SPFestDC: Christian Buckley Teaches you Everything you Wanted to Know about SharePoint Reporting but Were too Afraid to Ask

Alright readers, I have a confession to make: I know absolutely NOTHING about SharePoint Reporting.  I was even tempted to casually sneak out of the session when Christian gave us the chance but alas, I had positioned myself front and center (that’s what I get for wanting to add pictures to my blog posts….).  Seeing that I had no choice but to sit in and stick it out, I decided to see what all I could learn and whether or not Christian was truly able to help me understand SharePoint reporting.  It only took an hour, but the end of his session, I could confidently tell Mr. Buckley:

                “By jove, I think I’ve got it!”

Now the real question you’re all wondering – what did he say that could transform a reporting novice into a dashboard developing diva?  Read on and I’ll do my best to impart what I learned….

In his presentation titled Understanding SharePoint Reporting in 2007, 2010, 2013 and Office 365, Christian Buckley began defining and exploring the issue of governance and the relationship between governance strategy and reporting.  Specifically, he explained how, “Governance is about taking action to help your organization organize, optimize and manage your systems and resources.”  So how exactly does one go about managing a dynamic, living, breathing process such as governance?  One of, and perhaps, the most critical step to regulating governance is to utilize reporting mechanisms so that you can understand and manage your corporate environment.  We all know that SharePoint is a powerful platform, but what kind of reporting functionality does it provide?  In addition, what can we do within SharePoint to help us foster the key fundamentals of governance implementation:  

    • Identify, assess, and prioritize;

    • Measure and monitor;

    • Review and modify our governance strategy based on changing data; and

    • Create policies that secure and protect, but that are also flexible enough to meet the growing demands of our organization.

    From here, Christian transitioned to a discussion of the key different SharePoint administration reporting categories:

    1.       Permissions

    2.       Usage/Activity

    3.       Storage

    4.       Audit

    5.       Performance

    Let’s start with Permissions.  How many times have you tried and tried to access a site collection only to spend an hour on the phone with IT trying to figure out why you keep getting denied the rights to a site?  That’s Permissions for you, and without them in place, your SharePoint can go from 0 to all out chaos faster than you can spell permissions.  So why exactly then is permissions reporting critical to your business?  Christian noted three main reasons, including: auditing; maintaining accurate user access records; and troubleshooting functionality problems that most commonly stem from end users trying to perform a task without having the correct permissions.  While SharePoint does offer some permissions reporting capabilities, you may fund them to be a bit complex and cumbersome, especially if you are looking for farm-wide statistics.

    Next, the conversation turned to Usage/Activity reporting.  By having a firm understanding of how a SharePoint environment and its sites are being utilized, IT administrators are better equipped to not only prioritize and manage the day-to-day operations of their environment, but also to track capacity and disaster recovery planning.  By monitoring and measuring user adoption, administrators can leverage Usage/Activity reports to ensure that the organization is getting the highest return on their investment in SharePoint.

    Aside from usage and reporting, perhaps one of the most important areas of reporting is Storage.  Essential to managing your SharePoint environment, Storage reporting helps provide a clear understanding of the growth and performance requirements of each team within your organization while also acting as a key factor in capacity planning.  Luckily for IT administrators, SharePoint offers a robust selection of storage reporting tools, as well as a number of practical filtering options.  By taking advantage of the many out-of-the-box storage reporting options, administrators can proactively manage storage at the site, site collection, and farm level.

    Are you in an industry that is subject to heavy regulation and governance?  Have no fear, for Audit reporting is here.  As an increasingly essential area of focus for many SharePoint administrators, Audit reporting has become a critical tool for managing the major events and changes happening inside a SharePoint environment.  With the ability to view event details including: user IDs associated with the event; the event size; the item type; event date and time; event description; and item name and URL, SharePoint offers a number of different reporting options to help us achieve optimal compliance and maintained governance.

    Last but certainly not least is Performance reporting.  To begin, it is unfortunate that for users strictly operating SharePoint out-of-the-box, the options for Performance reporting are somewhat lacking.  As Christian noted in his explanation, most SharePoint performance reporting comes from third-party monitoring and performance tools.  While SharePoint 2010 made several great strides in performance monitoring providing administrators with access to a Health Analyzer, timer jobs, and more detailed reporting, these performance features only provide a fraction of the performance KPIs that most decision makers crave.

    Think you’ve got it now?  Hopefully, you were able to learn everything I was able to learn from sitting in firsthand, including:

    Still aching to learn more? Check out Christian’s presentation in its entirety, courtesy of SlideShare:

    Understanding SharePoint Reporting in 2007, 2010, 2013 and Office 365

    In addition, you can check him out on Twitter as well as read up on his online musings on technology, leadership and social informatics at www.buckleyplanet.com

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