My thoughts on the technical aspects of manuall migration of an Access or other legacy forms application

Divide the migration to 3 different parts:

  1. The governance & Process flow
  2. The content- migrating the data
  3. The interface

Governance, planning and process flow

First of all decide what is going to be migrated and create a migration map and a document containing all the information.

Before any migration to the cloud I would like to refer you to the following article: Five pitfalls to avoid when migrating to the cloud

The most important one is: do not forget the what? who? and why business users are going to use it.

The simple understanding of who access what? which users are going to use this application and how? have a basic process flow and well defined personas for your application. If it is big enough, user stories will be needed as well.

After reviewing those topics you would be able to figure out the SharePoint solution architecture vs the existing one in Access. The how will be cleared, should you use several lists? how about groups? sites? PowerApps? maybe several pages just for the view and some custom made buttons?

2. Migrating the data –

    1. Create the data repositories – the lists, you can export the Access data by tables to Excel.
    2. SharePoint, unlike Access, is not a relational Data Base, that means that the data should be not normalized and hierarchy’s are not going to work the same unless a custom solution is applied.
    3. The easiest way is using the quick edit mode on a pre-created tables – yes that means basically rebuilding the Access solution

3. Migrating the interface

Prepare the solution – the data is going to reside in SharePoint lists? the access is going to be through list forms? another 3rd party solution? What is the user interface going to look like?

I would recommend to use Power Apps in order to achieve the forms look and feel and enjoy the benefits of the flow for any business rules you have mapped in the first part. The Power Apps can be connected to several data sources, hence creating the illusion of a relational DB after all. A very important tip, make all your editing in Power Apps desktop application. The online version is a bit, sneaky ;-).

Also on Quora

The one who got away

I am answering many questions in Qoura, it usually makes me think and explore about the things I find interesting such as SharePoint.

I was asked a question on a topic that people just love to comment about. Why is Sharepoint so disliked?

OK let’s put it plain and simple, why do people hate SharePoint?

 

First of all let us think who those people are. To dislike a platform, a knowledge management solution or anything else the workplace “makes” you to use instead of what you are used to manage your documents or creations in the previous workplace or at home, at first, might be understandable. Later on, most of the users should be indifferent to the tool they are using and simply enjoy their work or ask for improvements when a new process, workflow, site or report is needed. However, this is not always the case with SharePoint.

Just like in My answer, I would like to divide those users who dislike or perhaps hate SharePoint so much into 3 groups:

  1. Those who tried and got burned – The product was implemented in their company not in the best way, presented as the single answer to all the questions and perhaps the version they used was 2007 or even earlier so things didn’t go smoothly.
  2. Developers – SharePoint is a product which prefers customization! Customization is something developers usually see as beneath them. so they resist it or create beautiful and sophisticated custom solutions that are so hard to upgrade.
  3. Late adopters – they want things to stay as they are and have difficulty adopting to new ways of managing their processes and documents. They simply want to get things done. SharePoint is notorious for adding new features and being constantly upgraded. This is it’s strength and weakness at the same time.

Now what have triggered this question? who dislikes SharePoint so much? the topic came out of a stack overflow survey and SharePoint was the most disliked among the sites users:

StackOverflow users usually are developers, SharePoint has not the best public relations in this group. End users are less emotional about their sharing option as long as it is implemented and explained, sometimes they even not realize it is a SharePoint solution. Developers usually dislike it. This is a “one size fits it all” product, it has less options and abilities than niche products, easier to implement and get used to and works with other familiar products. All of which makes it less appealing for the more perfectionist crowd. 😉

Now lets look at the big picture:

Most Loved, Dreaded, and Wanted Platforms Stackoverflow

Anyone can see that SharePoint is in a good company SalesForce, WordPress (where this exact blog is written and everything Windows related). So let’s look at the demographics:

The vast majority of the people participating in this survey identified themselves as web developers. (more than 72%). Even if they are holding more titles than that and are for example data analyst and a web developer, they still are the majority. SharePoint is a local intranet in it’s core. I am a web developer (when I am not too lazy to create a blog instead of using Worpress;-)) Off course we think we can do it better, plan it better and have million features we would have included if we were in charge! The developers expect need and want more and this is exactly their prerogative as the developers. They are the “one who got away” and maybe at times it is a demographic that should not be pleased, otherwise they will not improve and progress the tool. Let them go, they will come back to make it better or design something even more awesome based of the lessons learned from SharePoint.

The survey is talking about platforms, for developers who prefer less standardized and more open source solutions they can build upon such as Linux. SharePoint is all about the end user and customization on the other hand.

We still have the other 2 groups of the late adopters and the “burned once” users. For those, there are many user adoption strategies and helpful resources. One of which I would like to recommend. An excellent blog post about driving the users adoption and getting those users back.

The Excellent Joanne Klein 

O365 Adoption: Noteworthy user groups

So for all of us it is always useful to look at the story the data tells us not just the headlines.

Thanks and Happy SharePointing!

 

Let’s talk about workflows

Writing the word Workflow in the SharePoint online section of the office store, resulted 92 (!) different apps. So let’s check what we have got.

First of all why do you need the workflow? what should it be doing?

If the answer is everything well, there are the most famous in the market – Nintex workflow, they do come with a price tag. Nintex Workflow for Office 365 enjoy, I know I did when my client could afford them.

There are less expensive tools that are created to give similar functionalities such as: UMT360 Workflow Visualization, K2 blackpearl for SharePoint (never worked with them so I cannot form an opinion just mentioning).

Another great solution, is easier to implement and has several workflows built in, for almost end user to be able to configure: Infowise Smart Action Pro Infowise are very well positioned company, they have several working and user friendly solutions, I had the privilege to work with their tools and if they cater to your requirements would highly recommend.

For the rest of the tools available, I have never worked with directly, so lets divide them into categories:

  1. HR/Payroll related workflows: KasPer Pro HR with Self Service
    1. Track vacations Holiday Authorization Management, Leave Request Pro
    2. Policies confirmation SP Employee OnBoarding
    3. Expenses tracking – Expense Approval Pro , Expense Management for SMEs
  2. Specific process/occupation related workflows
    1. Clinic – medicine processes – Clinic App
    2. Budget management – Budget Workflow Manager
    3. Travel management – Travel Request System
    4. Replacing CRM – KasCur Pro CRM
    5. There are more
  3. Managing your workflows: Workflow Manager
  4. Workflows with project or project related content: Actionspace: Tasks-Projects-Workflows (SharePoint), Project Documentation
  5. Form Based workflows – (You can use Info path but this has probably less functionalities with better graphic)
    1. FlowForma – Business Process Enablement Tool
    2. TeamWorkPath

Finally, in the army we had a list workflow, set from the 3 stages workflow and some customization using SP designer on a form, to get your commander approval signature for taking a weapon from the weaponry. Later we have “upgraded” the form to infopath so the units symbol could be added. I doubt we can find something like this in the online store but it was a workflow I have created, so it is all about what, and who you actually need to support with the workflow.

(Also published on Quora)

Security Groups in SharePoint What happens when someone leaves?

SharePoint 2013 doesn’t have dynamic security groups. It is based on the AD groups already in the organization. The users cannot be created in SharePoint only existing users in the organization can be added. The same happens in Office 365, you need to add the user for the entire organization either as a guest (free account), contact or organizational user.

This is from the Office 365 main menu and not internally to SharePoint

The users are added in this screen according to the different groups:

Now, the users can be added into specific groups or sites in SharePoint or any other Office 365 application. If a user deleted from here, and no longer exist as a user in the organization, he will disappear from the sites and groups preventing be ghost users in a SharePoint site. (At least according to what I have seen, I am sure there are some exceptions perhaps someone can comment?)

So What happens on premise? SharePoint 2013? Someone leaves the organization and than what?

Back in Share Point 2010 and before the so called “Ghost users” were very common phenomena especially when cutting the sites permissions from the main site which was easily done but extremely hard to govern.

There are 3rd party tools, based usually on Power-Shell commands that creates the dynamic groups ability in SharePoint. Those solutions are sometimes necessary when the organizational AD is poorly managed, the 2 teams (SharePoint and Active Directory) don’t have the best internal communication between them or the governance policy was defined separately. In smaller organizations, sometimes a delete Power-Shell function is used when someone leaves brutally deleting all the permissions by site collection. Not dynamic or efficient but works and leaves no tails of orphaned users. Remove-SPUser . Same can be applied for adding one.

The other way is to use the AZUE AD dynamic groups, which is very efficient for hybrid SP solutions (partially in the cloud and partially on premise). You still need to manage the users in AD and the groups.