License Cost Rant

We receive a baffling question on a daily basis and this morning I do rather feel like sharing it with you ;)

But first, see if you follow my logic here…

When you go out and buy a new car, have you ever explained to the dealer that you will not be using the center seatbelt in the rear row and therefore they should consider re-calculating the cost of the vehicle?

Have you ever explained to Microsoft that your company will never use the “Agency FB” font and asked “so NOW how much is MS Office”?

Right, of course not, it would defy logic to the point of absurdity.

Almost every day we get a question along those same lines.

Why is that?

I have to assume that somewhere along the way a discount has been given by some non-contributing zero sales guy under the pretense of “well, since you will only be using 95% of the functionality, I will only charge you 95%” – (undoubtedly to get the sale). While this maneuver effectively makes the sales guy appear to be a truly caring and thoughtful individual, I believe it somehow forever warped the buyer’s sense of logic.

Let’s for a moment entertain that bazaar universe where the car dealer WOULD in fact discount the cost of the vehicle because you do not intent on using the center seatbelt in the rear row. What happens the first time you actually do need it?

Do software manufactures break out discounts based on the honor system? In case you are wondering, the answer is no, no they do not. With the exception of charity discounts, discounts are largely used to offset the ability to communicate value.

So the next time you get a sweet discount based purely on not utilizing the product to its fullest potential – you should undoubtedly take the discount with a smile, but understand what the discount was really about and don’t let it warp you head ;)

Posted in Random | Leave a comment

Internet Sales Tax

The days of not being charged sales tax on internet purchases are over.  It was fun while it lasted.

The Washington Post says:  “A bill that would give states the authority to collect sales taxes on all Internet purchases passed a major procedural hurdle in the Senate. It would hand local governments as much as $11 billion per year in added revenue that they are legally owed — but that hasn’t been paid to them for years.”

Oh well… we will just have to pay a little more for online purchases, right?

Well – I’m not so sure we can dismiss it that easily.

Consider this.  Have you ever sold anything on eBay or Craigs List?  Did you collect sales tax for the proper tax jurisdictions, and submit payment?

Have you ever posted to Facebook something like “anyone want to buy my old TV?”

Do you use a credit card swiping device on your smartphone to accept credit card payments?

The point is this.  There are many ramifications to internet sales /use tax collection and disbursement, not least of which is the fact that it’s not very clear what is considered an internet sale and what is not.

Even if there is a provision in the law to exclude “small businesses”, which for argument sake lets define as businesses with a revenue less than $1 million per year – we still need to understand if this is revenue from online sales or total revenue.

Consider this very real-world example:  Widget Association XYZ has a “not-for-profit” status with the IRS.  They put on a nice conference every year in Vegas.  This year they sold out 2 weeks after opening up registrations.  Great news, right?  Perhaps not.  Widget Association XYZ has now exceeded the $1 million per year threshold b/c the conference occurred towards the end of the year.  Worse yet, they did not collect sales tax from the online registrations.  Now what?

Traditionally a very strong online sales period in the United States is the end of the year.  What if you go over the $1 million mark at the very end of the year?

The answers to these questions are of great importance to virtually anybody who sells anything in the United States.

Internet sales tax is not straight-forward.  Here’s a great post explaining Internet sales tax.

My company “SharePoint AMS” has a product that adds an e-commerce engine to the SharePoint platform.  We have decided the only way to completely protect our customers from the ever changing tax laws (both in the US and abroad) is to automate the sales and use tax calculations of the transaction.

Regardless of the e-commerce engine you use, please speak with a professional tax consultant (preferably a tax attorney) to make sure you properly understand internet sales taxes.  You can bet nearly all local governments in the US will be doing the same.

Posted in WCM | Leave a comment

Why I Switched to a Windows Phone

Took this photo using my Windows 8 Phone - Nokia Lumia 920.  Used the Nokia Panorama Lens App.

This photo was taken using my Windows Phone – Nokia Lumia 920. Used the Nokia Panorama Lens App.

What’s interesting right now is that we have more than one great option to choose from. I happen to have switched from the iPhone 5 to a Windows Phone. Before the iPhone 5, I tried the Android and was well impressed, but ultimately went back to iOS.

For me, the static icons found in iOS, Androroid and now the latest Blackberry got stale (and Apple responded with another row of them – not exactly the innovation I was expecting).

If you have not experienced a Windows Phone 8, I would describe it as a little “hyper-active” b/c it’s constantly surfacing ever-changing information to me in a central location (new emails, txt msg’s, upcoming calendar events, stock quotes, industry news, real-time sports scores, social posts/photos from close friends, etc…).

I would describe the Windows Phone 8 UI as innovative, useful, brilliant, fun, consistent and superior. I handed my Windows Phone 8 (WP8) to my 8 year old daughter and hit the timer. She was playing games on it within 7 seconds without having been shown a single thing (that’s a very unscientific test I use to determine how hard things are, I make my kids figure them out).

For me, I wanted to upgrade to a phone that was actually better than what I already had. My new Windows Phone 8 delivers real-world usefulness like centralized information updates specific to me, wireless charging, speed, security, compatibility, NFC, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, Augmented Reality, superior maps/directions and most of all, reliability.

The Bluetooth pairing works great with my car, and my wife’s minivan, and my wireless headset.  It auto-connects and streams my music without issues.

The voice commands consistently work well, and it reads txt msgs to me while I’m driving.  Furthermore, it transcribes my replies so I simply tell it what to say, it reads it back to me and sends.  I no longer even need to touch my phone while driving – it stays safely tucked away in my computer bag.

The Windows Phone cloud (Skydrive) crushes the iCloud (sorry to be so dramatic on this one), but it’s faster, more compatible, has more space, less expensive, more capabilities – especially if you work with a lot with Office documents such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint files like I do.

It has everything I had grown accustomed to, such as:

  • Tons of Apps
  • Find My Phone (use WindowsPhone.com to locate the phone)
  • GPS (works without cell phone single)

Plus noticeably better things like:

  • User Interface (Live Tiles)
  • Email and Calendar
  • Search
  • Share
  • Camera + Flash (twice a bright)
  • Audio (Dolby equalizer)
  • Speech
  • Maps
  • Build Quality (specifically the touch glass)

And things that didn’t exist on my old phone:

  • Wireless Charging
  • Standardized (mini USB) connection
  • NFC (Tap and Send)

And business specific advantages:

  • Security
  • Ability to work with Microsoft Office documents
  • Play PowerPoint presentations
  • Get to files on SharePoint, Skydrive and Dropbox

The interface is consistent for my phone, my ultrabook and my tablet.  Same files, same apps, same settings on all three (saves me a lot of time).

I don’t think my world would come crashing to a halt without those things, but they do help make me more efficient – which gives me more time to use my kids as lab rats (totally kidding).

I needed a secure and reliable phone to use for both business and non-business activities that was sophisticated, part of a massive ecosystem (what’s it called again, oh yeah – Microsoft: Office, Windows, Xbox Live, Skydrive, SharePoint, Skype…).

I needed a phone that fit into MY ecosystem, so I did my homework and tried the Windows Phone 8 (specifically the Nokia Lumia 920).

After the switch, I had to adjust to the new UI (which for me was fun), but I am without question using the smartest smartphone of them all (at least for me).

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

DropBox for SharePoint

Once in a while, something comes out that I just want to tell the world about.  DropBox for SharePoint Server by Stephane Eyskens (MVP) is one of those things. 

I’ve used DropBox for a long time now, mainly for sharing files with friends and family.  I like it because it’s easy to use, it’s free and I use it for what its intended for – basically a file share in “the cloud”.

It’s funny because the things I like about it are also the same things I don’t like about utilizing it for proper collaboration.  For example, I like that it sync’s the files/folders to my local hard drive.  However, I would not love that idea for a team collaborative solution for many reasons, some of which include security, co-authoring, versioning, not to mention when someone deletes a file/folder, that same file/folder is deleted from MY hard drive the next time it syncs.  This will happen if they deleted it intentionally, or not (which HAS happened to me). 

I also like DropBox because I can use an iPhone App (which honestly only comes in handy once in a great while).  Viewing documents on a 3” screen is less than ideal.  I suppose it would make sense if I used an iPad (which I don’t).  I do, however, use a MacBook Air which is about as small as an iPad… and it works out very well.

But no matter how you slice it, DropBox is not a collaboration platform.  SharePoint, on the other hand, very much is a collaboration platform.  So if you could take the things I like about DropBox, and add it to SharePoint, it would be two great tastes that go great together!

That’s where DropBox for SharePoint Server comes in.  Here’s what it is (copied from DropBox for SharePoint Server) page:

- An easy & user friendly way to give your intranet users a place to associate documents to their profile…

- An easy way to provide a light alternative to personal sites which require most of the times, a good governance plan while the DropBox requires almost no governance

- A personal storage location a user can use to share documents with their network (everyone, colleagues, team…)

- An application that communicates to your network via the SharePoint News Feeds

- An application that ships with PowerShell commands administrators can use to manage storage, quotas and forbidden file extensions

- An application that’s fully integrated with the “My” SharePoint 2010 logic

It’s free and can be downloaded from CodePlex.

Posted in Collaboration, SharePoint | Leave a comment

SharePoint for Nonprofits – Part III

If you are implementing a SharePoint initiative with the idea that you will begin with customization, your org will never realize the full benefits of SharePoint.

This is Part III of a series aimed at explaining how nonprofits are successfully leveraging the SharePoint platform. It is my hope to explain how these inspiring organizations are staying within budget and the approach they use for getting it right the first time.

Part II concluded with the following question:

So why resist customization?

Read more…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

SharePoint for Nonprofits – Part II

This is Part II of a series aimed at explaining how nonprofits are successfully leveraging the SharePoint platform. It is my hope to explain how these inspiring organizations are staying within budget and the approach they use for getting it right the first time.

Part I concluded with the following question:

What then is the appropriate level of documentation for your business objectives?

read more.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Office 365 – Rockin the CMS Boat!

Office 365 is pretty cool, but can you host your public facing website in the Microsoft cloud?

Yes you can, here’s how.

The first part of this post covers the administrative steps involved with creating a new public facing website in Office 365.

The remainder of the post will simply highlight some of the things I thought were pretty cool.

The first thing you need to do is create a new site collection for your new Office 365 public facing website.

To do this, from the Office 365 administration center, click “Mange site collections”:

image

Now from the site collections screen, you want to create a new public website.

To do this, from the Site Collections “new” drop down, select “Public Website”:

image

The “Create Your Website” dialog box appears (below). Fill out the fields, they are pretty self-explanatory (Title, Website Address, Language, Time Zone, Administrator, Storage Quota and Resource Usage Quota):

image

It’s worth noting these fields are all required (I tested this):

image

Congratulations, you have just created a brand new public facing site on Office 365!

It lands you on your new site:

image

Now you simply change the new site to suit your needs. Add some content, some images, some bling. Change the look and feel, add your logo, header, footer, pages. Get the site structure the way you want it (navigation).

Does it have all the same capabilities as a dedicated SharePoint 2010 public facing website? No, but for me that’s almost a good thing – here’s why: The Office 365 public facing website CMS interface is different, better, easier and well thought-out. It’s also a familiar and intuitive interface b/c the ribbon concept is still in-tact.

In my opinion, it’s just way easier to use and I was well impressed with it.

Here are some of the things I really liked.

Your pages are conveniently found by clicking “Web Pages”:

clip_image012

Click on page to load the page in edit mode (About Us for this example):

clip_image014

This is the page in edit mode:

clip_image016

You can probably tell from the above screen cap how you would do things like control the color of your site, the footer, background, text, theme, style, page layout, navigation, etc… but what the above still image doesn’t show you is how you can resize a Zone by dragging it. That’s brilliant and I wish it was like that with the box version of SharePoint 2010.

Resize zones by dragging them:

clip_image018

Cool new Web Part (Map & Directions):

clip_image020

clip_image022

Display Options:

clip_image024

Select a style:

clip_image026

Tons of stock photos for your header:

clip_image028

Control the location of your pages:

clip_image030

There’s tons more Office 365 public facing website capabilities to explore and I’ll be updating this post as time permits.

Posted in CMS, Content Management, Office 365, SharePoint, WCM | 1 Comment

SharePoint for Nonprofits – Part I

Part I of my series titled “SharePoint for Nonprofits” is on NothingButSharePoint.com.  This series is my attempt at explaining how nonprofits are successfully leveraging the SharePoint platform. It is my hope to explain how these inspiring organizations are staying within budget and the approach they use for getting it right the first time.
Posted in nonprofit, SharePoint | Leave a comment

Does SharePoint Foundaton 2010 have BCS?

There seems to be some confusion about the free version of SharePoint 2010 (SharePoint Foundation 2010) and Business Connectivity Services (BCS).  This post aims to clarify some things.

Here are two important questions and answers: 

Q:  Does SharePoint Foundation 2010 have BCS?
A:  Yes

Q:  Does SharePoint Foundation 2010 have the SAME BCS capabilities as SharePoint 2010 Standard and Enterprise?
A:  No

Let’s start with what SharePoint Foundation offers as it relates to the BCS, then we’ll talk about what it doesn’t have.

The BCS is the new BDC.  SharePoint 2007 introduced the BDC as a way of integrating SharePoint with external data sources like non-SharePoint databases and web services. 

SharePoint 2010 came along, and renamed the BDC to BCS, and also put *some* of these BCS capabilities in the free version of 2010 (SharePoint Foundation 2010).  Keep in mind, the free version of 2007 (WSS 3.0) did NOT include BDC capabilities (or BCS capabilities for that matter b/c again, the BDC was renamed to BCS).  2010 still refers to many BDC features, so just keep in mind they are all used to the same end – for integrating with external systems. 

SharePoint Foundation 2010 has the following BCS capabilities:

  • Business Data Connectivity (BDC) service
  • BDC Connectors and the pluggable Connector Framework
  • External lists – allows you to surface and modify data located in external sources all from a SharePoint list (very, very cool).
  • External data columns – used for adding columns from external sources to existing SharePoint lists (also very cool).

Read more on msdn:  http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee557646.aspx

Okay, so what do we NOT get in SharePoint Foundation 2010 with regard to BCS capabilities?

  • External data in search (Enterprise only)
  • Secure Store Service
  • Business Data Web Parts (Enterprise only) – this one is worth noting b/c these little guys save a ton of time.
  • Profile pages
  • External data in workflow
  • Rich client integration (Enterprise only)

 Read all about the above list of things you DON’T get with SharePoint Foundation 2010 so you can determine if you need one of the paid editions of SharePoint 2010 (Standard or Enterprise) on msdn – http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee557936(office.14).aspx

Posted in SharePoint | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Update

I just wrote a short article on NothingButSharePoint.com about the SharePoint Form Web Part.

Also, I’m in the process of writing a 3 part series for NothingButSharePoint.com about SharePoint for Nonprofits.  My aim is to point out how associations and nonprofits are successfully using the platform and what they are using it for.

Posted in nonprofit, SharePoint, SharePoint Form Web Part | Leave a comment