Work on the holiday approval workflow has continued over this last week. We have been adding more and more actions into it, just to see what we can accomplish. We described our workflow to Dave in out monthly review meeting, and he metnioned other features that should be implemented.
Previously, the workflow calculated how many day’s the user’s holiday is, taking into account half days, and input this into a calendar. To make this workflow more intelligent, and useful, I set up a list that would contain the name and department of each member of staff, with a number of how many days of holiday they have left. Before editing the workflow, I created a custom data view of the list, showing only the members of the Online Services team. This feature was requested by Dave as he wanted to see how many holiday days each member of his team had, and creating a list for this data appeared to be one of the only ways to implement it. This method isn’t entirely desirable, as each time a member is added to the Sharepoint site, they also need to be added into the “Holidays Remaining” list. Another issue that has been raised is that, the “Days remaining” field will need resetting every year, and as of yet we do not yet know a way of resetting every feild at once with a single workflow.
We then incorporated the workflow with the list, getting it to subtract the holiday from the “Days remaining” field. We have found with this particular workflow could easily spiral out of control, there will always be something else to add to improve it and get it to do more. This will most likely be the same for a lot workflows, you just have to find a good stopping point.
It’s been a few weeks since our last blog post. In those few weeks Michael and I have been looking heavily into workflows, as that is probably one of the most important features of SharePoint 2010 for us, and has the possibility to benefit the University greatly, if used correctly.
Following on from creating a reusable workflow to deal with the annual leave request process, which was successful, we wanted to move forward. This involved associating the workflow to a list. After completing this you may have seen in a previous post, that we were running into a lot of issues since the change. We contacted Microsoft concerning this around a month ago, and although the problem no longer appears to be present, the Microsoft support team did next to nothing about it except repeat the same questions. The workflow situation seamed to resolve itself and we are now able to fully utilise workflows.
Now that the workflow is working we were able to re-create the paper based holiday system. We created a simple form that would ask the user when the holiday starts and ends and, if this was a single day, whether it was a half day. Once submitted the workflow was set to start automatically. This would send the initiator a confirmation email with a summary of their request. Next the initiators manager would be found and the request would then be sent to this person. In the instance where a manager can not be found, the request will be emailed to a nominated person, so that the task can be re-assigned to the appropriate person. The next step occurs once the manager has approved or rejected the request. The next stage will send out an email to the initiator detailing whether the request has been approved or not. If it has not been approved the request will also be deleted from the list. If the request is approved, the details are transferred into the corporate calendar.
We are now looking to test what else workflows could manage for us.
RE & MB
“UK authorities are currently investigating Microsoft’s claims that its 99.9 percent cloud uptime is in fact true, after a series of outages left Office 365 users without email or communications.
The Advertising Standards Agency is investigating a complaint over “marketing communication on Microsoft’s website” specifically in regards to the uptime claims the company makes in its advertising material.” – ZDNET (http://lncn.eu/wxy6)
After only a few months of going live, Microsoft have already failed at meeting their 99.9% up-time guarantee, personally this comes as no surprise considering that BPOS was notorious for it’s downtime. Microsoft have already paid out refunds to all the companies that were affected by the outages, so they are keeping their promises concerning down time refunds but will Microsoft improve their actual up time or remove the advertisement?
So far we have only really looked at migrating our SharePoint server to the cloud, we haven’t really looked at migrating the Exchange server at all. I have come across an article on ZDNET describing their Exchange migrating experience, this article highlights a big issue with the migration process and the limitations of Office 365.
In ZDNET’s artcile, “Outlook: Cloudy (with a chance of email)” they describe their migration into the cloud as being pretty smooth, that is up until they got to the much larger mailboxes. We already know that Office 365 does not allow users to send attachments over 25mb but what I didn’t realise is that when migrating the exchange server, office wont migrate emails that already have attachments over 25mb. This limitation can halt the migration process, which of course can cause a problem for anyone migrating to the cloud. The smaller mailboxes will continue to upload, but any mailboxes left out of migration will be considered a failure.
ZDNET also came up with a method to avoid these problems
“Possibly the easiest way to deal with the large message problem is to use Outlook’s Search Folders to build a dynamic query that will find all messages over a set size. You can sort the resulting virtual folder by size, and remove all the messages (or attachments) that are blocking the migration.”
Once these changes had been made, the migration process was simply restarted and completed. Fortunately, the good thing about migrating the exchange server is that users will still be able to use their emails while the migration is in process, so there is no interruption to service.
For the university however, this could be a very lengthy process as there are an extremely large amount of mailboxes to migrate, with thousands of staff accounts and thousands of student accounts to migrate over to the cloud.
I have been working with Microsoft Office 365 Small Business version for 2 months now and I believe we have pretty much reached its limits.
As we are currently leaving migration until we are both back from our holiday we have been looking into more features of Microsoft office 365 that we might have previously missed, features such as RSS feeds, target audiences, info path lists, complex workflows and more. None of these appear to work in the small business edition, there appear to be a huge amount of restrictions that only allow us to do the simplest of task (no IT pro required). For us to continue with Microsoft Office 365 I believe we need to upgrade to the Enterprise edition, this will allow us to test features that may actually be useful to the University, it will also allow us to use features that even SharePoint 2003 currently use, such as target audience. To me, I believe that even Office 365 Small Business should be an improvement on SharePoint 2003 and not hold features back that would put 2003 ahead of small business.
So after we have looking into migration more closely and tested some of this, I believe we have no choice but to move up to Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise edition, so we can test these useful features.