Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server 2007 and Employee Portal in Microsoft Dynamics™ NAV (Belgian MSDN Evening)

Here is your reporter back with more news about the Belgian MSDN/Technet evenings Smile.

This time, the topic was "Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server 2007 and Employee Portal in Microsoft Dynamics™ NAV". The agenda that (again) Steven and Roel from plataan handled, was not really what I expected. I expected a deep dive into the combination between EP and Sharepoint, but what we got was actually an overview of what is possible with all the Office, IW, BI, SharePoint , ... products in combination with NAV. It was an overview, no deep dive, but in a way, I have a good picture now of what I can do with the products, plus, what they can mean for Dynamics NAV. So in my opinion, I got more out of it.

I will try to give you the same overview added with some of my comments.

They started with Outlook Synchronization. This is not a new feature in 5.0, but a completely redesigned feature. Now you can synch any data, it's role based and it has got a flexible configuration. The main differences with the version version are:

Old

New

Based on Events

Based on periodic Activities

Few Customization options

Very flexible and configurable

Based on settings for specific salesperson

Based on USERID and settings in synch setup

  

Error handling in Outlook

Technically it's very simple:

  • In outlook: there is an AddIn, based on C/Front development that is going to connect to the database.
  • The NAS: is actually running the job queue.
  • In NAV: you have the Outlook Synch setup in the Administration Menu

Configuration:

  • Steven built an OS (Outlook Synch) Entity, based on the table "Service Header", and synching with an appointment Item in Outlook. In this entity, he linked some fields with the appointment-fields.
  • In the OS User Setup, he configured the current user to be able to use that entity.
  • The configuration in outlook is quite straight forward:
    • What to do with conflicts
    • To which specific folder in outlook it has to synch the records with
    • The schedule to synchronize
    • ...

Pressing "Full Synchronization" resultated in the "planning" of the service orders in an outlook calendar. This way, he created some kind graphical user interface for service order planning... In no time. Cool, isn't it?

My comments on the Outlook Synchronization is the fact that it doesn 't work in Belgium for the Dutch version of Outlook. Some Outlook items seem te be wrong translated. You have to ask Microsoft for a hotfix before implementing.

Furthermore, Stylesheets. This was already covered in a previous MSDN evening. Plataan wanted this on the agenda, because it fitted into the complete "story". He just went over it very quickly. He demoed how to export a Customer Ledger Entry, and save it on his desktop. He also showed how to change the stylesheet with the downloadable stylesheet tool from partnersource.

My comments on this tool is the fact that there is an update you can download from mibuso. With this update, it is possible to use headers and footers as well Smile.

Next topic: Record links. Also quite known already in the public. Just that you can link an URL, file, ... Whatever to a record in NAV, and open it from within NAV. Furthermore, there are a few data flows where the links "follow" the data. e.g. from order to invoice.

My comments: this feature includes a real disadvantage. The record links are loaded in a table (with ID 2000000068). Every call to the database has now an extra call to see whether this records has got record links or not (to show in the status bar at the bottom). This causes quite much extra load on the server. This extra database call is only needed for showing "LINKS" in the statusbar if the record got record links... . I hope Microsoft will do something about this.

And then, the topic of the evening: Employee Portal. Roel started to explain how the webparts technically "talked" with NAV. It just uses MSMQ to talk (via NAS) with NAV.

One of the most interesting things about EP (Employee Portal) is that most of the configuration is done with NAV. Steven showed us how to configure a "Web Part Request Template".

In Sharepoint, there are 4 new webparts available for EP: a List, Card, Header-Line and Search webparts. You recognize them immediately. He started to build a brand new page in Sharepoint, and used a list webpart for Service Headers (if I'm not mistaken) and a card webpart for a customer card. He linked the service header with the customer so that you could see the details of the customer from the record of the Service header.

My comments: Nice to see what is possible with EP, but still ... I find it very difficult to sell EP. Definitally knowing what is coming, but also because Sharepoint has got some limitations as well (mainly design).

After this, it went a bit fast. I have difficulties with products like MOSS, Groove, IW, InfoPath, .. Because I'm not really familiar with them. Therefor, for what's next, it could be that I'm using the wrong terms in the wrong place Indifferent - but double negative is positive, right?

Roel (who did the 'blabla') started off with a very short explenation of following (and more) products:

  • Groove: A new way to share documents, calendars, forums, files, ... . Definitally worth checking it out.
  • PowerPoint Slide Libraries: some kind of repository where you keep some template slides. You could easily assemble a slideshow starting from the libraries.
  • Metadata: some extra info that you can put on an entity (like a document in sharepoint).
  • Excel Services: used for posting excel info (like a graph in an excel document) on a sharepoint site.
  • Infopath: some kind of "electronic forms". Remind me of lotus and filemaker, allthough I don't know these products very well ... Indifferent.

Anyway, the Demo of Steven cleared some things up. This is what he did:

  • He openen Dynamics NAV, and exported a customer card to Word. This document, he stored in a document library of a sharepoint site. The workflow that was configured for that document library made him fill in some metadata. Steven explained a bit about the workflow and the metadata, and how to set up these things in sharepoint - just to give us a feeling.
  • Then he added a webpart in the already created sharepoint site: some kind of "list of links". This way, he could link some reports out of reporting services, base on the Dynamics NAV database.
  • In the Excel he created before (on the Customer ledger entry), he added a pivot table, and on this pivottable a graph. He saved as "Excel Services" to sharepoint, and with a webpart "Excel Webaccess Webpart", he used the graph to put on his sharepoint site. This graph is linked with the excel file, and will be updated if necessary.
  • To conclude, he added a calendar from outlook. This is also one of the available webparts. This was the calendar that we linked via Outlook Synchronisation. Our graphical "Service Order Planning" was published on sharepoint this way Smile.

Nice!

Roel concluded with a peace of InfoPath. He exported XML from Dynamics NAV (using XMLPorts) into a folder, and used these XMLs in his infopath document. This document intended to be some kind of timesheets. You could build something like:

  • Export necessary data to the InfoPath document
  • Use the folder to create an timesheet XML
  • Import these XMLs into NAV

This way, it is relatively easy to build an application in InfoPath, publish this on Sharepoint, let the users create XML's that can be imported in NAV again... . I think you get the picture.

So, that was it. It wasn't really a session that was "on topic", but it was interesting nevertheless.

Good job!

Oh, before I forget ... and this is between you and me ... someone told me that they have some devices now that can record the sessions.  So, probably the next session, I will be able to add a link to the video of the presentation Smile.

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  • Indeed, we have such a recording device and I really hope that we'll be able to record all the next sessions. In the near future we should also get a second device so if there are more sessions at the same time, we'll record them all. See you next time.

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