Summary of European SharePoint BPCUK 2011

With so much publicity in SharePoint Communities and the massive success of the third European Best Practices SharePoint Conference lasting for three days (checkout #BPCUK on twitter), I thought I better write up my version of events.

The conference kicked off by Steve Smith of Combined Knowledge with the Royal entrance by an impersonator of The Queen in response to the construction works outside the QEII conference centre in preparation of the Royal Wedding on 29th April 2011.

The keynote by Chris Johnson from SharePoint Group in Microsoft included some of the SharePoint highlights such as 70% enterprise customers use SharePoint; $1.3 billion business for SharePoint; SharePoint powers more than 2,000 .com sites together with the marketing video and the future productivity with cool tools!


The conference sessions (just below 100) were organised into following tracks: IT Pro, Dev, 2 x IW (Information Worker), Pick & Mix and Community. Out of 70 speakers over 30 were MVPs bringing the real world insights which in my opinion offered a genuine learning experience!

Day 1 consisted of 5 sessions:
Developing with REST and LINQ in SharePoint by Paul Schaeflein
The SharePoint list model consists of validations, column validations, integrity, etc. The use of REST services with human friendly query URLs and commands such as $Filter and $Expand leverage the list query. By default, with over 2000 list item records the query is blocked but using Query Throttling (requestthrottlingoverride) method will return result over 2000 subject to performance overheads and code quality testing.

Data view Web Part best practices by Laura Rogers
Working with dataforms (dispform, editform, newform) is common and often they are worked upon them directly. The best practice is always take a copy and work on the copy making relevant changes. Since it is a customisation and when adding/removing columns the customised form will not reflect the changes.
Data view webparts are best created and configured on a temporary web part pages and subsequently using export and import functionality for reuse.

Windows Powershell Best Practices for SharePoint 2010 Administrators by Gary Lapointe
The session was introduced with cheat sheet handout and one of the things to walk away from this session was the use of PS commands and accessing functions such as managing SharePoint security group within scripts.

InfoPath 2010 Under the Hood: Building next generation SharePoint applications using InfoPath and SharePoint Designer 2010 by Darvish Shadraven
A demo rich session on building forms to incorporate the ordering process of computer products combining with the workflows from SharePoint Designer. I found the audience asking more questions since there were Sharepoint pens to give away!

Farm Architecture Performance, Logging and Monitoring by Ben Curry
A very good session starting with the existence of SharePoint solution in corporate environment. Upon covering planning phase: gathering requirements, construct logical architecture, physical design, testing and validating (e.g. LoadRunner) and logging & monitoring. The environment is always going to change after the deployment and tools such as Netmon 2.0 visual analyser and ULS viewer (trace logs) provide ease of monitoring.
SharePoint 2010 services pave way for multiple SLA (Service Level Agreement). A balance for SLAs has to be struck between the SharePoint farm environment (recovery point) and various SharePoint services (such as Internet/Intranet sites, Business Intelligence, Business process forms etc.).

The day ended with exhibitor evening refreshments and prize draws with brief appearance from Titan the Robot followed by SharePint!

Day 2 consisted of 6 sessions:

Invent the Future by Reinventing Productivity by Mark Miller
The session was very much a mind opener and scanning some of the innovations around today. The twitter handles leveraging the twitter feeds such as paper.li (filter-driven interface) online newspaper service giving control to end users rather than conventional newspaper. It was surprising to see my newspaper on Mark’s slide number 9. MentionMap was another example of using twitter handle to demonstrate the strength of relationships.
The rise of apps developed by developers is pushing to the cloud and end users having the flexibility of subscribing services with updates.
Business process tracking compared with tracking of individual running marathon! in that the visualisation of data indicates the position of a business process item.
GapMinder tool was demonstrated to show the plotting of data with powerful visual effects supported by Hans Rosling’s video.

Optimising SQL Server 2008 for SharePoint 2010 by Brian Alderman
The initial focus was on Temp and Model databases. Subject to SQL Server hosting multiple site collection databases the model database should be configured to suit the site collection database requirements such as size, collation etc. Database capacity calculation should take 2nd stage recycle bin into account and 50% additional quota size template. The temp databases are configured by adding files to different hard drive. It should be noted that SharePoint install route of creating databases don’t recognise autogrowth settings – DBAs help here.

SharePoint 2010 Upgrade Strategy and Best Practices by Joel Oleson
SP 2010 is a heavyweight candidate with following as minimum technical requirement:
Farm environment 64-bit W2k8 sp1
80Gb C:\
16Gb  RAM, 4 Quad Core Processor
SP2007 sp2 Oct-Dec cumulative update
64-bit SQL Server

PreUpgradeCheck utility is a read-only and not affect the SharePoint farm. When run it produces html report and log file (contains more detail). For healthcheck purposes this same utility can also be run on a regular basis. Test-SPContentDatabase cmdlet in SP2010 Powershell is run to analyse error – converted to HTML for output.
Features upgrade (.wsp) – change paths from 12 hive to 14 hive.

Essentially there are two upgrade methods: In-place and SP Attach
In-place: Simple & risky, whole farm upgrade and downtime of farm.
SP Attach: Safe, database by database, old farm still available (read-only). This method is not from MSSQL but from STSADM or Powershell.
Master page upgrade is separate. Site template backup as .wsp. Visual upgrade choices to preserve SP2007 look and feel or new SP2010 branding.

SharePoint operational management – taking your team from Newbies to Rock stars by Chandima Kulathilake
The session outlined the context of service level agreeements on infratructure and SharePoint soution layer. These two layers are dependent upon each other and is essential that the business/IT transperency is clear to be able to meet the targets. Also taking into account the RPO (Recovery Point Objective) and RTO (Recovery Time Objective). For further information the SharePoint 2010 operations framework and checklists is available at http://bit.ly/spopschecklist

Understanding the steps necessary for building an information architecture for your organisation by Bill English
An excellent presentation without hardly delving into SharePoint. Much of the session was spent on visio diagram with reference to Business Reference Architecture and highlighting OGSM (Objective, Goal, Strategy, Monitoring). Other references included AIIM and ARMA (Associations for Information Management).

InfoPath and SharePoint Designer 2010 Workflow Best Practices by Laura Rogers
A demo-rich session with multilevel approval workflow. A point was made whether tasks are necessary for form approval as this would be an overhead of mainitaining task list and end user requiring unnecessary addional steps for approval.
For multi-person approval, separate sections were created and disabled for current user not equal to logged user and other related conditions. For personnel related data user profile web service is queried.
Much appreciated for receiving a free signed copy of “Beginning SharePoint 2010: Building Business Solutions with SharePoint“.

Final day consisted of 6 sessions including “Ask the Experts”

User, Profiles, and MySites: Managing a Changing SharePoint User Population by Paul Stork
AD (Active Directory) accounts are best disabled rather than deleting. The user info table resides in SP Content database and recommended not to interfere with this table in SQL Server. The mysettings page switches to different page when SharePoint profile is activated. More details on user profile synchronisation service can be found on Spence Harbor’s blog. Upon changing the individual’s account name in AD does not update profile property, for this the user need to have a minimum of contributor permission level to the site instead of read-only permission, and run the SP Timer sync job to update profile.
MySite SP timer cleanup job deletes the profile entry marked for delete (AD account disabled or deleted) – manager receives email alert (note that the Manager field in AD account has to be populated in order for manager to receive email and the link for site deletion). Also the manager has to be a SharePoint user.
SharePoint Full Sync timer job synchronises the changes to profile whereas Quick Sync timer job will only add new users to SharePoint farm.

Planning extranet environments with SharePoint 2010 by Michael Noel
The modern approach for extranet deployment is considered via SSL-VPN with tools such as Forefront Unified Access Gateway. The costs of SharePoint client access licenses is a requirement and not to be confused with Internet connector license. In SharePoint 2007 a separate web application for extranet is usually deployed with Forms authentication configuration. However in SharePoint 2010, multiple authentication type (Claims-based (formerly forms-based) and windows authentication) can be associated to single web application.

Understanding the Connector and Crawler Architecture as a Basis for Development of Search Topology Best Practices by Bill English
The anatomy of how crawler works in SharePoint with the Search database states was demonstrated. For external sources the site locations and latency for results to return together requires consideration for good end user experience. A good candidate site for test crawls is patents and trademark website as it contains heterogenous source of information. To check the building of indexes the MSSCrawlQueue table in Search database can be queried.
For VLDB (very large databases) content the index partitioning should be considered to spread the load. It is also important to test for database size/capacity planning when adding new content sources. When deleting content source some time is required to delete the crawled content queue before adding the same content source back again.

Using Visual Studio 2010 to Create SharePoint Load Tests by Steve Smith
An excellent demo rich session and amazingly how it is often overlooked. VS2010 virtual user pack for unlimited connections to test is available for large user bases subject to MSDN subscription tarriff. Upon installation of VS2010 test or ultimate edition, loadtestresultssqlrepository.sql (VS2010 program files\IDE location) is executed in SQL Server to store test results. There are loadtestreports available on codeplex site that are configured to point the above created SQL database. Web test should represent single function and often multiple functions are combined into single web tests (i.e. browsing to a homepage then navigating to search page for search function). If Fiddler web debugger tool is used then it is possible to export its results into Visual Studio.
The SharePoint Admin toolkit  contain UPS (User Profile Service) replicator and web/load tests (although not representing real world scenarios). For list related items such as userid, search keywords, can be configured as separate datasources and subsequently within web tests the query values can be mapped to these datasources.

How to teach an old dog ‘IT Team’ new tricks by Paul Stork
The session began with highlights of love and hate relationship between IT staff and business users! However the session was focussed on Information Worker roles. Typically the training and end user responsibilities should be clearly provisioned for the sucessful adoption of SharePoint with an eye for Information Management together with policies in place for maintenance and longivity of the solution. Five tips were shared and were as below:
a) Publishing pages with approval (create pages, no html knowledge erquired, word processing facility).
b) Delegated security for managing content and permissions (traditional vs decentralised).
c) SharePoint Designer: workflows to automate business process, dataform web part for grouping/sorting and conditional formatting, access to external content types/lists, not everything is stored in SharePoint but everything must be viewable by SharePoint.
d) Enable ratings for Folksonomy (bottom-up categorisation by user) and Taxonomy (Top-down categorisation).
e) Local Managed Metadata to improve findability using termsets.

Day 3 ended with Ask The Experts and following the twitter hashtag #londonbpc for questions raised.

Overall I found this conference very useful with lots of demos, full of ideas, inspirational, professional and boundless optimism of SharePoint capabilities. Can’t wait for the DVDs to arrive and watch other sessions that were running in parallel. I hope you find this post useful and some learning points for your reference.

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