Team, Meet SharePoint

  • 10/29/2008

Knowing What’s Going On

One of the challenges to teamwork with a SharePoint site is the simple matter of forgetting to check for new information and new action items on a regular basis. People on the team will write a draft document and post it into SharePoint, create a new meeting event, or update one of the existing wiki pages, but they should not have to tell everyone else what they have done. They should be able to trust that everyone else will either make it a regular habit of checking for new information in SharePoint, or that they have some way of being alerted to the changes that have been made.

The best approach is to have some way of being pulled back into the SharePoint team site when a relevant change is made, without having to go there and manually check for changes. For the first couple of days, team members may be diligent in checking the site, but there should be an automated way for SharePoint to alert team members that something has changed in their world.

Thankfully, there is.

Getting Pulled Back into SharePoint

SharePoint offers a couple of key ways for alerting users about changes that have been made by other people within the SharePoint sites they belong to:

  • E-mail notification, whereby an e-mail message is sent when something is added or changes

  • RSS notification, whereby the same type of update is distributed by a file called an RSS feed, rather than by an e-mail notification

Either alert type will work fine, but it is vital that each team member chooses one or the other or both.

Setting Up E-Mail Alerts in SharePoint

E-mail alerts are set up for each list or library in SharePoint. Rather than having a global e-mail alert option, users are able to choose which lists or libraries they want to be notified about. The key list of interest for Roger and the team is the announcements list, because that will be the central place for coordinating the things that are happening in the project. To create an e-mail alert for the announcements list, Roger first opens the announcements list, either by clicking Announcements in the Lists area on the Quick Launch bar, or by clicking Announcements on the home page of the Project Delta Inner Team site.

After the Announcements list opens, click Actions, and then click Alert Me to set up an e-mail notification (see Figure 4-2).

Figure 4-2

Figure 4-2. Click Alert Me to set up an e-mail alert for a list.

Roger can create e-mail notifications for himself and for other people on the team from the New Alert page. He first gives the alert a descriptive name, and then enters or selects the list of people on the team in the Send Alerts To box (see Figure 4-3).

Figure 4-3

Figure 4-3. Give the alert a name, and enter the people to receive the alert.

The lower half of the New Alert page provides options about the alert itself. For announcements, this is things like the type of change that should trigger an alert, specific criteria for the alert, and the timing of the alert. Because the key objective is to let everyone on the team know as soon as anything changes on the Announcements list, Roger goes for All Changes, Anything Changes, and Send E-Mail Immediately (see Figure 4-4).

Figure 4-4

Figure 4-4. Set the options for the alert.

When done, he presses OK at the bottom of the page, and the alert is created.

Roger’s next action is to create the first announcement in the list, welcoming everyone to the project and letting them know that SharePoint is ready for them to use. To create the first announcement, he clicks Add New Announcement from the main page of the Project Delta Inner Team site (see Figure 4-5).

Figure 4-5

Figure 4-5. Add the first announcement welcoming the team to the Inner Team site.

After Roger clicks OK on the Announcements form, it is saved to the Announcements list and an e-mail alert is sent to each of the team members.

Receiving an E-Mail Alert

When the alert that Roger has just configured is triggered by activity in the Announcements list, a message will be created and sent out to Roger (and anyone else with the same alert). The subject line of the message says that it is an alert from a specific SharePoint site, and the message provides a link for pulling the user back into SharePoint to view the change (see Figure 4-6).

Figure 4-6

Figure 4-6. SharePoint distributes alerts in e-mail messages so that people are advised quickly of relevant changes.

Deleting or Modifying an E-Mail Alert

Although Roger has created the alert for everyone on the team, the team members individually can delete or modify the alert if they don’t want to recieve it every time something changes. They can see their own personal list of alerts by first clicking My Settings, which they can access from anywhere in a given SharePoint site by clicking on their name in the upper-right corner of the page (see Figure 4-7).

Figure 4-7

Figure 4-7. Open My Settings to review your alerts for a SharePoint site.

Then click My Alerts on the User Information page to review your active alerts for that specific SharePoint site (see Figure 4-8).

Figure 4-8

Figure 4-8. Access the Alerts page through your My Settings page.

The My Alerts On This Site page lists all of your alerts for the current site, organized by frequency of notification—immediate, daily, and weekly. Because only one notification has been set up for Robert O’Hara, he sees only the New Announcement For Project Delta alert. He can select it and delete it, or he can open it to make changes (see Figure 4-9).

Figure 4-9

Figure 4-9. Individuals can review their alerts for a SharePoint site.

Robert opens the alert, and decides that for his requirements, an alert only when New Items Are Added is the way to go, so he selects that and then clicks OK (see Figure 4-10).

Figure 4-10

Figure 4-10. Users can change or delete alerts.

Setting Up RSS Alerts in SharePoint

The alternative way of being pulled back into the SharePoint team site is for users to create an RSS alert for themselves. This means that e-mail alerts are not being sent, but rather they are told about changes through a relatively new technology called RSS.

To create an RSS alert for a list or library, for example the Announcements list, open the list (as you did when creating the e-mail alert), click Actions, and then click View RSS Feed (see Figure 4-11).

Figure 4-11

Figure 4-11. Click to view the RSS feed for a list.

This opens a page for the RSS feed, and asks you to confirm that you want the RSS feed for the Announcements list. Click the Subscribe To This RSS Feed link (see Figure 4-12),

Figure 4-12

Figure 4-12. The RSS feed is shown in Internet Explorer.

If Outlook 2007 is set up as your RSS reader, you will be prompted to add the feed to Outlook. Click Yes in the dialog box (see Figure 4-13).

Figure 4-13

Figure 4-13. Outlook asks you to confirm your subscription to the RSS feed.

Because you may end up having lots of RSS feeds for different SharePoint sites, and even multiple feeds for your Inner Team site, create a project-specific folder to store your Inner Team feeds, and then move the feed you just added into that folder (see Figure 4-14).

Figure 4-14

Figure 4-14. Use Outlook folders to group similar RSS feeds.

This means that you can group all of your feeds related to specific projects together, for an at-a-glance view of what’s going on.

Finally, note that other people cannot create RSS alerts for you. Only you can do it, giving you total control over what you receive RSS alerts for. And when you have had enough of being alerted by RSS, you just delete the RSS alert from Outlook 2007 and it will no longer pull it in for you. So you have total control, and only get what RSS alerts you want to get.