intelligence Center site that enables your organization to centrally store and manage data connections, reports, scorecards, dashboards, and Web Part pages as shown below:

Microsoft Excel 2013

Excel has more capabilities and more relevance in BI and SharePoint than any other Microsoft Office program. The following details the wide range of powerful reports, scorecards, and dashboards that can be accomplished with a combination of Excel and SharePoint 2013:

Excel Services

Excel Services allows for manual emailing or sharing of spreadsheets that causes manual errors to stop and the ability to share workbooks with others.

The following is an overview of Excel Services 2013 and SharePoint 2013:

•       Excel Services 2013 is a SharePoint service application that enables the loading, calculation, and browser-based rendering of Excel workbooks (Enterprise Edition only)

•       Designed to be a scalable, robust, enterprise-class service that provides feature and calculation fidelity with Excel

•       Delivers rich analysis capabilities that are supported in a zero-footprint web client with a familiar interface

•       Live connections to data sources are queried to deliver up-to-date data throughout analysis

The following is a graphical example of the moving pieces of SharePoint 2013 and how they come together at a very high level:



PowerPivot is an add-in for Excel User that provides the ability to create powerful data models that can include calculated fields, reports and scorecards.

The following is a summary of PowerPivot and SharePoint 2013:

•       PowerPivot for SharePoint extends SharePoint 2013 and Excel Services to add server-side processing, collaboration, and document management support for the PowerPivot workbooks published to SharePoint

•       The PowerPivot Gallery, a special type of document library, is provided to browse published PowerPivot workbooks and to configure automatic data refresh

•       The PowerPivot Service deploys the embedded data model to an Analysis Service instance within the SharePoint farm, and Excel Services is used to query the deployed data model

•       Data connections can be defined to query the PowerPivot data model by using the document URL

The following screen shot details a PowerPivot Report that I have scheduled to be emailed to me every evening at 6PM Central Standard Time which is also been designed in a way for which I am able to view this on my iPhone:


PerformancePoint Services

PerformancePoint is one of the most used BI components within SharePoint 2013 and it primarily used to create and share centrally managed dashboards. In many cases PerformancePoint reports are design in a manner to be updated at any time and modified to be viewed in a variety of manners such as reports or even KPIs and scorecards.

The following image shows a PerformancePoint report as well as the web part \ features available to filter the data to provide a specific report or to drill-down to find specific and more granular data and underlying metrics:

PerformancePoint 2013 and the related site and capabilities comes with Dashboard Designer natively within the site’s ribbon. This integration has been a welcomed new feature to many users I have spoken with as they feel it’s more user friendly and easer to user. The following is a screen shot of a SharePoint 2013 site with the Dashboard Designer shown in the ribbon:

Visio Services

Visio Services in 2013 comes with a list of new capabilities in this latest release and is a SharePoint service application that enables the loading and browser-based rendering of Visio diagrams. The following are the major list of features and capabilities of Visio Services in SharePoint 2013:

•       Designed to be a scalable, robust, enterprise-class service that provides feature and rendering fidelity with Visio

•       Delivers rich browsing and navigation capabilities that are supported in a zero-footprint Web client

•       Live connections to data sources are queried to deliver up-to-date data

•       Renders diagrams in the browser

•       High quality PNG(s) for full fidelity

•       No dependence on Silverlight

•       Native support for Visio file format

•       Diagram consumers do not need a Visio client

•       Available across devices using desktop browsers and mobile browsers

•       Users interact with content

•       Pan, Zoom, Hyperlinks, View Shape Data

•       Accessible only via SharePoint

•       On-premises & in cloud using Office 365

The following graphic was created by Visio Services to be stored within a SharePoint page that users can view and is updated on a weekly bases:

Self-Service Business Intelligence (BI) Architectural Overview

Microsoft has introduce a huge push toward “self-service” BI (SSBI) and providing the user with tools that allow them to run reports and perform BI actions as needed at any time without the need for IT’s intervention. The goal of SSBI is to empower analysts so that they can design, customize and maintain their own BI solutions but it is important to note that SSBI is not meant to be a complete solution or a replacement for corporate BI initiatives and standardized reports offered by the organization.

The following is a diagram of the entire “technology stack” around SSBI:

Excel PowerView

Power View sheets can be added to the workbook to enable an interactive data exploration, visualization, and presentation experience. They allow for a highly visual design experience as well as for rich meta-driven interaction. These are also “presentation-ready” at all times.

Power View reports can be based on an embedded PowerPivot data model, or an external tabular data model that can be optimized to fully exploit the capabilities of the Power View experience.

Lync Server 2013

Lync Server 2013’s new features are very visual and in able to get a full grasp of the technology, similar to the BI section above, I am going to include a greater number of screen shots to display these features rather than writing in abstract about Lync 2013’s capabilities. Lync Server 2013’s integration capabilities with SharePoint 2013 open up an entirely new outlet and set of capabilities for organizations to have a centralized platform, SharePoint 2013, to access nearly ever system in the organization to now include web conferencing, video conferencing, as well as phone (VOIP), and even your current investment in technologies, for example, your current Cisco hardware that drives your VOIP technology.

Lync 2013 also replaces all existing instant messaging tools (including Skype) to allow for a more manageable and centralized IM platform. I have seen some push-back by users who feel that they are being “overly governed” but Lync 2013 is something that is not going to take away from existing capabilities but also add a layer of corporate governance and compliance.

The following image shows users participating in as well as monitor group conversations:

Lync Server 2013 offers centralized web conference features and is going to be a huge competitor for WebEx, GoToMeeting, as well as Skype on a corporate level. The following images shows users participating in real-time web conferencing:

Lync 2013 has been designed around extensive mobile compatibility (responsive design) and I have personally tested this solution on 4 or 5 different devices by different manufactures without any major differences or feature loss. The following screen shot shows Lync 2013’s desktop application as well as it running on 4 mobile \ edge devices:

Understanding “Social’ Capabilities and Ignoring White Noise

SharePoint’s last three releases (2007, 2010, and now 2013) have had some level of social capabilities and this has been a topic that is viewed in much different manner from one organization to another. SharePoint 2013 provides for a new native communities features that is very similar to the knowledge management concept of “Communities of Practice” (COPs) or “Networks of Excellence” that are prevalent in the knowledge management community.

SharePoint 2013’s new social features include the following:

•       Community

•       Social tagging

•       Easily share content and activities

•       Follow documents, people, sites, tags, and activities

•       Improved activity streams

•       Improved My Sites

•       Save locally

The Community Sites, as shown in the image below, is created from a template similar to a team site but tailored with specific “social” features and add for a competitive feel to award users “badges” as well as “likes” to their posts and other Facebook or twitter like components:

Tools for Community Owners to Enforce Social SharePoint 2013 Governance

One of the most common “issues” or areas of concern that organizations have around not implementing the “social” capabilities of SharePoint in previous versions was the last of native administration tools and a way to enforce the organization’s social related governance policies. The following image shows the tools that are provided natively in SharePoint 2013 to assist in enforcing policies and governance around these features:

SharePoint 2013’s Community features can also be easily tailored and modified, as shown in the image below, based on the specific requirements of your organization. In 5 or 6 recent EPC Group SharePoint 2013 deployments, we have experienced our clients modifying and “tweaking” these features to meet their exact needs and have received some great feedback in regards to their feelings on the scalability of this solution:


Newsfeeds in SharePoint Community Sites

Newsfeeds are very prevalent in SharePoint 2013’s Community sites and every site has the option to contain a social stream (newsfeed). Newsfeeds are also pervasive to a user’s My Site to My Site and allows for a post from My Site feed to member community site.


Microblogging in SharePoint Nearly Identical to that of Twitter

Microblogging in SharePoint 2013 is a new features that allows for “tags” and “targets” updates similar to that of Twitter. Each microblog update can include:

•        #tags (dynamically pulled from or added to the Managed Metadata Services [MMS])

•       @targets (default pulls from social colleagues but you can post the updates to any SharePoint user)


The following image shows the Community Newsfeeds as well as the Microblogging features in SharePoint 2013 being utilized:


Over the past few years, EPC Group has seen a variety of SharePoint “social initiatives” thrive and some become stale and rarely used. It is very important to provide some “care and feeding” to your SharePoint social initiatives and to develop a set of questions or metrics for you or the responsible team member to use to monitor its success. This is also helpful to provide you with some insight into when you need to put some more “marketing” and effort behind SharePoint’s social initiatives and its usage to reward participation or even introduce a “wall of shame” in a type of joking but completive manner to show which departments Have and Have Not been using or responding to social feeds, questions, or activities.

There has been an issues within SharePoint My Site around users not completing their profile which is one of the quickest ways for other users to lose interest in these features. Identifying the most active contributors as well as the most followed individuals is a great start to understanding usage patterns and then expanding on that by tracking the amount of time it takes for a typical question to get answered or the features that are most being used and those that are hardly used at all will help you “trim the fat” and assist in your companies social momentum going forward.


Two Additional White Papers Adding to This Roadmap and Organizational Strategy

EPC Group has developed two additional white papers as part of this three part white paper to help organization’s answer questions around implementing technologies based upon all of the findings of EPC Group in this publication.

EPC Group will pushing these white papers with AIIM around Enterprise Content Management as well as implementing a best practices branding and customization strategy within SharePoint 2013 \ Office 365 as well as for your mobile devices.

Finally Getting a Hold of Your Organization’s ECM Strategy (White Paper Preview)

SharePoint 2013’s enterprise content management (ECM) and/or records management (RM) capabilities, as they are both referenced in many cases in a very similar manner, have been much improved and have moved SharePoint up in the most powerful ECM/RM platform that is available to organizations today.

ECM efforts are also one of the biggest initial pushes for SharePoint 2013 initiatives and organizations are understanding more than ever the need to get a true handle on their content from not only a regulatory and compliance standpoint but also from an intellectual property perspective as lost knowledge in terms of records does have a very costly impact to an organizations bottom line over time.

In EPC Group’s first 50 SharePoint 2013 implementations to our clients, the first 33 were ECM initiatives and driven by the realization of the value proposition for records management within the organization. These efforts can be difficult in the sense that the hard questions do have to be asked about not only identifying what is a record but who owns the record and how should it be categorized. There is a method and repeatable best practice to a successful SharePoint 2013 ECM\RM implementation and the metadata and core content types are at the very center of achieving this success.

SharePoint 2013 provides for the ability to meet regulatory drivers and also helps provide a friendly push to some organizations that have not taken a corporate legal position on content in regards to what to destroy or delete as well as email management strategies and what does constitute a “Record” within their organization.

SharePoint 2013 does provide the ability for complete disposition and to expunge “ALL” copies or records as well as to ensure privacy and record security policies are met during normal day-to-day SharePoint usage or those cases that may involve discovery by a court order or preparation for trial by the organization’s legal counsel.

The following image details a high level overview of SharePoint 2013’s ECM approach to the features and how users can best utilize them for these specific activities:

The following image is of the new SharePoint 2013 Record Center which allows for a centralized “hub” for records management and the related activities:

SharePoint 2013 provides the ability to implement specific rules around content not only stored in document libraries but also in specific folders with folder based retention schedules. The folder concept in SharePoint is a love \ hate affair with Microsoft over the years and from a user perceptive is sometimes viewed as the “other” bucket where they can drag content into without having to actually “tag” it but these new features, as shown in the image below, are meant to resolve these issues.

There are new capabilities around Unified Discovery across Exchange, SharePoint and Lync which allows organizations to go to one central location, a unified console, to access all of this information. There is the added feature of in-place discovery as well around all of these platforms in their integration with SharePoint and I feel the best feature introduced here is that it can all be done without impacting the user. The legal discovery team can perform these activities without the massive interruption and panic that can be sometimes caused by a legal discovery exercise.

I attended an ECM conference last year and the speaker made a very good point around how improved ECM and eDiscovery tools can actually save the organization a great deal in legal fees. His point was that we live in a very litigious world where people like to sue companies and corporations over just about anything in hopes they can get something to either “stick” or make the company feels it is just cheaper to settle and not worry about the hassle but if the organization had tools that would provide minimal or zero impact to the user base in able to drive down not only cost but the stigma that some feel if their company is being sued, many frivolous lawsuits would start to go away.

The following image show SharePoint 2013’s capabilities to seamlessly integrate with Microsoft Exchange and perform advanced searched and criteria-driven actions against specific mailboxes as well as date ranges and many other criteria.



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