Contents tagged with Microsoft Visio

  • SharePoint and Exchange Conference 2010 and User Group meeting wrap up

    Tags: SharePoint 2010, Presentations, Microsoft Visio

    This years SharePoint and Exchange Conference, the seventh in order, took place this week. For the second year I was there as a speaker and had just as great time as last year. It is currently the largest conference in Scandinavia focusing on SharePoint and Exchange technologies and its growing for each year.

    Göran Husman (MVP) and Beatrice from Humandata has done an excellent job in putting this conference together and finding such good speakers; both national and international. Thank you!

    The conference had some extra icing this year with presentations about three brand new Microsoft products; Internet Explorer 9, Windows Phone 7 and Xbox Kinect. All I can say is that I'm all in - amazing stuff!

    I presented two sessions; Playing in the SharePoint Sandbox and KPI for the People. Thanks to everyone attending and for the interesting questions. Funny thing is with us Swedes that the interesting questions always comes after the session, we're quite shy over here... As promised below are my presentation slides (all powered with Office Web Apps).

    User Group meeting

    A couple of weeks ago we had the Sweden SharePoint User Group meeting at the Microsoft HQ in Akalla. It was good to see such crowd even that far out of town. It was a really good to listen to Pontus Haglund introducing the new Microsoft Lync.

    I did a session about Visio and Visio Services and my presentation can be found below.

    SharePoint 2010 + Visio 2010

    KPI for the People

    Playing in the Sandbox

  • SharePoint 2010 and Visio 2010: Better together - Part 3

    Tags: SharePoint 2010, Microsoft Visio

    Welcome back to the SharePoint 2010 and Visio 2010 Better together series for this third part. In part 2 I showed you how to use Visio 2010 to convert your business requirements into workflows that later could be used in SharePoint 2010, using SharePoint Designer 2010 as the man in the middle. This time I'll show you how Visio comes into play even after you have deployed your workflows and running them in your organization.

    Workflows are a great feature in SharePoint 2010 that allows for instance your business rules to be performed in a consistent and repeatable manner. The SharePoint workflows are executed in the background of your web interface, they may pause for long durations and they may involve several users within your company. It can sometimes be hard to keep track of a long-running workflow and see what is happening right now, who is currently working on it etc. By default in SharePoint 2010 you have the Workflow History which is used to log events from the workflow. Events such as workflow status, errors and manual logging operations are seen there. This might be enough for a simple workflow. You can access the Workflow Information page, which contains the history, by clicking on the workflow status column in the list.

    Workflow History

    But for more complex workflows containing several branches and involving multiple users this history list can be long. To get a quick snapshot of the current workflow status it can be hard to interpret this list of log events. Wouldn't it be better to have a visual overview of the workflow? For earlier versions of SharePoint this was available through third party products, but now in SharePoint 2010 this is actually available out of the box.

    It is here Visio Services comes into play. Without digging into deep to the actual Visio Services Service Application, we'll have plenty of time for that, let's satisfy for the moment with that Visio Services is a server side Visio rendering engine. This feature is only available in SharePoint Server, since Visio Services is not available in SharePoint Foundation. If you have a successfully installed and configured the Visio Services Service Application in your SharePoint farm then all you have to do is open the workflow using SharePoint Designer 2010 and in the Settings section click the Show workflow visualization on status page checkbox. Don't forget to save and publish your workflow. If Visio Services is not correctly configured for your Web Application then the checkbox will be disabled.

    Workflow Settings

    Once you have done this you can fire up a new instance of your workflow and then head on over to the Workflow Status page. You will now be presented with Workflow Visualization section on the status page containing the current status of your workflow presented visually using Visio Services. Take a look at the screenshot below, which is taken from the workflow that we used in the previous post. First you can see exactly which steps have been completed using the check box icon (1) and even better you can also see who is actually the current owner of the approval task (2). The screenshot shows that the original task has been reassigned twice. This is a perfect solution to get a hint on the workflow status within seconds.

    Workflow Visualization

    This image is rendered by Visio Services using Microsoft Silverlight, which allows you to zoom and pan the workflow visualization. If you don't have Silverlight installed then Visio Services will render a plain image instead. Using Silverlight is preferred though due to performance and quality of the visualization.

    Worth noticing here is that the visualization does not to apply to already running instances of your Workflow, only new ones. When you publish the workflow from SharePoint Designer a new version of the workflow is created containing the visualization setting. Already running instances keep running the old version of the workflow.

    As you can see from the screenshot some of the workflow arrows intersect and the layout is not optimal, also the labels on the actions are not that descriptive. For instance what does Compare data source actually do? Fortunately there is a really easy solution to this. Notice in the upper left corner of the Visio drawing that there is a Open in Visio button. Click it! In the dialog asking you which mode to open it, choose Edit and click OK.

    The workflow will open in Visio 2010 and you can design the workflow as you like and even apply the corporate branding. You can basically do anything but edit the actual workflow. I do recommend you to edit the labels of the actions and arrange the workflow so that no lines intersect. While you're at it; do try the new auto-align features in Visio 2010 and the great container objects. When you are done all you have to do is save the drawing and then exit Visio.

    The screenshot below shows a modified visualization of the previous workflow, it also has one of the built-in themes applied. I think this is pretty neat and for complex workflows I think this is a necessity.

    Workflow Visualization Deluxe

    Note: You cannot enable visualization for the Workflows that you have created using Visual Studio 2010, only for those created by SharePoint Designer.

    That was it for this time. An introduction on how Visio Services can enhance your workflow experience even further. This really is a usability enhancement and your end-users will adore you for enabling it on your workflows. I will continue this excavation of SharePoint and Visio in the next part taking a closer look at the actual Visio Services Service Application.


    This post was originally posted on EndUserSharePoint.com at http://www.endusersharepoint.com/2010/09/15/sharepoint-2010-and-visio-2010-better-together-part-3/

  • SharePoint 2010 and Visio 2010 - better together - part 2

    Tags: SharePoint 2010, Microsoft Visio

    This is the second post in the SharePoint 2010 and Visio 2010 - better together series. And it is time to really check out what this great combination have to offer, and the most obvious subject to start with is that we can now use Visio to design the workflows, which then are imported to SharePoint via SharePoint Designer 2010. So let's get started.

    If you ever built workflows for previous versions of SharePoint you either used SharePoint Designer 2007 or Visual Studio 2005/2008. SharePoint Designer 2007 had a very limited workflow designer (you can't actually call it a designer) that took quite some time to get used to and you were very limited in what to do. Visual Studio of course offered you the full set of workflow features. I'm not trying to get to deep into the actual workflow stuff here but it is important to understand how hard it was for the organizations to get their hand-drawn or Visio-drawn workflow into SharePoint. If you used SharePoint Designer to build the workflows then the most problematic situation was when you were supposed to move the workflow from you development environment to production - this was just impossible (yea, there was ways to work around it - but not for mere mortals).

    Visio is excellent in drawing flowcharts, workflows and business processes and some business analysts just love it. So very often you were presented with a Visio diagram of a workflow that you were supposed to implement in SharePoint. What did you do then? Yes, you had to translate the workflow into either a SharePoint Designer 2007 workflow, using the wizard or go for the full monty with Visual Studio. There was room for many mistakes in this process of you, the developer or SharePoint professional, interpreting the Visio diagram to a SharePoint workflow.

    Now, with SharePoint 2010, SharePoint Designer 2010 and Visio 2010 the story is quite different. You can let your business draw the actual SharePoint workflow using the SharePoint Workflow template in Visio. Then you take this Visio diagram, turn it into a SharePoint Designer acceptable file format and configure the last bits in SharePoint Designer. Once that is done all that is left is to hit the publish button. Once the workflow is in place you can let the original author of the Visio diagram verify the functionality. If it is not what he or she asked for you can export it once again to a Visio drawing and fine tune it. The workflow can go back and forth between Visio and SharePoint via SharePoint Designer until everything is set and done.

    Before going into some conclusions and experience from this new way of producing SharePoint workflows, let's take a look at how you do this.

    Assume that we have a list in SharePoint containing proposals that we would like to send to our clients. In this case we use a custom list, but it could be any kind of list or library. Each proposal has a Proposal Value. If the proposal Value is higher than $100.000 then our manager must approve the proposal before sending it to the client.

    image

    The financial controller of our organization decides that this must be implemented as a Workflow on a list and fires up Visio 2010. Of course he uses Visio 2010 Premium - which is the edition of Visio that contains the SharePoint Workflow template. Using this template the controller can draw the workflow using the default SharePoint Actions, Conditions and Terminators.

    By dragging a Start and End Terminator onto the drawing and then adding a condition (Compare Data Source) which should be used for comparing the proposal value to the limit he starts building the workflow, visually. If the condition is below a certain threshold it automatic set the content approval status and if it is above then it should send an e-mail to the manager and then start an approval process and so on. The actual values are not set here, just the actions and conditions in the workflow.

    image

    All this is done by dragging the Actions and Conditions onto the drawing surface and then using the connection tool to connect the items. Notice that the controller cannot set any properties, see Shape Data tool pane, on the actual Workflow Actions. The only thing that can be configured is which path to take for a condition. This is set by right-clicking the connection and then select Yes or No.

    The SharePoint Workflow template, as well as other templates in Visio can also be validated. This is done using the Check Diagram button in the Process Ribbon tab. This check makes sure that all actions are connected and that there are no loose ends. It also checks so that the workflow does not contain any loops, which is not allowed in SharePoint Designer workflows.

    SNAGHTML1e4722c

    Once the financial controller is satisfied with his workflow he saves it and sends it to the SharePoint professional, if he isn't one himself. Here, he can send it as a standard Visio drawing using the .VSD format or he can use the new Visio Workflow Interchange format with the .VWI extension. The downside with sending it as a .VSD file is that the SharePoint professional must open it in Visio and convert it to a VWI file - which is the format that SharePoint Designer 2010 supports. On the other hand, it might be easier to not teach the business about that and avoid confusions?!

    SNAGHTML1e92be9To create the VWI file you cannot choose File > Save As. You need to use the Process tab in the Ribbon once again and select the Export button. This pops up an Export Workflow dialog where you can specify path and file name. Also notice the Import button. You use this to import a VWI file created by Visio or exported from SharePoint Designer, if you need to go back and update any changes.

    Here it is important to notice that if you export it from SharePoint Designer and then import it into Visio to once again get it back to SharePoint Designer. When exporting an imported VWI file using the same file name you must select to Update workflow information in existing file in the dialog. This makes sure that you can import it to SharePoint Designer once again without losing any settings configured in SharePoint Designer and to allow you to update an existing workflow.

    Ok, now you have the VWI file and you have fired up SharePoint Designer on the site containing the Proposals list. Select the Workflows object in the left navigation of SharePoint Designer and choose Import from Visio in the Workflows Ribbon tab. Then choose the workflow interchange file that you just exported. When you have selected the file you will be presented with a dialog that asks you how to import this Workflow. In this case we want it to be a list workflow, so we select the Proposals list and also give it a good name, then click Finish.

    image

    SharePoint Designer will now open the workflow in the Workflow editor and you will see a workflow without any configuration - just the "flow" as designed in Visio in another, more logical, representation.

    image

    Now you have to discuss with the financial controller what exactly is supposed to be the conditions and values - or even better whish that you got some documentation with the Visio file or even annotations in the actual file. After configuring the workflow it should look like below:

    image

    We are almost there. All that is left is to verify the workflow by clicking on the Check for Errors button in the Ribbon menu and then configure the workflow to start whenever an item is added or changed. To edit the start options you use the bread crumb menu in SharePoint Designer and click on the name of the workflow. This takes you to the Workflow page and in the Start Options section check the Start workflow automatically when an item is created and the same for the changed option.

    The workflow is done, designed using Visio and configured using SharePoint Designer. Now we need to test it in SharePoint. But first you must publish the workflow. This is also done using the Ribbon menu, click on Publish and wait for the process to finish. SharePoint Designer will also check the workflow for any errors before publishing it. If you don't want to publish it right now you can select Save and go get a coffee and get back later and publish it.

    So now, head on over to the Proposals list and add a new proposal, this time with a proposal value of over $100.000. Notice how a new column is added to the list, with the workflow status, and that it automatically starts when you created an item.

    image

    Since this workflow had a Start approval process action a task item will be created in the Tasks list, assigned to the person configured in the workflow using SharePoint Designer. Once the task is done with an approve or reject status the workflow will continue and update the proposal with the outcome, as well as sending an e-mail back to the original person creating the proposal.

    image

    Quite easy, isn't it.

    I really like this approach, as a first version of the Visio, SharePoint Designer and SharePoint integration. There are a couple of things that I hope gets addressed in the future. First of all you can't really put the SharePoint Workflow template in the hands of a business analyst. They are so used to working with regular flow charts or BPMN diagrams. It can sometimes be hard for the to get a good understanding of the different actions in the SharePoint workflow directly related to lists. Secondly it is too bad that you can't configure more using Visio - as the matter of fact it will be hard having one person designing the workflow in Visio and another configuring it in SharePoint Designer. But we have a lot of things to look forward to in upcoming versions - and it's a fantastic start!

    Next time I will show you how to enhance the workflow experience using Visio Services so that your end-users always knows what is happening to their workflows. Which is one of the features I like most about the Visio and SharePoint marriage.


    This post was originally posted on EndUserSharePoint.com at http://www.endusersharepoint.com/2010/09/06/sharepoint-2010-and-visio-2010-better-together-part-2/

  • SharePoint 2010 and Visio 2010 - better together

    Tags: SharePoint 2010, Microsoft Visio

    This is the first post in a series about SharePoint 2010 and Visio 2010 and how the two products integrate with each other.

    Viso Premium 2010I remember when I first saw Visio many, many years ago. It was before Microsoft acquired it from Visio Corporation. It was my dad using it to make blue prints of our summer house. As most of the gadgets and software he buys he needs a helping hand, not saying he is not technical, but I tend to catch up on such stuff faster than him, so I learnt the basics. I have used Visio since then, during my years in school and university and especially in my job as a developer and architect. (I have also made exact blue prints of our house, including the electrical wiring - call me crazy but I do love that product.) Visio is a great tool for technical diagrams and representations and extremely effective in drawing flowcharts and business processes.

    It was with great joy that I last summer; when SharePoint 2010 and Visio 2010 was let out of the gates in Redmond saw how my two favorite products SharePoint and Visio finally found each other. Not only as a client integration, Visio was also a service application for SharePoint, called Visio Services. There was no longer need for an Active X control to view Visio drawings in the browser.

    Visio 2010, part of the Office family, but not included in the Office suite is a diagramming, drawing and process modeling tool. The latest release of Visio includes new features such as for SharePoint integration, Business Process Modeling Notation and finally the Fluent user interface (aka the Ribbon and friends). Visio 2010 comes in three flavors Standard, Professional and Premium.

    This series will cover most of the connection points between SharePoint 2010 and Visio 2010, starting with the demo friendly workflow creation using the Visio to SharePoint Designer 2010 integration. Then I will show you how to use the Visio client and service application to provide the end users with a visual snapshot representation of a SharePoint workflow. After that we will take a look on how you can use SharePoint 2010 as an effective storage for process diagrams before looking into the BI aspects of Visio Services.


    This post was originally posted on EndUserSharePoint.com at http://www.endusersharepoint.com/2010/08/30/sharepoint-2010-and-visio-2010-better-together-part-1/

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About Wictor...

Wictor Wilén is a Director and SharePoint Architect working at Connecta AB. Wictor has achieved the Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) - SharePoint 2010, Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM) - SharePoint  and Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) - SharePoint 2010 certifications. He has also been awarded Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for four consecutive years.

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