Smacking SharePoint into shape

Shops often need to add functionality to the core software.

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Adding integrations, customization

Another longtime user of SharePoint is Fitness International, which runs LA Fitness clubs in some 500 locations in 22 states and in Canada. LA Fitness uses SharePoint for its intranet, workflow tasks and collaboration. The company has been using every version of SharePoint since 2003, and is scheduled to complete its deployment of SharePoint 2013 by the end of May.

Over time, Fitness International has had to push SharePoint to extend beyond the capabilities it has straight from Microsoft, says George Bedar, CIO of the Irvine, Calif-based company.

Some of the areas where the out-of-box product fell short for Fitness International related to its integration with databases and with customizations of forms for employees in their fitness clubs, says Bedar. The software also needed assistance in handling workflow tasks beyond just creating lists, he explains.

Improving asset management and more

Black Elk Energy, an oil and gas exploration and production company in Houston, has been running SharePoint 2010 Enterprise for about 240 users but needed more out of it to fully serve the needs of its staff, says Ronald McAdams, formerly the company's SharePoint administrator and now a business and software analyst.

One major requirement was the ability to use SharePoint as an asset management repository, starting with its content management functions, says McAdams. Assets needing management include file folders, boxes, binders, legal records, phones and laptops -- both in the company's main office and in branch locations. "We're also beginning to work on managing assets like production rig platforms and vessels, and extending records management to well heads, which is expected to be completed within a year," he explains.

To help SharePoint handle the load, Black Elk added extensions from FileTrail. Included in the purchase was an RFID tagging application, RF Express, which allows Black Elk to tag items so they can be easily tracked and located.

The RFID tagging has helped solve a problem with expensive equipment that sometimes just disappears, says David Cantu, the vice president of IT at Black Elk. "$25,000 valves would just walk off," says Cantu. "We brought it in to solve this one particular issue but then we identified other places where we could use it," including tracking high-value physical assets, such as industrial materials and "things that are big and rusty and heavy but also very expensive. It's beyond just the records management" that came built-in with SharePoint.

Other, home-built extensions are being created to connect SharePoint with accounting and energy production applications that are already being used by the company to improve business intelligence, says Cantu. "There are internal and regulatory requirements to report the oil and gas we produce for royalty and accounting reasons," he says. "We're trying to streamline that process because as it is now it's a very manual process" that is inefficient.

Another key area where Black Elk needed help was in managing its huge volumes of data, says Cantu. "One of our pushes for 2013 is to eliminate the alphabet soup of our shared network drives and to put most of that data into the SharePoint platform," he explains.

As more extensions are needed, the company will add them, says Cantu. "We'll really never be done," he said. The projects that are underway now should be completed by year-end.

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