Over the last few days we’ve released a trio of plug-and-play apps that play nicely together to get an IT Department working productively on SharePoint. They consist of the Department Dashboard, Work Order Approval app and Help Desk. They all run on the AppEngine for SharePoint. In this article, we’ll talk about how they work individually and together.
Quick Start for an IT Department
So, you have SharePoint and want to get an IT Department working more productively. The trio gives you a solid way to start. Each of the apps is available from the CorasWorks App Store. They are as follows:
- Department Dashboard – used as the primary collaborative site for the IT Department and for integrating in the apps, processes, and, connections across the IT department and to other departments
- Work Order Approval – a 3 stage approval process for internal work orders; can be used in many departments
They can be used stand alone, but together, they provide a tight, integrated solution. This diagram shows how they basically lay out. It also shows how the apps in your IT Department can be connected with other departments (see Help Desk self-service scenario below).
How they Plug-and-Play together
The Department Dashboard is typically installed at the upper level of the group. If you are starting from scratch, you’d make it the top level site of a new Site Collection. It provides the basic collaborative environment for your department. As you add apps they are integrated into the department dashboard and features of the other apps are snapped into the department allowing people to do their work from the dashboard.
One thing you’ll do is set up your Department Global Menu (or tie it into your Global Menu). This is all point and click driven and gives you the ability to centrally configure the menu across all the apps in the IT Department and/or your organization.
You then install the Work Order Approval Process below the dashboard. It gives you a complete integrated business process with email notifications and 3 stages. You integrate it with the dashboard through the Department menu. You will also want to put some displays in your IT department dashboard for users. For instance, you can add a display that allows end-users to enter new work orders and track their status while working in the dashboard. You may also want to distribute the Review and Approval functionality to other departments (there are three stages for Department, Executive, and Finance – which you can modify).
Next, you move to the Help Desk. This is a robust app that is great for an internal Help Desk. You’ll also tie it into the Department menu. It contains two Snaplets that allow you to distribute Help Desk functionality. One is the End-User self-service display (the other is a Management Reporting Snaplet). This is an important piece to start to offload the data entry work of help desk engineers. You simply snap it into the IT Department dashboard, other departments’ dashboards, your portal, my site, or anywhere else and end-users can enter new requests, track the status and history of requests, and pop-off emails – without having to go anywhere. In addition, it is centrally configured. This means that even though the Snaplet could be in 50 or 500 places, the Help Desk admin can make one change in the app and all instances of the Snaplet web part are updated.
Another connection you may want to do is to connect the Help Desk to the Work Order Approval app. You do this by adding a CorasWorks action to the Help Desk. The scenario is that you may have a Help Desk ticket that should spawn a work order, say for a purchase and some labor hours. The user selects a Help Desk item, runs the action, which automatically enters a new work order tied back to the Help Desk item. Then, the normal work order process moves forward.
Following the above basic approach, in a couple of hours you can have a robust, integrated environment for your IT Department that also connects with the rest of the departments in your organization. It is a great way to start.
Getting the Apps
Each of these three apps is available individually via the App Store. They run on the AppEngine or the Workplace Suite. They list for $1,000, however, they are all free to CorasWorks customers on our Premier Annual Support & Maintenance program (“PASM”). You “buy” them through the App Store ecommerce (make sure to login to get the $0 price if you are on PASM), download, install, and use them. It will take you less than an hour to get each up and running. You can then connect them up and customize them to meet your needs. Each has rather extensive documentation that covers installation, use, customization, and connecting it with your environment.
Note that there are two editions of each app in the App Store – Local and One Touch. the difference is the configuration of the app itself. The editions released last week are the Local edition. These are easier to install and use. The One Touch editions, released previously, are a bit more sophisticated and used when you want central configuration and management. Here is my blog that explains in more detail how One Touch editions work and the benefits of this configuration. Both run on either the AppEngine or Workplace Suite.