Category Archives: Users Don’t Like SharePoint

My Users Don’t Like SharePoint — Series Wrap Up

So it’s over, my little series has come to an end. Thank you so much for joining! We visited some of the most popular areas users and admins complain about SharePoint. I also received loads of feedback, you all rock. Please, keep it coming!

Which leads me to my final point…

Collect feedback

I encourage you to formally collect the feedback, early and often. Hearing complaints in the halls doesn’t help you explain to your manager why you need to implement new governance or add a new server. Within SharePoint, create a list or a survey, and collect their complaints, praises and ideas. Getting it in writing will help you prioritize the solutions, make it all tangible, and give your manager or other stakeholders some solid reasons for upgrades and improvements.

You could create a custom list or a survey, and make it really simple:

  • What do you like about [intranet | SharePoint]?
  • What areas could use improvement?
  • If sky’s the limit, what would you like to see [intranet | SharePoint] do?

Obviously, you’re collecting bugs and issues elsewhere, in your IT helpdesk system or an issues list. This should be a specific feedback list.

Thanks for following along, and until next time, Happy SharePointing!

If you think I’ve missed anything during this series, let me know, I’m always up for more ;).

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My Users Don’t Like SharePoint Because of Me (you)!

This is Part 8 of my series on ‘My Users Don’t Like SharePoint…

How many times have you come home and said to your spouse “I didn’t do my job today, I did this and that, but not my actual job.” SharePoint might be in that list of stuff that’s not on your list.

I bet your busy. We’re all busy. With emails flying around, expectations are set high. “I sent you that email 5 minutes ago, why isn’t it done?” Part of your job might be to administer your SharePoint site or farm. People think a quick fix, like adding a list, should only take a few minutes, but in reality you have a longer list of requests, and this new request has piled up on the bottom.

I don’t want to get into career advice, however there are some simple things you can do, even today, to help your pile of tasks and define your job:

  • Understand what your job is. If you have become a SharePoint admin because you showed interest, does your manager know? Talk with your manager and define your job, including the things you do with SharePoint. Get on the same page with your manager, it’ll make the rest easier. Get your job description redefined (which could lead to a raise ;).
  • As requests come in, set an expectation as soon as possible. Setting an expectation might just be “I’ll have this done by 3pm” or “I’ll look this over tomorrow morning and let you know when it’ll be done then.” Just letting someone know you received and you have a plan to take care of is all it takes. Let them reply and set the urgency, and based on the person (your manager or manager’s peer or higher) you might set a higher level of urgency.
  • Build margin into your day: giving yourself an extra hour of unplanned time allows you to plan for the unexpected. Yes, you can predict the future and plan for what you don’t know. Just give yourself the time. Like budgeting your finances, budget your time. NEVER schedule a full day, that’s crazy, and how so many people burn out. Set aside time you won’t plan to use. Oh, you’ll use it, but if you leave it open, it lets you breathe. For instance, if you work 9 hour days, plan 30 mins for lunch, and an extra hour for margin, leaving you 7.5 hours for planned, scheduled tasks, meetings, etc. If you have to, put a fake appointment into your calendar so no one can book your time. It’s not skipping out on work or doing less, it’s simply managing time to make you more effective, and less stressed.
    • For example, I have 5 tasks to do, and I’ve guessed at how long they’ll take: Task 1, 2 hours, Task 2, 2 hours, Task 3, 1 hour, Task 4, 2 hours and Task 5, 1 hour. That’s 8 hours, but since I’m only going to schedule 7.5 hours, I only expect to complete 4. I set the expectation on Task 5 that it’ll get done tomorrow. I keep myself 1 hour for margin. Task 3 takes 30 mins longer than I anticipated. No big deal, I have some room to finish it off without rushing or stressing out. When I’m done with Task 4, I realize I have about 30 minutes left today, so I start in on Task 5, giving me a head start for tomorrow. Blamo, I now have 30 mins MORE margin tomorrow.
  • Find another resource to help. Let others run their own SharePoint sites to offload you. We visited this in a previous post, but I think it’s work repeating. Don’t be the bottleneck, you can’t take the stress, let others help.

These are basic ideas, but can help tremendously. Set expectations, and give yourself some reasonable amount of time to complete them, and offload to someone else if possible. If the unexpected happens, relax, you planned for it.

MOTIVATION

Too funny, right? “I just don’t care”. Do you? I hope that if you have been following along in my little series here, that you do in fact care, and maybe this part of the post isn’t for you. If you received this post via a shared link, maybe someone’s trying to tell you something.

I opened this series with one of three issues with SharePoint being ‘haters gonna hate‘. Not an actual issue with SharePoint, but with the people around it. I’ve worked with IT personnel who don’t want it, don’t want to work with it, will slow down our progress trying to implement it and so on. We can’t do much with these people for some reason. Are there jobs really that secure, that if they don’t properly engage a business initiative their job isn’t at risk? What a life…

If this happens to be you: you don’t care about SharePoint in your company, you drag your feet, you have ‘forgotten’ about emails regarding hardware for SharePoint, ‘accidentally’ rebooted a server in the middle of an install: stop it! Step up or step out. Stop trying, stop pretending to care, move onto a project that you do care about. Your lack of caring not only affects you, but also your work output.

I know you think your job is secure, but don’t you want to do something that means something to you? Find what matters to you, this will improve your overall satisfaction at work, and give you a reason to apply yourself more and ultimately produce better work. If you’re unhappy at work, it affects your life, everywhere. Do something about it. Let someone else in, someone who will take it and run with it in and do a better job. Seriously.

Ask for help

Finally, if you do care, and you want to make SharePoint a successful solution in your organization, ask for help. Don’t be afraid. Talk with your manager and see what could be done to offload some other tasks. If that’s not possible, hit the SharePoint community. Ask questions, simple and complex, on SharePoint.StackExchange and the MSDN forums. Contact  bloggers, tweet with #SPHelp, reach out and ask for help.

We’re here to help, try us!

Til next week, Happy SharePointing!

My Users Don’t Like SharePoint because it is too slow!

This is Part 7 of my series on ‘My Users Don’t Like SharePoint…

As your SharePoint matures and grows, it can get considerably larger and complex. Content databases can grow to hundreds of gigs, search indexes grow larger, users rely more on Excel services, additional external business data is pulled in, some custom functionality is added, etc. All of this can impact performance when not implemented correctly.

I look at it like it’s a good sign: your users are using SharePoint! However, as your farm grows, you should monitor the farm and possibly reconfigure and add additional servers to the mix. The first step is to figure out why it’s slow.

It’s so slow, what can I do?!

There’s a lot of reasons SharePoint’s performance can dwindle, here’s a few. This is everything I could dream up, dealt with or heard about. Did I miss something? Leave a comment!

  • Is it designed properly? Check out Microsoft’s recommendations for hardware, software and farm architecture to cover the basics. If you’re running your entire farm on a single server, I’d start by adding some more servers. Check out the SharePoint 2010 Technical Diagrams for a great starting point: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc263199(v=office.14).aspx 
  • A very common slow issue is when SharePoint first wakes up. Since SharePoint is a .Net application running on IIS, the application pools need to spin up, compile all of the assemblies and serve up pages. This can take a few minutes when SharePoint initially starts up. In most cases, once you’re past this slow start up, SharePoint will continue to run smoothly throughout the day. One trick to avoid this slow start up is to keep SharePoint awake. There is a simple PowerShell script which you can schedule in Windows Tasks to run, and it’ll keep hitting your SharePoint sites, thereby keeping them awake. Check it out at http://spwakeuppowershell.codeplex.com.
  • Check the Task Manager on your servers. Simple enough, but it tells us a lot. Looking at the stats in Task Manager you can determine which services are taking up loads of RAM or are pinning the processor. If you’re seeing a lot of w3wp.exe processes, take a look at my PowerShell script which marries the w3wp with the process in SharePoint. This might help clarify things a little.

SharePoint's w3wp list

  • Sometimes a specific page or two may be loading slowly. Look into all of the web parts on the page. The more you load on a page, the more it has to do. Consider taking some off, or creating another page that can house some of the web parts.
  • Community Feedback: Thanks Marc! A large number of closed Web Parts, often on the home pages, will slow down a page. Every closed Web Part causes a small amount of processing overhead, and it can add up. To check this, add ?contents=1 to the page’s URL and remove any Web Parts which aren’t displayed. It can make a huge difference.
  • If all pages are doggy, and you have a custom design, it may be a good idea to look into the assets of the design: images, CSS and JavaScript files. If these aren’t sized correctly you might experience slow performance. There are applications available that can assess a page and tell you what’s slow and how large the assets are. I like to use YSlow, and add on for Chrome, gives some pretty neat stats:

SharePoint page stats using YSlow

    • One note about these types of page stats in SharePoint. There are going to be some elements you’re stuck with, namely this first result page. SharePoint has a long list of JavaScript files which are necessary and can’t be removed. These will always skew these stats. Fortunately, the files are minified (art of shrinking a file by removing wasted space) to minimize download time.
  • You should configure your content databases in SQL to handle the anticipated usage and traffic. See my older post which also talked about performance, and has more details on databases: Improving SharePoint’s Performance.
  • Your content databases can grow up to SQL’s limit, which is in the terabytes  It’s not a recommended practice as it does impede the performance of SharePoint. As your site collections grow, consider splitting off site collections to their own content databases. This allows you to manage each database individually, which will help improve performance. Check out this MSDN article on Moving sites between content databases.
  • Caching. Storing data closer to where you need it to help improve performance. Instead of sending SharePoint all the way back to the database to get some data, it can read a local cache instead. Check out MSDN article Plan for caching and performance.
  • Community Feedback: Thanks paslatek! There is a big performance issue when your server does not have internet access and it tries to validate certificates with clr.micosoft.com. I found this TechNet article which may help.
  • Community Feedback: Thanks mansi! Performance issues can be caused by BLOB Storage: since SharePoint saves all the files (documents, images, videos, etc.) in SQL Server in the form of unstructured objects known as Binary Large Objects (BLOBs). Having too many BLOBs can slow down SharePoint’s performance as they take lot of space and require SQL to process more. A solution to work around this issue is to store your BLOBs in a location other than your content database, which SQL refers to as RBS: Remote BLOB Storage. You can read more on this: Storing your SharePoint files outside of the database (RBS).
  • Update: Lists and libraries containing several thousand items can slow things down a lot too. Check out TechNet article Designing large lists and maximizing list performance.

Gah, I think that’s it for now. I’m sure there’s more, but these have been the primary reasons I’ve come across, and have seen some great improvements after applying. If I’m missing any, please leave a comment below.

Til next week, Happy SharePointing!

My Users Don’t Like SharePoint because they can’t find what they’re looking for! Part 1

This is Part 5 of my series on ‘My Users Don’t Like SharePoint…

I’ve actually heard, at a customer site, while the speaker was unaware their SharePoint consultant was in the next cube, the following:

Don’t put it in SharePoint, you’ll never find it again.

It broke my heart… A fairy somewhere lost its wings… The clausometer dropped…

Clausometer

Credit Elf, the movie. (3rd best Christmas movie ever!)

I wasn’t saddened because my solution for the company failed, nay, we were there to fix these issues. Instead, I was saddened because SharePoint was being thrown under the bus due to a poor implementation.

The older I get, the more I forget. I use to use bookmarks a lot, tracking everything I could. This worked great for a while, until I started to forget that I bookmarked something, so I’d go searching for it anyway. Nowadays, I only bookmark something if I want to reference it, say for a blog post, otherwise I rely on the search engines to find it for me. This has bit me in the butt a couple of times, as the item I’m searching for was difficult to find the first time, and proved to be even more so a few months later. Otherwise, this method of tracking my stuff via searching has worked well for me.

I even do it with Windows, I rarely use shortcuts, I just hit the Windows key and start typing to get my app. This is even more prevalent with Windows 8. Search is a big piece of Windows 8, and is by far the fastest method of finding apps. So obviously Microsoft is onto something…

Set it and forget itSharePoint Search: Set it and Forget It

Search within SharePoint is often a feature that’s turned on, and forgotten about. Unfortunately, this will work. As long as services continue to run, search will function: it will crawl and index your data and return search results. But there is so much more you can do with search to greatly improve your user’s experience (and drive up adoption).

In addition to search, users find their data in a few other ways:

  • Healthy navigation and taxonomy is crucial. We covered this some in a previous posts (a complete mess), and we won’t revisit it here. If you taxonomy is a mess, users will rely on search even more.
  • Paired with search is the concept of good old data, or rather good old CLEAN data. I’ve split this post into two parts, the latter will cover making sure your data is clean for search. Maybe I should cover that first… naah.

We’re going to jump into Central Administration now. If you don’t have access to Central Admin, that’s okay, read on, there’s more down below. Send this to your IT dept to get the info you need.

One more important note. Improving search will require a search center site, based on the search site template. This template includes the best bet functionality which we’ll leverage.

Search Administration

Within Central Admin, go to your Search Service Application (Application Management > Manage service applications > Search Service Application).

SharePoint Search Service Admin

First, let’s start with what we can see on the first page, Search Administration. Under Crawl History, note the start time and duration of your jobs. Make sure these are running optimally. If the duration is under 5 minutes, and the start time is every hour, then I’d say you can set your start time to run more frequently. Maybe every 15 minutes. If the duration is 15 minutes, and start time is every 15 minutes, then I’d say you should set the start time to run less frequently.  There may be some performance considerations when the crawl is running, so make sure you monitor performance across your servers if you do modify the start time.

What’s a crawl? Crawling is when the search service looks at your sites, one page at a time, and reads each page and loads the content into the index for searching. There’s a full crawl, which will index everything, and then an incremental crawl which will only index what’s changed since the last crawl.

Also under Crawl History, look at the Errors column. If you see anything over zero, 0, take a look and resolve the issues. Errors can impede performance and could be related to user data. Click that row’s Content Source link to find out more.

What are your users searching for?

Next, let’s click on Web Analytics Reports in the left quick launch, near the bottom. (Click here for info on the Administration Reports). These reports will provide some insight into what your users are searching for, and how successful they are. Going down the list on the left:

These reports are by default showing the last 30 days. Click the Change Settings link in the status bar above the report to change the date range. I’d recommend looking at the preceding 90 days, depending on the amount of data and searching in your farm.

  • Summary. This report shows a basic summary of what’s going on, and how much search is being used.
  • Number of Queries. This report shows the number of searches performed. Use this to identify trends and when search is used the most and least. This may not directly benefit your users, but with this information you can know when users are in SharePoint, and actively searching.
  • Top Queries. This report shows the most popular words searched within your farm. Write down what is most frequently searched for, we’ll use this info a little later.
  • No Results Queries. This report shows searches that returned no results. Write down the top handful of search terms, we’ll use this info a little later.

Now armed with your Top Queries and No Results Queries results, let’s improve your users’ experience with search. Let’s make it a tool they can use to find everything they want. Yes, let them find what they want, which may be what’s not available  on your sites (ala the No Results Queries report).

Search Result Analysis.

Don’t let the word analysis scare you, this is really simple. Taking the list you collected from the search analytic reports, figure out what results you want users to see. Analyze your results and determine what users are really searching for. This might require you to chat with a few users to understand the terms and how they fit into your organization, ok, that might be the scary part.

A few examples:

  • The word ‘review’ was used a lot, usually regarding employee performance, but didn’t return any results. The ideal target for ‘review’ is the HR site.
  • The phrase ‘telephone numbers’ was searched for but returned no results. This is kind of an old phrase, nowadays it’s called ‘contacts’, so we’ll want to search for ‘contacts’ whenever ‘telephone numbers’ are searched for. Also, we want to target them to the customer contact list.
  • Searching for product name (if you’re a product company) or a service offering can be improved by specifying where to target the result. Maybe to the product site, if there is one, or to a marketing site.
  • You may find that a target location doesn’t exist. Encourage users in those departments to create the content, maybe HR should make a FAQs page that can answer when reviews occur, and marketing should move the product information into SharePoint so users can find it.

Update Search.

Plain SharePoint Search Results

The above illustrates a typical search result page. Searching for the word review returned a PowerPoint file and some other files, but nothing about employee or performance reviews.

Now that we know: what users are searching for; when they’ve been successful or not; where they should go; let’s spruce up the search results to get something a little more useful.

Go to your SharePoint site, specifically the home site, the root site in the site collection. Go to Site Actions > Site Settings.

Under Site Collection Administration, if you see Go to top level site settings, click that, then continue.

Click Search keywords under Site Collection Administration. Click Add Keyword.

SharePoint Search Keywords

  • Keyword Information – enter in the keyword or phrase users have searched for (from the reports above). If you want to offer an alternative keyword, like searching for ‘telephone numbers’ offer up ‘contacts’, specify these values in the Synonyms box, separating your keywords with a semicolon. These will appear under Related Searches.
  • Best Bets – click Add Best Bet to target they keyword to specific pages in your site. You’ll specify the target URL, title and a description. This information will be available to users in the search results.
  • Keyword Definition – Optionally, you can specify additional information to help the users make an informed decision by defining what the keyword means to the company. Also, you can add a contact and some dates to publishing, expiring and reviewing this keyword.

Click OK. That’s it! Go and search for the keyword and your search center should show your best bets, like:

SharePoint Search Results with Best Bets and Keywords

Pretty neat, eh? You should notice two big changes: First, at the top of the search results is your keyword and best bet. Secondly, on the right is related searches. Click a related search to perform another search.

Want More?

Check out TechNet’s article on how to Manage settings to improve search results. There’s a lot more tuning you can play with like custom dictionaries, thesaurus and stop words.

Stay tuned for the next post as we’ll discuss ensuring your data is ready to be searched.

Til next week, Happy SharePointing!