We are your mobile SharePoint and business intelligence solution
Infragistics makes mobile collaboration and dashboard creation easy for even the largest workforces. Whether you use our mobility tools, SharePlus or ReportPlus, out of the box or want custom-tailored assistance, we will help you enhance the experience for your customers and drive your mobile productivity to new heights. Our team of UX experts, developers and mobile specialists can even create custom experiences and extend ReportPlus and SharePlus for your industry, enterprise or commercial software, too.
Apr 20, 2015
The Office 365 API vs. SharePlus for Building Mobile SharePoint Solutions An API is a set of protocols with which a developer can interface with a given system or platform. Late last year Microsoft released the long awaited APIs for Office 365, finally giving developers a standard way to customize the popular collaboration platform. See here for a good overview from the MSDN site on the various ways you can now develop for the Office 365 platform.
In this post, we’ll look at five facts that shed some light on the similarities and differences between both platforms.
1. FOCUS ON PARTNER ENGAGEMENT
Microsoft is actively encouraging developers to think of Office 365 as a platform and to integrate its data and services into applications for various platforms. The recently relaunched Office Dev Center is a testament to this. SharePlus is also helping developers of SharePoint and Office 365-based mobility applications go to market faster with Infragistics’ Partner Program.
2. BUILDING NATIVE INTRANET APPS FOR MOBILE DEVICES
While Office 365 has a good mobile Web view, accessing over the web isn’t the best approach for everyone. By creating a mobile app, specific for the company's own Office 365 Intranet, users can access a totally bespoke version of the Intranet on the move. Various Microsoft and third party apps exist, but most of them cannot always be easily modified and branded. SharePlus is one of the exceptions with its unique user interface possibilities. Although tailoring the UI to the user’s needs takes time, for large scale deployments and systems, it could pay real dividends.
3. EASE OF CREATING CUSTOMIZED MOBILE EXPERIENCES
4. OFFICE 365 AND OFFLINE CAPABILITIES
Office 365 has one obvious drawback. Like most cloud software, it requires a working Internet connection to display content. So, users on the move, far from a network connection, or in any other way offline, have limited options to stay productive. A solution to this problem would be to build an app that synchronizes certain data while connected, and provides an offline mode while disconnected. SharePlus already has you covered in terms of offline Office 365 capabilities on mobile devices.
5. CROSS-PLATFORM CONSISTENCY, PERSONALIZATION AND BYOD
When considering to build a mobile SharePoint solution, it’s not about choosing one or the other mobile platform. Employees are increasingly using their personal mobile devices for company goals on the go, which has brought up the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) trend to new heights. SharePlus is specialized in mobile environments (iOS and Android) while the Office 365 API targets web-based environments primarily. You could potentially create a Chrome extension to enrich Office 365 content, using the API - in this way people browsing the desktop web could also access company or employee specific data from Office 365. Based on user account data, SharePlus provides employees with a seamless SharePoint experience across devices. For example, you can start working on a document on your desktop computer, then continue editing it on your iPad while offline on the road, and in the end sync it with your company SharePoint whenever you have connectivity again. You could also share the file and collaborate on it with a colleague, who is using an Android device – the user experience when handling the document remains the same across platforms.
A GLIMPSE INTO THE FUTURE
True mobile enablement of employees is not simply about giving them mobile access to enterprise portals, but about providing them with an optimized mobile experience on mobile devices. The vastness of the SharePoint platform calls for a mobile-first approach as opposed to building web-based mobile applications. Using the SharePlus platform, you can easily create native mobile SharePoint solutions with much less effort than if you built everything from scratch. The new Office 365 APIs could also be used in conjunction with SharePlus APIs in order to cover both native and mobile web environments. As we touched on earlier, Microsoft is putting a lot of effort in documentation and guidelines to help the developer community. So be sure to check out the Office Dev Center and our mobile SharePoint and Business Intelligence solution, and get started!
Apr 16, 2015
5 Ways Going Mobile with SharePoint Increases Efficiency SharePoint is about the integration of multiple technologies and purposes - it enables the creation of intranet portals, provides content and document management, enterprise search, business intelligence, and last, but not least, drives social collaboration. All seamlessly integrated inside the SharePoint platform, helping companies do their jobs more efficiently.
In an era of communication and instant access to information, SharePoint must go mobile. Users should be able to access important SharePoint information and communicate with their colleagues on the go.In this post, we’ll look at five interesting, game-changing ways in which mobile SharePoint can help you work better.
1. STAY PRODUCTIVE WHEN AWAY FROM THE OFFICE
Nowadays people work from airport lounges, hotels, cars, coffee shops, and at home. Some workers, such as consultants and salespeople, have to work on the go most of the time. They sometimes bring their own mobile devices (BYOD) or use the ones, given to them by their employers. Either way, no matter where they are, they have to stay productive at all times. They need a mobile SharePoint solution which utilizes mobile platforms’ advantages, and compensates for their limitations. As an example, SharePlus allows workers to edit items and documents offline and get access to their content whenever required. You can check your calendar meetings, update tasks, get notifications on document updates, or start conversations with colleagues, all within the same application, even when away from the office. If you need to check specific information quickly, with Enterprise Search and its advanced filters, you can easily find any content, buried in SharePoint.
2. STAY IN-SYNC WITH YOUR TEAM ANYWHERE
SharePoint social features can’t be left to the web only. Mobilizing a team shouldn’t hamper productivity, but increase it by fostering collaboration within the team. SharePlus successfully brings SharePoint social features to mobile devices, giving you access to your timeline and newsfeed, including activities and post updates. You can also start conversations with colleagues and get alerts on content changes, all designed to ensure a collaborative experience for your team no matter where they are.
3. EMBRACE A MOBILIZED CORPORATE CULTURE & IDENTIFY OPPORTUNITIES
Companies are expanding their global presence through M&A’s and partnerships with outsourcing service providers to reduce costs. This reality has increased the need for more flexible work arrangements that meet different work styles and wider time zones. Employees cannot always be present at their workstations any more. For their IT departments, this means goodbye to the old “Desktop First” and welcome to the new “Mobile First” device approach. Employees frequently work long hours at client offices, which further reduces the need to travel to the office and the need for an office space. The opportunities provided by mobility are numerous, but any newly mobilized office should take into account several key subjects, such as the cultural impact of working remotely, mobile technology adoption by employees, data security, and, of course, the ROI (return on investment) from going mobile.
For example, some companies find it useful to share the same device among a few employees, who can access SharePoint through a session-based app. SharePlus can also be used in this way, if needed, but the main point here is that mobility technologies provide a new way of doing things. Embracing a mobilized corporate culture is about rethinking a company’s way of working and implementing new mobile solutions, better suited for the world’s changing realities.
4. EXPERIENCE A SEAMLESS AND OPTIMIZED ACCESS TO INFORMATION
What does a SharePoint mobile user really want? The answer is easy - a mobile solution that helps them work efficiently and that is easy to use. But what does efficiency mean in the mobile scenario, and how can it be addressed? And how can users be presented with a familiar enough user interface that will make it easier for them to adopt a new mobile solution? SharePlus is the answer to both questions.
Companies usually invest in custom SharePoint experiences, allowing users to access optimized intranet portals merging different purposes, technologies, and sources of information. All of them are successfully integrated and presented together. For a SharePoint mobile solution, efficiency means being able to extend these custom experiences to mobile devices.
With Launchpads, SharePlus can extend a custom SharePoint experience by presenting mobile users with optimized, coherent, and visually appealing personalized views that are also accessible offline. Custom mobile Launchpads can include users’ most important information, such as calendars and appointments, libraries with relevant documents, forms to save new orders, price lists, etc. Sales representatives, managers, and even executives can all take advantage of a seamless integration of their daily work information while they are online or offline.
Launchpads can be displayed as the start screen for a SharePlus app and also as the main view for any SharePoint site. Either way, Launchpads’ greatest strengths are customization and versatility, allowing you to control how the Launchpad looks and behave
5. INTEGRATE DATA ANALYSIS INTO YOUR SOLUTION AND GET INSIGHTS ON THE GO
Companies gather huge amounts of data stored in a variety of formats that include not only SharePoint, but also external databases, business applications, Excel spreadsheets, etc. SharePoint provides business intelligence tools, such as Excel Services and Microsoft Reporting Services for desktop platforms. SharePlus extends these and even more reporting capabilities to mobile platforms by integrating both content and data analysis.
Thanks to SharePlus’ integration with ReportPlus, you can easily transform your business data into real insights. Easy dashboard authoring allows you to create rich, interactive dashboards that consolidate content from multiple sources in a visually stunning way. You are empowered to access data from virtually any source, including SalesForce, Excel, SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle, Google Analytics, and more. Once you enable access to the data, you can filter, aggregate, and fully customize the way information is displayed. Easily slice and dice your data, as required, and, once ready, integrate your dashboard into your solution. Like Launchpads, ReportPlus dashboards can also be displayed as SharePlus’ start screen or the main view for any SharePoint site.
SharePlus and ReportPlus make viewing and creating reports on mobile platforms easier. More importantly, they allow the creation of an optimized mobile solution which integrates both content and data analysis. If we take a Marketing Manager as an example for a mobile SharePoint user, let’s see how they could use SharePlus and ReportPlus: They could have a Launchpad consolidating their marketing calendar, shared documents, campaign visuals, basically all relevant to them marketing content. Within the same application, a reporting dashboard can be used to track the effectiveness of marketing campaigns with information from the CRM, Google Analytics, and other sources. The Marketing Manager could filter and pivot the data by date, product, or campaign, all from their own mobile device within an integrated mobile SharePoint solution.
There is one lingering question in front of enterprise IT decision makers: Will going mobile with SharePoint make my company more efficient? The answer is yes, and Infragistics is here to help you analyze and embrace your mobile opportunities. Contact us to discover how we can help your teams work smarter and better with SharePoint on the go.
Apr 15, 2015
The Microsoft Roadmap: Enterprise Collaboration Tools
Have you ever spent your hard earned cash on a pair of shoes, a new tablet or a designer jacket, only to walk past the same store a month later and see the item in the half-price sale? If only someone had told you about the upcoming sale! Investing in Microsoft products is not dissimilar and having an idea of the corporation’s Roadmap can help you avoid those “if only I’d known” moments.
Gathering an idea of what to expect from the Microsoft Roadmap is more than a pastime for soothsayers and Microsoft super fans. If your organization is considering an overhaul of current IT systems, deciding whether to update from SharePoint 2010 or weighing up the benefits of Windows 8.1 versus staying on Windows 7, knowing what’s round the corner is essential. The last thing any organizations wants is to invest heavily in an IT solution only to see a newer, better solution released soon after.
The crystal ball
There are three principal methods of finding out what Microsoft will be releasing in the coming months and years. If you’re very good at convincing your managers, investing in Microsoft Directions will give you the most detailed and reliable updates, but at considerable cost. If you can get to one of Microsoft’s major conferences (such as the upcoming Ignite event in Chicago over the first few days of May) you’ll come away with a pretty good insight of what to expect from the ‘Softies in coming months. Your last approach would be to trawl through the speculation and confusion of discussion boards, press releases, interviews and blog posts that litters the Internet.
For those attending Ignite, there’ll be ample opportunities to find out all about forthcoming releases and updates, and we’ll no doubt have a much more concrete idea of when to expect new releases after the event. However, for those not able to attend, we’ve saved you the time spent scanning the ‘net for more details on the Roadmap. There are a lot of exciting things coming out of Redmond in the coming months and a particularly detailed summary of expected releases can be found here.
What to expect:
Windows 10 is of course the big story for 2015 and is expected in Summer 2015. It’s a change in course after Windows 8 which alienated so many users, and will come as a free upgrade for anybody using Windows 7 and up. The platform will come with Cortana built in, will incorporate both the Internet Explorer 11 and so-called Project Spartan browsers and will function with HoloLens. Why no Windows 9? Perhaps because Microsoft see Windows 10 as such a huge leap forward; from now on in, it’ll hardly make sense to speak about which ‘version’ of the OS you use as Windows will update much more regularly and applications will be universal. The days of waiting for the next Windows release are (supposedly) over.
Windows Phone 7 and upwards will also upgrade to Windows 10 this year (at no cost) and Microsoft are trying to make their apps available for free on other platforms too. It’s all part of a move to be universal, to provide everything to everyone. It’s bold, it’s brave, and it just might work.
If Windows 10 is the big picture, there are also a number of other significant releases in the coming months:
Office 2016 and Office Apps. Release in second half of 2015
See these screenshots for an idea of what the productivity suite will look like. It’s got a darker theme and is designed to be touch friendly (although desktop users shouldn’t be too disorientated) but by and large Office will still feel like Office. As usual, the changes will be incremental and users should adjust to them quickly.
SharePoint 2016 and Exchange 2016. Late 2015
Server editions of SharePoint and Exchange have been put on the back burner a little in recent years since Microsoft has been pushing Office 365 and cloud solutions. Nonetheless, they recognize that many companies just aren’t ready for the shift to the cloud just yet and we can expect On-Premises and Hybrid solutions in the foreseeable future.
Visual Studio 2015. Autumn 2015
Microsoft have open sourced the .NET compiler, will expand the environments cloud development capabilities and offer support for new languages. The biggest development however will be Visual Studio's support for universal app building.
Dynamics CRM. Summer/fall 2015
Microsoft will continue with their current trend of regularly updating Dynamics every few months. This year’s updates will almost certainly incorporate Cortana.
Power BI. Second half of 2015
Power BI will have a general release for free towards the end of the year with apps for iOS and Android also made available.
A busy year
It’s going to be an exciting year for those in the Microsoft environment; the corporation are hoping to become the universal IT provider and make their services as widely accessible as possible. We’re looking forward to getting our hands on these releases as and when they arrive!
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Apr 02, 2015
Transform Data on the Move with ReportPlus As work increasingly moves away from the static environment of the office to a more mobile and flexible place, we’ve seen a growing need for tools which make editing documents more convenient when not at the desktop. In this post we’ll be looking at a new app which aims to respond to the needs of the modern, hyper-connected worker.
The office at your fingertips
Infragistics ReportPlus is a mobile application that enables data discovery & data visualization to quickly create and visualize reports and share strategic enterprise insights on your mobile device. What this means for you, is that you can be confident that you have the latest information at hand to make real-time, informed decisions.
The application is able to connect to a wide variety of enterprise data sources including SQL Server, MySQL, Dynamics CRM, Salesforce, Reporting Services, Analysis Services OLAP cubes, Excel and SharePoint. Sharing those company insights is one of the features of the application that makes it easy to start discussions based on real time data. Sharing is possible through email or by exporting the reports. You’ll always be connected with the whole office at your fingertips.
ReportPlus can connect to a rich set of enterprise data sources. What makes ReportPlus so powerful is that there is no server software required to create or maintain data connections.
ReportPlus can connect to:
CRM systems like SalesForce
Relational databases like SQL Server and Oracle
Social media data like Facebook or Twitter
There is also an option to connect to web analytics to see how you public website is performing. All these data sources also offer the capacity to be combined with one another in a “Multiple Data Source” to see insights from two different sources.
The power to connect to multiple data sources is a real benefit for any manager. Imagine how difficult it is in a board meeting to visualize the sales details for example. This information is often stored in multiple sources, and for end users it is therefore far from easy to find when they are not the most experienced Excel pro. By using some prepared reports in ReportPlus the data can be shown in an attractive way to the other board members without the need for extra software tools or expertise.
Creating dashboards in ReportPlus is easy and does not need any advanced design or development skills. When a dashboard is connected to one (or many) data sources the Chart Wizard does all the work. A dashboard uses pre-defined templates or can use the custom made company template to visualize the data. This means you spend less time working out how to turn statistics into graphics and frees you up to think about how the data can best represent the important trends.
The data on these dashboards can be easily shared with other people via email or via the export feature. Exporting data to PowerPoint or any other Microsoft Office document format is simple, and avoids the hassle of re-formatting charts and graphs. The export even includes all the annotations that are made in the charts so you can track changes made to a shared document.
ReportPlus is an enterprise ready mobile application and implements data protection capabilities so data security is ensured at any time. The advanced data protection features found in ReportPlus Enterprise include options like multi-factor authentication, enterprise certificates support, passcode lock, permission based hiding, kiosk mode and many more. Additionally, the deployment of the application can be handled in-house and managed by the IT department. With the custom branding capabilities the company look and feel can be implemented in the whole application. As a result, you can rest easy in the knowledge that your corporate data is stored securely.
With enterprise data connections, powerful dashboards, sharing capabilities and data protection ReportPlus is a very powerful mobile data visualization application. The latest release of ReportPlus supports the new iOS design experience, has the option to share to Cloud based storage and exports to any Microsoft Office file format.
Our ReportPlus team has done a great job in thinking about every need of companies where reporting is a vital aspect in the organization.
Finger on the pulse
In the context of an ever changing business environment and unpredictable financial markets, companies working with data need to be constantly aware of the latest changes and developments. Having access to a mobile app which can provide real time solutions is essential. A finger on the pulse is crucial for businesses who want to stay ahead of the curve and Infragistics ReportPlus can be extremely powerful in achieving this.
Feb 16, 2015
Working on the Move: The ROI of Moving from Laptops to Tablets Odds are you're used to working on a laptop. It's pretty convenient, gives you basic access to everything you need to do your job - including SharePoint - and it travels well. But what about working with a tablet instead?
In recent years, mobile productivity trends have started to shift from laptops to tablets, with claims of boosted productivity, easier access to data, and more. But just how beneficial is that shift?
We explore the advantages of leaving the laptop behind in favor of faster, more lightweight tablets in our newest whitepaper, Working On The Move: The ROI of moving from laptops to tablets. See how these newer devices can help you be more productive on the go, with optimized access to your SharePoint data, better presentation capabilities, and the ultimate in convenience.
Learn how the switch can benefit your business and boost your ROI by downloading the whitepaper today!
Jan 26, 2015
How to Create Effective Dashboards – More Q&A We had a great turnout for the webinar on Dashboard design, thank you for joining! There were so many great questions and comments about User Experience and Design that we could not cover them all during Q&A. Because of this, I’ll address some more here in this blog.
How to cope with a lot of data and concepts to visualise but can't fit in one screen?
The first consideration should be: what information is critical and needs to be on the dashboard and what information can we leave off? Oftentimes we tend to put too much on a dashboard and because of that we run into issues with screen real estate.
After that, you can make use of tactics like these (and they’re covered in the webinar):
(a) Use visualization types that are optimized for small screen real estate, for example sparklines and bullet graphs
(b) Use graceful degradation of details where you remove non-essential details and focus on the core information you want to show
(c) Use the same real estate to provide alternative views on the same information, for example upon a swipe replace a chart with the underlying data table (see screenshot above)
And then, you can also provide the option to drill into more details, for example by viewing a chart in full-screen mode or providing an extra “Details” tab. The prerequisite of doing this is that the parent dashboard itself already provides sufficient overview and insights so that drilling into more details is truly optional.
What program are you using for the swiping capability?
This is our reporting tool ReportPlus, available for iOS and Android.
What level of user is your software designed for (as a creator of dashboards)? e.g. User/Super User/Specifically trained to use it or basically what do I need to know before attempting my first venture into dashboards?
We try to address all levels of users for ReportPlus. You don’t need to get trained on it. Even if you don’t know this type of tools, you should be able to use it. For example, even though a casual report creator may not know the concept of data connections and all the options that come with it, s/he can still pull data from an Excel document and turn that into meaningful information.
What's your opinion on customizable dashboards, in which all users can pick and choose components to have, versus a static board of information provided by management?
Personalization in and of itself is a good thing. It also helps with adoption of a dashboard, because people can make it their own. But then, if everybody is looking at their own information selectively, it defeats one of the main purposes of dashboards which is sharing the same information that is mapped to the same goals and strategies. Therefore, if I created a dashboard for managers that portrays information relevant to all of them, I would not allow them to change WHAT the dashboard shows but only HOW things are shown. For example, they should not be able to rip out one chart that shows year-to-date revenue (or whatever is tracked in this company), but they can change the color theme and the layout of the dashboard.
In regards to the worst practice of "Exceeding boundaries of single screen" I'm currently working on creating a Dashboard for my team to consume and currently have two distinct categories I'd like to show. General Usage and Debugging visualizations. What is the best way to approach showing these two categories without invoking tabs?
You should evaluate the cost/benefit for (a)having both on one screen for fast overview yet without as many details vs. (b) separating them on two screens/tabs so you’ll never see both categories in parallel but for each one you can display more details. How important is it for your team to see both together? How many details are enough to show to them? To me, this is the primary question. If parallelism is really not that important, then finding a design solution may include tabs, vertical scrolling or separate browser windows (if the users have dual monitors, they would get parallelism back that way!).
What is your experience using Maps (GIS Info) related to a chart ? Is this a good practice ?
Sure, that’s a standard part of a dashboard. The trick there is not to go overboard and for example embed Google Maps without any constraints so that users can pan way outside the pre-determined geographic regions that you want to report on. Also, the level of details on the map should not be too high because that would distract from the information you want to show. Refer to this video that shows how we went about building a dashboard. This dashboard has a map in it. You’ll see it’s a pretty simple map – not meant to allow you to find out the shortest way from your house to the next restaurant, but only to put relevant data into a geographic context.
Traffic Lights (with different shapes) are an excellent way to expose data; you should recommend them like sparklines.
Yes, the traffic light metaphor is good, because it’s universally understood. Of course, the limitation is that you can only code 3 gradations with it. I like that you mentioned the need for different shapes! That’s a good practice to accommodate for color blindness issues where people may not be able to differentiate red from green on the traffic light. So by encoding your values additionally with shapes (or symbols, sizes, etc.) you don’t rely on color alone.
How to optimize the use of colors?
Makes sure that…
… the colors portray the right meaning (red is bad, green is good, etc.)
… you don’t use too many colors. Beyond around 7 to 8 hues, it’s hard to tell them apart
… the colors are different enough in hue/saturation/brightness so that you can tell them apart even when they’re shown close to each other
… you have enough contrast not only between your chart colors, but also between chart colors and the background color of the canvas/the dashboard
… the sum of your dashboard items look like one harmonious dashboard
… you test your design with users!
See also the answer to the previous question.
How do you decide which data to display in the dashboard? How do you do your user research?
That’s a great question that is hard to answer shortly. The executive summary would be like this: don’t design in isolation without ever leaving your desk. Engage with stakeholders and users. Rather than asking them about how you should design a dashboard, learn from them how they work, what is important to them, what information needs they have, what success data/metrics their company has agreed upon. Refer to this video that shows how we went about building a dashboard. It tells the whole story about how we researched the need for a marketing dashboard.
What is your opinion on animating dashboards? Do they enhance the usability or cause distractions?
If animation is offered as an option, I think it’s great because it makes the dashboard more engaging and may reveal more insights. I would not animate things per default, that would just make things too busy and distracting. For a really strong example about the power of animated data, refer to this sample we built.
Here’s the link to the dashboard design video again. See you next time!more details
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