How to Hide the SharePoint Ribbon

September 25, 2014

When it comes to SharePoint there’s this menu called the ribbon. From my experience this menu is not really customizable and generally only used by administrators.

Sharepoint-ribbon-edit-mode

Sharepoint-ribbon

Our company has always just hid this menu and designed our own menus for the site instead.

UFACIP-Custom-Menu

We have generally used two different methods for hiding the ribbon depending on the site’s needs.

Option 1: Simple CSS.

#s4-ribbonrow, #suiteBar { display: none; }

You can make this global by sticking this into a CSS file or specific to a master page. Some of our projects have a master page for normal users where they would not want to see the ribbon, and a separate web application that uses a different master page for administrators. This solution is great if you have admin/users separated like so, however if you have these two different types of users viewing the same pages you need a more dynamic solution.

Option 2: The use of SPSecurityTrimmedControl.

<SharePoint:SPSecurityTrimmedControl PermissionsString="ManagePermissions" runat="server">

<div id="s4-ribbonrow">

</div>

</SharePoint:SPSecurityTrimmedControl>

By using the SPSecurityTrimmedControl you can control whether the user sees the ribbon or not based on their permissions. This is more dynamic from the first option as all users can view the same page and have different controls based on their permission level.

RefineCo, Inc. Finalist for Calgary Chamber’s Breakout Business and Small Business of the Year Award

RefineCo, an Alberta-based technology services and solutions firm, has been listed as a finalist in the Breakout Business category of the Calgary Chamber’s Small Business Week Awards. Being a finalist in itself is a feat as Calgary had the highest number of small businesses per capita of major cities in Canada in 2013. “The small business sector is in many ways a large part of what makes this city’s energy and feel work,” said Adam Legge, president and chief executive of the Calgary Chamber.

“We’re privileged to work within Alberta’s business-friendly borders, and especially right here within Calgary”, says Eric Veenendaal, RefineCo’s CEO. “Being recognized by the Chamber is credit to our talented staff and customers, and the success we’ve had working together.”

The Breakout Business Award is presented to a new Calgary small business with a proven track record of rapid business growth and profitability. The company must show strong growth and financial performance by having a strong understanding of their competitors, customers and the markets in which they operate in. The company must also have a strong foundation in place for continued commercial success.

In only two years’ time, RefineCo has grown from a two-man shop to an impressive 19 employees. At RefineCo, they are extremely proud to say that their clients are clients for life. As a full service solution provider, they have watched their clients grow and have grown with them every step of the way.

While half of new businesses tend to fail after their first year, RefineCo has thrived. In addition to the impressive first year revenues, RefineCo managed to grow 60% in both revenues and staff the second year. To accommodate for their tremendous growth, they moved from an office of 1,400 square feet to 2,500 square feet and just recently, they doubled again and are now in a 5,000 square foot office in Calgary’s Beltline.

Having been awarded a silver medal in the Best Enterprise Solution category of the 2014 CDN Channel Elite Awards this past month, and listed in the 2014 Branham300’s Next 50 Canadian Information and Communication Technology Companies earlier this year, RefineCo is proving that they are certainly a Canadian IT solutions leader in the making.

Voting takes place online until October 15, 2014. To cast your vote for RefineCo, visit Small Business Week Calgary. Small Business Week 2014 runs from October 19-25, with the winners of specific business categories being announced at a special event presentation and Tradeshow Expo on Thursday, October 23, 2014.

About RefineCo.
RefineCo is a full-service technology consultancy and solutions company with a special focus on Enterprise Content Management (ECM). They also have a lot of domain knowledge across a variety of industry sectors; especially the energy industry. RefineCo have been working with clients in oil and gas for many years. They understand challenges such as managing a well file, sharing documents between distributed teams and EPC’s, and setting up document management and retention strategies. For more information, please visit www.refineco.com.

RefineCo, Inc. Wins Silver for Best Enterprise Solution at the 2014 CDN’s Channel Elite Awards

September 18, 2014

RefineCo, an Alberta-based technology firm, was honoured to win silver at the 2014 CDN’s Channel Elite Awards for the Best Enterprise Solution.  The awards gala was held on September 9, 2014 at the Hazelton Manor in Vaughan, ON with nearly 200 attendees.  These highly competitive awards attract hundreds of solution providers from all across Canada, making the first time winner extra proud.  CDN’s Channel Elite Awards recognizes IT Solution Providers for their innovation, leadership and commitment to creating business value for customers.

“Channel Elite Awards are the hardest award to win in the high tech channel. Companies must show true innovation while also outperforming their competition. They have to show a lot heart, dedication and success in delivering creative solutions” said Paolo Del Nibletto, the Editor of CDN – Computer Dealer News.

The Best Enterprise Award honours the solution provider that has created the most innovative problem solving hardware, networking, mobile, cloud or software-based solution for an enterprise, defined as a company or department with 251 seats or more using the solution.

“This award validates RefineCo’s commitment of delivering innovative and high value technology solutions through each customer engagement,” said Eric Veenendaal, RefineCo’s CEO. “We remain committed to our goal of becoming the go-to-company in Western Canada for technology-driven enterprise content management solutions, and this award proves that we are well on our way.”

Enterprise_Solution_S

RefineCo won the award for the Electronic Well File (EWF) solution that was developed for a large Canadian oil and gas company.  This solution is a unique combination of technologies that allows the company to access well records and documents using a single intuitive interface.  The EWF solution takes powerful industry tools such as FAST Search, Microsoft SharePoint, and the Professional Petroleum Data Management (PPDM) database and packages them in an interface that is simple and familiar.  Most importantly, this innovative solution goes above and beyond by focusing on the user experience without compromising on robust, scalable enterprise architecture.

Shaun Stepanowich, RefineCo’s Director of Technology, said, “I am very proud of our development team and the hard work and dedication they demonstrated.  The expertise and support provided by our customer was exceptional and ultimately we have them to thank for making this project such a success.”

Having been listed in the 2014 Branham300’s Next 50 Canadian Information and Communication Technology Companies earlier this year and selected as a finalist in Calgary Chamber’s Small Business Week awards for Breakout Business, RefineCo is proving that they are certainly a Canadian IT company to watch for. RefineCo has experienced tremendous growth over the last year – doubling both staff and revenues.

About RefineCo.

RefineCo is a full-service technology consultancy and development firm with a special focus on Enterprise Content Management (ECM).  Their offering spans requirements definition, solution architecture, development, hosting, training, and managed support.

RefineCo knows technology, but they also have a lot of domain knowledge across a variety of industry sectors; especially the energy industry. They have been working with clients in oil and gas for many years. RefineCo understand challenges such as managing a well file, sharing documents between distributed teams and EPC’s, and setting up document management and retention strategies.  For more information, please visit www.refineco.com.

6.5 Reasons Why You Should Use Google Analytics

September 11, 2014

Google Analytics launched in 2005 and it has forever changed the way that people think about analytics. Being free of charge, there is literally no reason why a company shouldn’t use this powerful service. According to Google, “Google Analytics not only lets you measure sales and conversions, but also gives you fresh insights into how visitors use your site, how they arrived on your site, and how you can keep them coming back.”

Analytics has morphed tremendously over the past few years, especially with the explosion of smart phones, but Google Analytics has always kept up with the trends and continues to improve every day. Using valuable data to make critical decisions should be a core part of any business. Below are 6.5 reasons why you should use Google Analytics.

1. Google Analytics is completely FREE!
There are no monthly costs associated with the service, there is no need to go through any consultants to get it and it’s relatively easy to set up. To top it off, Google provides amazing training resources and guides for the public. Anyone can use the basic functionalities of Google Analytics, but to reap the full benefits of all the features one would need to do a little learning.

Note: Google Analytics will cost money if your site generates more than 10 million hits per month.

2. They track everything.

  • Who visits? Find out the geographic location of your visitors, what device they used, what language they speak, what browser they used, their screen resolution, what keywords were used, and so much more.
  • What do they do on your site? Find out how long visitors are on your website/page, the bounce rate, how many pages they’re visiting, the order of the pages they visit, what page they land/leave from, and so much more.
  • When do they visit? Find out when visitors visit your site so that you can publish new content at the most beneficial times.
  • Where did they come from? Find out where your users came from whether it was through social media, a search engine, a website referral, or directly.  You’ll be able to focus your efforts more effectively.
  • How they interact? Find out if your visitors are engaging in content, if certain promotions are doing better than others, which sites lead to more conversions, and so on.

3. There are so many apps available.
Who doesn’t love apps? They can make implementation, configuration and monitoring so much easier and user friendly. As mentioned before, there is a lot that you do with Google Analytics, but a deeper knowledge is required. However, with these apps you reap all the benefits without needing to learn all the details.

4. Customize it how you want.
See your data the way you need to see it. Google Analytics offers powerful customizable reports. There is so much information available that it can be overwhelming. Fortunately, Google Analytics allows you to create your own reports easily (doesn’t get much easier than drag and drop) so that you can compare what is important to you.

5. Integrates perfectly with AdWords.
There is no doubt that the majority of your traffic comes from Google. That being said, it makes sense to advertise on Google – enter AdWords. Since these are both Google services, it makes sense that they fit together like two peas in a pod. Being able to associate the costs of AdWords directly with the outcome of each visit is efficient and logical.

6. Helps improve your website.
While Google Analytics doesn’t literally make your website better, it is one of the most helpful tools out there. By analyzing the data you can learn what works for your website and what doesn’t. For instance, if your landing page has an alarmingly high bounce rate, then you know to reconsider the content on that page. Perhaps it’s confusing and unclear or maybe it’s simply not engaging. Or maybe you find that a lot of customers complete 3 out of 4 steps for a transaction, but then quit. It would be worth it to see if there is some sort of obstacle that makes the last step hard. Remember, with the internet people have so many options for everything so it is in your company’s best interest to make everything as user friendly as possible.

6.5. It’s Google.
Enough said.

Feel free to comment and share your ideas about why you think people should use Google Analytics!

How to Overcome Slow SharePoint End User Adoption | Part 5: One Size Fits All Training Program

September 10, 2014

Having conducted SharePoint training for various organizations ranging from startups to large corporations, I have picked up a lot of tips and tricks in the industry.  I have already discussed how to overcome four common obstacles:

Today, I will be discussing the fifth and final obstacle in this series, and how to overcome it.

 Obstacle 5: One Size Fits All Training Program

Slow user adoption and low retention of training concepts typically occurs when you use a one-size-fits-all approach to training. SharePoint will affect every end-user in different ways based on their function within the organization. Furthermore, SharePoint training programs are often seen as a one-stop-shop of solutions, when in reality a training program needs to be perceived as an ongoing and continuous effort. For example, users need to have access to additional training when they are required to learn additional functionality or if their role changes. You will find that your end-users will grow frustrated and become inefficient if they do not have help and adequate support in times of need.

 Recommendation: Tiered, Hands-on Approach to Training

As an educator I can confidently say that your users will achieve the highest rates of adoption and knowledge retention with hands-on instruction delivered in your actual workplace environment.

I recommend defining the roles required within your SharePoint environment. Every organization is unique but some of the common roles I see are as follows:

  • Site Designer
  • Site Owner
  • Content SME
  • End User

Once you define roles and assign each user a role, things become a little easier. A user who needs to learn SharePoint may be apprehensive and have some classic “fear of the unknown” if they are not sure what is being asked of them.

If you want the best bang for your SharePoint training buck, I recommend:

  • Hands-on, instructor led, customized SharePoint training that focuses on the needs of the individual users. SharePoint’s list of functionality is pretty hefty so focusing on the relevant material will certainly cut down on costs.
  • A program based on SharePoint best practices. Using the platform the way it was intended to be used is simply the responsible thing to do.
  • Incentives and certifications that encourage and build confidence when key concepts are mastered. Who doesn’t like a gold sticker or two?
  • Training that is available to users when it’s needed. A complete program will have left behind material for reference. Even though SharePoint is really, really exciting stuff, sometimes some of my students forget the principles taught in class. This is why I offer the following items as part of my course: a “how to” manual, short 2-5 minute video tutorials, and recorded training sessions.
  • A program that holds users accountable. It’s important to apply a newly acquired concept almost right away. An effective training program requires users to complete a set of tasks and tests. This way the results are measurable.

Thank you for following! While many of these recommendations may seem like common sense, it is critical that your company identifies and addresses these common areas of weakness.  I know that there are many other obstacles that can arise when implementing SharePoint, I would love to hear about your experiences.  I encourage you to share any ideas in the comments below!

How to Overcome Slow SharePoint End User Adoption | Part 4: Mismanagement of the Training Effort

September 9, 2014

In this five blog series, I will describe the top five obstacles that I have encountered on the SharePoint battlefield and share my recommendations for overcoming them.

So far, we have discovered how to overcome negative preconceived notions of SharePoint, and the importance of creating both a communication plan and a governance plan.  Those efforts will be wasted if training is not implemented and conducted properly.

Obstacle 4: Mismanagement of the Training Effort

Training and education in the workplace is typically handled by Human Resources and management level employees. This can be tricky as non-technical employees are tasked with and expected to implement technical training. The non-technicals of the organization often lack the knowledge of the depth of functionality that SharePoint has to offer. It is quite a challenge for nontechnical employees to make informed decisions about the amount of time, effort, and resources required to implement a SharePoint training program without first fully understanding the platform. Additionally, nontechnical employees sometimes overlook the breadth of change that SharePoint can create in the workplace and the impact this can have on the day to day jobs of the end users.

Another familiar scenario I tend to encounter is that some organizations task the IT department with SharePoint training. From experience, I know that there can be some pretty significant diversity in the level of technical knowledge within an organization. If an IT department is charged with delivering SharePoint adoption  and/or training, the person who delivers the training must have business-level understanding of the platform, such that she or he can relate to the end-user. When working with IT Departments, we often run the risk of selecting an individual who is very technically minded and approaches the platform in a very pragmatic and functional sense; we need someone who can relate to how an end-user feels when looking at the features, buttons, designs, images, etc.

Recommendation: Distribute the Effort, Collaborate on Developing a Training Plan, Hire Help if Needed, and Train Everyone!

 When an organization evaluates SharePoint and deems it a fit as a technology to build efficiencies and promote collaboration, that’s a pretty big deal! I am sure many, many meetings were held and just as many people were consulted to arrive at the decision to choose SharePoint as a solution for a business need. The amount of time, effort and energy that goes into choosing SharePoint must then be mirrored when deciding on how to train users to ensure maximum user adoption. There is a wealth of free resources out there on the World Wide Web just waiting to be consumed – Lynda.com and Sharepoint-videos.com are a great place to start.  I believe everyone should take full advantage of the free information that can be found at the click of a mouse – absolutely!

However, it is imperative for you to allocate appropriate budget and resources to ensure a thorough training program can be executed. Developing and delivering a SharePoint training plan, in my opinion, is the fastest way to achieve user adoption and that sought after ROI. Training will build a strong foundation of confidence enabling users to utilize the platform as intended.  If you do not have the expertise internally, then I strongly recommend outsourcing someone who does.

Next, I recommend appointing members of each department who will become Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in the SharePoint environment. These users should receive a higher level of training than end-users (more on this later). The SMEs should work closely with (or be a part of) the Governance team and act as managers and facilitators for their department’s unique needs. By empowering employees and distributing efforts at the departmental level it takes the pressure off IT.

When done right, the SMEs, IT, and end users may even act as allies in discovering additional efficiencies though the platform – which will help the organization increase its ROI.

Check out the final segment about overcoming slow end user adoption of SharePoint.  I will be discussing why training is not and should not be a one size fits all type of program.

 

How to Overcome Slow SharePoint End User Adoption | Part 3: Lack of Governance

September 8, 2014

In this five blog series, I will describe the top five obstacles that I have encountered on the SharePoint battlefield and share my recommendations for overcoming them.

I have already covered two common obstacles – preconceived notions of SharePoint and lack of communication. Today, I will discuss another area that is often ignored – governance.

Obstacle 3: Lack of Governance

SharePoint is meant to be a tool that can be used company-wide, across all departments, and if you ask me, that is truly a glorious thing! However, I often see SharePoint solutions being deployed at the department or single business unit level, which usually opens a giant can of SharePoint worms! When SharePoint is used this way, users are not able to rely on consistent use on a company-wide scale. Furthermore, the result of each department growing independently is often end user confusion, frustration, misuse, inefficiency and even abandonment.

Recommendation: Governance!

Contrary to popular belief, even though SharePoint is a technology, all departments should be involved, not just IT. I recommend forming a governance committee to develop and implement a company-wide governance plan. It is important to have representatives from the various departments who will be using the platform to ensure everyone’s needs are met. However, it is equally as important to allow those who are most knowledgeable with SharePoint to lead this initiative (and in most cases that is IT).  Additionally, the committee should also consist of members of higher management with decision making power. The governance plan will essentially be the rules of the road for the SharePoint project.

A complete governance plan:

  • Includes a roadmap that establishes lines of ownership for business and technical teams
  • Outlines who is responsible for what area of the platform
  • Clearly defines an end-user agreement and training program. Users need a foundation of policies, procedures and best practices to get them started and to fall back on.

For more information on SharePoint governance Susan Hanley of networkworld.com and Benjamin Niaulin, a certified SharePoint trainer, have some great advice for developing a SharePoint governance plan.

So, in addition to creating a communication plan, it is equally important to create a governance plan.  You employees need to know the who, what, when, why and how of all matters relating to SharePoint in your organization.

How to Overcome Slow SharePoint End User Adoption | Part 2: Lack of Communication

September 7, 2014

In this five blog series, I will describe the top five obstacles that I have encountered on the SharePoint battlefield and share my recommendations for overcoming them.

In the last blog post, I discussed combating preconceived notions of SharePoint with baby steps. Today I will discuss another common obstacle that businesses must overcome in order to reap the full benefits of SharePoint – communication.

Obstacle 2: Lack of Communication

A common theme I see is lack of communication and unified vision for a SharePoint initiative. If an organization does not communicate the scope, purpose, impact and capabilities of SharePoint to the end users adequately and prior to roll out, many issues will surface. As a result, users are not always aware of all that SharePoint can deliver for them which leads to inconsistent use. Enter the snowball effect: Inconsistent use leads to not leveraging the available features and tools which leads to low (or lowered) motivation to continue learning about the platform.

Here is an example: A company implements SharePoint as a document management system. The users have not been given adequate direction on where to store their documents or how to migrate existing documents to SharePoint. The snow ball effect leads users to guess where to store documents, potentially create duplicates of documents and become frustrated with the platform. Files will be strewn about across several platforms, libraries, drives etc.

Recommendation: Create a Communication Plan

In order to cultivate high rates of user adoption for a new technology, everyone should be involved in some degree even from the beginning stages. Many end-user level employees will have the “what’s in it for me?” attitude and I can’t say I blame them. Learning a new technology can be daunting. To combat this, the leadership team may want to consider developing and implementing an effective communication plan to keep users informed and to create excitement throughout the entire process.

Here are a few things to consider when developing a communication plan:

  • Start with the basics and explain what exactly SharePoint is and how it will be used within the organization. Clearly stating the benefit of SharePoint to the end users will increase their understanding and interest in using the platform.
  • Executive management should be involved in outlining the vision, and short term and long term goals that SharePoint is intended to achieve with the organization. When employees understand that their managers have goals and expectations for SharePoint, and when those expectations are socialized by management, employees will have more incentive to use the platform and learn the features.
  • Inform users on how SharePoint will affect their day to day work and responsibilities. Creating an abrupt change in an employee’s work day will likely not go over well; communicating the changes to everyone will soften the blow.
  • Speak to the training and support that end-users will receive throughout the entire process. It’s important to let the users know that they will not be hung to dry, so to speak. Let them know who they can turn to for help.
  • Clarify how SharePoint will work with the current technologies and what technology it may be replacing, if any.
  • Build excitement about what SharePoint can and will do for you. Remember to keep employees updated during all stages of the project. Throw a launch party!

It’s as simple as that, to overcome lack of communication, create a communication plan!  It’s just a matter of doing it.  Check out the next segment to find out how to combat a lack of governance.