Challenge

Aurecon - formerly known as Connell Wagner - identified SharePoint as the product of choice to replace various Lotus Notes applications in use within their business including their intranet portal. SSW were brought in to architect a SharePoint farm for their user base of over 6000 employees worldwide, implement the first part of their portal using best practices for development and deployment, and to train their developers and support staff.

SharePoint Functionality

The first part of the portal to be developed was for Knowledge Groups; groups of employees throughout the organization that work within a similar operational area. Each Knowledge Group was to have a unique site based on a template that provided the following components:

  • Publishing functionality
  • A discussion forum
  • Document management
  • A standard navigation and interface
  • User information
The Aurecon Knowledge Group Portal Home Page
Figure: The Aurecon Knowledge Group Portal Home Page

SSW built a custom site definition that allowed the required functionality to be provisioned when a new Knowledge Group is created. In addition, the template can be reapplied to an existing site resetting configurations such as permissions and navigation in the event of user corruption.

Document Management and Search

OpenText Enterprise Content Management (formerly known as LiveLink) was in use at Aurecon, so document management within SharePoint was not required. In addition, SharePoint was only required to crawl and index content within the SharePoint portal. OpenText provides web parts to integrate with SharePoint to allow federated search results of both OpenText and SharePoint search results. SSW integrated the OpenText components within SharePoint to ensure a seamless user experience was created, and there be no requirement to context switch between applications when working with documents, searching, or using collaboration features of SharePoint.

User Experience

Aurecon had specific branding guidelines that the SharePoint portal had to meet. Thanks to SSW's experience in working with the SharePoint front end, this did not prove difficult.

A clean interface consistent with Aurecon branding guidelines
Figure: A clean interface consistent with Aurecon branding guidelines

Process

A best practice development environment was put in place with processes to match. A SharePoint image was built which allowed for rapid rollout SharePoint Virtual Machine (VM) servers:

  • Each developer worked on an isolated SharePoint VM environment to prevent deployment interference with other developers
  • A Build, Verification and Testing (BVT) server was built, and build scripts configured using NAnt to allow continuous integration
  • The UAT SharePoint farm was built to mirror the production environment

Each day the SharePoint package was automatically compiled and deployed onto the BVT server. Unit tests were then run to validate the deployment. Upon failure of any tests, the development team was notified and forced to fix the errors immediately. This process ensured that each component being built was proven to be deployed and operating successfully. This in turn allowed UAT deployments at the end of each iteration to run smoothly and to avoid holding up the business from testing the portal.

Results

SSW saw the deployment of the Knowledge Group portal into production and continues to work with Aurecon and their SharePoint requirements.

The team from SSW had the right mix of technical expertise and functional understanding of our business model to help us to realise a successful outcome for our business. We also appreciated their high level of commitment and professionalism during the project.

- Susan Callaghan, Aurecon Project Manager