10 reasons to deploy Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007

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If you're currently running Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) v2 in your enterprise, you've probably maxed out all the creative ways you can use Content Editor and Page Viewer Web Parts -- and your users still want more. Here are 10 things you can take with you into any discussion about Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS 2007) that will help you plead the business case for this technology deployment.

#1: Search enhancements

Let's not minimize the impact of finally being able to search across top-level sites. That's great. But in addition to seeing results of sites users never knew existed, they'll be able to see only what they've been granted access to. So there's no frustration in following a hyperlink and being prompted with a login request, and there's no security risk associated with confidential information making it into a search result list.

And MOSS 2007 search isn't just for SharePoint sites anymore. Portal searches are able to expose Exchange content, file shares, and Web sites. Use the Business Data Catalog for added functionality that includes returning search results as a SharePoint list.

#2: Checking out documents to a local copy

Offline access to WSS v2 documents was reliable only with an additional product like Colligo or Groove running on the client machine. Without those products, mobile users had to check out a document from a version-enabled library, save a local copy, go offline to edit, check in the SharePoint document, and then save over the file. With luck, they remembered to delete the local copy to avoid version confusion and maintain data integrity. There was also a neat Work Offline trick using Internet Explorer that allowed users to add a SharePoint library view to their Favorites list and go one hyperlink deep so that they could at least view their SharePoint documents offline to reference during a conference call at the airport or at a client site with no Internet access.

MOSS 2007 allows users to save a local copy that is still associated with the SharePoint site in a SharePoint Drafts folder inside My Documents. When they connect with their network and open the edited copy in the SharePoint Drafts folder, it asks whether to synch it back to the site. Very intuitive. Add Exchange 2007, and users can connect their SharePoint lists and libraries to Outlook. If you're looking for an offline access solution, SharePoint and Outlook Anywhere beat //fileshares hands down.

#3: Workflow

Most users admit that a lot of e-mail is generated in their organization to collaborate on documents. The ability to check in and check out a document was great in WSS v2, but users still had to e-mail the finished product to the people who needed to approve it.

MOSS 2007 has workflows available out of the box. Users can now route a document for approval or get feedback from the whole team without having to babysit their follow-up flags and Sent Items folder in Outlook. All they have to do is click the drop-down arrow next to the document and choose Workflow. They can then fill in the names and let MOSS 2007 do the rest. Users will get e-mails telling them that a task has been assigned, with a hyperlink to the document. When they follow the hyperlink, they'll see a pane at the top of the document containing the Approve button. Meanwhile, SharePoint is keeping them posted by updating the workflow status and documenting the progress of the document through the approval process.

A whole world of additional options is available when you add SharePoint Designer and InfoPath to the mix. And if you use Project Server 2007, MOSS 2007 can provide proposal approvals out of the box. If you're considering Project Server 2007, you'll also want to look at Visual Studio 2005 to see what it offers in the way of custom workflows.

#4: Gantt View

Even if you don't have Project Server, MOSS 2007 now allows you to create a lightweight project environment, including Gantt chart views for project task lists. Although it doesn't have the full functionality of Project Server, it will do in a pinch.

#5: Synched tasks

To add to the list of ways that MOSS 2007 provides project support, users can connect a task list to Outlook 2007. They can also view all their task lists on all SharePoint sites from My Site using the SharePoint Sites Web part.

#6: More survey features

If a user answers "Yes" to question #3 in a survey, you can now use branching logic to send him or her down to question #10. Take note that the Audience Targeting column is available in Surveys, so you can use the Content Query Web Part to enable your survey to a particular audience on the front page of your SharePoint site. Printing the survey results is still best accomplished by exporting to a spreadsheet, but at least Microsoft gave us page breaks for long surveys.

#7: Breadcrumb trail!

One of the disadvantages of using folders in WSS v2 was that if users navigated into a folder, they never knew where they were in relation to the rest of the site. There was also that annoying click on the Back button that kept bumping them up against the library default view instead of navigating them back to the home page. The default breadcrumb trail now allows users to quickly see how deep into the site they've gone and back up slowly out of a library or a folder.

#8: Re-parenting to rearrange the collection hierarchy

Site support just got a lot easier now that we have read/write access to the ServerRelativeUrl property. Not that you didn't enjoy backing up the site, deleting it, and then restoring it somewhere else in the hierarchy.

#9: SharePoint sites on mobile devices?

Yes. Every SharePoint 2007 site has a mobile view, reached by typing /m behind the URL. Users can also create custom mobile views by clicking the plus sign next to Mobile at the bottom of the page where they normally modify views for every list or library.

#10: Wikis and blogs

This is a no-brainer for any techie, but it's still a hard sell to the higher ups, so tread lightly and don't ever let them think that this is your main motivation for rolling to MOSS 2007. This feature is a major deployment blocker, so while it serves as a welcome development in the product, use words like "knowledge management" and "communities of practice" when pitching these features.

Make your case

If you've spent the last two years of your career customizing WSS v2 because it was free, your organization is probably in a situation where users are starting to see the value of the product -- and that means you've probably already decided to deploy MOSS 2007. Since you don't have to wait for a hardware refresh to deploy MOSS 2007 and you already own it, what are you waiting for? Take this list of features and talk to your power users in major projects to build a business case and start testing.

Tiffany Songvilay is a Microsoft Office Specialist and co-author of So That's How! 2007 Microsoft Office System: Timesavers, Breakthroughs, & Everyday Genius. She has presented productivity scenarios at Microsoft's Convergence, ITEC Conference and Exhibition, and for IAAP. Currently engaged as a business analyst for Microsoft Enterprise customers, she designs and implements training plans that help companies transition their workforce smoothly into new technology. Her Office Over Easy blog covers a variety of IT and end users issues.