Saturday, November 28, 2009

An in-between project: WPF screensaver for communicating our company values + news

A few weeks ago one of the TopForce founders asked me for an idea for communicating company messages to the TopForce employees. He was considering the usage of a screensaver for this. He had several requirements:
  1. It must be easily possible for the TopForce management to push new messages on-the-fly to our employees
  2. The displayed screensaver is attractive and draws on the attention of both the TopForce employee as coincidental passers-by
  3. The screensaver has a professional layout and styling
Being a SharePoint guy and fan, I immediately thought of applying our SharePoint based intranet for the management and distribution of the screensaver messages. Management can be done via a dashboard page containing multiple ListViews for the different categories of messages. Distribution can be done via SharePoint Lists.asmx webservice. So that's for addressing requirement 1. For the second requirement I considered WPF, you can do all kind of screen graphics and (dynamic) behaviour with that - from very simple to most advanced. For the last requirement; well I'm a developer, not a designer. Different roles, and especially different talents. I directly admit that I do not posses enough designer talent. But luckily I've several colleagues that are especially strong on the User eXperience area. Frodo Jansen did a very good job on desinging the screen-layout, addressing the third requirement.
The sketch of the software architecture for this mini application looks like this:
An impression of the end-result:

Friday, November 20, 2009

Business announcement of Duet Enterprise

Today the expected announcement on the next version of Duet is made public.
At the PDC09 Duet Enterprise has been presented to the audience, followed by a press release. In my opinion, the PDC is somewhat of a strange location to announce Duet Enterprise. The PDC participants are mainly IT developers and architects. The (justifiable) first audience of the Duet Enterprise proposition is however business management. This is visible in the information disclosed so far (view the solution brief). It eluminates the (foreseen) business value of Duet Enterprise, to get more value out of your company's investments in both SAP and Microsoft environments.
Details about the product itself are not yet exposed; system architecture nor infrastructure. We'll still have to wait for that. The good news for now is that both SAP and Microsoft have committed themselves, and in a shared uptake, to invest strategic in Duet. That clear commitment had been lacking until now.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Recovering from Access Denied [The File Exists (Exception from HRESULT: 0x80070050)]

This week I restored a local virtual development environment, which I hadn't used for a couple of months. I wanted to reactivate this virtual image because it has a complete installed MOSS environment tailored for a development task. However, when I tried to access any of the local SharePoint sites within the image, be it Central Admin or a provisioned site; for each I received an Access Denied. The error: The file exists. (Exception from HRESULT: 0x80070050). Really annoying, because I needed to quickly be up-to-speed.
Luckily, I was not the first to run into this particular problem. Especially this blog shed light on the problem cause, and on how to solve it. In the process of reactivating the image, I was required to re-associate the local account within Active Directory. As result, AD issued a new Security ID (SID) for that account. And SharePoint internally checks on this SID, not on username, to determine whether an account is to be granted access. The SID is for that purpose administrated per SharePoint site in its content database.
The solution is thus to replace in the SharePoint content databases the invalid old SID with the new issued SID. In essence, this involves the following repair steps:
  1. Use the dsquery command to determine the AD context information of your account
  2. Use this to query for the AD Object, and derive the Security ID from it (property objectSid)
  3. Convert the binary SID into HEX
  4. Open a SQL Server Query tool, and replace in every SharePoint content database the invalid SID by the determined correct SID

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Our proposition on SAP + SharePoint integrated HPW

I've written a leaflet on combining the strengths of SAP and SharePoint for a seamless integrated High Performance Workplace. This leaflet is published on our company website. For convenience I also include it here.

Unlock the value of SAP business processes within a SharePoint based HPW

For your enterprise/organization, the SAP environment is part of the company’s most important and valuable assets. However the business processes and functionality within this SAP environment are often not widespread distributed to the employees. This hinders the adoption and application of Self Service processes. By unlocking the structural SAP business processing within the familiar workplace of nowadays information workers, the application and operation of such functionalities appears familiar even for the casual user. More and more, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 is the platform underlying the enterprise portal.
Since the start of TopForce in 1999, we have come across numerous SAP installments at diverse customers. Mostly large enterprises and government organizations, but also mid-range sized companies. In this period, we have gained a lot of experience and insights on the strengths of the SAP products and environment: SAP ERP, CRM, XI/PI, ESS, MSS, Enterprise Portal, NetWeaver platform. As a portal consultancy organization, we also have knowledge and hands-on experience with the potentials of the Microsoft SharePoint platform. Since the introduction of the 2007 version it has rapidly become the rising star as platform of choice for deploying enterprise portals. The combination of these two puts TopForce in an excellent position to foresee the issues to deal with when unlocking SAP business processing within a SharePoint front-end. In 2007 SAP appointed TopForce as Special Expertise Partner Duet™. In the Netherlands we are the only licensee to implement Duet™ on top of SAP business processing for incorporation within the Microsoft Office end-user environment.

Our vision

Our well-established 5-layer architecture forms the basis for any service oriented architecture in which TopForce is involved. The strength of this architecture is that it completely decouples the presentation aspects
of any application, from the business processing and responsibilities. Exactly what is also needed to deliver a robust and future proof integration between SAP business processes at the back-end within the visual scope of your enterprise portal.
For the specific business situation of unlocking SAP business processing to your enterprise portal, we have expanded the 5-layer architecture into our conceptual integration architecture. Inputs for this integration architecture are the HPW concepts, and guiding principles on both business and IT level to delimitate the solution space.

Our approach

The driving force behind any IT project is the business gains one wants to achieve. For TopForce this is the starting point also on projects to unlock the SAP business functionalities by including them within the enterprise HPW. Which business processes are most viable to unlock via the enterprise portal to the employees? What kind of user interaction and design should best be applied to facilitate the requested User eXperience, even for the casual user? Also part of this initial analysis phase is to examine the current IT landscape, and the active or available integration mechanisms. The next step is to design the outline of the solution, and map this on our defined integration architecture. Hereby keeping a strong eye on the current IT environment and the medium-time IT roadmap of the enterprise. This design is then implemented within the IT landscape, typically involving configuration and development activities at both the SAP side to expose its processes, as within the SharePoint/portal side to incorporate the user interaction. A best practice here is to follow small steps, delivering in quick results and wins.

Our building blocks

The most significant parts here are the TopForce 5-layer architecture for realizing the HPW, and the detailing of this into our referential integration architecture. Also we have ready-to-employ technical building blocks for realizing a loosely-connected integration between the structural SAP business back-end, and the SharePoint based enterprise portal as the information worker’s familiar HPW.
Tags: SAP NetWeaver Microsoft SharePoint integration interoperability HPW