William Heurdier (Montreal, Quebec)
Before the Windows Vista, 2007 Microsoft Office System, and Exchange Server 2007 Launch got under way, I had a chance to talk to William Heurdier of AlphaMosaik in Montreal. AlphaMosaik boldly implemented Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 on their production intranet and internet sites while the product was still at the Beta 2 stage. I thought it would be cool for him to share his experiences (good and bad) and sent out a series of questions via email.
As I don't speak French and he and his team are more comfortable in French than English, the interview was truly Canadian and bilingual - my questions were in English and his responses in French. His staff translated my questions into French and my colleague Jean-Luc David, a Developer Advisor at Microsoft Canada, provided the (admittedly) rough translation back to English. You can get the original French Q&A here.
We are very pleased to hear that Alphamosaïk has deployed Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server (MOSS) 2007 in their production environment. Could you please tell us how you are using MOSS2007?
We are using MOSS2007 to support our new intranet which is interacting with several Microsoft technologies. Requests made to Office Sharepoint Server 2007, installed on Windows Server 2003 R2 in a virtual environment provided by Virtual Server 2005, are validated using Internet Security & Acceleration Server 2004, and the data which is returned on the Web page is retrieved from SQL Server 2005.
What business requirements and technical challenges led you to deploy a solution using SharePoint 2007?
For a long time, we have worked on different SharePoint platforms (STS, SPS 2001, WSS, SPS 2003). As a result, we have developed a strong competency with SPS 2003. At the beginning of 2006, we made the decision to update our corporate image, starting with our website, naturally choosing the SPS platform. Specifically, the new content management functionality was a very compelling feature. The challenge was that the product was in beta 1 at the time. However, the choice of using 2007 was endorsed by our CTO and our vice-president of marketing. We then adopted the MOSS 2007 platform to satify our needs for a web content management system and simple site configurability. We were able to leverage our knowledge of SPS 2003, which simplified the learning process. The most technical challenge was to create a solution which allowed easy personalization from a graphical standpoint, and to offer multiple management and publication tools.
How did SharePoint 2007 help you address your needs?
Customizing graphics on SPS2003 isn’t easy. It is possible but not very intuitive and requires investments in time and effort. The master pages in MOSS2007 and the design and management features using SharePoint Designer provided both effective and powerful tools (SharePoint Designer was in Beta 2. We spent many evenings with the tool along with many cups of coffee). Master lists and multiple lookups are provided as comprehensive tools and undeniable assets. It should be noted that richtextbox, which allows us to publish content, does not contain the option to "justify", which I hope to be corrected in the final version.
How many people were involved in the project? Who were the key participants and what were their roles?
- Edgard Vandemeulebroucke (CTO) : He was an advocate for the solution and allowed the adoption of the platform. He implemented the initial integration tests and launched the technical portion of the project.
- Dany Bolduc (CIO) : He framed the project and was the interface between the project team members.
- Marc-André Roy (Vice-President of Marketing) : He is the key client. He did the pre-assessment of the website and worked on the graphical design of the site. Since the site has been deployed, he is responsible for validating the content we produced.
- Pascal Bonheur (Architect) : He designed the logical architecture for the website and helped define the design.
- Merlin Martel (SharePoint Team Member), William Heurdier (SharePoint Team Leader) : They got involved at different points during the design of the site.
- Jean Philippe Breton (Infrastructure Team Leader) : He validated the infrastructure plan, installed a virtual infrastructure, and automated backups and the deployment of SMS.
- Patrick Paradis (Security Team Leader) : He defined the security plan and configured our ISA server, all the network components for Web access and MOM 2005 monitoring and auditing tools.
What specific parts of the solution are you most proud of and why?
We are especially proud of having deployed a stable platform, connected to the Web and using the latest suite of Microsoft Office System tools. The use of master pages and the easy modification of the complete site design are undeniable assets, especially since we initially received the website as a collection of images. The data model, which is applied on the site as a series of lists and SharePoint document libraries are simple and complete. The new tools offered by MOSS2007 are more than sufficient to create a completely personalizable platform. Marc-André (the site manager) can now update the content on the site without requiring specialists. Our document workflow has provided a key to make the website a lot more dynamic and practical.
Since you have launched the production version of the site, how is it functioning? Have you encountered problems?
We have not been resting and the site has had a lot of service updates. The instabilities in the platform in the past (during Beta 2 and earlier) have been a major irritant. However, since the site has been in production, the platform is extremely stable and reacts well to a lot of traffic. The easy updates allows the marketing department to update the site and enact business practices. The next versions of the website, which will incorporate online registration, will integrate more functionality, and as a result will present more risks.
Tell us a little bit about Alphamosaik
AlphaMosaïk is a consultancy which targets Information Technology (IT) services. We have hundreds of major references in the private sector, in the enterprise and government organizations. AlphaMosaïk positions itself as a "systems integrator", offering a unique set of services for all of the Microsoft enterprise solutions. The company has obtained the gold partner certification from Microsoft and offers the highest level of expertise around the integration of these technologies.
As a result, Alphamosaik is one of the only partners in Quebec to offer exclusive commercial Microsoft solutions. This specialization gives us the advantage of providing to our clients a deep and unique level of expertise and competencies, with dynamic partnerships with Microsoft on the local level (Montreal), national (Mississauga) and international (Redmond, USA)
Alphamosaik brings together four main business units:
- Infrastructure and Information Worker Management (Windows Vista, MOM, SQL, SMS, WTS, AD, BDD)
- Project and Business Process Management (Project; BizTalk; Performance Point)
- Team and Enterprise Portals (SharePoint, Infopath, Scorecard, Groove, Performance Point)
- Networking and Security (AD; Forefront; ISA; MOM).
Tell us a little bit more about yourself and your role in the project.
As the current SharePoint team lead for AlphaMosaïk, I got involved as a functional expert for this project. I frequently participated in the validation of the concepts put forth and the design of the site. I also helped our architect, Pascal Bonheur, to define the architecture of the application and the integration with other Microsoft components.