SHAREPOINT CONSIDERATIONS

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1 SHAREPOINT CONSIDERATIONS Phil Dixon, VP of Business Development, ECMP, BPMP Josh Wright, VP of Technology, ECMP Steve Hathaway, Principal Consultant, M.S., ECMP The construction industry undoubtedly struggles to achieve a vision for single source solutions for information management. First, there are a variety of point and enterprise solutions which are developed for the specific tasks within a particular trade or industry sector. Adding to the complexity, IT must manage information systems in a decentralized operations environment, where connectivity and bandwidth present significant obstacles for systems deployment and performance. Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is no exception as contractors wonder if there s a single source ECM solution for the industry as a whole; one that manages all types of content, across the entire company. Good news - single source ECM can be achieved through many different strategies, including linking repositories, integrating to back office systems, and implementing search or collaboration portals. Let s take a look at SharePoint. Not regarded as an exclusive single source ECM solution, we ll explore the common myths, misconceptions, and general considerations surrounding a sound SharePoint implementation.

2 INTRODUCTION Construction companies stand to gain significant productivity with intranets, portals, collaboration, forms processing, business intelligence, business process management and content management. However, SharePoint, like so many Microsoft products, was developed around an Application Programming Interface (API) first. API s provide robust development and integration benefits for Microsoft development teams, third party integrators, and custom development staff. This, in essence, is the double edged sword SharePoint will readily present to any organization lacking the full understanding of its capabilities AND requirements. Essentially all Microsoft software business applications are broadly applicable information management systems, providing invaluable productivity and data sharing benefits. Although productive, they lack any industry focus or integration. This business model and approach can be attributed to Microsoft s success, as it provides rich develop platforms and API s for third party integrators to fill industry specific gaps and niche markets. SharePoint is arguably one of the richest development platforms in the Microsoft suite, but it is commonly mistaken as an enterprise solution for ECM. Without question, SharePoint maintains an array of ECM features, but is certainly missing any out-ofthe-box application for a particular industry. It also lacks many critical features, which leaves end users searching for third party add-ons. There are a minimum of 10 factors your company should consider when selecting any ECM solution and this paper will address these specifically for SharePoint.

3 CONSIDERATIONS Licensing and Cost There is a common misconception in the market place that SharePoint is free. Yes, the foundation version licensing is included with Windows Server. However, there are varying degrees of licensing which all carry cost. The link below is an online pricing tool for Microsoft licensing cost. microsoft.com/licensing/mla In addition to software licensing cost, your organization should also consider costs for servers, third party addons, consulting, staffing, and custom development. SOLVE THE RIGHT PROBLEM Your company is evaluating ECM, document management, and/or collaboration, where SharePoint is being considered- specifically what problem will be solved and what should the result look like? Too often, construction companies purchase systems without evaluating their current environment. Take inventory of your current systems, business process, and personnel. Be sure to know if you are replacing a current system and then plan for the impact by considering the business process, user adoption, and change management challenges. Your company already has systems in place for business processes and workflows. Are you replacing a paper filing system or the electronic file share? Your employees already have systems or methods for managing this information. Every department has a certain method of filing, whether it is paper filing or scanning to a Windows folder directory. Your employees have ingrained behaviors for creating, sharing, and approving documents. For each department, you ll need to heavily consider site design, document libraries, workflows, and permissions. How you classify or index files will impact all aspects of administration and governance significantly.

4 Once you understand the business problem you are attempting to solve and there is a plan in place to solve it, plan for implementation and training. Re-engineering end-user behavior is not an easy task. Schedule a series of training sessions for each department identifying the proper methods for using the new application, classifying information, and their permissions. Manage change. Once you understand the cost associated with licenses and you know what business problem you are going to solve, you are in a better position to project your return on investment. ROI You understand the associated cost, and have a plan to solve the right problem. Now, what is the return on your investment (ROI)? Of course you ll want to evaluate the hard cost, but don t forget about soft and variable cost. Hard cost considerations include licensing however, most companies also incur other variable costs associated with server hardware, software assurance, consulting, implementation services, and third party add-ons. Considering SharePoint in the context of a development platform, there s a vast potential for third party services and software. Consulting services can be expensive, but are designed to help you solve the right business problem. By evaluating current systems, business process, and assessing the needs of your organization, consultants are able to recommend SharePoint architecture, design, and deployment best practices. Equally expensive, third parties providing implementation services may include configuration, design, customization, and training. Increasingly expensive, SharePoint developers provide highly customized solutions which fit your company objectives with custom software development. Long term expenses for full scale deployments typically require

5 staffed administrators and even in-house developers. Collectively, these costs add up quickly. Understanding the total cost of ownership up front will allow your organization to prepare budgets accordingly before you are past the point of no return. Like any software application, there are pros and cons to customization. Highly customized software is tailored to the specific needs of the organization, although costly to develop and implement. Customized software also requires intimate knowledge of source code and ongoing maintenance costs should be considered as well. With any custom development project, understand that your company is now in the business of providing software to itself. At a minimum, the software will need to be documented, versioned, maintained and supported internally. See product lifecycle management. Our impulse is to solve problems quickly. Be sure to avoid creating new problems while intending to solve existing ones. Broadly adopted software systems become part of your organizational culture for better or worse. Take time to plan, understanding the impact to budget, implementation, and ongoing maintenance. PLANNING Before you can implement SharePoint, it is best to have thorough design and architecture. All too often, companies will embark on a SharePoint initiative without architecting the solution properly. Remember SharePoint is a development platform that will provide you with very little right out of the box. Like any development project, the final product must be carefully considered and created. The purpose of planning should be: To avoid content sprawl by defining a content review process To ensure content quality can be maintained throughout the life of the solution To ensure the solution is aligned with business objectives

6 Too often, organizations skip these steps, implement the software and in the end, the initiative fails because content within the site either becomes too unorganized or the site was too restrictive. In both cases the endusers revert back to their old methods. Worse yet, the often stated goal of consolidating data from numerous file stores into one system results in just one more location that data could be stored - exacerbating the very problem that was intended to be addressed. IMPLEMENTATION OK, your company owns SharePoint licensing, now what? Based on a 2011 survey, Using SharePoint for ECM, conducted by AIIM ( SharePoint is most commonly used for collaboration and intranet, followed by document management and search. The graph below indicates the responses given regarding the ECM feature set for SharePoint: dark blue-widely used, blue-some use, light blue-firm plans. Given the broad application for ECM, it is unlikely to assume that any one system can serve as a single source. SharePoint is best considered as part of your ECM strategy, rather than an all-encompassing solution. Based on a 2011 survey, Using SharePoint for ECM, conducted by AIIM (

7 POST IMPLEMENTATION & SERVICE So, now that SharePoint has been implemented, who will support the system, train end-users, and develop the strategic plan for the company? Any ECM implementation or strategy requires a champion to carry the flag for best practices and the company vision. Your organization should consider who this person will be, what resources they have in-house, or which consulting partner will provide ongoing support, maintenance, and future implementation requirements. ECM implementations are never finished. Most initial implementations are part of a phased implementation approach and all require some ongoing process reengineering. Technologies evolve and so do your business requirements. Similarly, changes in your line of business applications (LOB s) require ECM consideration. Adding to, or changing LOB s is usually a reaction to the evolving business requirements for automation, integration, or collaboration. New processes, software, or even hardware having anything to do with files or documents, will impact your ECM strategy. Your ECM solution will need to evolve accordingly and this responsibility will impact ongoing costs whether insourced or outsourced. PRODUCT LIFECYCLE MANAGEMENT SharePoint can be a powerful development platform for creating business value with solutions tailored to your business. Building a custom solution requires a defined process for designing, coding, testing, deploying and maintaining the solution. Many companies dive into custom solutions without a full understanding of what is required to manage the implementation of custom software. Companies that specialize in creating

8 software spend years refining their toolsets and processes to ensure software meets their needs and real-world problems can be resolved quickly. Before embarking on a custom SharePoint solution, be sure you have a process in place to properly define the product being created. Too often, companies jump directly into coding a solution, and then push it directly into production with little more than a few simple tests by the developer. Proper requirements management and testing practices are essential to a successful implementation. If you do not already have a test environment for SharePoint, be sure to include it in the budget. Developing directly against a production environment opens up a number of risks. The first and most obvious is introducing a bug or misconfiguration that brings down the production environment. The dual environment approach also ensures that every change is documented well enough to be reliably reproduced on the second environment. Example: You have specified a custom solution, developed on a test environment and deployed it to production servers. A user calls with a problem in the system; they have found an error message that prevents them from completing a process. How do you handle this? If your developer is a contractor, do you have to pay for their time to reproduce and fix this problem? No product is perfect in the first release. Plan for the inevitable bugs and ensure you have a process inplace for correcting the problem, reproducing it in a test environment, developing the fix and deploying the fix to production. PERFORMANCE & DEPLOYMENT SharePoint BLOB (Binary Large Object) files are stored in the SQL database and your company has remote

9 offices and job sites which require access. How is the system architected to support your environment and what is remote performance like? Custom software, SharePoint add-ons, and storage are the most critical factors to consider regarding performance. Custom software, if not developed properly can certainly put a drain on server processing speed, affecting your entire organization s access and usability. Add-on software can potentially present the same problems. Most importantly, consider how SharePoint stores BLOB files. SharePoint provides options for storing files outside of the SQL database; however, by default SharePoint will store files using the SQL database. Storing files inside the database provides advantages to both users and IT, such as search and administration. The downside to BLOB storage in SQL databases are large backup sets and it takes a long time to restore from backup. Many documents are accessed often as they are created or part of a workflow or collaboration site, but eventually become static (not accessed often). Static content taxes the SQL database unnecessarily by taking up large amounts of space. Further, storing large volumes of documents is not one of SharePoint s attributes. Large volume or high quantities of documents typically indicate transactional content. Transactional content is considered to be any content type/document set which is repeatedly and repetitively processed over and over as part of a workflow requirement. Examples of transactional content include purchase orders, invoices, HR documents, RFI s, submittals, change orders, , delivery tickets, etc. Transactional content presents performance degradation challenges and also make it difficult for end-users to search and retrieve documents. Each of these performance related factors should be thoroughly considered when implementing SharePoint for remote networked user access and external users outside the company network. When

10 response times slow and systems freeze, users tend to abandon the software. SharePoint does not have built-in viewers for streaming content, therefore remote users, both networked and external, must download documents to the desktop for editing and viewing. If bandwidth and connectivity issues already exist with your remote offices and jobsites, then performance will be an issue. Performance and deployment issues will impact user adoption, and therefore should be considered as part of the ROI analysis. Infrastructure upgrades are costly; however the alternative could be end-user adoption or the lack thereof. INTEGRATION One of the most important considerations for any ECM implementation should be how well it integrates with your existing LOB s such as construction accounting, project management, HR, and other line of business systems. Microsoft isn t interested in providing these integrations as their business model is to provide an API for third party integration. If ECM isn t integrated with accounting, project management, human resources, and purchasing systems, you risk end-user adoption. You also won t truly recognize the expected ROI if there is redundancy in data entry, document versions, and workflow. There are many developers who can provide these custom integrations but there is risk as to whether they know your industry, systems, and business requirements. This lack of understanding will be costly due to an up-front learning curve burden which supersedes the cost to develop software and support it. Additionally, there may be third party products which provide these integrations, and although they are not custom software packages, their cost should be considered up front as well.

11 GOVERNANCE If SharePoint has pervasive use in your organization, who will determine classification schemes and manage site proliferation? SharePoint is very simple to deploy as it requires very little upfront configuration to get a site up and running. When sites, libraries, policies, permissions, content types, and workflow rules are not configured, your endusers are left to their own devices. Without standards in place, site organization can be clumsy and will also deviate from site to site. Casual users will find it difficult to find documents. Policies and permissions are intended to protect site information and end-user access. Content type configuration provides classification standards and structure for content and can also be leveraged in policy, permissions, and workflow configuration to further protect content and direct end-users. The AIIM survey chart below identifies the most common issues for SharePoint governance.

12 CONCLUSION SharePoint is a valuable tool if implemented properly, however its true cost is often misconceived. There are many considerations involved with evaluating and implementing an ECM solution. Construction Imaging recognizes the value and weaknesses in the SharePoint platform and has aligned its current product suite and roadmap strategy to supplement ECM with or without SharePoint. The integration is implemented with bi-directional functionality for publishing, archiving, indexing, and viewing content. Additionally, the web services API provides full functionality for custom SharePoint implementations to leverage transactional content and workflows executed outside of SharePoint. Staff members are certified on SharePoint and we ve implemented systems and ensured integration alongside clients and their third party consultants. For more information, contact Construction Imaging at or call Coaxis, Inc. dba Viewpoint Construction Software. All Rights Reserved. Viewpoint Construction Software and Viewpoint V6 Software are trademarks or registered trademarks of Coaxis, Inc., dba Viewpoint Construction Software in the United States and/or other countries. Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.

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