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Smacking SharePoint into shape

Todd R. Weiss | May 30, 2013
Shops often need to add functionality to the core software.

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.

Microsoft's view on extensions
Jared Spataro, senior director for SharePoint product marketing at Microsoft, says that since its debut a decade ago, SharePoint has been a product that users adopt and then grow into, expanding it as they require more functionality.

Only around 9% of customers use SharePoint 2010 "for a single scenario"—that is, for a single use inside their business— according to a survey of 1,000 users around a year ago, says Spataro. "About 50% use it for more than five scenarios. And about 15% use it for more than 10 scenarios."

The add-on market for SharePoint extensions "tends to be a growing part of the business," as third-party vendors add specialized functions needed by users, he said. "The ecosystem has often times looked at where the market is moving faster. Extensions will take SharePoint into areas that were never imagined when we built it."

Microsoft claims 125 million global individual users of SharePoint in total, and says that more than 62 million SharePoint 2010 licenses were sold.

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.


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