Tim is a Senior Consultant at ThreeWill. He has 15 years of consulting experience designing and developing browser-based solutions using Microsoft technologies. Experience over the last 8 years has focused on the design and implementation of SharePoint Intranets, Extranets and Public Sites.
ThreeWill has been using SharePoint for our extranet since WSS v3 became available. I’d like to share some of the ways that we use our extranet to hopefully help you see areas where SharePoint can increase your productivity and communication with your clients or partners.
High Level Architecture
At ThreeWill, we maintain a separate site collection for each of our clients. At the root of the site collection is a customized client site where we store information about the client that is common across all projects. The information I use most at the client site level is the contact information that we gather for each person that we work with at the client. This includes their name, email and phone number.
Project Specific Sites
For each project that we engage in with the client, we create a separate project site. Project sites include areas for requirements, documentation, source code deliverables, issues, risks, calendars and discussions. The calendars and discussions are email-enabled so that we can include the project calendar and discussion with any meetings that are scheduled or any email correspondence that is shared among the team. This information can then be leveraged by those not directly included in the correspondence or other resources who join the project later and want to see what meetings or email correspondence have gone on prior to their joining the team. An issues list is maintained to track any issues that arise on the project. Issues can be assigned and various views of the issues list can be created including a “My Issues” list to track any issues assigned to you. Risks are also communicated and tracked through the issues list as well as mitigation and contingency plans.
Managing Successful Projects
With regards to requirements, ThreeWill leverages the Scrum methodology so we leverage SharePoint lists to capture appropriate information in places such as a Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, Burndown Charts, etc. Clients are encouraged to capture new requirements in the Product Backlog so they can be reviewed at the beginning of each Sprint to be prioritized along with other features that have been captured for inclusion in the Sprint. Acceptance criteria for each Product Backlog is documented at the beginning of the Sprint and reviewed at the end of the Sprint to ensure that the backlog item has been implemented to the client’s satisfaction. Any documents that are handed over by the client to help clarify requirements or any documents produced by ThreeWill to validate requirements are captured in a document library located in the project site where ThreeWill and the Client can have secured access.
And Most Importantly, Security
With the release of WSS v3, forms-based authentication became possible. Prior to this release, all SharePoint users had to be given access through Active Directory which many IT Administrators opposed. With forms-based authentication, user credentials can be easily kept separate from company credentials as they are stored in a separate data store. In our case, we leverage a SQL data store and manage users using forms-based resources from the Community Kit for SharePoint that can be found in CodePlex. And with SharePoint 2010, both users authenticating with Active Directory (ThreeWill users) and users authenticating with forms-based authentication (Clients/Partners) use the same URL so sharing links among all users is no longer a challenge.
SharePoint extranets are a great way to leverage your existing investment in SharePoint to increase your communication and collaboration with clients.
Are you using SharePoint for your Extranet? Feel free to leave a comment with your experiences or contact us if you are interested in having us help you set up and configure your Extranet.