I vividly remember the iconic scene from the 1995 box office hit Apollo 13 where a team of NASA engineers gathered around a table with a collection of mishmash spaceship junk. From this collection, the team had to create a square air filter to fit in a round receptacle so that the astronauts would not asphyxiate on CO2 in space. It’s an intense, life-or-death scenario of literally making a square peg fit in a round hole, where “failure is not an option.”

Working as a business analyst for our federal government clients means that budget, time, and resource constraints almost always play major role in any development effort. This challenge requires our team to use bit of ingenuity and a mixed bag of tools to create a solution for our customers. Read More…

Software development is a risky endeavor, with many things that can go wrong. At any moment, you may find that your budget or schedule targets have been completely missed and your developers and customers disagree about the scope and functionality of the project. In fact, numerous studies state that up to 60% of projects completely fail or massively exceed their budgetA recent study by McKinsey found that on average, most software projects over $5 million exceed their budget by 45%, turning that $5 million application into a $7+ million application.  As responsible software systems developers, we have to constantly ask ourselves – how do we prevent this from happening to our projects?  The answer is to reduce risk. Read More…
Dynamics CRM 2013 is about to be released and if you have already made a large investment into SharePoint as a development platform, you may be asking yourself why Dynamics CRM matters.  After all, you are already using a wildly successful platform that underpins collaboration tools, intranets, your ‘corporate’ social media and quite likely a base of custom applications and tools. Why would you need yet another platform if SharePoint is capable of handling everything you throw at it?

First off, let’s clear up a misconception that everyone generally has the first time they hear about Dynamics CRM: it’s not “Dynamics versus SharePoint,” it’s “Dynamics AND SharePoint.” Dynamics CRM offers some pretty significant benefits that are not available when using the SharePoint platform alone. Likewise, SharePoint has capabilities that Dynamics CRM simply wasn’t designed to even begin to replicate. The trick is knowing when and how to best leverage the benefits of each tool. Simply put, both tools need each other to offer a truly complete platform that offers you the best of everything: a collaboration tool, an intranet and content management tool, a repository for unstructured data, an application platform, and a quick and easy way to rapidly and efficiently build applications to manage structured data. Read More…

Amazon Web Services (AWS) CTO Werner Vogels offers this great piece of cloud advice: “Treat everything as a programmable resource, including data centers, networks, compute, storage and load balancers.”

In other words, automate every aspect of your (cloud-based) infrastructure.

Given AIS’ years of experience with SharePoint, we are always looking for ways to make the underlying infrastructure more cost effective, scalable and robust. Fortunately, the benefits of automation apply equally to a SharePoint 2013 farm hosted in the cloud — whether it’s the ability to dynamically provision a SharePoint 2013 farm on the fly, or the ability to scale up and down based on load, or the ability to make the SharePoint 2013 farm more fault-resilient.

We’ve written about two automated deployment approaches to SharePoint 2013; one for Amazon Web Services and one for Azure. In case you missed them…

Our AWS-based SharePoint 2013 script and source code can be found here.

Our Windows Azure-based SharePoint 2013 script and source code can be found here.

A global law firm gained a planning and billed-hours edge with a new custom SharePoint application, incorporating an intelligent data dashboard, developed by the experienced team at AIS. This custom-developed solution continues a rich history of success, as the firm views AIS as their IT project partner and a long-term extension of their team.

Background

The long-time AIS client is a top law firm with household name clients in the technology, financial, healthcare and retail industries. They staff more than 1,000 lawyers and offices in 12 cities in the United States, Europe and Asia. This client offers comprehensive legal capabilities for intellectual property, tax issues, real estate, bankruptcy, environmental, corporate law and more.

The Challenge

AIS was initially brought in to build the firm’s global intranet. The project, a SharePoint intranet application, was very successful and user adoption exceeded expectations. Around the same time, the firm hired another company to build a resource application for its main legal practice areas. But because of poor user feedback and bad performance, the application never made it to production. After nearly three years of time and money spent, the firm turned to AIS for help.

Click here to read the full case study.

In my job, I have an opportunity not afforded to most: I get to listen to all of the risks, challenges, and issues (a.k.a. problems) that other organizations face. (I know, you’re jealous, right?)  From issues with large-scale hardware deployments to the risks of implementing new federal bureaucratic form processing, I get to hear it all.  Without fail, nearly all of those discussions start with someone in the room declaring, “We do it different here.”

If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “we do it different here” during a federal project kick-off meeting, well…I would have about twenty or thirty bucks, but that’s not my point. The point is you don’t do it differently!  Human nature is human nature and given similar constraints, regulations, policies and procedures, the outcomes will be similar.  Beyond the obvious irony in nearly all organizations declaring their uniqueness, I am struck by the actual similarities of the problems.

Read More…

I recently attended SPC12 with many of my colleagues from AIS.  One of the sessions I really enjoyed was High Availability Solutions with SharePoint Server 2013 delivered by Bill BaerThis sessions was geared toward the ITPro (admin) audience and detailed the options when making SharePoint Highly Available.

During this session I found it interesting how much time was spent talking about mirroring.  Mirroring is now considered a deprecated technology but is still supported by SharePoint 2013.  Today I’d like to break down the session and talk about my thoughts on each point.

Read More…

Some end-of-the-week reads from AIS employees’ personal blogs:

Windows Azure Planning: A Post-Decision Guide to Integrate Windows Azure in Your Environment: AIS’ CTO Vishwas Lele posted a complete planning guide on how to best adopt and integrate Windows Azure into your organization. (Fleeting Thoughts)

SharePoint Saturday Cincinnati Session: Clint Richardson (who wrote the excellent three-part series on The Best New Features of SQL Server 2012) presented a Voluntold admin session at last week’s SharePoint Saturday Cincinnati. His presentation, relevant links and PowerShell code are all available at his blog. (pointblankadmin)

Understanding and Using System.Transactions: Ash Tewari has compiled an excellent library of resources to help you understand and effectively use System.Transactions functionality in your .NET projects. (tewari.info)

Adaptive Problems Require Responding to Change Over Following a Plan: More deep thoughts on the Scrum framework and Agile values from Ryan Cromwell. (cromwellhaus)

Aliasing Multiple Properties in Knockout JS Bindings: David Benson figured out another handy use for Knockout JS’s “with” statement: you can emulate c# style “using” directives. (dben codes)

Teach Your Kid to Code: Steve Michelotti (and his 5th grade son!) will be co-presenting a great, fun session called Teach Your Kid to Code at the CMAP meeting next Tuesday evening in Columbia, MD. (Don’t forget to get out and vote early, too.) (Steve Michelotti)

This is the second of a multipart series on the exciting new features of SQL Server 2012. Currently AIS is assisting a performing arts center with an upgrade to SQL Server 2012. During the research for this project I have had a chance to deploy many of these new features. These posts will highlight the best of what SQL Server 2012 has to offer.

Now that we’ve already discussed AlwaysOn High Availability, today I want to talk about the changes made to Integrated SQL Reporting Services.  Integrated SSRS is used to generate reports in a SharePoint environment.  Historically it has been very tricky to configure and maintain.

So what are some of the improvements that now make it easier? Read More…

This is the first of a multipart series on the exciting new features of SQL Server 2012. Currently AIS is assisting a performing arts center with an upgrade to SQL Server 2012.  During the research for this project I have had a chance to deploy many of these new features.  These posts will highlight the best of what SQL Server 2012 has to offer.

First up, I want to talk about AlwaysOn High Availability (HA). In short, this feature combines the best of clustering and mirroring to make your applications highly available.

So why is this new feature so cool?

Read More…