Blog Banner

Ontario’s AODA Web Accessibility Audits: B2B Companies Take Note!

Decorative image of access key on keyboardAlmost a year ago, I blogged about new legislation in Canada affecting Web accessibility and mentioned that Ontario was leading the way in requiring government and businesses to make their Web content accessible under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).  Now, the Canadian press is reporting that non-compliant B2B companies are receiving enforcement letters that require these companies to file a compliance report or potentially face civil penalties. Additionally, the government plans to conduct 1,700 compliance audits in 2014 to see if the AODA-mandated policies are being implemented across organizations in Ontario.

Having worked in disability rights for over 20 years now, I can’t tell you how promising this is for the disability community.  In the United States, advocates have been targeting key B2C companies that provide essential goods and services to the public.  They’ve had a few successes (e.g. Target Corporation) and a few failures (e.g. Southwest Airlines) but the overall effect is that corporate America is slowly waking up to the idea that Web accessibility is something that should be included in their business plans. 

SharePoint 2013 Tips – Part 1 Scale, Sprawl and Control

Over the next five week’s I’ll offer advice and tips on SharePoint 2013 collaboration. Today’s blog focuses on information architecture at scale, site sprawl and version control.

“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” – Yogi Berra

In many ways, that’s become SharePoint’s problem in its second decade.  We take it for granted.

Now, don’t feel bad for Microsoft.  SharePoint has an enviable track record of sustained double digit growth, with hundreds of millions of users on premises and in the cloud.  Now on its fifth major release, SharePoint 2013, SharePoint offers peerless document-centric storage and collaboration on a platform most enterprises already own.

It hasn’t been a seamless rise, though. The first version of SharePoint Portal Server 2001 offered web-based document storage, but it was primitive and low capacity.  It wasn’t until SharePoint 2003 that enterprises began moving substantial content from legacy file shares into SharePoint.

Screen shot of SharePoint Portal 2003SharePoint 2003, from

However, while the platform has continued to grow and evolve over the past decade, many business user expectations haven’t moved on from the days when Kid Rock ruled the music charts:

  • All documents on a site had the same permissions
  • One library per site
  • A different site for each kind of content
  • Documents described with naming and titles, not metadata
  • Maximum of 2 million documents

But that’s not SharePoint today.  Let’s look at some of the tools and tips that make it a far more powerful tool for collaboration.   Pretend that the last ten years never happened, and SharePoint 2013 is the first version of the platform you’ve used.  Where to start?  What have you missed in the last ten years?

Let’s get caught up.  We’ll start by looking at baseline changes in architecture, permissions, communications and versioning.  Then we’ll look at how you can add color to your documents with user interface design and metadata.  Finally, we’ll conclude with a review of SharePoint’s new collaboration features, like co-authoring.

SharePoint’s collaboration foundation

Information architecture at scale

Ten years ago, most SharePoint farms were organized as hierarchies, limited to Active Directory logins.   You had a corporate home page, a few departmental sites, and most “Team Sites” were temporary collaborative spaces, set up as children of a parent department.

  • Home Page (One big site collection)
    • US
      • HR
      • IT
        • Project1
    • Marketing
    • Department1
    • Department2
      • Team2
      • Project3
        • Project3 Archive
      • ProjectX
  • Europe
    • Etc.


SharePoint 2013, on the other hand, has the capacity to handle vastly increased amounts of content, and to have multiple libraries on the same site – with granular permissions possible for each document.   In addition, multiple hybrid authentication schemes leveraging “claims” make it possible to unify internal AD users and external stakeholders on the same sites.   These collaboration areas are likely to be independent site collections[1], so sharing there doesn’t require giving permission to child or parent sites.  It also allows for a “flatter” information architecture.

Getting rid of site sprawl

SharePoint ‘adoption’, at one point, was mostly about pointing people to the right subsection of the site.  And if there was another team that needed similar information, people copied those files to the other site.  In the example above, if the IT department was supporting ProjectX, it was likely that some of the ProjectX documents were added to the IT site to make them “easier to find”.  Many enterprises kept all their sites in one massive site collection – leading to great security complexity.  Also, because of authentication complexity, internal and external stakeholder seldom shared the same sites.

As a result, you’re more likely to see site structures like this:

  • Internal Home page
    • Divisions
      • US
      • EMEA
  • Departments
    • HR
    • IT
    • Marketing
    • Department1
    • Department2
    • Documents
    • Collaboration Home page (Web Application)
      • Projects (Managed path)
        • Project1 (Site collection)
        • Project3
        • ProjectX
  • Teams
    • Team2

In this example, the division and department sites are, more than likely, publishing content to be used INSIDE the enterprise.

Finally, SharePoint 2010 and 2013 introduced a new site template – the Document Center. Document Centers are designed to be large scale, common document repositories for 250,000 documents or more.  Whereas SharePoint 2003 required a new site for each library, leading to LOTS of small libraries, you can store thousands of documents in the same place, and use security, dynamic access, and filters to generate focused views of the content.

One version of the truth

SharePoint 2013 is a high capacity platform.  Expansions in SQL and storage optimization, along with tools like Remote BLOB Storage create nearly limitless capacity for enterprise documents – up to 4TB under the right conditions.    But that’s no reason to allow SharePoint to proliferate with redundant or obsolete content.

Have you ever seen a file share, or even a library, with files named:

  • 2009 Proposal
  • 2009 Proposal_AKedits
  • 2009 Proposal_Final

If you add those files to SharePoint, all three can be edited independently.  It’s far better to keep all three “linked” as part of one logical document.  Versioning can be enabled for any library in SharePoint, allowing you to see who edited the file, what changed, and when.  Once enabled, the context menu […] can bring you to the version history inside the browser.

Screen shot of SharePoint Version History

And once enabled, the versions are also surfaced inside Office 2013’s ‘Backstage” controls (the colored leftmost tab in the UI.

Screenshot of Versions and Check Out

From Office or the browser, you can review, compare, or rollback older versions.  In more advanced use cases, you can also require documents have to be “checked out” before editing – ensuring only one person can make changes at a time.  You can still maintain a clean interface because you’re not showing redundant copies of the same thing – but they’re all still there, stacked “behind” the current file in Version History.

In part two, I’ll look at sharing and sending documents as well as storage.

[1] Or you could use Dynamic Access and use metadata classification to define security.

HiSoftware CTO Chris McNulty to Speak at SharePoint Fest NYC

Decorative logo of I'm speaking at SharePoint NYCSharePoint MVP, Chris McNulty, will address best practices for SharePoint and Office 365 at SharePoint Fest NYC. McNulty, the CTO of HiSoftware Inc. a leading provider of compliance and security solutions for SharePoint, will be a panelist on the Keynote Expert Panel “Bridging the SharePoint Gap: On-Premise vs. Online vs. Hybrid,” as well as present multiple sessions on Mail Enhancements for Office 365 and hybrid Office 365 and on-premises environments at the SharePoint Fest NYC to be held June 18 – 20, 2014 at the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan.

KEYNOTE: Expert Panel – “Bridging the SharePoint Gap: On-Premise vs. Online vs. Hybrid”

  • Dan Holme, MVP – Moderator
  • Ruven Gotz, MVP – Panel
  • Chris McNulty, MVP – Panel
  • Bob German, Author – Panel
  • Tom Resing, MVP MCM – Panel
  • Paul Stork, MVP MCM – Panel

Managing SharePoint Sprawl and Inherited Permissions – Webinar Wrap-Up

Image of too many locks on gate by Chris McNultyWe just wrapped up one of the largest webinars in HiSoftware’s history, “Reining in Sites and Permission with SharePoint”.  Let’s catch our breath.  And if you need to catch up, here it is.

As SharePoint has grown and matured over the years, so has its content.  For more than seven years, SharePoint has had the ability to apply item-level permissions to documents.  However, tactics that work well for a few hundred documents, are daunting for millions of mission critical documents.  Microsoft provides some native tools and techniques for managing capacity and governing unique permissions – but the result can still be almost untamable.

Our newest product, HiSoftware Site Sheriff™, solves many of these problems.  Among its highlights:

  • Dynamic access to content using business rules based on metadata and user claims.
  • “Deny” rules to ensure sensitive content is kept secure, regardless of local permissions in the library.
  • Controls the distribution and editing of documents by using a browser based secure viewer.
  • Limits user actions by dynamically trimming menus, ribbons and interfaces to precisely permitted actions.

#PSUWeb Session: How to Test for MWBP and WCAG

Logo of Web Conference at Penn State EventMobile technologies are now ubiquitous and instant access to electronic information is becoming increasingly essential for the workplace and for meaningful participation in our digital society. This movement can either benefit or impede people with disabilities. On the one hand, hastily redesigning websites for mobile accessibility may mean that shortcuts are taken and that crucial accessibility features are left out. On the other hand, thoughtfully including best practices for mobile accessibility may also improve the experience for users with disabilities.

Currently, there are two overlapping sets of guidelines created by the W3C. First, the Mobile Web Best Practices (MWBP) 1.0 is a set of 39 best practice statements arranged in five general categories (overall behavior, navigation and links, page layout and content, page definition and user input). Second, there is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, which outlines 61 success criteria arranged under 12 guidelines and four overarching principles. Unfortunately, it is impossible to easily map between MWBP best practice statements and WCAG success criteria.

Using a combination of automated and manual testing, however, it is possible to fully test a website for mobile accessibility—and ensure compliance with both WCAG 2.0 and MWBP 1.0.

Department of Justice Clarifies Process for Upcoming ADA Web Regulations

Decorative image of Keyboard key with handicap symbolIn a series of announcements at the very end of last month, the US Justice Department  (DOJ) divided the rulemaking for its upcoming ADA Web accessibility regulations into two rulemaking efforts: one for private sector and one for public sector.  It also announced that the private sector NPRM (notice of proposed rulemaking) will be delayed until March 2015.

This news caused quite the uproar on the Web.  One individual questioned whether we would ever see ADA Web accessibility regulations coming out from DOJ.  Another asked whether it would be possible to ever take DOJ seriously again.

I have to say that this news is hardly a surprise as representatives from Justice have been saying exactly this for the last six months—this is just the first time that we get to see it in writing.  Really.  Every time that someone from Justice was pushed on the question of when the regulations would be issued, they said exactly what was just announced—that the rulemaking would be split and that the private sector rule would be delayed.

Understanding the Limitations of SharePoint Permissions Inheritance

Decorative image of Permission keyboardThe underlying Microsoft model may look simple, but it creates several complex issues and problems. It also has significant limitations when finding solutions for non-employee access. For example:

  • If the site administrator is responsive to the user’s needs, then hundreds of sites will get created to satisfy collaboration demands.
  • Users quickly find that there are too many sites, creating confusion and difficulty in searching for content. Where are their documents? Where should they put new documents?
  • On the other hand, if the site administrator is not responsive, then collaboration is stifled and user productivity drops.
  • Alternatively, if the administrator allows users to break the inheritance to create unique security permissions by using the Sharing tool, then it does not take much for a reasonably sized team to exceed the threshold for unique security scopes (5,000).

Business need to go beyond the constraints of inheritance and item permissions to achieve their objectives.

Webinar: Do You Have SharePoint Site Headaches?

Decorative image of foldersEvery year, the volume of enterprise content in SharePoint grows. Now, more than ever, organization are also using SharePoint for mission-critical, confidential, sensitive or highly regulated documents.

Microsoft has made great strides in capacity and performance – but the scale of content management is daunting for most IT teams. Setting up individual permissions on each separate document is overwhelming; and the sprawling architecture of thousands of small redundant sites is just as challenging.
Some common problems include:

  • Keeping up with document growth while preventing site sprawl.
  • Using business rules instead of IT security to dynamically control access.
  • Keeping managed content inside SharePoint instead of email and unmanaged storage.
  • Streamlining the user interface and accelerating user adoption.

Case Study: Western Kentucky University Ensures Web Accessibility

Logo for WKUThe “Spirit of WKU” drives the campus community to make the university a better place to learn and excel. The latest innovations in technology have provided a wonderful opportunity to learn from the internet and various electronic media. WKU is committed to ensuring its web sites are accessible to the widest possible audience including students, staff, and faculty. WKU campus community continually works on improving accessibility by following all recommended guidelines outlined in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 and various other guidelines like WCAG.

The Challenge

WKU hosts a large number of websites and provides electronic content through various vendors. WKU also provides various degrees and courses through the Distance Learning division. The main challenge was to ensure all these different entities of WKU provide electronic content that is completely accessible.

Is Permissions Inheritance the Best Method for Governing SharePoint Access?

Decorative image of Permission keyboardBusinesses are demanding technology that provides higher productivity and greater flexibility to provide value to their customers and generate new customers. It also needs to enable more effective partnerships and lower the cost of doing business. SharePoint is purchased for a number of reasons, but generally the primary purpose is to foster the collaboration and information sharing required to achieve these objectives.

Earlier this month we launched our latest product, HiSoftware Site Sheriff. We’ve published a new white paper that looks at SharePoint in the context of Microsoft’s recommended inheritance model. The paper examines and provides answers to the following questions:

  • Where does inheritance work and what are its limits?
  • How does the inheritance model fit in with the emergent era of claims and the demand for non-employee access?
  • Can using inheritance actually stop effective collaboration and cost SharePoint customers more in terms of time and administrative effort?
Powered by WordPress