Seamless Integration or Car Crash

Spot the difference between these two photographs.

Both show “integration” between a house and a car. One is seamless integration, and the other… well … it is just a car crash.

The term “seamless integration” is used frequently when describing products giving access to content systems like SharePoint within Outlook – products like Repstor for Outlook. Supposedly any integration that shows content within the Outlook product can automatically be labelled as seamless, but in reality it is easy to spot the difference – true seamless integration is that bit harder to achieve.

Why is this important?

Users are busy people. They don’t have time to wait, they don’t have time to work out unfamiliar interfaces, and they don’t have time to fill in lots of metadata. That is why a familiar, responsive interface that looks, behaves and feels like an environment they are used to, is ideal for most users. Users clearly describe what they don’t want when being made to access compliance, records management or other ECM solutions being rolled out across an organization – no new interfaces, no special training, no change management programmes, no surprises. Just a familiar consistent experience which doesn’t impact the normal way of working.

At Repstor, we provide this. Our focus is keeping Outlook looking like Outlook but giving access to content in systems like SharePoint. No surprises to the user, just a fast responsive interface and full offline access to content – the same they get for their email. Repstor provides true, seamless integration.

Here are a few hints to help you “spot the seams” of a product integrating a content system with Outlook….

Does the system provide the standard interface a user expects from Outlook – folder hierarchy, message list, and preview pane?
Can you organize your content in the message view, as you can emails within Outlook – order by from/to/subject and other fields, group items by date, categories or by conversation?
Does the system integrate with Outlook Search. No points for providing separate search functionality in a separate and unfamiliar Outlook pane!
Is it easy to copy and move content between Outlook and the content system. Can you use the standard move/copy and drag and drop functionality in Outlook both in and out of the system?
Does the preview pane display the content being accessed in the content system?
Does the system work on and offline – like your email – with items being synchronized in the background, users being notified of new items, and users never having to wait for the network?
Does the product work as fast as the standard Outlook environment? A well written add-in has no impact on Outlook performance.

If the answer to all these questions is yes – then your users will be happy and they are already using the Repstor for Outlook product.

If not, give us a call.

Apply to join the Repstor team today!

Repstor is currently recruiting for a number of graduate and placement student positions in software engineering roles. The closing date for all applications is the 13th March 2016…






We are currently recruiting for a number of graduate and placement student positions in software engineering roles.

At Repstor we firmly believe that this commercial experience of working within a software development team will give you invaluable skills and experience. Hear what our current student on placement has to say:

“Working with Repstor has been an invaluable learning opportunity, as I have been able to explore a wide array of technologies and work with a team of friendly individuals who have great expertise in software development. Working as part of a small team at Repstor has allowed me to take part in all areas of development, including feature planning, bug fixing, testing and releasing a product, all of which has been a valuable experience and a great insight into the workings of a professional software company,” Clarke, Student Software Engineer, Repstor

Repstor is a flexible, agile company, developing high quality new products using modern development techniques. You will be doing fun, interesting work and get the chance to learn all aspects of developing and delivering software products.

We offer a relaxed working environment, flexible hours and a convenient city center location.

If you want to gain experience working at an innovative software company that delivers products to customers across the globe then Repstor could be the company for you.

If you would like to apply for a position at Repstor please send your CV to careers@repstor.com.

Please include the following details:

  • CV – including your year and module results.
  • Position applied for – graduate position or year-long placement.
  • Areas of interest – test or development and whether you have specific computer language skills or interests.

Don’t delay – the closing date for all applications is the 13th March 2016!

For further information please visit http://www.repstor.com/our-approach-to-ecm/careers.

Repstor custodian – Take a look at our Provisioning Engine Scalability

Repstor custodian and our Provisioning Engine are designed from the ground up to support very large deployments, with minimal performance impact on SharePoint…






Repstor custodian and our Provisioning Engine are designed from the ground up to support very large deployments, with minimal performance impact on SharePoint. In other words, if your SharePoint environment can handle a million matters or cases, then so can Repstor custodian. Our browsing and search interfaces will continue to work flawlessly even under these tough conditions.

How do we do that?

Firstly, custodian data is cached with Redis. This helps in two areas:

  • Supports multiple custodian servers and allows their data to stay in sync – our servers are ‘stateless’
  • Speeds up the interface by preventing frequent and unnecessary SharePoint querying

Our Open Source Level 1 in-Memory cache also ensures that Redis itself does not need to be contacted more frequently than is necessary; after all, the fastest number of bytes to transfer over a network is 0!

Secondly, querying SharePoint lists can be a delicate operation when you need to remain scalable. We’ve recently written a lengthy article detailing a number of the CAML querying concepts we use to stay performant.

The Repstor custodian application connects to the Provisioning Engine entirely asynchronously, with queues. This allows us to deploy any number of custodian servers and any number of provisioning engine instances – and a queue will sit in the middle ensuring that there’s no backlog of data. The type of queue is configurable, but MSMQ, Azure Service Bus, and Azure Queues are some examples we support.

Repstor custodian and provisioning engine scalability
Repstor custodian & Provisioning Engine Scalability

In a Microsoft Azure environment, both custodian and the provisioning engine will scale out independently, depending on load. The queue will never contain a significant build up as long as SharePoint can keep up. In an on-premise environment, it’s easy for systems administrators to monitor the queue and respond accordingly, but even during peak times, SharePoint is given time to catch up with its provisioning tasks as we incrementally back-off when SharePoint reports that it’s under heavy load.

Repstor custodian and the Provisioning Engine will ensure that the bottleneck in any deployment will always be SharePoint.

To learn more about Repstor custodian visit our website at www.repstor.com/products-for-ecm-adoption/repstor-custodian.

Written by Jonathan Cardy, Product Architect, Repstor.

SharePoint Provisioning Engine Checklist

The Repstor Provisioning Engine, which powers Repstor custodian, is available as a standalone SharePoint provisioning solution for customers….






The Repstor Provisioning Engine, which powers Repstor custodian, is available as a standalone SharePoint provisioning solution for customers who are either implementing a provisioning solution in Office 365/SharePoint Online, or replacing their existing feature-based on-premise provisioning solution with one based on the SharePoint Add-In Model (formerly, the App Model).

Repstor custodian, microsoft matter center, and LOB applications integrating with Repstor Provisioning Engine
Integration with the provisioning engine

A provisioning engine – for the uninitiated – creates (or ‘provisions’) SharePoint content. Our Repstor custodian product is largely based on our provisioning engine, so it’s tried and tested and deployed in many customer environments as well as Office 365. However, it can also be easily integrated with, for example, a Self-Service Site Creation page where end users can create their own lists, sites or site collections based on a pre-defined template. Also, it would be possible to integrate it with Microsoft Matter Center for example, to hugely extend its provisioning capability.

In this post I’ll summarize a few of the strengths of the Repstor provisioning engine.

Easy integration

Our JSON-based request model is as simple or as complicated as you need it to be. At its most simple, it is a couple of lines that includes the type (eg. Site Collection, Web, or List), the title, the destination URL, and optionally the source URL (‘ContentUrl’ – which will be copied in its entirety to the destination).

{
  "Authentication": { /* Auth details */
    "ClientId": "04c9dfb6-a0b0-4b81-a50c-d4f855d9be37",
    "ClientSecret": "Y2I1yv2xeYY2enbut8neBQ8ABt4CkURucnYCSxR/PjY="
  },
  "TargetUrl": "https://acme.sharepoint.com", /* new site provisioned here */
  "Content": {
    "Title": "Test Site 1",
    "Type": 1, /* Web */
    "Source": {
      "ContentUrl": "https://acme.sharepoint.com/provision-template"
    }
  }
}

This simple request model means it’s trivial to build a custom, business focused user interface to suit your needs. We can provide a skeleton user interface which is easy to extend.

Of course, this is a trivial example and you can include many other details such as lists/document libraries, fields, content types, etc.

Wide environment support

Any environment based on SharePoint 2013 or above is supported. Both High-Trust (ie. on-premise, using server-to-server authentication) and Low-Trust (O365/SharePont Online) environments are supported. All authentication methods for on-premise environments including Windows, Forms and SAML token-based (ADFS) authentication are supported, making this the most flexible provisioning engine in existence.

Extendable

It’s easy to extend. There are several integration points, including posting a HTTP request when provisioning completes to run a custom web service, or the plugging of custom provisioning pipeline steps by dropping in a managed .NET assembly implementing our pipeline step interface.

Templating features

Templating is the technique whereby the content of a newly provisioned site or list can be specified and customised. We support two ways to template:

  • via JSON: the Provisioning Engine JSON request can include all and any details about the content to be provisioned. Lists, folders, fields, content types, and default values are just a few examples of the types of content that can be included.
  • via ‘Live’ SharePoint content: In your request, a URL to an existing SharePoint site or list can be specified. In this way, all content from this source is copied to the destination. Any updates made to the source content will be picked up immediately by the provisioning engine for newly provisioned content.
  • a combination: You can specify both! Using this method, the content at the source URL will be augmented with custom content specified in the request.

Supported

Our regular release cycle means that we provide a constant stream of maintenance updates and new features, and our level of support in responding to customers is unparalleled.

Please contact us for a free trial of Repstor custodian or the Repstor Provisioning Engine.

Written by Jonathan Cardy, Product Architect, Repstor.

Natural Resources Wales: How to Maximise Office 365 and Unite your Users

Natural Resources Wales has benefited from easy filing, better collaboration and compliance in Office 365. Here’s how…






Natural Resources Wales has benefited from easy filing, better collaboration and compliance in Office 365. Here is the solution they used to maximize Office 365 and unite their users that you could implement on your desktop within hours.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) was formed in April 2013, largely taking over the functions of the Countryside Council for Wales, Forestry Commission Wales and the Environment Agency in Wales, as well as certain Welsh Government functions.

Motivation

As a new organization one of the first tasks was to unite the various government agencies and functions which now formed one organization.  Bringing together 1900 staff from a number of different government agencies and functions across a range of locations and with many different policies, existing EDRM Systems and File Shares posed a real challenge. It was important to NRW that its business solutions met regulatory and compliance requirements for records keeping while encouraging user collaboration across the new organization.

NRW is committed to using cloud services, existing solutions and shared services when possible. Office 365 is at the heart of NRW’s strategy and was chosen to support the early days of the new organization by providing cost effective browser based functionality to staff, who at that time were operating on three separate systems. The core functionality at that time was email, intranet and document management.

The Challenge

However in selecting Office 365 NRW knew that it wouldn’t meet all of their business needs and that additional tools would be required. One requirement was to support the management of email content as part of formal records management. User adoption of any new system was also a critical factor as staff were facing significant changes so it was important that any new tools could be deployed with minimum impact.

Over a four month period, NRW completed a comprehensive review of products available under the G-Cloud program that could potentially allow this requirement to be met with Office 365. This resulted in the selection of Repstor affinity and its rapid roll out to all users of the NRW Office 365 system.

The Solution

Deploying the Repstor affinity product involved a small number of simple steps. The first of these was to engage in a Repstor configuration workshop, where the various configuration options were discussed and a set of default and enforced configuration options were decided for the various user roles and departments/units. This configuration was then packaged using Group Policy for roll out with the NRW technical team to automate the roll out of the client.

Following the automated roll out of the client users can access their content directly from the familiar Microsoft Outlook® interface and full offline working is provided for those users working and travelling outside of their offices. Users are also provided with the ability to easily add or import content from other legacy content sources such as File Shares or existing systems.

The installation was completely standard, users were able to connect to the appropriate content on the Office 365 system and start working immediately. The familiarity and ease of use provided by Repstor affinity through the Outlook user interface meant that no training was required other than ensuring users understood the NRW policies.

The Result

“Repstor affinity is a key part of our Office 365 deployment. Its quick deployment and ease of use has meant that users have adopted the system without the need for any special training enabling us to bring users on board seamlessly, focusing on ensuring that our policies are effectively implemented. The ease of use particularly around filing and retrieval of content has been an essential part of rolling out this project without the need for a large change management effort on our part around the use of the software,”  
Debra Jones, Project Manager, Natural Resources Wales.

Repstor products were seen as being the best performing, most tightly integrated and most feature rich option while being the easiest for users to adopt, meaning that users are more productive and are able to take advantage of the software with zero training requirements.

To read the full Natural Resource Wales case study click here.

Key Requirements

Other key areas that were important included:

  • High performance access to large amounts of content for all users across the distributed network
  • Intuitive access to SharePoint content (and other content) from within Microsoft Outlook
  • Loading information quickly and effectively without waiting for uploads/downloads to complete
  • Quick and easy filing of email content to the appropriate folder location in SharePoint
  • Keeping email that has been filed easily accessible
  • Working effectively with large File Plans
  • Ability to centrally manage repositories so users have access to the right content
  • Handling large volumes of information and folders without slowing down the performance of Outlook
  • Working effectively when offline, including filing email and other content with full offline access to key content
  • Giving granular control of configuration using Group Policy

If the above requirements are important to your organization then contact us to arrange a free trial of Repstor affinity and see how you could change your email management and filing processes within hours.

To read the full Natural Resource Wales case study click here.
If you would like to try Repstor affinity for yourself then click the button below.

request software trial

 

The ECM system everyone already knows how to use (really!)

Deep down we all know that team collaboration is a good thing and in order for it to be successful we know that there is a need to accurately file work-related emails and documents. Makes sense, right?






Deep down we all know that team collaboration is a good thing and in order for it to be successful we know that there is a need to accurately file work-related emails and documents. Makes sense, right?

However we all lead busy lives and barely have enough hours in the day to do everything that we really need to get done – so when the boss says there is a new system getting deployed that will make our lives easier and help us with filing and team collaboration we smile and nod and agree, but really we are thinking “I don’t have time to learn any new systems!”. Of course we don’t say this (well most of us don’t!) instead we smile and say “Great, can’t wait to get using it!”

So the day arrives when the new system is installed and ……………………….. we mean to use it (we really do) but the days are busy and we just don’t have time to learn something new so we keep doing what we’ve always done – saving documents to our desktop, our personal email folder or our local File Share. We are just too busy doing our day job to save to that slow, cumbersome ECM system.

Sound familiar? Well if so Repstor may just have what you are looking for – no really!

Repstor affinity was created to make your ECM system familiar and easy to use. It was created with the goal of having happy users.

affinityvideobuttonaffinity does all the important ECM stuff like accurate filing and applying searchable metadata from emails and documents. But crucially, without asking you, the user, to do anything different. It plugs straight into Outlook so you can file, save and share to SharePoint (or other ECM system) directly from there.

Sound too good to be true? Want to learn more?

Watch our video and test us by requesting a demo today.

Outlook as your Single Point of Access to your Content Universe

AIIM have recently published a video which is part of the “AIIM Talks About” series in which Bob Larrivee talks about using Outlook as a front-end to content management…






We are all familiar with Microsoft® Outlook®. Mostly we find it simple and easy to use. Those of us who like to file our email just drag and drop our emails into the appropriate Outlook folders. Easy!

It’s usually the first thing we open when we arrive in work – and the last thing closed before home time. We use it to collaborate with colleagues and customers. So since we spend so much time in Outlook, wouldn’t it be ideal if all of the information we need for day-to-day work were accessible there?

AIIM Talks About ...Outlook
AIIM Talks About Using Outlook as the single point of access to ALL your content

AIIM have recently published a video which is part of the “AIIM Talks About” series in which Bob Larrivee, Director of Customer Research at AIIM, talks about the possibilities of using Outlook as your single point of access to ALL content.  He highlights many of the benefits of using Outlook as a front-end to content management and how this can be achieved.  You can view the AIIM video here.

 

 

At Repstor, we believe in making things easy and simple for users.
We know that users find Outlook:

  • Simple, intuitive and consistent
  • Easy to search from
  • Easy to file using drag and drop

Therefore we suspect you would be happy to have Outlook be your single point of access to all content – even content in your many ECM repositories. Repstor products are designed for just this. Use Repstor products to:

  • Search and Access all content from within Outlook
  • Synchronize Outlook with SharePoint
  • File email using drag and drop or recommendation capabilities

We can show you how Outlook can be your single point of access to all your ECM repositories such as SharePoint® and HP TRIM®, and we promise your users will love our solution!

Staring you in the face….

Last week Repstor sponsored an AIIM webinar presented by Doug Miles on using Outlook as your interface to access your document and case information. The webinar was entitled: The Best Way to Access Your Documents is Staring You in the Face – Outlook!






Last week Repstor sponsored an AIIM webinar presented by Doug Miles on using Outlook as your interface to access your document and case information. The webinar was entitled: The Best Way to Access Your Documents is Staring You in the Face – Outlook!

Doug is a great speaker, and backed his words with some very compelling statistics from the AIIM research.

Examples:

  • 60% Struggle to persuade users to share content in SharePoint and not elsewhere.
  • 28% are looking to provide some sort of automated classification
  • 43% believe automatic classification is the only way to keep up with filing the volume of information required.

All these stats point strongly to the requirement for the fast, familiar user experience provided by Repstor affinity, and the easy assisted filing provided by Repstor assist.

Lastly Doug talked about the growing need for Case Management in ECM solutions – with 37% of survey respondents indicating they had no easy way to file case information.

At the end, we had some great feedback within the Q&A – with a lot of people clearly struggling to maintain a good performance and deal with large amounts of information in their existing Outlook client integrations with their ECM systems – we see this frequently with legacy Outlook integrations – clearly people have had some bad experiences and a lot of products out there seem to affect the performance of Outlook.

We were very proud to sponsor this webinar – and are very happy to follow-up with anyone wanting to see how the Repstor product set can give access to all their document information in a way that won’t frustrate your users. Request a product demo on our website see for yourself.

If you want more information – check out Doug’s whitepaper that accompanied the webinar available from our website http://www.repstor.com.

You can also view the AIIM webinar at http://www.repstor.com/resources-for-ecm/aiim-webinar-the-best-way-to-access-your-documents-is-staring-you-in-the-face-outlook.