Our App Publisher partners have shown some Holiday spirit by publishing some very useful and FREE collaborative apps for SharePoint to the CorasWorks App Store. Last week, they published Conference Room Scheduler (by Crucial Systems) and Idea Hub (by Future Structure). Here is the skinny on these apps.
Both apps are in the collaborative apps genre. They are generally addressing the need for people across a SharePoint environment to collaborate. Thus, they have a broad user population and would probably be implemented with permissions for a lot of people.
Crucial’s Conference Room Scheduler solves that common problem of people scheduling conference rooms. It is a clean, simple app where people can centrally schedule the conference rooms. It can also be used to collaboratively schedule other resources like equipment, trade show booths, company vehicles, etc. The key is that it is a centralized resource that gives everyone the visibility they need. It is an easy win for a SharePoint environment.
The Idea Hub is an innovative collaborative app by Future Structure. They’ve coined the term “Hub” for this style of app where you collaborate around something such as Ideas. The key is that all of the lists and libraries in a site are available as related content. Thus, for each Idea you can add 10 different kinds of content and work with all of the content related to the Idea instead of jumping from content type to content type. It basically inverts the idea of content in a SharePoint site to be related to a single thing like an idea. It also lets you fire off emails with links back to Ideas or related items – this drives the idea of a collaborative Hub and Spoke model. Definitely, one to try out. I have started using it for all kinds of things, even beyond ideas, because it is so easy to use and to get and keep people engaged.
Both of these apps run on the Workplace Suite. The Idea Hub also uses the Workplace ID Generator field to generate unique ID’s that are key to the relational design. The Workplace ID tool is currently in the CorasWorks Toolset and the AppEngine, but, not the Suite. Come 1/1/2010 it is being released to the entire SharePoint community for free.
A couple of posts ago, I discussed a trio of apps for the IT Department published by CorasWorks. The new Software License Management app by Future Structure is a very useful addition to the trio – starting to really hit the pain in IT work. Here is my take on it.
For IT folks, managing end-user licenses (desktop and online services) in an attempt to maintain control and be in compliance is a real pain. FS’s Software License Management (“SLM”) app for SharePoint does a very clean job of eliminating a good deal of the pain, by automating the routine tasks, and providing a new layer of tracking and reporting that happens automatically.
SLM is used for managing your catalog of end-user licenses (what you have in inventory), getting requests by end-users or managers, and assigning the licenses to the end-users and tracking. These are the basics and it does them cleanly. It also has a group of very useful additional features as follows:
- You can create “Image Suites” of licenses. This is a set of licenses for a particular image by user role, such as a Suite for a Salesperson, an Exec, an IT Help Desk engineer etc. You can then allocate a Suite to a user, bypassing the license by license process.
- How about on-boarding? – In a couple of clicks you can allocate a Suite to a new employee during on-boarding.
- How about off-boarding? – Imagine in a couple of clicks the licenses from a former employee can be added back into your virtual license inventory.
- License Key Assignment – It also supports the request and assignment process for license keys.
- Inventory management – There is reporting that shows where you are in your inventory based upon what you’ve bought and what’s been allocated.
- Management reporting – There are a bunch of reports, very customizable, that show who has gotten what and when.
In my view, SLM’s sweet spot is organizations with 40-400 end-users. At 40 people, the problem is usually enough of a pain and a risk to make it worth while. At about 400 people and up the work starts to be getting so big that you will probably need an automated way of discovering licenses on desktops/laptops.
But, even if you address the “desktop” issue there are two other areas that need to be managed, where SLM might also be a good addition:
- The first is ad hoc licenses for specific groups. An example is getting some copies of Camtasia from Tech Smith for the marketing department or even some temporary vendors. What is being requested, purchased, and distributed? SLM can handle this.
- The second is the user/license management for apps/services provided via ASP/cloud offerings. How many services are you using and who has access and the rights? With SLM you can keep track of these licenses and provide the reports without having to go through all of the sites of all of the services you are using. Better yet managers can be the ones requesting access (some self-serving). This provides a great source of data to routinely review your expense levels for software as a service.
My wish list for the future consists of two items:
- I’d like to see Future Structure extend SLM to integrate with our Help Desk so that it can be a downstream app. Thus, if a Help Desk engineer gets a license request they can push it into the SLM system automatically.
- Second, is that I’d like to see a Snaplet for it as part of an organizations’ end-user self-service offering. It would be used for end-users to a) see what software is available and supported by the organization (what a concept?), b) allow end-users to make requests and track them and c) allow end-users to request new software or services to be added to the organizations offering.
As it is today, it is a great addition to the IT Department app catalog – particularly for $1,250. Any pain we can remove from this “not fun” process for already overworked IT folks is all good.