With the growing amount of emails and enforced limits on mailbox sizes, today’s organization needs an environment to effectively manage these information assets and apply the appropriate retention policies for emails containing company records. SharePoint is the ideal platform to facilitate this requirement, and no wonder, many organizations are adopting it to manage and share documents from a central location.

On the users’ side, publishing documents to SharePoint from the latest version of Microsoft Office applications had never been easier. However, SharePoint integration in Microsoft Outlook still leaves a lot to be desired, as it makes it very hard and inconvenient for users to publish contents from their personal mailbox to SharePoint. For instance, it is nearly impossible to upload and publish emails selectively to a SharePoint list, from Outlook.  Even if you do manage to succeed, you will certainly find that most of the required metadata information did not make it to SharePoint. If the Outlook items have custom fields, they would certainly be skipped or ignored in SharePoint. What good is SharePoint integration in Outlook, when you can’t figure out an easier way to push emails and other data from Outlook to SharePoint conveniently! The process of capturing and publishing of business contents from personal mailboxes and public folders has become a core issue for most organizations, as they come to rely on SharePoint for storage, retrieval, search and collaboration on documents enterprise wide.

To cut the discussion short, we have a solution that addresses the shortcoming of SharePoint integration in Outlook with our latest release – Data Publisher for Outlook and SharePoint. This exists as an add-in process in Microsoft Outlook and is designed to provide enterprise users a means to bring contents from their Outlook to SharePoint, without needing you to be a techie or programmer. In other words, Data Publisher extends your Microsoft Outlook to effectively act as a content provider for your enterprise SharePoint repository.

Workflow chart for Data Publisher for Outlook and SharePoint

All you need to do, is associate one or more SharePoint lists to each Outlook folder, or to a particular Outlook item type such as mail, appointment, task or contact. If you choose the former, the configured SharePoint lists will be visible to that folder exclusively and items from the particular folder can only be published to one of the associated lists. For the latter, the configured SharePoint lists will be available in the common pool, which means, any mail items in Outlook from any folder or stores can be published to one of this common SharePoint list.  Associating SharePoint lists at the folder level exposes Data Publisher to custom fields that you might have defined in a customized Outlook form, on that particular folder. This means, data from both inbuilt fields and custom fields will be available in SharePoint list items, when published. So, if you need to include information from custom fields to be made available in SharePoint, you will choose the folder level association with SharePoint lists.

Mapping fields between Outlook and SharePoint

Mapping fields between Outlook and SharePoint

Before you can publish any items from Outlook to SharePoint, you will also need to decide or choose the SharePoint fields that will store the value extracted from the Outlook fields. This is easily done in Data Publisher with the mapping tool. With this, you can map the fields between Outlook and SharePoint, enabling minute control on what data is being published to SharePoint. Besides the standard inbuilt fields of the Outlook item type, you can also include any number of user defined fields. This mapping feature also allows you to dynamically create new field of the relevant data type in the SharePoint list, so that you can associate it with an Outlook field. These are the least settings required to be able to start publishing.

Publishing from Outlook to SharePoint

Choose to which SharePoint list the selected Outlook items will be published to

You publish items from Outlook to SharePoint by simply clicking the ‘Quick Publish’, in which case, it will be published to the default SharePoint list that is set in the settings panel. If you have multiple SharePoint lists configured, simply choose one of the lists from the ‘Publish To’ drop down menu. With this arrangement, you can easily file and publish emails, attachments, appointments, tasks or contacts to SharePoint, without worrying for loss of metadata.

This is how the Outlook item looks like after successful publishing

This is how the Outlook item looks like after successful publishing to SharePoint

This is how the published item in SharePoint will look like

This is how the published item in SharePoint will look like

What if you want Outlook to perform the publishing of items to SharePoint automatically, without requiring any input from your side? Yes, Data Publisher will let you do this automation in Outlook. How? Data Publisher can monitor any number of Outlook folders real-time, to automatically publish incoming mails or newly added appointments, tasks or contact items to a SharePoint list of your choosing. Such automation comes very handy and useful, in maintaining a parallel copy or backup of your current Outlook items in SharePoint. This spares you from having to do that laborious work of copying and pasting the data from Outlook to SharePoint manually.

Automatically publish Outlook items to SharePoint

Automatically publish Outlook items to SharePoint

One of the core designs in Data Publisher add-in for Outlook, is the user experience – making it very easy and effortless to publish your mails, appointments, tasks or contacts from Outlook to SharePoint manually or on the fly. And because SharePoint is ideal for sharing documents and collaboration, Data Publisher can be adapted and used for variety of content management purposes in SharePoint:

  • For filing trouble tickets to an issue tracking SharePoint list from Outlook emails, so that tickets can be collaborated and assigned to relevant technicians in SharePoint accessible by all members of your support team.
  • For submitting personal time sheets from Outlook calendar on work done, to a SharePoint calendar list.
  • For submitting meetings and schedules from Outlook calendar to a SharePoint Calendar list
  • For publishing attachments and emails (as .msg) on document libraries
  • For email retention and archival purpose in SharePoint

Data Publisher is currently available for free. If you want to learn more, you can refer to the product home page – http://www.assistmyteam.net/DataPublisherSP/. A team edition is also under development.

You can also watch this 20 minutes video demonstration on ‘Data Publisher for Outlook and SharePoint’ in action.

Video Demonstration of Data Publisher for Outlook and SharePoint

 

I have been working on Business Intelligence and OLAP technologies for more than 3 years, extensively. Initially the very sound of it, gives jitter or boredom, and it was a less favorite subject during my academic year. When I enter the workforce after my masters’, never did I expect to work on OLAP extensively as part of my new job. But with time, I soon find myself digging more into OLAP technologies and eventually, became a love affair, and till today resonates in my entrepreneurial pursuit. In fact, every enterprise products that I have developed on Microsoft Office, Exchange and SharePoint platforms integrate an inbuilt OLAP solution to analyze business data and generate reports, that fits every level of management and accounting requirements.

Okay, now to the purpose of this blog, the new release of ‘OLAP Statistics and Reporting tool for SharePoint list‘. For those of you, who are not aware of my products portfolio, I also have two other OLAP tools – one for Microsoft Outlook and the other for Microsoft Access. Each of this OLAP tool is designed to serve a purpose, which is to extract business intelligence out of the Outlook or Access data.

Before digging down more on the new OLAP tool for SharePoint, let me put forward the reasons on why these specific OLAP tools were developed in the first place.

For Outlook, there is hardly any specific OLAP tool that one can use to analyze Outlook data. To some extent, one can use Outlook views of presenting information in a more obvious way in folder, but it does not give you the summarized data that one needs often, to see broader trends based on aggregation, and to see these trends broken down by any number of variables. This leads to the development of what is now known as ‘OLAP Statistics and Reporting for Outlook‘.

For Access database, there is no inbuilt OLAP tool in Access that one can use to analyze aggregated and summarized data. Traditional query (Or OLTP) is slow in aggregation task, provides limited interactivity, and reporting is well suited to handle textual information mostly. Moreover, complex calculation are oftem difficult to implement. In short, there are major drawbacks with regards to answering, analysis and reporting with Access database. One can use Microsoft Excel to create an OLAP cube, and analyze it. But the process is cumbersome, and present a learning curve, for average workers and managers. The absence of a simple, and yet productive OLAP tool for Microsoft Access database leads to the development of what is now known as ‘OLAP Statistics and Reporting for Access‘.

OK, now coming to the new OLAP tool for SharePoint list. SharePoint can store business data in lists, such as meetings, time-sheets, contacts, tasks, announcements, sales transactions etc. The main purpose of storing it on SharePoint list is to enable sharing  among team members in organizations, which is its selling point. However, one of its weak point is the absence of any inbuilt OLAP tool to analyze data in the list. Due to this limitation, often managers find themselves spending a lot of time and resource in exporting data to spreadsheet, and performing manual computation and parsing. Some even use specialized data professionals, web parts and a dozen different software packages, just to produce simple reports. Worst, if the report doesn’t have the required information, you will have to start over, wasting precious time.

As there is a time and expense involved in getting answers from SharePoint lists, a lot of business intelligence information often goes unused, due to the fact that, SharePoint is designed to store data, and not to help you analyze it. This leads to the development of ‘OLAP Statistics and Reporting for SharePoint‘, to let you configure OLAP cube from your SharePoint lists, and then analyze and create reports straightaway, out of the box.

Summary:
Product Title: OLAP Statistics and Reporting for SharePoint
Home Page: http://www.assistmyteam.net/OLAPStatisticsSP/
Requirements: OLAP Statistics and Reporting for SharePoint works with WSS 2.0, 3.0, MOSS 2007 and the latest SharePoint 2010 Foundation and SharePoint 2010 Server. And yes, you need to have .NET framework 2.0 installed on the system to be able to play with my OLAP tool.

I have also put up a 9 minutes video demonstration to give you a brief walk-through on how to use OLAP Statistics and Reporting for SharePoint.

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