Weeknote 9: SharePoint as a CMS, with a little Power BI to help visualise dynamic data (Week 6, 2018)

2018 is flying by but the last couple of weeks have been exciting. After a period of working on short-term engagements (which can be a challenge at times), I’ve landed myself a gig on a decent sized Modern Workplace project that’s going to keep me (and a lot of other people) busy for the next few months. Unfortunately, I can only devote 50% of my time to it for a couple of weeks as I need to clear a few other things out of the way but that will all change soon.

One of those “things” is a project I’ve been working on to provide supplementary information to operators in a part of the critical national infrastructure (I wish I could be less cryptic but I can’t just yet – I hope that maybe one day we can create a case study…). It’s replacing a bespoke system with one built using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products, with a little customisation – and it’s been my first “software” project (cf. infrastructure-led engagements).

Basically, we’re using SharePoint as a content management system, receiving both static and dynamic data (the latter via a service bus) that needs to be displayed to operators.

All of the data is stored in SharePoint lists and libraries and then presented to a browser running in kiosk mode. The page layouts then use web parts to either display data natively, or we use Power BI Report Server (this solution runs on-premises) to create visualisations that we embed inside SharePoint.

And, because the service bus isn’t available yet, we had to demo the dynamic data arriving using another tool… in this case, SoapUI populating SharePoint using its REST/OData API.

It’s been an interesting project, not just because I’ve had to step back and focus on just the architecture (leaving others to work on the detail) but because it’s been software-led. I must admit I was nervous hearing status reports from the team about the page layouts they had created, or the webparts they were scripting, and I was thinking “but didn’t you do that last week?” but, once I saw it come together into something tangible, I was really impressed.

Yesterday was our first opportunity to demonstrate the system to our stakeholders and the initial feedback is positive, so that’s a really big tick in the box. Now we need to document the solution and get it production-ready, before progressing from what’s currently just a framework to something of real value.

Next week will be very different: I’m taking most of half term off work but Monday is the bi-annual risual summit, and I’m responsible for the Technology Track again.

Before then, it’s a weekend of kids football and cycling, plus Six Nations and Winter Olympics on TV. So I’m signing off now to (hopefully) watch Wales beat England at Twickenham!

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