Top Budgeting Mistakes When Comparing Office 365 to SharePoint and Exchange On-Premises

  1. Under-Estimating the Cost of SharePoint 2016 On-Premises

This is the most common mistake I see.  First, many information technology managers forget that SharePoint 2016 does not have a foundation license and therefore will need to purchase Standard or Enterprise client access licenses.  Second, information technology managers should budget for four or five servers to install SharePoint 2016 just to meet the minimum hardware requirements.  A single server is unlikely to meet the production needs for most organizations, this cost gets compounded when you look at the long term cost of server refreshes, warranty extensions, and future upgrades.  Third, information technology managers underestimate the administrative work required to keep a SharePoint farm healthy.

 

  1. Forgetting About Identity Management in the Cloud

Many organizations are already looking for ways to extend their Active Directory and identity management solutions to cloud applications, as well as share limited internal resources with external customers, vendors, and partners.  Office 365 has these capabilities “baked in” with secure external sharing, Azure Active Directory, and other cloud identity management tools.  Replicating these kinds of tools on-premises not only increases your hardware and expertise requirements, but can open you to additional security threats if not enabled and managed correctly.

Microsoft has made it easier to extend your Active Directory with tools like Azure Active Directory Connect which allows you to enable same sign-in and single sign-on technologies easily.  There are also technologies like EMS and Azure Active Directory Domain Services which create additional benefits that can actually make the cloud more secure than applications that once ran in your data center.

 

  1. Believing that Hybrid is Less Expensive than Cloud Only

We consulted with several customers this quarter who believed that running hybrid would save them money.  They were trying to avoid paying for licenses in the Microsoft cloud for some users.  In most cases, since you can’t match the scale of Microsoft, your organization can’t match the value they provide.  There are great reasons to run Hybrid such as unique security and compliance requirements or custom applications that you don’t want to re-write to run in the cloud.  Cost should not be the factor driving your organization towards hybrid Exchange or SharePoint.

 

  1. Not Including the Cost of Software You Can Stop Using

Hopefully you are running spam filtering and virus scanning software for your on-premises collaboration server environment.  Microsoft takes care of these for you in Office 365.  Email archiving software is not typically needed due to the large mailboxes sizes in Exchange Online.  Microsoft provides backup software and high availability as well.  Your team should also calculate whether or not you can reduce spending on conferencing services or products like WebEx or GoToMeeting and replace them with Skype for Business (included in many Office 365 plans).

With real-time reporting of the features and components that your organization is actually leveraging, you can make better decisions about what technologies to invest in, rather than rubber stamping additional hardware investments year after year.

Software you pay and don't use Office 365

 

  1. Cost of Managing External User Access

SharePoint Online provides access for unlimited external users.  Since external users utilize their company Office 365 or personal Microsoft credentials, your staff won’t be in the password reset business.  SharePoint on-premises provides external access via VPN or forms-based authentication (you need a license for users that are part your active directory).

 

  1. Budgeting for Migration Tools

If you are going to skip a version of SharePoint or a migration to Office 365 in most cases, you will need a migration tool.  A migration tool will also make moving to exchange online much easier.  Cutting over all users to Exchange Online at the same time will also reduce the complexity of the migration.

We hope this article will help you avoid some of the most common budgeting mistakes around Microsoft collaboration software. Please contac us if are considering moving to Office 365.

Author:  Kurt Greening

Editors:  Stephen Heister and Alex Finkel

Slack vs Office 365 Groups

Communication through email is vital in every organization.  However, sometimes email can be quite distracting to what is most urgent and important.  This is why services such as Slack and Office 365 Groups were created.  Slack launched back in August of 2013 and has had exponential growth since.  In just 6 months, Slack reached over 15,000 users and now they have over 3 million users!

Slack Exponential Growth

Source: Tech Crunch

After seeing how successful Slack is, Microsoft knew they needed to create something to compete with them, so they created Office 365 Groups.  Office 365 Groups are tightly integrated with their existing Office 365 services.  You can send group-wide emails, tag groups, and much more.  Below we are going to highlight a few of the key differences between Slack and Office 365 Groups.

Slack is available in both a mobile and desktop application.  There are various tiers of service listed here.  From a free plan with access to a few features, to an Enterprise plan (available soon) that has tons of exciting features.  The key differences between the plans are the amount of file storage you get for your team(s), the percent of up-time SLA, and the tech support services you get.  You can also connect various external apps to your groups in Slack such as Google Drive, OneDrive, Sway, Twitter, and much more.  One of the best features of Slack is the ability and quality of search.  You can search through conversations and even within documents inside of individual conversations.  This makes it significantly easier to find what you need, when you need it.

Office 365 Groups is quite different from Slack, it is not available as a stand-alone product.  You must have an Office 365 subscription to take advantage of Office 365 Groups.  You can learn about the different Office 365 personal subscriptions tiers here and the Enterprise and Government Office 365 tiers here.   For right now, unfortunately, Office 365 Groups is not available for personal subscriptions.  When you create an Office 365 Group, you get a mailbox, calendar, document library, OneNote notebook, and a planning tool for each group.  This makes it extremely easy to collaborate and communicate with your group/team throughout your Office 365 subscription.  In the coming weeks, Microsoft will be enabling a guest access feature for Office 365 Groups.   This means that you will be able to share your information with external users in Office 365.  Microsoft will also add Office 365 group capabilities into Yammer.  This will give users the ability to share information through Office 365 groups via Outlook or Yammer.

Just like Slack, there is a mobile app, but there is not desktop specific application for Office 365 Groups, instead it is integrated within the existing Office 365 apps.  But the key feature of Office 365 Groups is that it is integrated within Outlook 2016 as shown below:

Office 365 Groups in Outlook

In simple terms, Slack is just a chat room for your business, while Office 365 Groups lets users share common calendars, files, and OneNote notebooks.  Since Office 365 Groups is tightly integrated within Outlook, it feels very “right.”  Groups sit below your inbox, drafts, and other email folders, right where they should be.  Putting groups directly below your inbox and other mail folders makes users more likely to take advantage of it.  Using a separate app like Slack, may not have as high of an adoption rate among some users.  Soon, Groups will integrate with SharePoint team sites, enabling you to take advantage of these key features inside of your SharePoint sites.  Planner, a new Office 365 agile project management tool, is integrated with Office 365 Groups in the current preview version.

Slack and Office 365 Groups are similar in several ways.  They both are designed to decrease the amount of emails in your inbox.  Often, users have many things going on at once.  Email can actually be quite distracting when you are trying to stay focused on a particular topic or task.  With Slack and Office 365 Groups, you have one place for each topic or task so it is much easier to stay productive.  This is ideal of small teams, projects, or even larger departments.  The ability to connect to external apps is also available on both Slack and Office 365 Groups.

In conclusion, both Slack and Office 365 Groups are revolutionary ways to collaborate more effectively with your team.  However, they both offer some advantages and disadvantages, just as any other technology.  Slack is great for simple collaborative group chats, while Office 365 Groups includes much more features and capabilities due to its integration with the existing Office 365 apps and services such as SharePoint, Skype, and the Office apps (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc).

If your organization already has Office 365 or is considering moving to Office 365, we recommend testing out the capabilities of Office 365 Groups.  If your organization does not currently have Office 365 and will not likely move to it anytime soon, we recommend trying Slack.

If you have any questions or would like a free 30 minute consultation to see if Office 365 is right for you, don’t hesitate to contact us.

 

Update:  Microsoft recently announced Microsoft Teams to compete with Slack.  Teams is a chat-based workplace located inside of Office 365.  Your administrator can enable Teams in the Office 365 Admin center.

Microsoft Teams builds further on active directory groups.  If you like the functionality in Groups, you will likely benefit from the features in Teams.  Microsoft Teams has been in preview for months, but was released worldwide in March 2017.  Jeremy, from our friends at Hyperfish, released this article highlighting the features and the future of Teams: https://blog.hyperfish.com/the-future-of-collaboration-is-microsoft-teams-2e1b4ecf1635#.n5fc5wbbq

 

 

Why is Enterprise Software Underutilized?

With the megatrends of cloud computing and managed services transforming IT, why is Enterprise Software still underutilized?  Wall Street continues to report the quarterly market growth of Amazon, Salesforce.com, and Microsoft’s cloud business but the journey to the cloud for customers to realize the value of software as a service continues to lag.  Here are three reasons we believe there is a gap between what customers are buying and the value they are receiving from enterprise software.

 

  1. Cloud Services do not require significant budgets

Most organizations categorize cloud subscriptions expenditures under operational expenses, where traditionally they have been capital expenditures with large up front budgets for licensing and hardware.  As a result, normal project considerations, including deployment and training, are overlooked since the service is just “turned on.”

  1. The Executive Sponsor typically has moved on to other initiatives

In my experience, software sales reps will typically build a relationship with a “C” level executive that has the “juice” to make a large purchase.  These executives are typically very busy and after the deal is done they leave the implementation to IT staff or project managers to complete the project.

  1. Information Technology Staff needs more training in adoption best practices

Traditionally, IT staff have been focused on the support (break fix) or rollout of new technology.  With the cloud, this model has changed.  Many articles cite an IT skills gap that has been created by the speed at which technology is changing.  This is being fueled by the consumerization of IT as well as cloud technologies.

 

So, is it time to outsource your IT department or stop buying cloud software?  That is not what we are recommending.  Moving to the cloud is almost always a great choice.  We believe that cloud software offers a great opportunity to change focus to a productivity value created by enterprise software.  The experts at Xgility have experience and skills developed over a large customer base and our managed services can help you transform your IT department and/or your business.

If you want to know more about our proven mythology for the adoption of Microsoft cloud software such as Office 365, Azure, SharePoint, or Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS), let’s talk.  Our Managed Services team can also show you how to use the latest tools for adoption tracking.

 

 

 

Author:  Kurt Greening

Editors:  Alex Finkel and Chris Ertz

Best SharePoint Migration Software Products

Many Xgility customers ask us for advice on which SharePoint migration product they should purchase.  Others call us after they are having trouble migrating and ask if they purchased the wrong software product.  We counsel our customers that, due to customizations, SharePoint migrations are much more complicated than upgrading to the latest version of Windows or even Exchange.   SharePoint migrations can be closer in complexity to a ERP upgrade than upgrading to the latest version of windows.

We recommend that organizations contract with a SPDS Certified Microsoft partner, such as Xgility, to provide a pre-migration assessment.  In many cases, the assessment can be completely funded by Microsoft programs.  A migration assessment will help scope the level of effort, build a project and migration plan, and help determine if your organization will require outside help.  Our recommendation will be based on features that have been deprecated, whether or not a change in information architecture is needed, connections with third party systems, use of JavaScript, custom code, as well as third party solutions installed.

If no changes in information architecture are required and you plan to upgrade directly to the next version, you may not need a migration tool.  One exception might be if your organization is considering a hybrid cloud architecture.  Our team recommends conducting a pre-migration assessment before purchasing a tool.  A pre-migration assessment along with a migration plan, will help guide you to the right tool.  The migration experts at Xgility have used all of the major SharePoint migration tools.  Below are reviews of our four favorite tools…

  1. Content Matrix (Metalogix) – In our opinion, this is the most full-featured SharePoint migration product. Metalogix positions Content Matrix as the leading product for SharePoint server (On Premises) to SharePoint server migrations.  It has a robust functionality desired by senior SharePoint consultants such as PowerShell, migration compare, and other advanced features.  Less experienced users might find these features unnecessary, but these may be required in a complex environment.  Content Matrix is priced per gigabyte and can be purchased separately or in conjunction with security and backup products.  In our experience, a large purchase with several products will likely be discounted.  Metalogix products can be purchased from Metalogix or one of their resellers, such as Xgility.
  1. ShareGate – Customers like ShareGate for their simplicity, attractive pricing, and ease of doing business. They list their pricing for their ShareGate lite, ShareGate online, and customers who want to migrate Nintex workflows need to call for pricing.  Customers wanting to purchase can either buy online or from a reseller, such as Xgility.  ShareGate prices their product by user.  If a customer has more than a few hundred gigabytes of data, we recommend that customers consider purchasing a 5 pack as it is more cost effective than buying one copy and purchasing more at a later date.  ShareGate was the cheapest solution on the market, but since they added permissions management, they have increased their pricing. 
  1. Essentials for Office 365 (Metalogix) Essentials for Office 365 migrator is part of the suite of products Metalogix acquired from MetaVis in 2016. Metalogix positions this suite as the preferred tool for customers moving to Office 365.  In the past, MetaVis was also offered as an OEM product by Dell/Quest.  The product can be licensed separately, but Metalogix will likely try to offer a deal on the entire suite so your organizations can manage your Office 365 post migration.  Typically the suite is licensed based on gigabytes and the number of users. 
  1. AvePoint DocAve – DocAve Migrator is part of a full suite of products offered by AvePoint. AvePoint products are offered directly by AvePoint and their resellers.  This has been sold in the past through OEM relationships with NetApp and Hitachi Data Systems.  The best customers for AvePoint would be a customer wanting to deploy their entire Suite of SharePoint tools.  In our experience, they offer heavy discounts for large deals where the customer will purchase the entire suite.

Interested in a free 30 minute consultation about your migration project?  Let us know what version you’re on and where you want to go.

 

 

Author: Kurt Greening

Editors: Alex Finkel and Dheepa Iyer

There is No Document Information Panel in Word 2016

On Tuesday, we conducted a demo and showed the Microsoft Cloud productivity experience for a City government.  The envisioning session showed them the art of the possible including Office 365, SharePoint for ECM (Enterprise Content Management), and Office Pro Plus.

In our SharePoint demos we talk about how important it is to the user experience to create documents in SharePoint versus creating documents outside of SharePoint, including uploading and tagging them with Metadata.  We may do this through content types, templates, forms, or workflows.

As part of the demo, we showed some slides of managed Metadata, Content Types, and The Document information panel in Word.  Since we use Office Pro Plus 2016, I noticed that there is no longer an option to show the document information panel in a content type based on a Word document.  In most cases you will accomplish this functionality by editing properties from the Office Application.

Office 365 Microsoft Word Document Information Properties Panel

The Document Information Panel did take up a lot of real estate in the document.  It is still possible to build templates in Word that create a document such as an Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) Offer Letter or Employee Review.  It is not possible to show the document information panel anymore, time to revise the demo!  There is always something new and exciting from Microsoft.

For more information, see this link.

 

If you want training or help building templates and workflows that generate your documents from SharePoint, please contact us.

 

Author: Kurt Greening

Editor: Alex Finkel

Microsoft OneNote vs. the Legal Pad

The Microsoft Office Suite is full of some fantastic applications and features that enable users to collaborate and be as productive as possible.  Few individuals take advantage of all the features available with Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint.  Even fewer business users understand how SharePoint and the Microsoft cloud tie all of these applications together to make you and your team more productive.

OneNote is one of our favorite applications.  It is one of the least used Office applications, but the use of tablets and laptops is making it catch on like wildfire with our customers.

OneNote is the best way to create and organize your notes, from personal use to strictly business.  We would also like to mention a few new features in OneNote 2016, since the video and transcript below were created prior to this new release.

Microsoft has taken OneNote to the next level with its 2016 version. Users are now able to insert videos into a page, take notes right on the web, send notes to yourself in email, and clip the web with clipper. These are just a few of the new features with OneNote 2016.

 

 

The transcription for the YouTube video is below…

Hello again. It’s the folks from Xgility today to give you another tip to help you achieve transformational results in your business. Today, I will be talking about OneNote 2013 to manage project delivery as well as to manage the sales process. If you’re not familiar with Xgility, we provide consulting services around Microsoft SharePoint including migrations, application development, and end user training.

I want to give you a picture of what my life looked like before Microsoft OneNote. Pretty typical, taking a paper, pen, calculator, and many times a backpack with a PC to a meeting. It was something that I was very comfortable with and in fact, it was a little bit difficult for me to make the transition from paper into Microsoft OneNote. Now that I’ve done it, I’m very happy and I’ll talk to you a little bit more about why.

This is what my life looks like today. I’m carrying a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 to every meeting that I have and in fact the Surface Pro 3 is smaller than the notebook I used to take. It’s in fact about the same weight and I typically don’t take a backpack with me to a meeting except to carry a mini display so I can attach my Surface Pro 3 to a projector if necessary. The typical meeting where I’m just taking notes, the only thing I’m bringing is my Surface Pro 3.

Now I want to give you a little bit of a picture of what the OneNote 2013 interface looks like. You’ll notice on the left you’ll see Xgility notes and there’s a drop-down menu for my various notebooks. I’ve got my Xgility notes notebooks, we have various notebooks that we use for our customers in order to share data between various consultants, and of course I have my personal notebook that I store out on my OneDrive personal site. If you notice up in the top, you’ll see various colors and you can think of those as your individual chapters. Also, if you notice on the right, you’ll see the particular pages within the chapter of partner programs that are labeled pink, and you can see we happen to be on the DocuSign Developer license page. One huge improvement over using a paper notebook like a legal pad is up there at the top right, the ability to easily search all of your notebooks. I found that very difficult when I had maybe 5, 6, or 10 legal pads and wanted to go back and find information contained in a note from an old meeting.

I’m going to give you a few of my favorite features within Microsoft OneNote 2013 and I think the first one and many people’s favorite feature about OneNote is the ability to send a screen clipping to OneNote. If you’re familiar with this feature, you know that you can select part or all of the screen and if you don’t want to save that information in OneNote, you can also copy that to the clipboard. Second feature I’ll talk a little bit about is the ability to record a meeting. I mentioned Search already, Search is certainly huge, the ability to easily go and look at all of the information contained in your notes as well as the ability even to search pictures that you might have taken of a document. I mentioned how I use my iPhone to take pictures of whiteboards and have that show up in my OneNote notebook in just a few seconds.

Another huge feature for the Xgility consulting team is the ability to take a OneNote notebook, store it in a SharePoint team site, and then have as many consultants as we need share the information contained in those OneNote notebooks, whether it be meeting notes or screen captures, really all the information that we would need to capture one meeting with a customer. Sharing a page via email is huge. The ability to share the notes with somebody who might have missed the meeting. You may not want to share the whole notebook, but you may want to just email that particular page. The last thing I’m going to show you is how to start a OneNote page from Outlook 2013.

Recording a meeting is very simple. You simply go up to the familiar Office 2013 or OneNote 2013 ribbon interface, click on Insert, and you’ll notice that you can record audio. I have not used the Record Video section, I’m not sure how easy that would be to use with a Surface Pro 3, and I’m sure somebody may try to use that, but for me, I use the Record Audio primarily when I just want to record a meeting and I believe people are going to be talking too quickly for me to take notes.

I mentioned this before, the ability to take a picture of a whiteboard or in this case, a magazine as huge. If you haven’t done it already, I recommend downloading the OneNote application for your iPhone. I believe that you can also do the same with an Android and of course Windows phones are going to work for you as well. You simply take the picture from your phone and 2-3 seconds later, it’s going to show up in OneNote.

The last thing I’m going to show you is how to start an Outlook agenda and have that go into OneNote. You’re simply going to go into your Outlook meeting, click on the Meeting tab at the top, click on the OneNote notebook, say I’d like to take notes on my own, select the particular chapter up there, in this case selecting the partner programs chapter ,and it’s going to show up as a page in that OneNote notebook.

I want to thank you for allowing us to bring you another tip to help you achieve transformational results in your business. If you have any questions around OneNote, there is a free Microsoft training on OneNote that I can recommend to you if you email me at info@xgility.com, we can get that out to you or if you should need any help with SharePoint, Office 365, or Azure, you can feel free to also contact us.

 

 

Author: Kurt Greening

Editor: Alex Finkel

7 Ways City and County Governments use SharePoint and Office 365

Almost all city and county governments we have spoken with have moved or are planning to migrate their email to Office 365.  Most are interested in other features of Office 365 but don’t know where to start.  Others might be concerned about security.  Below are 7 ways City and County Governments use Office 365.

  • Community Events City and County governments use Office 365/SharePoint External Sharing capability to coordinate and share information with agencies outside of the county to ensure a safe, successful event.  Office 365 provides great collaboration features that you can use to increase citizen engagement or coordination with industry and non-profits.
  • Cost Savings Many local governments are looking to consolidate storage and save money with secure cloud solutions from Microsoft.  Most local governments move the h://user files from the network shares and configure storage on local PCs to save to OneDrive as their first Office 365 workload.  Moving storage to the cloud typically reduces the need for PC backups.  Other great uses for Office 365 include access to files and applications via browser, without the need for Citrix for VPN.
  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS) – Many City and County governments have developed mapping solutions based on ESRI.  The great news is that ESRI supports integration with Office 365.  In addition to integrating solutions from ESRI, the SharePoint experts at Xgility have also integrated mapping solutions from Microsoft Bing Maps and Google.

  •  Police Departments Many police departments are using specialized software from vendors like Motorola, and others have homegrown solutions.  SharePoint should not be a replacement for specialized systems, instead it should be used to augment or add collaboration capabilities.  Office 365 for Government meets all requirements for CJIS compliance and can be used by police departments.
  • Project Management Many IT departments are surprised that the #1 project management application is Excel.  It is time for many users to graduate to a platform that allows for collaboration.  SharePoint offers many features to allow teams to mange projects such as tasks, Gantt, shared documents, shared OneNote notebooks, and event Microsoft Project synchronization.  These features are customizable or available in the project web app.

Local government Office 365 SharePoint

  •  Meeting Minutes While some County Managers and Board of Supervisors are comfortable with paper and pencils, many have embraced modern integrated tools.  In our experience, it is executive assistants that are first to embrace tools like shared calendars, shared OneNote notebooks, and SharePoint sites for management of special projects.
  • Enterprise Content Management The team at Xgility recently provided analysis for a City government looking to migrate from SIRE, which is now part of Hyland OnBase.  Other County governments are looking to leverage their investment in SharePoint to move off of systems like Documentum, IBM, and OpenText.  Our pre-migration assessment provides strategies for migrating Documents to SharePoint and builds an information architecture that supports metadata to improve search.  Our team can advise if Office 365 can meet your ECM needs out-of-the-box or if configuration or 3rd party tools may be required.  Office 365 receives frequent updates, so it pays to make sure you have the latest information relating to ECM and records management in SharePoint online.

Would you like to share a way your city or county government is using Office 365?  Please share it with us.  We have had the opportunity to work on great projects with cities and counties such as the City of Spokane WA, County of Sussex DE, State of NJ, Placer County CA, and the City of Dublin OH, just to name a few.

Why Can’t I Download this Presentation from OneDrive?

OneDrive for Business is part of Office 365 and is the modern replacement for the User Share (H:/users/user) on the old file server. OneDrive for business is a cloud-based application used to store and manage online and offline documents.  One Drive is part of the Office 365 collaboration features which include user storage, groups, team sites, intranet sites, and the records center.  OneDrive has many of the features found in SharePoint sites, but should not be used where governance or records management is required or in place of team sites.

I would like to share a story with you about a customer.  Recently, we shared a link to an online PowerPoint presentation with a customer.  The customer replied and said that he could not download this presentation and was not sure why.  He was not able to download this presentation because it was stored on our OneDrive and we chose to give him a “view only” link to restrict downloading.

When sharing a document with someone through OneDrive, you will have several options.

  • “Invite People” – Enter name(s) or email(s) of the people you want to share the document with.  When using this option, you can choose to enable these people to either view or edit the document, restricting access to certain people. This also includes an option to “require sign-in.”

Share - Invite People

  • “Get a Link” – You can choose from a variety of options for the type of link you would like to “get.”
    • Choose “Restricted Link” so that only specific people can open the link.
    • Choose “View Link” either requiring an account with your organization or no sign-in required. The user will only be able to view this document.
    • Choose “Edit Link” either requiring an account with your organization or no sign-in required. The user will be able to view and edit this document.

Get a Link

The key to allowing the user to download the document is to require sign-in and giving them editing rights.  These two options will allow the user to edit in the desktop application and save their own copy.

These various out-of-the-box sharing options on OneDrive ensure that your documents are secure.  For more information on governance consideration with OneDrive for enterprise data see this article.  For additional information on protecting your organization against data leakage PII, HIPAA, or security, see the video Azure Rights management, a component of EMS.

Contact us if you would like to find out more information about OneDrive or other Office 365 applications.

 

 

Author: Alex Finkel

Editor: Kurt Greening

Top 10 SharePoint Consulting Companies in DC

Below is a list of what I believe are the top 10 SharePoint consulting companies in the Metro DC area including Maryland, Northern Virginia, and Washington D.C.  The ratings are based mostly on industry insider knowledge, including factors such as the satisfaction of known customers, consultant turnover, and knowledge of key 3rd party products.  The top SharePoint consulting companies are active speakers in local user groups and organizations such as SharePoint Saturday DC.

I decided to build this list after noticing which companies came up in Google’s search results and which did not.  In fact, several of the folks that show up in the search results have less than two dedicated SharePoint consultants in the D.C. area.  Others in the search results outsource or offshore most of their work.  A few others did not make the list because of low satisfaction of known customers.  I hope potential customers call vendor references and ask specific questions about their work.  The list below is in no particular order (so don’t email me to complain if your company is #9, we can still be friends).

1.  DAn Solutions

This company was founded in 2007 in Northern Virginia by Lawrence (Larry) An and Jay Dinsick.  They mostly work in the intelligence community and are great guys.  In fact, we have referred people to their company and helped out each other’s customers.

2.  Booz Allen Hamilton

These guys have a pretty large Microsoft practice focused primarily in the Federal government.  Their customers include the intelligence community and the Internal Revenue Service.

3.  Avanade

This company was originally created as a joint venture between Microsoft and Accenture.  These guys are large, national, and prefer to work on the biggest projects.  Known local customers include Washington Gas and Sodexo.

4.  Xgility

Yes, I am biased, but we made the list.  As a SharePoint Consultant, Xgility helps some of the largest Federal Government Agencies, local government, government contractors, and associations achieve transformational results using SharePoint and Office 365.  Our great culture is the key reason we attract and retain the best consultants.

5.  Bravo Consulting

Bravo Consulting is an 8A company the focuses solely on SharePoint.  Their customers include several DoD agencies, the Veterans Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security.  They are frequent speakers at SharePoint Fest and have spoken on the topics of records management in SharePoint as well as SharePoint branding.

6.  Protiviti

This large company (also associated with the staffing firm, Robert Half) acquired a Winchester, VA company called SusQtech in 2012.  Most of their key consultants have left since the acquisition, they still have a large customer base.

7.  AIS

AIS, also known as Applied Information Sciences, grew out of small business status by performing mostly on government contracts.  While not as active in the SharePoint community, they still have a good (mostly federal) customer base in the metro D.C area.

8.  RePoint

RePoint is a relatively new firm started by a great developer named Greg Galipeau.  I have seen Greg speak at SharePoint Saturday and the Reston user group.  His business model is based on providing 100% remote consultants to the federal government.

9.  RDA Corp

RDA is headquartered in Baltimore and has an office in Reston.  We have heard pretty good feedback on them, including that they have a good program for training recent college graduates.

10.  Planet Technologies

Planet Technologies is a Microsoft partner headquartered in Montgomery County, MD.  They have a good presence in the state and local government and also do federal work.

Author: Kurt Greening

Contract Tracking Part II, Invoice Approval

A few months back, a general counsel of non-profit organizations wanted to see examples of how their legal and contracts team could use SharePoint. Our team built this proof of concept to show how SharePoint forms and workflows can be used to build a system to track contracts and invoices against those contracts. This is part two of the video series.  Part one of the video can be found here.

 

The transcript for the video is below…

Welcome to part two of a two part video series on using SharePoint for contract tracking. Hi, I’m Dean, a SharePoint expert at Xgility and in this video I’m going to demonstrate how to apply invoices against the contracts stored in a contracts library.

First, a quick recap of the first video. In that video, I demonstrated that a SharePoint library is an excellent tool for storing and tracking contracts, metadata and views are essential tools for gaining insights into the status of contracts, the available balance and percentage value remaining of a contract can be tracked, the ability to track changes within Microsoft Word is still available within SharePoint, and that SharePoint will automatically store previous versions of a contract.

Now, onto part two…Applying Invoices Against a Contract. We begin with an accounts payable clerk having already received and reviewed an invoice from Vendor C for Contract 1. The clerk opens the vendors invoice submission form. There, the clerk selects Vendor C from the vendor drop-down and selects Vendor C, Contract 1 from the contract drop-down. Note that the contracts displayed in the drop-down will automatically change based on the vendor that’s selected. Upon selection of a contract, the available balance of the contract will be displayed. This field is for reference purposes only and cannot be overwritten. The clerk then enters the value of the invoice and attaches the invoice to the form and finally clicks submit to add the invoice to the library. When the file is added to the library, an automated email is sent to the invoice approver. In our example, the email message is fairly simple, but please note that the content of the email can easily be changed and you can put whatever you want in it.

Clicking the link in the email will open the invoice form again, but this time to the approval view. Here, the invoice approver can open the invoice and review it, add the decision date, select the approval decision, and add comments about the approval decision. Clicking “Submit Decision” saves the decision information. If the invoice was approved, the invoice amount is automatically deducted from the available balance of the associated contract and the accounts payable clerk is sent an automated notification that the invoice was approved and the check can be cut. If the invoice was denied, both the vendor and the accounts payable clerk are sent automated notifications including the approval decision comments.

That is all there is to it. Now, lets revisit the contracts library to see that the amount was deducted. As you can see, the remaining balance of Vendor C, Contract 1 is now down to $100 and the percent remaining is now well below 20%.

Lets take a quick look at the below 20% remaining view to see if the contract shows up. Click on the below 20% remaining view and there it is. If you remember from the last video, we did not have any contracts that were below 20% remaining, so nothing displayed in this view and now we have something.

In this video I demonstrated a fairly simple but very effective solution for processing invoices against a contract. This is just the baseline solution. There’s so much more that can be done to enhance the visibility and tracking of your contracts using SharePoint.

If you have addition questions are would like help automating your workflow in SharePoint, Office 365, or SharePoint Online please contact us.

 

Author: Dean Virag

Editor: Alex Finkel