In this article,we’ll discuss the Virtual Slide Show Service app. This free application service published by CorasWorks, picks up where the Announcements Service leaves off. Its purpose is to package content and deliver it out to where the users work. As in Part 2 we’ll look at this service from two perspectives, the basic off-the-shelf app and its general design and role as part of a C2C Content Service solution.
Overview of the App
The Virtual Slide Show service is used to create and package content and other interactive services from across SharePoint and deliver it to users where they work. Users can access individual slide shows relevant to a page they are on or they can have a listing of a set of related slide shows for a specific business purpose. Slide shows might be one page or multiple pages.
Below is a screenshot of a VSS slide show running in the Operations Department. The department has a VSS slide show listing for Cross-Organizational Services. It includes services for Time Off Requests, Help Desk Requests, Video Library, Travel Requests, and more. The active slide show shown below is for the Blog-Style Announcements service. It provides passive content about the service and gives users direct access to the interactive blog-style display within the slide show.
if you have the time, we recommend that you pause now to watch the Virtual Slide Show video (runtime 20 minutes). It will show you the use of VSS to provide passive content such as a standard slide show. It then shows you how to connect other services into the slide show to make them interactive (such as the Announcements service and a Video Library service).
Service Design – The “V” Design Pattern
When we think of slide shows, we tend to think of passive content in a presentation. Indeed, this is a core use of VSS. However, VSS goes further to also provide interactive content and business functionality where users can see, contribute, and act on information within the slide shows. Generically speaking, it is a service whose purpose is to package and deliver whatever is needed to end-users. It follows a simple design pattern that we call the “V” design as shown here.
VSS has a contributor interface represented by the grey box in the diagram. Content managers use it to create and manage slide show content. In the process, they may embed other services or functionality from across SharePoint. They package it all into slide shows that are delivered out to users in individual items or as a packaged group of related slide shows.
A key aspect of this design is that the listings and the information that is distributed is centrally managed. This means that the content manager can make a single change in the service and the end-user UI’s and their experience is instantly updated – a “one touch” configuration. No one has to go out and touch any of the user pages.
Reflect on the Cross-Organizational Services example in the video. Imagine that the UI for this group of services has been dropped into 50 department dashboards across the organization. To add a new service, the content manager just adds a slide show in VSS. That specific service is now available to all 50 departments.
Technical Details About the Service
For those technically inclined, here are some of the key details about this service:
- It is a single SharePoint site template that is installed into a SharePoint environment. It takes just a few minutes to install, setup, and start creating slide shows. You can create multiple instances of VSS services for different purposes.
- The core application service is built using the CorasWorks Data Integration Toolset.
- The app contains a Contributor UI to automate the work of creating and managing slide shows, an Application Service manager UI to assist with customizing the service, and, a local preview UI.
- The end-user UI for a given service is a web part dropped on a page. You do this once for each service (i.e., once per set of slide shows). From there on, the service is centrally managed.
- The service uses XSLT to manage the style for the content and end-user experience. Off the shelf it provides different style options for window size, backgrounds, slide show navigation and formatting and slide show listing formatting. The documentation contains what you need to know to make these kinds of changes.
Let’s take a look at a few different implementation scenarios. In each scenario, you would set up a separate instance of VSS, configured for the specific purpose.
- Dynamic Extranet User Help – You can set up VSS to serve as a central help service. Links to individual slide shows would go on the key pages. They would each connect to the centralized service. This is the initial scenario that we demoed in the video which is what we do with the Quick Tours in the Resource section of the CorasWorks Community.
- Employee Services – We covered this is the video and in the discussion above. The key is that VSS is used to connect to the various business applications and deliver the required functionality to the user.
- Self-Service Support – This is a new one. The idea would be to use VSS to manage a group of slide shows for self-service support. The core one would be help desk tickets where users would enter and see the status of their requests. In addition, you’d want additional services perhaps including a Knowledge Base, a Video Library, and Top 10 Desktop Issues with links to solutions.
- Executive Briefings – Users can directly enter material for Executive Briefings. VSS can then deliver the briefings out to the dashboards of executives.
- Interactive Management Reporting – You can create a VSS service that provides a listing of Interactive Management Reports. Each slide show will cover a topic and provide access to interactive pivot chart reports.
- Interactive Process Wizard – A slide show is a good way to document processes. You would have a slide show for each process. It can walk people through the process in a wizard-style with passive content, links to appropriate resources, or even, to the actual interfaces to do the work.
Role as Part of a C2C Content Service
You can use the VSS app to directly create slide shows with passive content. However, the real power comes when it is combined with external business applications, content, and services which are embedded as part of the slide shows and made available to users where they work. A key part of the VSS service is that you are able to “mix and mash” different content and pieces of application functionality from across SharePoint to meet the needs of a set of end-users. In this way, it serves an important middleman role to package the distributed content and functionality across a SharePoint work environment and serve it up to the users.
We’ll explore how all this works and the benefits in more detail in Part 4: Bringing It All Together.