When Implementing SharePoint: Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail – Pt.2

plan-to-fail1Benjamin Franklin is reported to have said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”
I’ve seen this scenario – the failure to plan – play out at many companies, especially when implementing or upgrading SharePoint environments.
Implementing or upgrading a product like SharePoint, that is designed to empower information workers to do things for themselves, requires detailed planning.
Why?
Because empowerment​ does not come from a “one size fits all” product or solution.
SharePoint can be used to tailor a solution and deliver business value to an organizations’ technical environment. But that kind of tailoring requires careful planning. Otherwise, an organization will end up with a product that is implemented well, but does not fulfill the strategic goals they’ve set for the business.
In my first post of this series, we evaluated the reasons why organizations do not spend enough time planning before implementing SharePoint. (Read part 1)  In part two of this series, we’ll identify at some of the planning tasks that are overlooked when planning a new SharePoint implementation.

Governance

Governance helps you determine how SharePoint will be used to make your organization better. There must be a shared vision and the appropriate controls in place to make that happen.

Goals

  1. Develop a shared strategic vision ​
  2. ​​Reach a consensus on how SharePoint will be used

Key Questions

  • Is our corporate culture comfortable with a self-service model?
  • What will we control using Policies versus customization of SharePoint?
  • What business needs will SharePoint address?
  • How will policy decisions be communicated, updated, and enforced?

Security

How SharePoint security is implemented must be done in accordance with corporate culture. If not, content won’t be available to the people that need it or won’t it be secured.

Goal

  1. Decide whether or not security administration will be centralized or delegated

​​Key Questions

  • Do business users just manage the content or actually own the content they produce?
  • ​Which is more important: timely access to content or guaranteed security?
  • Will training be provided for users who need to manage their own content?

Taxonomy/Folksonomy

If information architecture isn’t planned, content will go in, but it won’t be efficiently used after it is first stored. A good organizational methodology is critical to your success.

Goal

  1. Plan how content will be organized in order to make it easy to find

Key Question​

  • How will we implement a structure for organizing content?
  • How can users surface content that is important to them?

Architecture

Upfront planning will result in a physical system that maximizes performance while minimizing costs. It must also be flexible and grow as usage increases.

Goal

  1. A​chieve a balance between cost and performance

Key Questions

  • What services will we use and where will they be located?
  • How important is search in our environment?

High Availability (“HA”)/Disaster Recovery (“DR”)

In most organizations, SharePoint becomes a mission critical application when it is implemented well. A service that can’t be depended upon can be worse than one that is poorly implemented.

Goal

  1. Build an environment that can be depended upon as a critical application.

Key Questions

  • How much downtime can we tolerate?
  • How much data can we afford to lose?
  • How much will HA and DR cost?

Staffing

SharePoint focuses on providing a self-service environment. But, having the right staff in place to maintain the system is still a critical factor to your success.

Goal

  1. Plan adequate staffing to support implementation of the other planning decisions.

Key Questions

  • Centralized security will require more staff for versus delegated security
  • How will our information architecture be maintained and enhanced over time?
  • What level of patches and fixes will be applied? All Cumulative Updates or just Service Packs?

Training/Communications

Even if you build the perfect system, people won’t be able to effectively use it without the appropriate training. You must develop a communications and training plan.

Goal

  1. Increase user adoption and satisfaction

Key Questions

  • Develop and leverage local champions to increase knowledge and acceptance.
  • What is the right level of training and communications for your organization?

Spending some time planning will lead to a successful implementation that can transform the way your company collaborates and shares information. And that’s what you started your project for in the first place, right?

When Implementing SharePoint: Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

plan-to-fail1

Benjamin Franklin is reported to have said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

I’ve seen this scenario – the failure to plan – play out at many companies, especially when implementing or upgrading SharePoint environments.

Implementing or upgrading a product like SharePoint, that is designed to empower information workers to do things for themselves, requires detailed planning.

Why?

Empowerment does not come from a “one size fits all” product or solution.

SharePoint can be used to tailor a product or solution and deliver the greatest business value to an organizations’ technical environment. And that kind of tailoring requires careful planning. Otherwise, an organization will end up with a product that is implemented well, but does not fulfill the strategic goals they’ve set for the business.

There are many reasons why an organization may not spend enough time planning before implementing SharePoint. Some of the most common are as follows:

  • “We don’t know enough about the capabilities of SharePoint. We need to do a pilot to find out what’s possible.”
  • “People are excited now about the new environment. If we spend a lot of time planning that enthusiasm will subside.”
  • “Planning is important, but we don’t want to succumb to Analysis-Paralysis. We’re afraid that planning will just go on forever and we’ll never implement anything.”
  • “We hired a consulting firm to do our implementation.  They are experts, have done this before and already know how it should be done.”
  • “We’re just doing an upgrade.  We did our planning when we originally implemented SharePoint.”

All of these statements have a kernel of truth in them. However, all of the above overstate the case and can lead to significant problems. Here are the issues raised by each statement:

  • Often, pilot environments become indispensable production environments when no one is looking. Once an environment is in production it’s difficult to go back to the beginning and plan, even if you learned important lessons.
  • Planning tasks that don’t involve a broad cross-section of the user population can lead to a decrease in user acceptance, and users look for alternatives to fulfill their business needs. But a poorly planned environment will also lead to a lack of user adoption and a failed implementation.
  • Planning is not important to success, it’s critical to success. But if planning seems to go on forever it is poor planning. Planning should be a well-managed and scheduled part of an implementation project. It should have goals and deadlines.
  • Seeking professional help can be an asset and save time. But every implementation is different and planning for those differences is a critical success factor.
  • Upgrades always involve change and new feature sets. Otherwise why would you upgrade? Planning is not just a task done up front. It’s a task that needs to be incorporated into the life-cycle of SharePoint.

Now that your organization is convinced that planning is a critical to success and to strategically implementing SharePoint, you need to know what tasks to plan.

In part two of this blog series, we’ll discuss common planning tasks that are overlooked when companies fail to plan their new SharePoint implementation.

Read Part 2

Configuring Search Authoritative Pages with PowerShell

logo-powershellSomeone at work recently asked if you could configure the Authoritative Pages settings in SharePoint 2013 Search using PowerShell or whether the only way to do it was using the Search Service UI.  After a bit of research I found out that indeed you can configure the settings using PowerShell.  But I also found out that there isn’t a lot of documentation available on the web about exactly how to do it.  The difficulty is made worse by the fact that most of the documentation that does exist is for SharePoint 2010 Enterprise Search and there is a new required parameter in 2013 that makes all those Blog posts invalid.  So I decided it would be a good idea to write a “How To” post that would explain the required PowerShell.

What are Authoritative Pages?

When SharePoint web site pages and documents are returned in Search results one of the factors that effects their relevance placement is static rank.  Static rank is computed as the smallest number of clicks it would take a user to navigate from an authoritative page to a document. The closer a document is to the most authoritative page, the higher its static rank is.  Search Administrators can enter three (3) levels of authoritative pages for calculating the static rank of a search result.  They can also add site addresses to a fourth level which will demote the static rank of a specific result when compared to all other references.  In other words the closer a specific document is to one of the three authoritative pages the higher it will appear in a set of search results, while results that come from the non-authoritative sites will be at the bottom of the search results list.  For example, you might list a team site that contains draft copies of documents in the Non-authoritative sites and the home page of a document center site contains published copies in the most authoritative pages section.  This would lead to the elevation of published copies in search results instead of draft copies.

The PowerShell Cmdlets

There are two sets of PowerShell Cmdlets used to manipulate the authoritative pages settings.  First, there are four (4) Cmdlets for creating/managing the three (3) main authoritative page lists.  They are:

  • Get-SPEnterpriseSearchQueryAuthority – retrieves existing authoritative page(s)
    -Identity <AuthorityPagePipeBind>
    -Owner <SearchObjectOwner>
    -SearchApplication <SearchServiceApplicationPipeBind>
  • New-SPEnterpriseSearchQueryAuthority – creates a new authoritative page setting
    -Url <String>
    -Level <Single>
    -Owner <SearchObjectOwner>
    -SearchApplication <SearchServiceApplicationPipeBind>
  • Set-SPEnterpriseSearchQueryAuthority – changes the level of an existing authoritative page
    -Identity <AuthorityPagePipeBind>
    -Level <Single>
    -Owner <SearchObjectOwner>
    -SearchApplication <SearchServiceApplicationPipeBind>
  • Remove-SPEnterpriseSearchQueryAuthority – removes an existing authoritative page
    -Identity <AuthorityPagePipeBind>
    -Owner <SearchObjectOwner>
    -SearchApplication <SearchServiceApplicationPipeBind>

There are also three (3) Cmdlets for creating/managing the non-authoritative page list.  They are:

  • Get-SPEnterpriseSearchQueryDemoted – retrieves existing non-authoritative page(s)
    -Identity <AuthorityPagePipeBind>
    -Owner <SearchObjectOwner>
    -SearchApplication <SearchServiceApplicationPipeBind>
  • New-SPEnterpriseSearchQueryDemoted – creates a new non-authoritative page setting
    -Url <String>
    -Owner <SearchObjectOwner>
    -SearchApplication <SearchServiceApplicationPipeBind>
  • Remove-SPEnterpriseSearchQueryDemoted – removes an existing non-authoritative page
    -Identity <AuthorityPagePipeBind>
    -Owner <SearchObjectOwner>
    -SearchApplication <SearchServiceApplicationPipeBind>

The Parameters

As I mentioned before some of the parameters have changed since SharePoint 2010.  Most importantly the –Owner parameter is now a required parameter and it wasn’t in 2010.  Here’s what you need to know about each of the parameters:

  • Url – The New commands require a Url to designate the page or site address to be added as an authoritative page entry.
  • Identity – Identity is optional for the Get command.  Without an Identity the Get command will return all the authoritative pages.  The Set and Remove commands require that a specific page be identified.
  • Level – Specifies the level where the page address should be added.  Valid values are integers 0, 1, and 2 with 0 being the Most Authoritative Pages and 2 being the Third-level Authoritative Pages.
  • Owner – This was optional for 2010 but is required in 2013.  It must be set to a Search Object Owner designating either a Search Service Application or a Tenant Subscription in a Multi-tenant environment.  I’ll provide an example of how to get the Search Object Owner in the sample code below.
  • SearchApplication – This is the Search service application object to which the pages will be added.

PowerShell Sample

Now that we’ve looked at the commands and parameters lets look at a sample script that demonstrates how to use the commands.

   1:  #Get the Enterprise Search Service Application
   2:  $ssa = Get-SPEnterpriseSearchServiceApplication
   3:  
   4:  #Get the Search Owner object.  
   5:  #Must be either SearchServiceApplication (Ssa) or Multitenancy SiteSubscription (SPSiteSubscription) 
   6:  $owner = Get-SPEnterpriseSearchOwner -Level Ssa
   7:  
   8:  #Identity is either a valid url or an AuthorityPage Object(Retrieved with Get-SPEnterPriseSearchQueryAuthority)
   9:  $url1 = "http://siteURL/"
  10:  $url2 = "http://siteURL/sites/sitecollection/"
  11:  $url3 = "http://siteURL/Pages/Default.aspx"
  12:  
  13:  $mostAuthoritative = 0
  14:  $secondMostAuthoritative = 1
  15:  $thirdMostAuthoritative = 2
  16:  
  17:  #Try to get an existing Authoritative Page 
  18:  $sqa = Get-SPEnterpriseSearchQueryAuthority -Identity $url1 -Owner $owner -SearchApplication $ssa -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue
  19:  if ($sqa -eq $null)
  20:  {
  21:      #Create a new Authoritative page if one doesn't exist
  22:      $sqa = New-SPEnterpriseSearchQueryAuthority -Owner $owner -SearchApplication $ssa -Url $url1 -Level $secondMostAuthoritative
  23:  }
  24:  else
  25:  {
  26:      #Change the level of an exiting Authoritative page
  27:      Set-SPEnterpriseSearchQueryAuthority -Identity $sqa -Level $thirdMostAuthoritative -SearchApplication $ssa -Owner $owner
  28:  }
  29:  
  30:  $sqa2 = Get-SPEnterpriseSearchQueryDemoted -Identity $url3 -Owner $owner -SearchApplication $ssa -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue
  31:  if ($sqa2 -eq $null)
  32:  {
  33:      New-SPEnterpriseSearchQueryDemoted -Owner $owner -SearchApplication $ssa -Url $url2
  34:  }
  35:  
  36:  Remove-SPEnterpriseSearchQueryAuthority -Identity $url3 -Owner $owner -SearchApplication $ssa -Confirm:$false

Make App Icons that Change with a Composed Look

Animated

Recently a developer friend was wondering why all the built-in App Icons changed colors on his SharePoint 2013 site when he applied a different color scheme using the “Composed Looks” functionality,but Icons for custom apps he had deployed remained their original color.  The screenshot below shows the Site Contents page both before (Left Side) and after a Theme has been applied using a Composed Look (Right Side).  You can see that all the Icons on the page changed except the last one on the right.  This is the App that I installed using the Visual Studio 2012 SharePoint Hosted App project.  So the question is Why do all the other Icons change?

Appssidebyside

The first theory was that the App Icons were being recolored using the Theme CSS support that has been available since SharePoint 2010.  But the ability to recolor an image using CSS has always been limited to background images loaded through CSS.  These Icons are loaded using an <IMG> element so there is no way to specify the image in CSS and no way to recolor it.

After using IE’s Developer toolbar to examine the HTML and CSS on the pages above I found that the image itself doesn’t get recolored. But the <a> (anchor tag) that surrounds the Icon is a square rectangle occupying the space behind each image that has its background set to one of the theme colors.  You can see in the screenshot below that the <a> tag has its background set to a class of “ms-storefront-appiconspan’ which is set to an rgb color from a themable css file.  But why does changing the background behind the Icon change the color of the Icon?

appIconBackground

The trick is that the Icon file itself is a transparent PNG that is the same size, 90 X 90 pixels, as the anchor tag with the background color behind it.  That way the background color shows through the Icon and appears to recolor the icon itself.  So let’s see what happens to my Visual Studio project if I replace the blue in my App Icon with a Transparent background.  the image below shows the original Icon on the left and the new transparent Icon on the right after I cut the background out using Paint.Net.

appIcons

After uploading the new Icon image into my visual Studio project and redeploying the custom app you can see that the custom app Icon changes colors along with the Theme in the screenshot below.  If you restrict your Icon to white images and text on a transparent background then your Icon should look like it fits no matter what Composed Look is applied to your site.

AppAfter

Fix for “PDF iFilter Doesn’t Crawl Contents”

searchPDFI was working at a client this last week where we were having trouble getting SharePoint search to crawl the contents of PDF files.  My client said they followed this Microsoft installation guide (KB Article #2293357)  but the iFilter still wasn’t being used to crawl the contents of PDF files.  When I checked their installation I couldn’t find anything wrong either.  I was even more surprised that when I followed the same steps in my virtual dev environment I got the same results.  PDFs were searchable but only by title or other metadata.  The contents were not being indexed.  At that point I started searching the Internet for a solution and although I found lots of people with the same problem I didn’t find any solutions that would work.  For most people the solution was to make sure they added a registry key they missed or make sure it was installed on the correct server.  But there were some people, like my client and I, who followed the instructions correctly and still couldn’t get it to work.  At this point we opened a support ticket with Microsoft and were immediately provided with a solution that worked.  But since I haven’t been able to find this documented anywhere I thought I would record it in my BLOG.  So if you have tried setting up the 64 bit Adobe PDF iFilter and still can’t get it to work, then read on and try the following.  To be thorough I included all the steps required to install the iFilter, but highlighted the additional step that we took which made the difference.


Installing a PDF iFilter

  1. Download and Install the Adobe PDF iFilter 9 for 64-bit platforms
  2. Download a 16X16 PDF icon file from the Adobe web site and copy it to C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Web Server Extensions\14\TEMPLATE\IMAGES\
  3. Add the following entry in the docIcon.xml file, which can be found at: C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Web Server Extensions\14\TEMPLATE\XML
        <Mapping Key="pdf" Value="pdf16.gif" />
  4. Add the pdf file type to the Search Service Application’s File types
  5. Open regedit and navigate to the following location:
        HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Office Server\14.0\Search\Setup\ContentIndexCommon\Filters\Extension
  6. Right-click and select New > Key to create a new key called ‘.pdf
  7. Add the following GUID as the default value for the .pdf key 
        {E8978DA6-047F-4E3D-9C78-CDBE46041603}
  8. Open Windows Explorer and navigate to the following location:
        C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe PDF iFilter 9 for 64-bit platforms\bin
  9. Add your Search Service Application’s Content Access Account to the list of users and groups who have security access to this folder.  Make sure the account has Read, Read & Execute, and List Folder Contents permissions.
  10. Reboot the SharePoint servers in your Farm to restart the Search Service Application

 

Note:  The Adobe installation instructions also recommend adding the bin folder location to the server’s environmental path variable.  But this has not been required in any of my installations and is not included in the Microsoft instructions.