People are at the core of every organization and are the essence of a SharePoint environment; without them, we wouldn’t need SharePoint. Collaboration is often what people think about first when we say SharePoint, providing a way for people to work with others in disperse geographic locations across various time zones.
SharePoint 2007 gave us many capabilities to find people and communicate with them via MySites, Search and Profile pages. The latest version of the product has enhanced these capabilities and coupled them with additional social networking features.
The User Profile Store gives us the ability to pull in users from Active Directory and make them visible in SharePoint. This includes all AD attributes and custom attributes. With this, we are able to build organization charts, search for expertise and roles, and also set workflows to send documents and tasks to users based on their role or relationship to another user.
In SharePoint 2010, Microsoft has made steps to support additional authentication and user management systems. These include Sun One, Novell eDirectory and IBM Tivoli, all using LDAP connections between the source and SharePoint.
Extending this is the capability to write back to directory stores. This allows users to modify user properties (for example, their cell phones) and have these details written back to the directory store. Out-of-the-box SharePoint only imports properties, which prevents the accidental changing of profile properties at the existing source.
SharePoint is the perfect platform now to allow HR staff to manage users and their profiles. From the friendly interface that SharePoint provides, a user could be given permission to manage the properties of another user, and have them written back to Active Directory or another directory system without the additional training and security overhead of dealing directly with the source.
Business Connectivity Services allows you to bring in data from an external line-of-business system (for example, PeopleSoft), which is used by many organizations to manage staff and payroll. By creating links between the two systems, SharePoint can become an integral cog in the management of users. Although you cannot export user properties back to external systems, you can import them and export those same values to your directory system.
When managing user properties, there are some fields we often want to standardize. For example, job titles in many companies follow a strict format. By managing them in SharePoint and utilizing the Managed Metadata Service, we can select titles from a predefined list and have them pushed back into Active Directory. This ensures their accuracy, formatting and standardization, and provides the common interface for management.
Next time you get a chance to get hands on with the SharePoint 2010 back end, have a look at the new User Profile Store. There are many additional capabilities that we can’t go into in this article, including organizations and profile sub types. And, of course, feel free to e-mail me at the address below if you have any questions about the User Profile Service or other areas of SharePoint 2010.
Joshua Haebets is the Principal SharePoint Consultant at Evolve Information Services in Australia. He can be contacted at Joshua.email@example.com.