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Let's talk SharePoint

This year’s SharePoint Conference (held at the Conference Centre in Seattle, USA) can only be described as a huge success. Throughout the conference I was impressed that the organisers were able to “practice what they preach” by using SharePoint to host the conference website. Not only did this provide useful information when preparing to attend the conference but was a useful tool throughout and even after the conference. One of the things that impressed me most was the personal areas (through the use of MySites) where each attendee was able to plan, view and manage the sessions they attended and also provided the ability to submit session evaluations online.

Selecting which sessions to attend presented its own set of dilemmas as there were at least 3 or 4 sessions in each timeslot that were of interest to me. Two of my colleagues (Brendan Law and Chandima Kulathilake) also attended the conference, so we were able to cover a broad spectrum of sessions and subject matters.

I arrived in Seattle to be greeted by a steady stream of rain which helped to reinforce my preconception of Seattle’s reputation for rain. The sun did make a number of appearances while I was in Seattle although I managed to miss most of them while attending the conference! I’ve never been to Seattle but would love to go back again some day to spend time touring the city and surrounding regions.

Well, back to talking about the conference…

Taxonomy was a common theme throughout the conference and was highlighted again (as key to the successful deployment of SharePoint solutions) during the branding SharePoint sessions. Many organisations that use SharePoint are keen to put their own stamp on the look and feel and usability. If you’re interested in branding SharePoint it is worth checking out any information published by Heather Solomon.

A term that you may start hearing more of is mashup. A mashup can be simply described as combining and linking information from a number of sources and presenting it in such a way as to provide a richer user experience. Mashups may include:

  • Data sourced via the Business Data Catalog (BDC) from existing systems
  • Presentation and the ability to update information commonly stored in Excel spreadsheets. Excel Services is a useful tool in managing and presenting Excel spreadsheets in SharePoint
  • Combining data sourced via BDC, Excel Services, SharePoint libraries and lists with targeted images such as graphs and maps
  • Filter Webparts provide a simple way to connect webparts
  • DataView Webparts are created in SharePoint Designer and provide the flexibility to join and present data and information from various sources

Note: The BDC and Excel Services are available as part of the Enterprise version of Microsoft Office SharePoint Services (MOSS). MOSS Enterprise Edition provides Business Intelligence capabilities that can be enhanced by the use of add-ons such as the Data Mining add-on for Excel and webparts and other plug-ins that have been produced by Microsoft Business Partners.

For developers out there, you might be interested to know that “No Code” SharePoint solutions doesn't really mean that there is no code involved. So don’t be too quick to pack your bags and go home! “No Code” solutions merely refers to not having to deploy code on the server.

SharePoint has a wide range of functionality that can be configured and there is definitely still a place for developers when building robust, scalable or more complex SharePoint solutions.

Don’t forget to look at the functionality as part of stsadm.exe as this has many tools available to SharePoint Administrators and Developers.

It’s also worth checking out Silverlight if you want to extend SharePoint to offer a richer user experience. There are a number of organisations that have already started taking advantage of integrating SharePoint and Silverlight.

Microsoft have confirmed that SharePoint is one of their most successful products ever.

The SharePoint Conference was a great way to hear from SharePoint Experts, discover how other organisations are using SharePoint and talk to a large number of people with a shared common interest in SharePoint.

I’d highly recommend attending future SharePoint conferences to anyone with an interest in uncovering more about SharePoint and the potential it offers.

Posted by: Bernardine Slagter, Developer Consultant | 12 May 2008

Tags: SharePoint, Silverlight, SharePoint Conference, Taxonomy

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