Hi to everyone who attended the Sydney SharePoint user group in August – it was great to be able to present and share information with people interested in the "application development" side of SharePoint 2007, particularly in the Business Data Catalog. For those of you that missed it, I have the Slide deck here. I’ll be up at the Australian Partner Conference this week, so if you are there as well, give me a call and we’ll have a chat over a beer or 2.
While thinking through the demonstrations of the BDC I’ve seen in the past, I feel that I’ve seen too many BDC demos connecting to a SQL Adventureworks database and present information on Bicycle sales. I believe that that while this is a way of accessing data, the ability to extract and present data from a SQL database thru a system that runs on a SQL database is not much of a stretch… and there aren’t many people who have made their fortunes selling bikes. When doing a technology demonstration I always try to build a plausible scenario that has applications in most businesses… so I went with a:
VPC running 2003 Server, SQL 2005 standard, MOSS 2007 Enterprise, Office 2007 Pro Plus and a HR database on an Oracle Database server (yes and with all that stuff on a VPC it still went reasonably quick).
Using BDC Meta Man (an excellent program which is sure to save you the cost of the application in time even if you use it once!) I queried the Oracle HR database and pulled out information that allowed me to look at the company’s departments that were located in a particular geographic location and the staff members for each department (like 3-stage drill-down).
The night before, I’d also built a staff member view that displayed their personnel information, the department they work for, their current job role, job history within the company and their manager’s details. That took about an hour to do (at 1am, so during normal business hours I would probably have done it faster 😉 ).
I linked to this "profile page" from any list that displayed an employee’s name, allowing the user of the system to drill down into a staff member profile from any high-level company attribute (eg from a job description or from a geographic location or from a department or from "reporting to" style queries).
I also created an action that allowed the HR assistant the ability to search Seek.com.au for the job role she was interested in looking up – so that she could use other company’s recruitment pitches to add value to her own seek.com.au ads.
As part of the presentation I also highlighted that you could add metadata from the BDC into lists (say, writing invoices for a customer, you just pick the customer name and add all customer information to the document as metadata – and with some InfoPath forms designer work on the document information panel you can even link the BDC metadata into the word document) as well as search on it, build in custom security access controls as part of the BDC’s extensibility, supplement data into your MOSS user profiles and a few other nifty things it can do but may not be immediately apparent.
Anyway, if you came along and you are interested in hearing more about a particular aspect of the BDC please contact me. If you have some ideas for other presentations relating to MOSS at the SharePoint user group, please let me know. At this stage I’ll either do 2005 mirroring failover (and look at automation of the failover process) or InfoPath forms tricks & tips. If you are interested in the tools I used during the demonstration (or that I talked about here) you can find more information at:
- BDC MetaMan
- Oracle Database server & Sample HR Database
- Office 2007
- SharePoint Server 2007 Enterprise
- BDC Overview & the BDC Information Centre
***BDC Meta Man Update*** – it looks like Microsoft have released an application that also builds BDC application definition files as part of the SDK for free – however, it is lacking some key features such as the ability to create App def files that include the XML to write data back to the data source, an easy to use drag & drop UI or Support for SQL Stored Procedures. Nick (Tha man for BDC Meta Man) sums the release of this Microsoft product up in his blog. Lastly, having first-hand experienced the support that comes with BDC Meta Man (support for how to hook up Oracle databases to the BDC that is, not even on his own product) vs what you’ll get support-wise for a free sdk mini-app… I’ll be surprised if he sees any significant shift in sales.