Q&A: SharePoint Webinar and Whitepaper (Part 6)

This is it – the final post containing questions from the SharePoint webinar I presented on January 28, 2009.  Previous questions and answers can be found in Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.  As well, the recorded webinar, during which many questions were answered, can be downloaded.

The questions in this post are the most technical and product specific of all the questions asked during the webinar. I wish to state again, that my expertise and that of my company, Information Architected, is defining strategies, cost justifications and project plans for content, process, knowledge and innovation management. We focus on the intersection of ECM technologies and business management. Technology such as SharePoint are clearly within our sweet spot, and lately we have been involved with many strategies that involve SharePoint, but unlike consultants who specialize in integration services and solution deployment, Information Architected does not have intimate experience with the inner workings of SharePoint.  I state this because, as stated, this post focuses on many highly technical and product specific issues.  As a result, my answers are not as in-depth as those provided in earlier posts.

I have answered each question – but I am also asking questions in my answers.  In the spirit of collaboration, those of you that can shed further light on these answers please do so in the form of a comment.

OK – with that said, here goes, the final 8 questions:

Q: Several other products are beginning to roll out SharePoint “connectors”. I’m particularly curious about workflow – what is the adoption and satisfaction for those complementary pieces? – Any information about using Nintex workflow with SharePoint?
A: I am aware of one company that I have worked with (manufacturing vertical) that selected Nintex as their SharePoint-integrated workflow product.  In their case the integration went very well, and user satisfaction is high.

Anyone else have experience with Nintex and Sharepoint willing to share your experience or opinion?  How about other workflow products? Which work well or poorly with SharePoint? (Solution providers feel free to chime in, I ask only that you identify yourself as such.)
Q: In the WCM / DAM space, how does SharePoint fare against other products like Interwoven, FatWire, SDL Tridion etc.?

A:  You may have noticed, Simon Cole of Autonomy commented on an earlier blog post on how the Autonomy product stacked up against SharePoint?  He focused on the records capability of Autonomy/Meridio. Any other solution providers want to weigh in on this?  Is the list of competition provided here (Interwoven, FatWire, SDL Tridion) all inclusive?  What other products belong on this list? How would you rank them?  Solution providers and users with experience comments all welcome, but please identify who you are.

Q: When migrating to SharePoint, What’s the best way to deal with a large amount of legacy files stored on the FileServer? Can SharePoint be a replacement to File Servers?
A:  First, the easy question – yes SharePoint can, and very often is a replacement to file servers.  But what if you are migrating from a file server environment (or other approach to organizing online files), is there a best practice or toolset that simplifies the porting of the content into SharePoint?

I am aware of one company that needed to migrate gigabytes of content from Documentum to SharePoint.  In this case, they wrote a macro that exported the content and all associated metatags and security schemes (this was the tricky part) from Documentum, to a file share area, and then imported into SharePoint.  Other experiences or recommendations?

Q: We have a client that was sold SharePoint implementations – but don’t have the staff to operate it. There is a lot of discussion for our team to setup SharePoint Templates – What is the best course of action we would want to take before we even start to build templates?

A:  I believe that you are on the right track. I have witnessed many organizations, especially those with a lean development staff, leverage templates to expedite the creation of tailored SharePoint sites. (Application templates are “out-of-the-box” SharePoint scenarios tailored to specific business processes or settings. They provide a starting point for “developers” looking to build SharePoint-based solutions.) Templates are among some of the more popular features of SharePoint. In fact, the most common complaint I hear about them is that there are not enough commercially available from Microsoft or 3rd parties (business opportunity?)   On a non-technical note, start by determining which scenarios would be most leveraged within your organization. Do a needs assessment to determine the least common denominator of what is needed by those scenarios and then develop templates to fit those needs.

Are there technical best practices for template development? Anyone care to share their experiences and opinions?

Q: Have you seen any who have abandoned SharePoint that are adopting other collaborative tools, such as Unity Studio with which you can develop interlocking systems between different pieces?

A:  I have not yet had the chance to speak with anyone who has abandoned SharePoint. (You may recall that 2% of the companies I surveyed indicated that they had deployed SharePoint in a production mode and then abandoned it.) While the survey uncovered that the primary motivation behind abandonment was security concerns, it did not shed light on what was done as an alternative.

As for Unity Studio – no specific knowledge on my part. (The only reference I could find to it using Google was an in-house “collaborative software environment for industrial automation and all disciplines needed to design a process or a plant”, developed by Schneider Electric.
Are there any Unity Studio users out there that care to comment?
How about others who have decided to use a competitive product? What are the valid alternatives to SharePoint in your opinion?

Q:  What do you recommend for SharePoint site collections in terms of flat and wide or a deep hierarchy design pros/con.

A:  This answer is obviously a matter of opinion, in this case mine – flat and wide, based on taxonomy and portal usability tenets I believe in.  But what do you say?

Q: Where do you see SharePoint consulting firms investing in their practice skill sets given the ‘sophomore year’ of SharePoint?
A: Hmm – anyone out these that would like to weigh in on this?  As potential customers of such services, what talents and skills are most desirable in a SharePoint consultant/programmer?
Based on the survey, I would think that experience and methodology for integrating SharePoint with security and records control would be high on the list.

Q: We’re looking to implement SharePoint at our location (3500 users) to replace Lotus Notes. I would like more information on what system requirements and staff needs to implement and maintain the system.

A: OK all you users and system integrators out there what do you say?  What is the  “right” staffing mix for a SharePoint deployment of 3500 Notes users.  Anyone with specific experience migrating from Lotus Notes?  Have any of you lived through a Notes to SharePoint migration?  What were the lessons learned? What skills were most important?

And with that – THAT’S IT.  The outstanding questions from the SharePoint webinar have all been answered. Ongoing dialogue and answers to the questions I posed in this post are certainly welcome however.

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