Discovering Delve: The Smart Way to InformationAugust 5, 2016
Microsoft Office 365, sometimes referred to as Microsoft 365 or Office 365, is a Web-based version of Microsoft’s Office suite of enterprise-grade productivity applications (Office, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online and Microsoft Office Web Apps). In simpler terms, the Microsoft Office 365 suite is a hosted, online version of the traditional installed version of Microsoft Office software.
Introducing the new Office Delve, where users can search for information related to other users and find specific data on what the other users have been working on – forming a true collaborative environment within Office 365. While users can team up to work on a single document, there could be several documents of interest to a number of users across the organization. Delve essentially ‘fishes’ out the pertinent information that will be of the greatest interest to a user at a particular moment. At the same time, Microsoft Delve is designed to provide a degree of transparency throughout the organization without undermining user’s privacy. For instance, if a user has marked the document as private then Delve will prohibit other users from accessing that document.
By far, Delve helps you discover the information that’s likely to be most interesting to you right now – across the Office 365 platform. Let’s say you forgot the title of a document or the location of the document on your computer. Instead of going places and trying to search for your document, using Delve simplifies the search, and shows you documents no matter where they’re stored. Additionally, Delve also allows you to view your team members’ profiles, since profiles are similar to electronic business cards you share within the organization.
The main purpose of Delve is to surface content and information that is important to you with much less effort, providing an automatic mechanism to search for information with seamless ease and simplicity. Undoubtedly, big data being a reality – tons of content is being created within the organization every single day, and it could take hours and hours just to find a specific piece of information. Delve is the answer for information sourcing!
Within Delve, documents are typically displayed in display blocks called content cards. The content cards are formatted in the following manner:
Top of the card: User who has recently modified the document and modification date.
- Document title
- Rendered image of the title page or an image representing the file type
- File type and author that created the document
- Social links: Email link, who can see the document, talk about on Yammer
- Number of views
- Add to board
If you are still unable to find the required information, a powerful search option is available, and documents in the pane will be filtered by the search term entered. Also available is hit highlighting, which highlights areas in the document where the search term is first discovered. So, in essence, Delve is inevitably the smart way to information!
Leveraging Accounts Payable Automation Using SharePointNovember 27, 2015
The accounts payable process or function is vastly important since it involves nearly all of a company’s payments outside of payroll. Regardless of the company’s size, the mission of accounts payable is to pay only the company’s bills and invoices that are authentic and accurate.
In order to safeguard company’s cash and other valuable assets, the accounts payable process should have strong internal controls. A few reasons for internal controls are to:
- avoid paying a fraudulent invoice
- avoid paying an inaccurate invoice
- avoid paying a vendor invoice twice
- ensure all vendor invoices are accounted for
- accurate reporting to various stakeholders
Departments like accounting and human resources which generally are information intensive, typically generate a huge amount of data in terms of records throughout their daily processes. Invoices and expense approvals, vendor payments, etc. generate paperwork that requires human intervention in the form of approvals at each interval of the process. With that said, Accounts Payable (AP) automation enables you to classify, and index paper documents as well as electronic invoices. Processors, approvers, and managers save time and improve accuracy with tools such as queue-based workflow and automatic email notifications, resulting in cost reduction, improved accuracy, and enhanced operational efficiency.
Microsoft SharePoint as a powerful collaborative and information sharing platform allows for:
- Increased AP Cost Savings – It significantly reduces the costs of processing invoices, purchase orders, checks, receipts, packing slips and other paper-based documents. It removes hidden costs associated with storing, searching and finding paper documents located in storage rooms.
- Maximized Return on Investment (ROI) – Using SharePoint for accounts payable drives user adoption and increases end-user satisfaction by deploying a cost-effective and low-risk solution that uses the proven SharePoint platform.
- Increased Productivity – Standardizing or automating repeatable tasks by creating workflows at every stage of the accounts payable process certainly reduces risks and human errors and prevents late or lost payments.
More specifically, here’s what SharePoint can do for your AP automation:
- Automate critical business processes and cut costs, such as invoice processing, approving purchase orders, processing work orders, etc.
- Harness the power of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server workflow, forms, security, document management, etc.
- Rapidly develop and deploy business solutions
- Seamlessly integrate with other business systems to share data throughout the enterprise
- Identify process bottlenecks and improve efficiency
- Enhance business intelligence with reporting, audit logs, dashboards & alerts
ACTS is a Microsoft Business Critical SharePoint partner, and with its proven Business Outcome Model (BOM) Methodology always starts with asking: How can we help you deliver better business outcomes using the technology tools currently available? By interviewing your employees, executives and business process owners, we fully understand how your organization functions, your critical business processes, and how and where new technology can deliver competitive-edge-gaining advantages. After becoming thoroughly familiar with your operations, our experts build a business-outcome-focused plan on the best way to use technology to:
- Intelligently capture your relevant data with efficiency
- Automate processes based on streamlined workflows
- Accurately deliver the right information to the right people
Written by Tech Team
SharePoint as a foundation for Records Management and eDiscoveryFebruary 17, 2014
by Megan Sproles
The term “e-discovery” gets thrown around a lot, and generally the perception is “we should do something about records management before we get sued.” While it’s true that there are companies that provide services to bring your business systems into compliance for records management, legal liability protection, and to prepare for dealing with e-discovery, the truth is that these are not “all or nothing” concepts. Even while you perhaps evaluate packages or solution providers, there are steps your business can be taking to improve your situation. If you are running SharePoint then you already have a lot of the tools you need in-house.
What is Records Management?
First, of course, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page:
- Records Management: managing specific documents, which are considered the records of the business. Defining which documents are records is often half the problem, but once defined, there needs to be a structured multi-stage life cycle defined for the documents – when they will be archived, and when they will be destroyed.
- e-discovery: this is not strictly speaking a certification for how documents are stored, but is more concerned with the ability to identify and deliver documents in answer to legal procedures. Of course one would hope these are rare, but the reality is that many businesses have to frequently produce documents for litigation. The goal of e-discovery is to reduce the administrative workload in complying with the request while still satisfying the legal requirements.
The primary concern with both e-discovery and records management is governance. Your business must have the policies to properly handle your business records and documents. Where this generally falls apart is in enforcing the rules. The problem isn’t that employees try to break the rules — it’s just that often complex or difficult rules can get in the way of getting the job done, and so they end up being ignored. Automation was supposed to solve this problem, but often creates more of a problem than it solves.
When “Good Enough” is Good Enough
Business records must be stored in an organized, managed manner. Records that are stored must also be either archived or destroyed at established times or milestones. Full compliance with various legal aspects of e-Discovery and/or records management require business review and possibly technical customization from an experienced partner. But taking care of the basic concepts is absolutely manageable by any business. Cleaning up document handling and record keeping using SharePoint’s existing capabilities will serve your business both in day to day operations and in the event of an audit or compliance review.
More senior SharePoint users are familiar with features like managed metadata and workflows. However not many businesses are using the advanced capabilities that SharePoint offers which can be quite powerful with the proper policies and governance in place:
- Enterprise Content Types allow managing business documents in a standard way across the organization
- Retention Policies can prevent the shared drive buildup of documents and content by putting standard archive and expiration policies on content types. This ensures that legal documents are retained as necessary, but standard working documents are cleared out at a reasonable pace.
- Document Sets provide a way of tracking a collection of related matter as a single unit, applying policies to all documents within the set in a single transaction.
- Document IDs enable SharePoint to assign a unique ID code to every document, making it easier to track and identify the document even as it is moved to different libraries or even different sites.
- SharePoint’s Content Organizer feature provides a way to route documents based on content type and tag values. For example while all contracts are routed to purchasing, contracts tagged as being over $5,000 in value might be routed to the legal department first for review.
SharePoint also has a robust document conversion engine, so even though various documents may arrive in various formats, they can be filed in a uniform format. This feature is somewhat more advanced – the engine to perform the specific conversion must be available. However this document conversion is an open API, so it is possible to customize a conversion engine that, for example, extracts specific information from files and tags the destination file with the information.
To reiterate – for a proper Records Management program or eDiscovery preparation, a business should always seek the advice of a certified expert to implement the structure and business rules necessary to ensure legal and financial compliance. However, until that full process becomes necessary or mandatory, SharePoint can certainly provide the tools and framework to better organize and manage business documents and records.
SharePoint Document Management Features
by Megan Sproles
If an army runs on its stomach, then a business runs on paper. Many organizations focus on the numbers of their business. To be sure, the numbers are very important, and of course they govern the objectives which you use to manage your business. Unfortunately, there is always a layer of paper between the people that need to do the work, and the outcomes that need to be measured. Managing this “paper layer” may not contribute to the bottom line directly, but just as axle grease doesn’t make an F1 win the race, the car won’t make it to the finish line if it’s not in place and taken care of. With the exception of some knowledge-based businesses, documents are generally a necessary evil. They are emailed or printed and filed, and once they do their job they are forgotten. This type of thinking ignores a huge opportunity to improve your business without a major investment. This is especially true if your business is running SharePoint.
Growing Beyond Lists and Libraries
Groups that adopt SharePoint generally (and often grudgingly) will store some documents there, and perhaps make some lists. For them it’s a digital filing cabinet. Just like anyone who has a filing cabinet at home, finding older or arcane information is a paper chase through reams of documents. If the business is really lucky, then the person who set up the filing system is still around and knows how to find it. The first set of benefits is reactive, and most folks will see it coming. By taking better advantage of SharePoint’s enterprise search capabilities, you will find it can be much easier to discover the information you’re looking for. If you have even rudimentary tags on your documents, then search refiners can help you drill down to what you’re trying to find fairly quickly. To really see benefits from what SharePoint can offer, one should embrace document types, document sets, metadata, and routing rules. These “out of the box” tools in SharePoint can go a long way towards automatically organizing the paper that drives your business. Once your paperwork is under control, then there are ways to get business value out of it.
Understanding Document Types
For example, every business should adopt the idea of document types. In the real world we understand this implicitly. We talk about “invoices,” “purchase orders,” “work orders” and so on. It’s only in the digital world that we address documents by their file type: Word document, spreadsheet, PowerPoint, PDF… Even something as basic as an image will be called “gif” or “jpeg” instead of simply “image” or “photo.” SharePoint enables you to tag documents stored in sharepoint with what are called “content types” so you can focus on what is in the document instead of what kind of container it is. For example, you could have a “Purchase Order” content type that you tag on to whatever format your POs come in. Whether you are emailed a Word or Excel file, get a PDF from an efax service, or scan paper yourself to a TIFF you don’t have to care – they can all be purchase orders. Content types can have specific properties, so each purchase order could be tagged with the buyer, total purchase value, tax, fiscal year, and status. Now it’s trivial to look at a library full of purchase orders and filter out “orders from Customer X over $5000 last fiscal year” and get the actual documents that drove the orders.
Often business documents aren’t self-contained in a single file. In the real world we may have a folder that contains detail documents, background, history, additional supporting data, and so on. The folder can be routed around and is essentially a “document” unto itself. We can do this in the SharePoint world, too. SharePoint has a concept called a “document set.” It’s a content type that acts as a container for other content. Think of it as a virtual folder that can be moved around SharePoint. In this document set we can add purchase orders (Word, Excel, PDF, etc), images (GIF, JPG, TIFF), maybe background presentations (PowerPoint, PDF), and so on. The document set can have a collection of templates for either required or optional documents that must be in the set, and properties can be copied from the set to individual documents. If the status of the set is “Pending Review” that status can be set on every file, so even if a Word document is stored separately, the status will read “Pending Review.” These basic concepts can enable your business to perform its operations in a more structured manner, and your record keeping will be less dependent on the organizational knowledge of a few individuals. Most importantly, these are “out of the box” features that can be adopted without needing an additional complex document routing system.
SharePoint and Sales Team Management
by Megan Sproles
Business Outcome Methodology (BOM) may seem to be an executive problem managed by a dedicated business intelligence group with high-powered (expensive) software. Actually the value of BOM can be realized by any team manager or leader with the tools available in an enterprise installation of SharePoint. The important concept is that you cannot manage what you cannot measure. In traditional sales management, the only outcome that an organization cares about is revenue produced. In enterprise sales, this can result in an “all or nothing” approach to accounts that can harm the long-term relationships necessary to continue engaging with customers year after year. A wise sales manager will evaluate business outcomes in the sales funnel before the deal is closed. By monitoring how account executives or sales teams are performing as they pursue leads, generate prospects, and grow opportunities a sales manager can actually be managing their sales process instead of simply watching the revenue flow.
SharePoint for Measuring Outcomes
This approach to sales leadership can be well served by using features in SharePoint that are often overlooked. Most organizations treat SharePoint as a collaboration tool at best. At worst, it’s essentially a shared drive and dumping ground for files. This is the equivalent of having an expensive 3D projection table with piles of books and papers on it. Sure it makes for a fine abstract filing system, but the people who leave their stuff there are completely missing out on the capabilities of the tool. Advanced SharePoint users will take advantage of document tagging, metadata and workflows. A small percentage will embrace the value of content types, templates, and document routing. Beyond that very few groups appreciate the analytic and reporting capabilities built into the SharePoint framework:
– Access and Excel Services give businesses a lightweight framework to take data that would traditionally be stored in a file on a shared drive and put that data somewhere accessible. Once this business data is in one of the SharePoint data services, analytics and reporting become much easier. – PerformancePoint Services enable the creation of performance indicators, scorecards, reports, and dashboards on data such as that stored in Access or Excel Services as well as other business systems.
– Business Connectivity Services can connect other data stores or databases so that SharePoint’s infrastructure can access it as though it were native SharePoint data.
– SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) can create analytic models and even perform data mining on aggregations of data from multiple sources.
– SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) provides enterprise-class reporting on the data collected. SSRS also has a virtually unknown geospatial reporting capability, making geographic mapping reports very easy to create “out of the box.”
– PowerPivot and PowerView “democratize” these tools to a large degree, allowing models and reports to be designed by power users instead of having design stuck in the IT Department. Consider a sales team that covers a geographic area. The “100 level” management approach would be to have account executives file leads, customer reports, projections, and maybe even a sales funnel. This kind of paperwork doesn’t reflect a “team.” Instead what the manager has is a herd of cats — a group of individuals each pursuing individual goals in the same office. SharePoint provides the tools to manage a sales organization as a team and better yet – to manage the team by outcome instead of by executive fiat.
SharePoint and SQL Server for Reporting
It’s very straightforward to create a sales reporting database in either SQL Server or SharePoint Access Services. By using InfoPath forms for data entry, your sales executives don’t have to worry about what the back end looks like. Once you’ve captured data on leads and prospects, you can start generating scorecards based on quotas using SharePoint’s built-in PerformancePoint Services. It gets more interesting when you add SQL Server’s geospatial features. How would you like a map of where in your district the revenue is coming from? Or a geographic map of where your leads are? Being able to track how your account executives are focusing their efforts can expose underserved areas, “green field” customers, or even possible overlap between accounts. There are two ways to manage a sales team – you can either be completely “hands off” and simply watch funnel reports. However, this frequently allows accounts with difficulties to escape attention until the end of the quarter (or worse – the end of the year). A manager can be more “hands on,” but cannot micromanage all of his or her sales professionals. Account insight reporting as described above gives a sales manager the information to better guide their team to success through actual performance instead of perceived activity.