Join Ron Davis for an in-depth discussion in this video What is a composite?, part of SharePoint: Creating No-Code Business Solutions with Composites.
- What is a composite? Well, we use composites to create business solutions. And generally, composites use three layers. There's the data layer, now, here I'm showing the symbol for a disc, which normally means it's on SQL, or on some relational database, but it does not have to be. The data could also be in Excel, or in a flat file, etc. We take the data and then look at what the users want to do with the data.
So normally, we're going to look at a user interface tying into the data, and we combine them together and expose them onto SharePoint, which is, of course, a website. So the data, plus the business problem that they want to solve, exposed out into SharePoint, creates for us our business solution. The Benefits of Composites. We get better utilization of the investment dollars that you spent on SharePoint, which are non-trivial.
Our business solutions can be created without a dependency on coding, and when I say without a dependency on coding, we may have to do a little bit of coding. Such as, modifying a SQL query, etc. But I'm talking about not having a dependency on requiring a developer's time to actually do coding for us. Because of that, no dependency on coding, we have rapid deployment, prototyping, and modifications. So we can look at this as either a complete solution, or a prototype.
We can say this is what we want to have happen, we can prototype it out, and then show it to the developers. And then perhaps they want to take it and make something custom out of it. One of the biggest problems you get in the land of software development is having the users, the business users, communicate to us, the developers, what it is they want. Because we as people know what we want generally, but a lot of times the ins and outs don't become obvious until we're moving through the actual system.
Now, the Sample Targets for Solutions, business solutions that we do with composites and SharePoints, something that's form-centric. So that we have some kind of a data form that we're going to use to enter data. Workflows, now these workflows can be either the native or built-in workflows within SharePoint or custom workflows. Now, we do custom workflows in SharePoint with SharePoint Designer.
And SharePoint Designer is generally a no-code type of environment. You can go in and modify HTML, etc., but generally it's considered a no-code environment. Document management is an excellent example of a business solution. So, we could take a set of documents that were uploading to some site, and we can then use workflows to examine the documents, and perhaps we put these documents in a content type, a content type, by the way, is a collection of meta-data that describes what it contains.
So, we put a document up there, let's say this document is of type legal contract. And we have a description in meta-data so that we have its name, the attorney that put it together, the target of the contract, etc. So now we have this document we upload and the content type tags it. Then we use a workflow to move it wherever it is we want to. Whether it's for approval, into another business center, etc. Access apps are an excellent example of target solutions within composites.
So, we can create an access app and target it towards web-content, and then deploy it out into SharePoint. The big upside there, which we'll talk about later on in our access apps section, is that SQL can be the back-end. When I say SQL, SharePoint's content is stored over in SQL. So we can use access, which is wonderful for forms, etc., to create our web content and store it over in SQL.
Business Connectivity Services, which is a extraordinarily useful product, and just not used as much as, perhaps it should be, because the configuration can be confusing. But once it is configured in SharePoint central administration, what you do with Business Connectivity Services is you leave the land of SharePoint and the land of your SQL back-end, extend out into your line of business applications, whatever it is we're tying into, and then we come back and expose it in SharePoint.
For example, say you had a mainframe, was storing your information employee data, or whatever it is, and we have that on the mainframe. Now, we can link from SQL into the mainframe through a link server, then bring that information into SQL, and through Business Connectivity Services, tie into this external SQL box, that has this data, and bring it now into SharePoint. Eventually, it's exposed in SharePoint, as a, what we call an external list, but I wouldn't even say external list to you users, I would just say within a list in SharePoint.
The Skills Required. It's designed for power users, which I happen to prefer, to call citizen developers. Power users just seem to emerge, and by the way, I have seen many, many times, people that started just in some job and they started working with Excel because of their job, etc., and they became a power user, and then through these skills that they developed, moved rapidly up through the company.
By the way, if you're not a power user, you might aspire to be a power user.
So join Ron Davis as he shows how to get the most out of your SharePoint investment, with SharePoint Composites and some inventive sample business solutions. Ron shows how to gather requirements, use templates, create composites, integrate with Excel and other Office services, and implement solutions for a range of scenarios.
- An introduction to SharePoint's no-code Composites
- Composites life cycle
- Using out-of-the-box and custom workflows
- Using SharePoint site templates
- Working with Access apps
- Integrating with Excel, Power Pivot, and PerformancePoint
- Example business solutions