Distributing Application Functionality with Snaplets

This week R3 Business Solutions released v2 of its Time Off Management app and its Budget Change Request Management app.  Both include a set of Snaplets to enable organizations to distribute key pieces of each application across the SharePoint environment, in order to make work convenient for users.  Snaplets are web parts, based upon a special central configuration enabled by CorasWorks, that make them distributable with full fidelity.  This enables you to distribute application functionality to say 20 places across an environment, but, to be able to make one change in a central place and all 20 instances of the Snaplet Web Part are updated.  In this article, we provide an overview of Snaplets and three videos that cover the business benefit, how to distribute Snaplets, and how to centrally customize them once they are deployed.

A Typical Scenario for Snaplets

People are adding business apps to their SharePoint environments.  They drop the app into the environment somewhere such as in a department site collection.  In order to use the app, users then navigate to the app and do their work.  This is how we historically have thought of apps – you go somewhere to use them.  However, in the broad, distributed work environment that is SharePoint, in many instances there is a better way.

Let’s look at a Help Desk app.  You could drop the Help Desk app into the IT Department Site Collection.  In general, Help Desk engineers use the app.  Historically, our engineers spend a lot of time doing data entry of new requests and fielding calls and emails about status.  So, now we tell users that they can go to the app and enter their requests.  What we find is that the users don’t do this, because it is inconvenient, thus, the engineers continue to do data entry and respond to status inquiries.

Enter the Snaplet.  The CW Help Desk apps use Snaplets.  You simple snap off the end-user, self-service UI, and distribute it to all of the locations where users could possibly work.  From there they can see their Requests: new ones, old ones, and the status.  From there they can enter new requests and pop off emails to assigned engineers and make comments etc.  Their work, from wherever they work, is connected to the app.  What you find is that users start to enter requests because it is convenient.  They reduce separate emails and calls to the Help Desk because they can see the status in real time, wherever they work.  This is a typical example of the productivity benefit of distributing application functionality across the SharePoint environment.

Below is a schematic of how this actually lays out.  In this example, we have two apps, the Help Desk in the IT Dept and a Time Off Management app in the HR department.  Both are good examples of apps where distributing the functionality to where users work makes sense.  The Green and Red dots show where the apps’ Snaplets are distributed to. So, you have Snaplets for both apps distributed to 4 department dashboards in their own Site Collections, to the Portal, to an Employee Services Console (where they self-serve), and to Personal Consoles such as their My Sites (people can self-service and drop the Snaplets into their My Site).  You distribute the end-user self-service Snaplet.  But, you may also distribute Snaplets for Management Reports and Snaplets for Review and Approval.  Any functionality in the app can be converted into a distributable Snaplet with full fidelity.

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Technically, how do Snaplets Work

All apps built with CorasWorks have displays, views, forms, and actions in some combination.  So, when you go into an app, the user has a typical app UI.  Any UI in CorasWorks can be converted into a Snaplet for distribution. This is done by creating a Snaplet web part.  The Snaplet “encapsulates” all of the functionality of a particular UI display of an app. It is a connected, extension of the app.   It is created by using centrally configured capabilities driven by point-and-click builder wizards: Central Views, Central Actions, Central Forms and Global Links.  To the user, there is no difference between the UI within the site of the app and the UI that is available via the Snaplet – this is what we mean by “full fidelity”.  In addition, once you create the Snaplet it can be used within the app as well as being distributed.  The key is that the Snaplet is centrally configurable.  Imagine you have a Snaplet for end-users to manage their Time Off requests.  You want to add an action so that end-users can fill out a custom form for Time Off requests for personal days.  You just add it centrally in the app and any instance of the Snaplet now has that capability.

Video 1: Business Productivity through Snaplets – Self-service Help Desk (6:52 minutes)

In this brief video we will show you how Snaplets are used to distribute the end-user self-serve functionality of the CorasWorks Help Desk and show you how they add business value by putting functionality at the fingertips of users where they normally work.

Video 2: How to Distribute Snaplets – Time Off Management app (7 minutes)

In this video, we’ll show you how easy it is to distribute Snaplets using hte pre-built Snaplets that are part of R3 Business Solutions v2 of the Time Off Management app.

Video 3: Central Customization of Snaplets – Business Links as a Shared Central Resource (7 minutes)

In this video we’ll show you how to customize a Snaplet that has already been distributed.  We use a business links “central resource”. 

Summary

Most of us are familiar with business apps.  And, we are familiar with the distributed, collaborative environment of SharePoint. CorasWorks Snaplets and the capabilities that drive them, make it possible to have the best of both worlds – the structure of business applications with the ability for people to work wherever is most convenient.   The result is increased business productivity with a minimum of maintenance.  The best part is that it is very easy to do by leveraging CorasWorks Builder Wizards.

Enjoy!

William

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