The first factor is that teams working together are typically located in different locaions throughout the country, or even the world. This presents some interesting challenges to collaboration between teams both within and outside of an organization.
The second is that there is an explosion of content created within these organizations. Documents and content of all shapes, sizes, and types are being created every day, and companies are struggling to keep up with this content explosion and increasingly complex compliance requirements, while enabling users to collaborate and share information. Organizations must allow effective collaboration in order to stay competitive, but they also must satisfy the security and privacy issues associated with collaboration in order to keep their competitive advantage and remain compliant with corporate regulations.
Microsoft has developed SharePoint to provide organizations with a solution to these complex business problems. MOSS brings together six key functional areas of features and benefits that allow organizations to more effectively address these industry phenomena and stay competitive. These areas are Collaboration, Portal, Enterprise Search, Enterprise Content Management, Business Process and Forms, and Business Intelligence (Figure 1-1). This chapter introduces these functional areas and explains their respective features.
The bottom line with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS 2007) is that it helps organizations get more done. The Collaboration area of MOSS allows users to share information and work together.
MOSS is a critical piece to Microsoft’s collaboration vision, and provides a hub where all Microsoft Office products can integrate effectively.
The ability to check out documents locally.
The ability to use major and minor version numbering and tracking in document management. This is a valuable feature, particularly if you have ever worked on a team where documents are being updated by multiple users simultaneously.
Direct support for multiple content types. These content types include Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and others. Other types are recognized if the corresponding application type is installed on the MOSS server. Vendors also can create add-ins to MOSS that allow native MOSS support for that content type. This makes MOSS very extensible for vendors.
Policies, auditing, and workflow are also included. This is great for managing the flow of a document’s usage throughout an organization.
Tree-view support allows users to structure an organization of documents and content that is easier to interpret and act on. Similar to Windows Explorer, MOSS enables this same type of document and content organization within MOSS.
The “wiki” template is a new site template in Windows SharePoint Services 3.0. Similar to the wikis throughout the Internet, and best demonstrated on www.wikipedia.com, wikis allow users to easily create, edit, link, and restore individual web pages. Wikis are typically used as creative forums to brainstorm ideas, manage knowledge bases, create designs and instruction guides, or simply gather information in an easy-to-edit format. Wikis are easy to create, modify, and annotate. These features, along with the ability to track contributions and changes, make wikis a perfect addition to MOSS. Wikis also leverage the existing MOSS functionality included in search, navigation, alerts, and custom fields (see Figure 1-2).
The following are key features included in MOSS wikis:
The discussions (real-time presence and communication) feature existed in SharePoint Portal Server 2003 (SPS 2003), but it is improved upon with the release of MOSS 2007. The enhanced real-time presence smart tag icon is now displayed virtually everywhere a person’s name appears within a site. This feature indicates whether a user is online, similar to how MSN Messenger functions when one of your chat buddies is online. Additionally, you can see whether the user is available to chat by telephone or audio conference call, instant messenger, or a two-way video conference.
There is also a new "Social Networking Web Part,” which provides information about your organization, communities, and communications in your Public My Site pages to help establish connections between users with common interests.
Surveys are also included. These existed in SPS 2003, but they have been improved with MOSS 2007. Surveys now include conditional branching, and users can insert page breaks in long surveys—a huge help when filling out long surveys.
Blogs provide a function that has been popular on the Web for the past few years on sites such as Blogger, Wordpress, Movable Type, and MySpace. This feature provides a publishing-oriented experience for a single user or a team. Users can publish content and receive feedback on that content. Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 includes a Blogs site template that supports the following (see Figure 1-5):
RSS feed generation
The contacts (“People and Groups”) lists offer a unified place to find and communicate with people. It also allows easy management of users’ permissions. There is support for custom fields, such as Department, Office #, and Area of Focus. There is also a new Person field type. This field type enables the creation of rich displays of lists of people, as well as the use of a People Picker control for browsing a list of users. The Member Group allows reuse of groups across sites as well as distribution lists for the members of a site. All of these elements make it much easier to manage users and bring team members together.
You can easily synchronize your MOSS calendars with your Exchange or Outlook calendar (see Figure 1-6).
Task lists have been a staple of SharePoint since its creation. The Tasks template provides lightweight task management functionality (Figure 1-7). The new Project Tasks template includes Gantt charts for visualization of task relationships and status.
The Email Integration feature allows for document libraries, discussion boards, calendars, and announcements that can receive new postings via email. This makes it very easy to post items without logging into MOSS directly to make additions, which is a great time-saver. In addition, extensible support is provided for custom email handlers in Windows SharePoint Services 3.0.
Features that are similar to that of public folders in Microsoft Exchange Server are also available. These email-enabled discussion boards support:
A scalable topic-based architecture
“Super rich-text” field types
Unified experience for both email- and web-based discussions
One-step creation of Active Directory distribution lists as a part of site creation
Unified MOSS group and Active Directory service management functions
From within MOSS 2007, you can easily sync content to Outlook (Figure 1-8).
With Office Outlook 2007, users can view calendars and contact lists stored on SharePoint sites, and can create and manage sites for editing documents and organizing meetings. Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 and Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 support a new set of significantly enhanced features, including:
Check out and edit documents offline with true Smart Client capabilities
Roll-up views of calendars and tasks across multiple lists and sites
Synchronization of offline document libraries and lists
View of personal and MOSS tasks in Outlook 2007
Read and write access to MOSS calendars, tasks, contacts, discussions, and documents from Outlook 2007 (Figure 1-9)
As mentioned previously in the Tasks feature, the new Project Tasks list template provides lightweight task management functionality. This template also includes Gantt charts for visualization of task relationships and status. This is great for coordinating teams of users while executing a specific task list. This is more of an ad-hoc project management tool, which is all many users and small teams need to get the job done.
Tight integration into Outlook 2007 gives users the ability to work on lists that are available online in MOSS as offline content when the user is either disconnected from the Internet or working remotely. Once the user has reconnected to the MOSS server, the content synchronizes with the MOSS server (Figure 1-10).
Portal sites connect users to information, expertise, and applications, and MOSS has some very compelling portal features. It has truly become a world-class Enterprise Portal platform. MOSS provides organizations with a foundation on which they can build solutions for every aspect of their business.
You can easily pick the type of template you would like to use for each site you create (see Figure 1-13).
Creating news items has always been available with SharePoint (Figure 1-14), but the new content syndication features take “News” to a new level. The ease with which MOSS can subscribe to content makes it that much easier to keep content relevant and up-to-date for users.
The new content syndication feature allows the use of Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds to syndicate content managed in a portal site (Figure 1-15). You can easily post and publish internal company news or subscribe to remote RSS feeds with this feature.
The Site Manager manages a SharePoint site’s navigation, security access, and general look and feel using an easy drag-and-drop tool. Site Manager unifies site management tasks for portals and web sites, including management of areas, pages, listings, SharePoint site lists, and associated component parts (see Figure 1-16, Figure 1-17, and Figure 1-18).
The My Site personal site gives each user an opportunity to aggregate information “for me,” “by me,” and “about me” (Figure 1-19). The significant enhancements to this feature in MOSS 2007 include social networking, privacy controls, SharePoint Sites and Documents Aggregation Web Parts, and Colleagues and Memberships Web Parts.
The new focus on collaboration has brought people-finding to the forefront and made it a primary feature of MOSS 2007. Nearly every screen contains the ability to search out users by the content they create or their user-specific details (see Figure 1-20). This feature makes it that much easier to connect with a particular person or a specific user’s content.
It’s very easy to search for users in your organization and quickly connect to them for the purposes of collaboration. Additionally, you can use the Colleagues and Memberships Web Parts feature to easily track your colleagues and others with whom you are interested in staying connected (Figure 1-21). This tool lists people the user knows and people who belong to common distribution groups.
Audience targeting is another powerful feature that adds to MOSS 2007’s social networking capabilities. This function uses Web Part pages, Web Parts, and content to target distribution lists and groups in addition to SharePoint audiences (Figure 1-22).
The privacy and security features allow the user to control, in detail, the authorizations and visibility of information in a My Site public view. Figure 1-23 shows how you can see and edit permissions on the targeted content.
Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 is the new Microsoft enterprise search solution for organizations. It increases productivity and reduces information overload by providing users with the ability to find relevant content in many different locations and formats. The key is actionable search results that respect security permissions.
Business data search
Customizable user experience
Relevance is very important when searching for data. If you have ever searched on Google, you have probably realized that the relevance of your search is the key to getting usable results. The new and improved search algorithms within MOSS 2007 are tuned for enterprise content. The use of relevance and ranking factors—such as click distance, hyperlink anchor text, URL depth, and metadata extraction—provide effective algorithms for yielding the best results for enterprise content. Microsoft has invested a great deal in fine-tuning this solution.
Another aspect of relevance is the search results are rendered more clearly. Search results are security trimmed, which keeps users from seeing content to which they do not have access. The results also include user-friendly features such as hit highlighting, duplicate collapsing, and synonym suggestion. Another cool feature allows integration with real-time communications tools, so users can easily contact content authors and experts. You can execute a search, view the results, see whether the creator is online, and then open a chat with the content developer. That kind of ease of use will be invaluable within a large enterprise.
Business data search allows you to search the data residing in your line-of-business applications using the Business Data Catalog. Structured content sources, line-of-business application data, and reports accessible through web services or ADO.NET can be indexed and retrieved through the Business Data Catalog. The results can be easily displayed within a SharePoint list, allowing users to make relevant decisions on data using an integrated environment.
Content types help users organize their SharePoint content in a more meaningful way. A content type is a reusable collection of settings that you can apply to a certain category of content. Content types enable you to manage the metadata and behaviors of a document or item type in a centralized, reusable way. You can store multiple types of content in the same SharePoint library or list. Using content types, MOSS 2007 allows users to create and manage metadata, which helps generate content search results that are more relevant to the user.
MOSS 2007’s new user experience is simple and clean, but also very powerful. The user interface has industry-standard query syntax as well. The fact that scopes are decoupled from content sources allows users to easily broaden or narrow the scope of a content search. Searches can be based on content properties such as type, URL, and author. Actionable search results can be sorted and filtered. The search results can be shared with other users, and users can also create alerts and RSS feeds to provide updated results for common queries.
Enterprise content sources can be searched for more than 200 file types in nearly every possible content location. The enterprise search capabilities allow data to be searched in files shares, SharePoint sites, web sites, Exchange Public Folders, and Lotus Notes databases out of the box, with the ability to extend to additional third-party repositories and file types through the use of Protocol Handlers and iFilters.
The administration and management features have also been improved. The user interfaces and admin application programming interface (API) provides broad support for various search and indexing scenarios. There is also extensive support for central controls for resource-intensive operations to allow for more granular control over processes that might otherwise bring a server to its knees. Users also have new, robust tools for management and reporting.
The security features have also improved. The administrator permissions are no longer required by the content crawler. This is a very important security feature that essentially allows the organization to have a higher security level that limits a search engine from crawling all the data within an organization. The access control list (ACL) and ACL-only crawl index content based on permissions set up by the organization to follow organization-specific compliance, privacy, and protection of intellectual property (IP). As a result, security-trimmed search results allow users to see only the content they are allowed to access.
Organizations create huge volumes of unstructured content. This content includes every flavor of document: Microsoft Word documents and Excel spreadsheets, videos, web pages, XML, instant messages, and much more. Many companies still have public shares on a corporate server where users drop content on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the content typically goes unread because the data is either hard to find or users just do not know that it exists. Much of this problem is addressed with the Enterprise Search features in MOSS 2007, but the main task of organizing that content and sharing it with the organization is accomplished with the new Enterprise Content Management (ECM) feature.
Web content management was previously covered by Microsoft’s Content Management Server 2002. With the release of MOSS 2007, the realm of web content management is now rolled into SharePoint. Organizations now have a cost-effective, enterprise-ready web content management system rolled into their corporate portal. This allows companies to cut their total cost of ownership down to supporting one technology for both their portal and their web content management. That fact alone should excite small- to medium-size businesses that maintain a web presence.
The content authoring features of ECM allow users to create rich content for their corporate web site using a web browser. This has been a feature in web content management solutions since their inception, but it has been limited in SharePoint until now.
The “what you see is what you get” (or WYSIWYG) web content editor truly empowers users to create very compelling content without leaving their browsers (Figure 1-24). The SharePoint user interface has also been extended with additional commands and status indicators for in-context web page authoring.
The page layouts function is another feature that allows users to quickly and easily author and publish content. The defined structures guide authors through the publishing process, which allows users to concentrate on the content and spend less time worrying about the publish-and-deploy process. The flexible page layouts also allow users to employ different Web Parts, ASP.NET applications, and authoring templates in any configuration to create compelling sites that meet the needs of the business.
The business document workflow support, which did not exist in SPS 2003, allows users to automate document review, approval, signature collection, and issue tracking using workflow applications (Figure 1-25). This feature includes the ability to perform the following basic workflow tasks:
Request and get approval
The new content publishing and deployment features include built-in approval workflow. This workflow provides MOSS users with the ability to control when content is published live to the Internet. Users can set up jobs and a “live” time period for each page. This allows users to specify how long the content will be active and viewable.
Templates help organizations define large-scale document management sites. The Divisional Library site template includes managed document libraries, dashboards, key performance indicators (KPIs), and other reporting tools. The Translation Library site template helps organizations manage multiple translations of a document.
MOSS 2007 also includes integration with Microsoft Information Rights Management (IRM). This feature helps organizations ensure that access rights applied to different types of Microsoft Office documents stay with the document. Even if the document is downloaded to a user’s machine, rights and access constraints travel with that document. This is great for controlling intellectual property of an organization and ensuring that the document does not fall into the wrong hands, at least as long as it is in a digital format.
The Records Management feature includes what is referred to as the records repository. The records repository helps ensure the integrity of the files stored there. It also supports information management policies so that access on documents is enforced, essentially controlling the auditing and expiration of records.
The policies, auditing, and compliance features of MOSS 2007 are implemented with Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, which serves as the foundation to MOSS 2007. The following policies and auditing and compliance features are included in MOSS 2007:
Document retention and expiration policies
Official document-of-record repositories
Logging of all actions on sites, content, and workflows
Workflow process to define expiration
Access control and security
IRM policies applied to documents
Tracking and auditing
Site for storing or archiving enterprise-approved content types
MOSS 2007 includes a new feature for multiple languages. Essentially, the multiple language support is enabled with MOSS Language Packs. Language packs enable site owners and site collection administrators to create SharePoint sites and site collections in multiple languages without requiring separate installations of MOSS 2007.
You also can purchase and install a language pack that includes language-specific site templates. This enables your users to author and interact with content on your MOSS server in another language. This is a very powerful feature, and it is typically used within an organization that has multinational deployments and server farms that support users in multiple languages.
Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 provides built-in workflow templates to automate approval, review, and archiving processes. You can also use MOSS 2007 to create, maintain, and analyze custom workflows, enabling you to streamline your collaborative processes. Electronic forms provided through InfoPath Forms Services are an integral part of such workflows. These InfoPath-designed electronic forms make it easy to collect and validate information that drives your business processes. Additionally, you can collect and validate this information right from the Microsoft Office client applications you use every day.
The “Business Process and Forms” functional area can be summed up with the following feature list:
Rich browser-based forms provided in the Microsoft Office InfoPath Forms Service make it possible to design web-capable forms in Microsoft Office InfoPath 2007 and distribute them to users with MOSS 2007. InfoPath has always seemed to be a tough sell to most companies because, even though InfoPath is a great product, it’s expensive for what you get. However, by allowing users to interact with InfoPath forms on the Web without an installed copy of InfoPath on the client machine, InfoPath finally is a compelling and usable tool in the enterprise setting. Users can also fill out forms in a browser or HTML-enabled mobile device without having to download InfoPath or install client components.
The idea of self-service forms encompasses a few different features in MOSS 2007. The most important feature is the integrated deployment model for "no-code” forms. The publish wizard in Microsoft Office InfoPath 2007 makes it easy to publish forms from the Windows SharePoint Services library. As long as your forms do not contain code, they can be made available to users as a browser-based form or accessed using an InfoPath client.
Real-time data validation is accomplished with the compatibility checker. This compatibility checker helps forms designers validate the content they are publishing. The compatibility checker makes sure the forms work across the broadest range of web browsers and target environments.
Line-of-business actions, or business data actions, allow users to create web pages that interface line-of-business applications, without custom coding. These actions allow users to launch InfoPath forms and other common tasks within the client environment.
The pluggable Single Sign-On (SSO) feature of MOSS 2007 allows users to enter one username and password before using a variety of backend applications. This feature significantly reduces the cost to maintain access to multiple data sources and systems. SSO is used for integrating back-office systems and line-of-business applications that require separate credentials databases. Development of single sign-on capabilities has been difficult for many large and small organizations, but the SSO features in MOSS 2007 have helped organizations move toward reaching SSO across their businesses.
Business Intelligence with Office SharePoint Server 2007 makes it easy for decisionmakers to access and analyze information anytime, anywhere. You can get up-to-date information wherever people work, collaborate, and make decisions, whether it’s on the desktop or over the Web. Now, aligning employees’ objectives with your corporate goals is as easy as creating a spreadsheet or report.
The “Business Intelligence” functional area can be summed up with the following feature list:
MOSS 2007 has introduced a new feature to SharePoint that enables spreadsheet authors to easily share their work. The web-based Business Intelligence features use Excel Services to provide new Business Intelligence functionality through the browser. These spreadsheets allow users to develop interactive, data-bound spreadsheets that include charts, tables, and PivotTable output. These views can be created and included as part of a portal, dashboard, or business scorecard, without requiring any development.
The Report Center feature of MOSS 2007 provides users with an out-of-the-box site optimized for report access and management. The Report Center includes a report library, data connection library, and a Dashboard template, and allows users to consistently manage reports, spreadsheets, and data connections.
The new key performance indicators (KPIs) in MOSS 2007 allow users to easily communicate goals and project status to stakeholders and business users. Users can harness the power of the KPI Web Part without writing a single line of code. Specifically, data from Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services, Excel spreadsheets, and SharePoint lists can be displayed in the KPI Web Part. Users can also manually create content to be displayed in the KPI Web Part. This is a great way to give key stakeholders actionable content that they can easily digest and act upon.
Business Data Web Parts allow users to view lists, entities, and related information retrieved through the Business Data Catalog. Table 1-1 shows a list of the available Web Parts.
Table 1-1. Business Data Web Parts
Business Data List Web Part
Displays a list of entity instances from a business application registered in the Business Data Catalog
Displays the details of an entity instance from a business application
Displays a list of related entity instances from a business application
Displays a list of actions associated with an entity as defined in the Business Data Catalog
Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 provides custom field types. MOSS 2007 leverages this feature to provide a new field type called Business Data that is available to all lists in SharePoint Server 2007. The Business Data field type enables users to add data from business applications registered in the Business Data Catalog to any SharePoint list. This allows users to view the data and perform actions associated with that data from within the Document Library.
The seamless integration of MOSS 2007 into SQL Reporting Services and other backend line-of-business applications allows users to create actionable content and to visualize information that exists in these backend line-of-business applications. These features allow users to create rich, interactive Business Intelligence dashboards based on Business Intelligence data sources.
Though this chapter has been able to cover only a small subset of all the new capabilities in MOSS 2007, there is a wealth of online information to satisfy your search for answers. Additionally, the rest of the chapters in this book go into more detail about the different functions and features introduced here.