27 February 2013

SharePoint Phone Message Tracker

I am sure you recognize the scenario where a telephone message is left in a reception that handles the main switchboard. Messages are then delivered to the person who is asked to call back, often in the form of handwritten post-it notes.

In companies with a SharePoint intranet this task can be handled in a much more efficient way. Create an app that takes care of it instead!  In the SharePoint 2013 tutorial below I explain how to do it in.
SharePoint apps icon
Add an app
In SharePoint 2013 everything centers around apps, and creating, activating or installing an app is what you nearly always do to enhance your SharePoint site.

In this case we need to create a custom list app that handles incoming phone calls.

Add info columns to the app
The list app should store important information like the caller's name and telephone number and the name of the person the caller wanted to speak to. We must also know if the call has been returned or not.

Add details in the columns
Now, for each telephone call the receptionist just has to add the name and phone number in the app and define what employee the call was meant for. The employee must have access to the SharePoint site, so that name is already in the system and is completed automatically by SharePoint.

Hide title
By default the new app has a title that must be filled out also, but it is really not necessary in this case. Therefore I also go into the Advanced list settings and show how to hide the title field. Now we have one field less to fill out!

Create views
Finally I create three different views for the list, so that it will be easy to find the information we need. I make one view that only shows the calls that have come in today, one that only shows those that have not been returned and a third view that groups the calls by the person who was called.
SharePoint Phone Messages Grouped By Person Called View apps
Apps from independent software vendors can also be added to SharePoint, and my company, Business Solutions, currently has two apps that are meant solely for SharePoint:

Document Tagger logotype
Document Tagger suggests relevant keywords and metadata for documents in SharePoint document libraries. This app is published in a Beta version.

Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint logotypeKanban Task Manager for SharePoint was released by the end of 2012, and this app helps organizations visualize projects and tasks in SharePoint. Tasks can be dragged and dropped between phases, and the tasks can be filtered for project and responsible.

In organizations with several teams, each team can have their own subsite. All the subsites can have a common navigation on top, so that it will be easy for the management to reach all of them.  I have showed how to create such a site in a "Build intranet" demonstration in the Tips section.

But now, back to the current demo about the phone messages app, which also is published in the Tips section of the website.

I have used the Office 365 version of SharePoint 2013 for this demo, but the idea can be used with other versions of SharePoint also. You are welcome to have a look!

Peter Kalmström
CEO, Business Solutions

21 February 2013

Homage To Dedicated Team Members

In this blog post I want to mention some of the staff members who recently have celebrated anniversaries in the team, or will do so soon. It is important to us that our team continues to grow and that the vital part of it are bright team members who are making their career.

Jayant Rimza imageJayant Rimza, Lead Developer. MCP
Our Lead Developer joined the team four years ago, in February 2009. At that time Jayant already had several years of experience, and today he is a highly skilled developer who knows each and every detail of the kalmstrom Outlook applications.

Jayant works closely with our CEO and systems designer, Peter Kalmström, to make sure our products have the best possible architecture. Jayant is also the head of the Indian branch of Business Solutions.

During the years we have worked together Jayant has become a friend, and we chat on daily basis. I appreciate his sense of humor, and I am grateful for his patience with all my questions about advanced technical details.

Jitendra Joshi imageJitendra Joshi, Senior Graphic and Web Designer
We had yet another anniversary on the first of February, when our designer Jitendra reached a two year mark with us. If you are using one of our applications or have followed in another way, you have surely seen how Jitendra has made a significant difference in the presentation of our products and website.

Beside his work related to, Jitendra has done something that I don't think many Indians can can boast of: he has created a website with Swedish grammar rules and exercises – without knowing the language! All texts come from me and my earlier teaching aids, of course, but Jitendra still had to work with them. Now he is creating an app for iPhone and iPad with the same Swedish grammar rules.

Vijayant Rimza imageVijayant Rimza, Developer and Lead QA Engineer
On the first of March 2011 a new developer joined the team. After a while we discovered that Vijayant has a remarkable eye for details. This trait in combination with his developer skills makes Vijayant a very good QA Engineer.

By now Vijayant understands all the products well, and when something is wrong he can deduct what might be missing or failing in the code. Vijayant also has the capacity to think beyond the technical aspects and suggest enhancements that will make our products easier to use.

Since last year I have worked more closely with Vijayant, as he has accepted the responsibility for the product language phrases. Our Relations Officer Siret Kalmström and I are taking care of the actual translations, but Vijayant is the one who suggests new phrases and keeps track of what we already have and can use again. His good sense of detail is an asset here too, as it helps him make our product language consistent and generic.

Anshul Takalkar, DeveloperAnshul Takalkar image
Finally I want to mention Anshul, who joined the team in February  2012. He has only been with us for one year, but he is also a hard working and dedicated team member.  You can see proof of his work every time you install or upgrade one of the products, as Anshul is the one who builds the installers.

Select few
Many applicants seek a position in the team. A lot of them come for interviews, and some also get to do a test task. But only a select few are invited to join, and even this way among those who begin working with us several have to go again.

It is not easy to find team members who meet our requirements, so we are happy when the select few who actually meet them feel fulfilled at their work, constantly srtiving to learn more and reach higher. I enjoy working with Jayant, Jitendra, Vijayant and Anshul and of course with all the other members of our busy and productive team!

Kate Kalmström,
Marketing and Documentation Business Solutions

18 February 2013

Resource Booking In Outlook And SharePoint

Calendar Resource booking iconMost companies and organizations need a system for booking common resources. The booking should be easy to handle for the users, doublebookings must be avoided and it should be possible to book supplies with each order and to see an overview of the bookings. Above these basics Business Solutions can add an almost infinite number of features, depending on your needs.

SharePoint app solution
In the demo below Peter Kalmstrom, Microsoft certified SharePoint expert, shows how to create a simple booking system in SharePoint. It is intended for a smaller company only, but it gives you the basics. You can read more about it in the Tips section of the website.

Outlook standard solution

If you need something more advanced but still want to use a standard solution, I suggest the Outlook-addon Calendar Browser. This application gives you a lot more than the simple SharePoint solution shown in the demo, and you can use it with many resouces that are booked by hundreds of people.

Still Calendar Browser is easy to understand and administrate. With Calendar Browser users can search for free resources and see resource descriptions, and for the management there are all kinds of reports on future as well as passed resource usage.

Calendar Browser iconTo choose a standard product like Calendar Browser gives many benefits. It is used by many, so it is in our interest to develop the application to support and take advantage of changes in the Microsoft software we build on. That way we can keep our customers for many years – among our current Community Members are companies that have used Calendar Browser for ten years!

Sponsored solution
However, sometimes the standard solution does not have enough features. Then Business Solutions offers a possibility to sponsor the addition of the missing features to the standard product.

Such a sponsorship has paid for part of the development cost for the next version of Calendar Browser. This version will have several new features sponsored by a big organization who wants to use Calendar Browser but needs the extra features. Thanks to the sponsorship all earlier Calendar Browser users will also get the added features when they upgrade their installations.

Custom solution
In some cases no standard solution is suitable, not even with sponsored additional features.  When an organization has so many special requests that a totally new solution is the best alternative, Business Solutions can offer a custom product built on Outlook or SharePoint.

As you see there are several possibilities to solve the problem of how best to book corporate resources, from the simple SharePoint solution (which any SharePoint admin should be able to create with the help of Peter's tutorial) to standard solutions that are easy to learn and manage and further on to custom solutions that require extensive expert knowledge.

Kate Kalmström
Marketing and Documentation Business Solutions

15 February 2013

Variable Light Saves Energy On Europe's Second Longest Bridge

Öland is an island off the south eastern cost of Sweden. Now the bridge between Öland and the mainland will get a new lighting system that can be centrally adapted to weather conditions and traffic intensity. As the head office is situated on Öland we can follow the development closely.

Longest bridge in Europe
The Öland bridge was built in 1972, and up to 1998, when the Portuguese Vasco da Gama bridge was inaugurated, it was the longest bridge in Europe. It is also a very beautiful bridge, and after many years of travelling to and from Öland I still enjoy crossing it.
The Öland Bridge in Sunset
Pilot project
The Swedish Transport Administration is currently installing its first adaptive control system for lighting right here on the Öland Bridge. 412 of its fixtures with 100-watt high pressure sodium lamps will be replaced by LED lighting, which is expected to save two-thirds of the energy consumption.

Second test ok
LED technology was tested on the bridge already in 2009, but the technology was not developed well enough at that time. In March 2012 The Transport Administration made another test, and this time the result was significantly better  good enough to go ahead.

Connected to speed signs
The new LED lights will be connected to the adjustable speed signs. When there is heavy traffic on the bridge the speed limit will be reduced and the lamps will get stronger. The lights can also be controlled manually, for example if there is an accident or the weather is bad.

Environment care
The new lamps will save both energy and money, but they are not the only environment friendly thing on the Öland Bridge. For example the left-bank viaducts of the Öland bridge are extended inland to preserve the marshes underneath and the lamp posts throughout the bridge are tilted inwards so as not to cast light on the water below.

The new lighting method of the Öland Bridge
 has never been tried in Sweden before, so it will be interesting to see how it turns out. Transport Administrations of other parts of Europe are also following the project, so once again our fantastic island gets the attention it deserves.

07 February 2013

Enhanced Outlook HelpDesk Ticket Form

Folder HelpDesk logotypeThe application for issue tracking and incident management, Folder HelpDesk for Outlook, will soon come in a new version. One of the enhancements is a nicer ticket form, that fits better into Outlook and gives more room for the ticket body.

Convert e-mails into tickets
Folder HelpDesk takes the incoming e-mails and converts them into tickets that are displayed right inside Outlook. This conversion may be done manually, with a click of a button, or automatically so that all e-mails in a specified folder are converted into tickets. This folder may be the Outlook inbox or any other folder where e-mails are placed with the help of Outlook rules.

Caller details added automatically
When a new ticket is created from an e-mail, Folder HelpDesk adds caller details to the ticket. Maybe all details are not present in the e-mail, but if Folder HelpDesk finds them in Outlook, the application can add the missing details from there. Folder HelpDesk has its own caller list to look up from, and new callers are easily added to that list. You can even set the application to add new callers automatically.
The Folder HelpDesk Ticket Form
Selection of additional data
Ticket ID and the time for creation are filled out automatically, and as creator of the ticket is entered the Outlook login name. Then there are very few fields left to be filled out manually, and only two of them are mandatory: Incident Type and Responsible. As all details are selected, instead of written into the ticket fields, the risk of mistakes is minimized.

Format, attachments and inline images
When an e-mail is converted into a ticket the body of the e-mail will be placed in the ticket body, to the right in the ticket form. The format will be the same as in the e-mail, and embedded images will be shown in the ticket body just like in the e-mail. E-mail attachments are added on top of the body, like in standard Outlook items, and new attachments may be added to the ticket via the Outlook Insert tab.

Answer from within the ticket
Folder HelpDesk can send several kinds of automatic e-mails, for example when tickets are created or closed, but you may also answer the caller directly from within the ticket. In version 13 you can decide if you want to include the attachments or not in these answers to the caller.

E-mail thread
Often several e-mails about the same case are sent back and forth before the case is solved, and it is convenient to have all information in the same ticket. Folder HelpDesk can make this happen in several ways.
The Folder HelpDesk Ticket Work Done
Work done tab
Folder HelpDesk gives a possibility to register work done on the ticket, which is very useful when several people work with the same ticket. Once the text and the minutes worked are entered they cannot be changed. For standard tasks the time worked can be set automatically by the administrator, so that a default value is entered if the responsible person does not give a specific time.

Blank ticket
All issues are not reported by e-mail, or via the web form that is also included in Folder HelpDesk. People may also call or just pop in to tell about an incident. In that case you can create a blank ticket, and if the caller is present in one of the lists I mentioned above you can pick the caller details from there. Tickets may also be created from Outlook tasks and appointments.

I hope that current and new Folder HelpDesk users will be happy with the new ticket form, and with all the new features in version 13. I will soon come back with more information about them.

Update: more about the new Folder HelpDesk ticket form in a later post.

By Peter Kalmström
Marketing and Documentation Business Solutions

05 February 2013

Show Live Excel Graphs In SharePoint

Wouldn't it be nice to display a graph over the sales of the month on the homepage of your company intranet and get it updated with fresh data automatically? That is possible with the Microsoft Exel Services.

SharePoint tutorials
The CEO of Business Solutions, Peter Kalmstrom, is a Microsoft certified SharePoint specialist, and he has shared his in depth knowledge in a number of video demonstrations. Each of these tutorials have its own page in the Tips section of the website, and they can also be found on YouTube. After the SharePoint 2010 demonstrations Peter has now started a series of tutorials on SharePoint 2013.
Excel graph in SharePoint
Excel features in SharePoint
With the the Microsoft Excel Services you can upload, calculate and display Excel workbooks on a  SharePoint site, and when you update the file in Excel it will be updated in SharePoint also. This way analysts or engineers can create and maintain an Excel spreadsheet and share the data with others via SharePoint without writing code.

The Excel file can be placed in a shared document library, and often it is an advantage to visualize the information in a graph too. Excel features like filtering and drilling may be used in SharePoint also, so the data can be manipulated in many ways.

Demos for two SharePoint versions

Earlier Peter has recorded a tutorial that shows how to integrate an Excel graph in SharePoint 2010, and now there is one for SharePoint 2013 too. I have placed both here below.

You can also find the two videos in the Tips section, together with an overview of the contents of the demos, one page for using Excel Services with SharePoint 2010 and another one for using Excel Services with SharePoint 2013. You are welcome to choose the one that suits you!

SharePoint 2013:

SharePoint 2010:

01 February 2013 Matriarch 95 Years Young

Maybe you have seen the video from Swedish television about my mother and the joy she finds in her iPad? Today she is celebrating her 95th birthday, and she is as vivacious and youthful as ever!

The QA Engineer Neha Gupta has been with us for long and heard a lot about my fantastic mother, so she wanted to do something for her birthday. "She is not only Peter's Granny", Neha said to me and referred to our CEO and my son, Peter Kalmström. "She is the team Granny too." So Neha spent a couple of evenings creating the celebration video you can see below. Thanks Neha! matriarchAfter my mother had been on TV she got many Facebook friend requests from unknown people, and she was also invited to a panel discussion on elderly people's use of IT. But she declined further participation in mass media, and she also declined most of the friend requests.

She does not want to have too many people in her Facebook, but she already has a lot anyway  many of them young people. If you follow the Community on Facebook you have probably seen her comments and likes.

In Sweden most elderly people prefer to live in their own homes and not with relatives and when they are as old as my mother most of them have moved to a retirement home instead. But my mother does not want  that. She lives alone and manages on her own, with only occasional help from Peter, my brother and me.

My mother will celebrate her birthday for two days. Today she has an "open house" for all who wish to come and congratulate her, and tomorrow there is a more elaborate dinner for the closest family members. We offered to take food from a catering firm or go to a restaurant, but she wanted to cook and prepare everything herself. And I know we cannot get a better meal anywhere!

I hope I have interited some important traits from my mother: health, longevity and a positive attitude towards life and all the new things it brings. Many happy returns of the day, Mum!