Making SharePoint & Office 365 Even Better with NITRO™

Making SharePoint & Office 365 Even Better with NITRO™

Microsoft Office 365 and SharePoint are, without a doubt, the leaders in the world of IT productivity and collaborative environments. In the five years since its launch, Office 365 has become the most popular enterprise cloud service. Office 365 is now firmly entrenched as the productivity platform of choice for many U.S. enterprises. SharePoint has followed suit, with over 80% of Fortune 100 companies using it in some form and a projected 20% growth rate up to 2019. In the last five years, 75% of all intranets implemented were built on SharePoint.

When Out-of-the-box SharePoint Won’t Do

Popularity, however, does not always equate to meaningful usability. It is unrealistic to expect that Office 365 and SharePoint will be capable of addressing your specific business needs, simply because every organization is unique. Microsoft platforms lay the foundation for productivity and collaboration, but are not designed to provide business-specific functionality such as asset management, facilities management, help desk capabilities, and human resources management. This is where our NITRO™ layer comes into play.

NITRO™ is the foundation of our application and custom development work and enables us to provide full-featured business solutions that seamlessly integrate with Office 365 and SharePoint. No coding or special skills are required; our applications work hand-in-hand with Microsoft technology.

NITRO™ Powers Up Office 365

Organizations that have adopted Office 365 are looking to derive maximum value out of the platform. IT departments demand a dependable solution that is designed specifically for Office 365. That is why we have built our NITRO™ technology layer from the ground up following all Microsoft standards for Office 365 development.

Crow Canyon NITRO™ is 100% native Office 365 — all apps and add-ins are built specifically for Office 365. We do not use sandboxed solutions, legacy on-premises features orc ode, or custom-coded web parts.

Our Office 365 development process ensures that your Crow Canyon apps, add-ins, and applications are future-proof and will work as expected as Office 365 evolves.

NITRO™ Powers Up SharePoint 2013 and 2016 On-Premises

The NITRO™ layer for on-premises SharePoint turns SharePoint 2013 and 2016 into powerful business application delivery platforms. Our on-premises web parts are built specifically for SharePoint on-premises. Our applications, such as the IT Help Desk, can be deployed to your SharePoint environment with zero coding. In a short time, you can be up and running with a Help Desk solution that is fully integrated with SharePoint. All our other application work the same way — built for the right platform, easy-to-install, and 100% configurable with no coding.

Configurability, Functionality, Reliability Built In

Configuration can be done by admins/power users with no technical background or coding skills required — an intuitive user interface enables your admins to tweak and configure your NITRO™-powered application so that it works the way that you want it to.

Another example: our Policy & Procedure Management application — whether on SharePoint on-premises or in Office 365 — is designed to handle all aspects of the document revision, verification, and management processes. The program uses a ticket-based methodology to track the movement and status of documents in an organization. Highly configurable tasks are associated with each document, enabling the appropriate parties to request documents, grant approvals, and assign document verifications.

Communications, revision requests, and document review requests can all be initiated from within SharePoint. Comprehensive notifications, alerts, and reporting and analytics functionality ensure that everyone involved is kept informed and always has access to critical information.

The workflow and process-based functionality found within our Policy & Procedure Management program may be complex, but it was all developed in accordance with Microsoft standards for SharePoint and Office 365 development. This level of reliability means that your NITRO™ fueled business applications can easily scale upwards based on your business’s future needs.

Learn More About Enhancing SharePoint and Office 365

We are excited about sharing the back-story of the NITRO™ layer because it enables IT companies to leverage the power of their Microsoft platforms to create robust and relevant business applications. If you’d like to learn more about how our solutions can help your company engage with your customers and/or users, give us a call at 1-925-478-3110 or contact us by e-mail at sales@crowcanyon.com

We also host educational webinars throughout the year. We welcome you to join our current Three-Part Series: “Power Up Your SharePoint / Office 365 Business Application.” You can view the recording of Session 1: UI/UX – End Users Matter under ‘Webinars’ in our Video Library.

NITRO™ In-Depth: Configuration is King

NITRO™ In-Depth: Configuration is King

A Development Philosophy

SharePoint and Office 365 workflow ConfigurationIn our last blog article we expanded on the introduction of our NITRO™ technology layer by discussing the role of User Interface & User Experience in our product family.

When it comes to User Interface, the focus is on functionality and the user’s interaction with a digital environment. In short, we want our products to be easy-to-use while addressing core business needs. User Experience is a wider umbrella that includes not only usability, but also branding, colors, layout, and navigation.

Although UX consists of multiple variables, the standards by which “good” UX is measured are fairly simple: Were the users able to easily use the application? Did they enjoy using the product?

The tandem of UI & UX is one of the core pillars of our NITRO™ back-end technology layer and plays a significant role in expanding the native functionality of Microsoft SharePoint and Office 365. NITRO™ transforms them from communication & collaboration platforms into highly relevant, and configurable, business application platforms. NITRO was developed in two versions, SharePoint 2013/2016 on-premises and Office 365. Each one adheres to the development guidelines and Microsoft standards for its environment. For example, NITRO for Office 365 is 100% native to Office 365 and uses no legacy on-premises code.

Our NITRO™ layer is founded on core ITSM principles and, from a software development perspective, is manifested in the form of “Three Pillars of Application Design”: UI & UX, Workflows & Processes, and Reporting & Analytics. These aren’t three arbitrary ideas but, rather, are seamlessly integrated features. In a nutshell, they represent our development philosophy.

How to Make UX Intuitive?

We start with UI & UX because all products need to be engaging, easy-to-use, and intuitive. Being “intuitive,” though, is often easier said than done — how can a solution be relevant to your business needs? We address the challenge of being intuitive and relevant by providing a high degree of configurable functionality in our product family. For User Engagement, this means that you can select, specify, arrange, and present content as you see fit. For example, clients who use our Facilities Management system can brand the product to fit their company’s look & feel as well as customize dashboards to include tables, charts, and forms.

In the Facilities Management dashboard graphic below, the content has been customized to convey critical information at-a-glance, such as an overdue work orders table, a staff load pie chart, and a filtered open work orders bar chart.

Facilities Management in SharePoint

An intuitive product gives you the power to craft the user experience, with the ability to modify and adjust as users give their feedback or the application expands usage.

UI & UX: The Bridge to Workflows

Beyond the interface and experience lies functionality: how do you use the product? The business requirements addressed by the Crow Canyon product family rely heavily on process-based actions. For example, our IT Help Desk system guides support specialists through the ticketing process: users create a ticket (from e-mail, SharePoint, telephone, etc.), Support personnel capture more information via forms, the ticket is sent to the appropriate recipient, knowledge bases are accessed during resolution, the ticket is sent for approval, and the requestor is automatically notified of the resolution. The entire process is tracked, captured, and made available for subsequent analysis.

This Workflow & Process-oriented approach, like UI & UX, is entirely configurable. Our products empower companies to create their own processes based on how the company works. This level of flexibility is unique in the IT world because it shifts attention away from forced adaptation to user-defined experiences. The relationship between UI & UX and Workflows & Processes is a seamless one: the former is focused on how we experience a product while the latter emphasizes how the product is used.

For example, our products support a functionality called Dynamic Tabs and Dynamic Fields. Both of these functions — used when creating forms — represent the marriage of UI & UX with Workflows & Processes. The Dynamic Tabs feature creates a new tab when a specific option is selected from a drop-down menu; this enables organizations to build robust forms that automatically expand or contract based on user selection.

In the example below, selecting “Hardware Request” from the Category field automatically creates a new tab called “Equipment Request,” which enables users to input more refined data.

SharePoint Facilities Management

The Dynamic Fields feature works in the same way by creating additional fields based on selections made in a different field. In the graphic below, when the user selects “Headquarters” in the Building field, a new field appears directly below it called “Area.”

SharePoint Dynamic Form Fields

Both of these features are examples of how our products empower organizations to use UI-based functions to deliver engaging Workflows & Processes. This level of configurability is applied throughout all of our products, effectively allowing you to build your own business application experience in a Microsoft SharePoint or Office 365 environment.

Conclusion

Over the next few weeks we will explore NITRO™ in more depth and look at how its Three Pillars (UI/UX, Workflows & Processes, and Reporting & Analytics) are used to bolster your SharePoint or Office 365 experience.

Also, don’t forget to register for our upcoming User Interface / User Experience Webinar (October 6th) to learn more about how User Engagement impacts our NITRO™-powered business solutions.

Want to learn more about how our solutions can help your company engage with your customers and/or users? Give us a call at 1-888-706-0070 or contact us by e-mail at sales@crowcanyon.com

NITRO™ In-Depth: UI/UX – Powering Up SharePoint

NITRO™ In-Depth: UI/UX – Powering Up SharePoint

Powering Up SharePoint and Office 365

Crow Canyon’s NITRO™ is a back-end technological layer that forms the foundation of our SharePoint and Office 365-integrated solutions. With our NITRO-powered applications, you no longer have to settle for run-of-the-mill, standardized SharePoint or Office 365 environments that do not meet your business needs.

Instead, you can turn SharePoint and Office 365 into “Digital Workspaces” where users can engage and interact with each other to further the goals of the organization, whether aiming for more efficiency, higher profits, or better service to customers, clients, and members.

We use our NITRO™ layer to extend the functionality of SharePoint and Office 365 without requiring any coding on your part. Whether you need to manage assets, facilities, service requests, security access, or have onboarding requirements, our software is designed to intelligently address your business needs while engaging with your users in a comfortable and familiar environment.

The NITRO™ Framework: Three Pillars

Our ITSM and ITIL-inspired approach to software development has played a significant role in the formulation of our NITRO™ technology layer. We have incorporated core service management concepts, such as incident, problem, and change management, into our NITRO™ framework.

This approach is built on three pillars found within all of our solutions:

  • UI/UX: Enhancing SharePoint via configurable forms, portals, dashboards, branding, and responsive mobile interfaces;
  • Workflows & Processes: Giving you the freedom to configure workflow processes that reflect your business requirements, such as routing, approvals, tracking, alerting, etc.;
  • Reporting & Analytics: Visually engaging reporting tools that provide summary & detailed insight about how you can continually improve your services.

 

SharePoint User Interface: A Focus on Configurability

Let’s go into more depth about User Experience/Interface and how our applications empower organizations to craft highly-relevant business solutions. For example, our service management-oriented products all include a data-gathering phase of some sort. If you’re running the IT Help Desk, then incident details would be specified by your users; if you’re running our Human Resources product, then users would provide service request data (e.g., time-off request, onboarding, payroll issues, etc.). Essentially, there is always an initial phase in a workflow in which user-provided data is defined.

Most off-the-shelf products do not support comprehensive field configuration; at most, they may provide a handful of custom fields. Our products, however, put the power to configure the data-gathering process into your hands. This enables you to craft a User Experience that reflects your company’s unique data collection requirements.

In our solutions, fields can be customized, arranged, and populated as needed. New fields can added; the fields can be in tabs or groups. The forms are dynamic, responding to user input. They integrate with Active Directory and can be extended to work with databases, such as membership or account records, order tracking systems, CRMs, ERPs, HR programs, and financial systems. They include permissions (who can see what fields or tabs), required fields, input validation, default inputs, and more.

Our reporting tools give staff and managers quick access to real-time data. Charts, graphs, and tables can be included on dashboard pages. Visual elements such as these provide both important high-level views and drill-down capabilities in an intuitive and attractive design.

The high degree of configurability offered in all of our products means that you can brand your experience according to your own marketing, UI, and UX standards. The look and feel is fully customizable and the application itself is device-agnostic, meaning that your Crow Canyon product experience works responsively across all mobile devices.

SharePoint User Experience: Anticipating Needs

A “good” product experience is one in which a user enjoys using an application — functionality, whether its simple or complex, is both intuitive and easy-to-use. This approach to UX is facilitated by anticipating user needs: knowing what people require without having to ask.

The Home screen from our IT Help Desk product, seen below, provides a good example of this straightforward UX technique.

This particular interface is a dashboard screen designed to convey high-level ticket information. Its primary purpose is to provide critical status data for tickets, particularly for overdue issues. Current status information is conveyed horizontally across the screen in a large, easy-to-read font. Like other pages, the content and layout is entirely configurable — this sample displays a calendar, announcements section, search functionality, discussion area, and relevant links.

Emphasizing Engagement

Why discuss User Experience and User Interface even before functionality? Quite simply, if your users cannot engage with a product, then they will not use it. Whether your company is a startup or a large enterprise, user adoption is a significant issue in the IT space. Successful products are ones that combine intuitive navigation and easy-to-use functionality while reflecting your own unique branding.

We feel that the most efficient way to promote user engagement is to provide UI/UX-aware products that can be fully configured, as needed. Ultimately, the NITRO™ framework is focused on providing you with business applications that significantly enhance your SharePoint or Office 365 experience.

Learn More Live!

Crow Canyon recently announced a three-part webinar series with each session focused on one of the three pillars: UI/UX (October 6), Workflows (October 18) and Reporting (November 3). A single registration gives you access to the entire series. Register now.

Want to learn more about how our solutions can help your company engage with your customers and/or users? Give us a call at 1-925-478-3110 or contact us by e-mail at sales@crowcanyon.com