How to put SharePoint in the palm of your hand

Microsoft’s SharePoint content management and collaboration software has been widely deployed throughout federal agencies. With the explosion of smartphones and tablets in the workplace, it is only logical that users would want access to SharePoint via their mobile devices. 

Browser-based access

Mobile Entrée includes styles and html structures for the following OS/browser configurations:

Windows Phone 7+
iPhone / Safari / iPad
BlackBerry OS6+ / (built-in browser)
BlackBerry Playbook Tablet (build-in browser)
Symbian Series60 3.3+ (built-in browser)
HP webOS / (built-in browser)
Android / (built-in browser)
Android Tablets (built-in browser)

So how do you put an enterprise platform such as SharePoint, literally, in the hands of users?

SharePoint was first released in 2001, before mobile devices flooded the enterprise, and Microsoft offers ways to optimize SharePoint sites for mobile users. SharePoint’s Mobile Browser View checks if the user’s mobile browser supports HTML5. If it does, then a contemporary mobile view is shown. If it does not, then a text-based view is shown. 

For more complex sites, developers can use SharePoint’s device channel feature to create a single site, but map the content to use different master pages and style sheets that are specific to a device or group of devices.  

Agencies that want a more turnkey solution can work with vendors like H3 Solutions, whose Mobile Entrée platform provides the framework and APIs to develop mobile Web applications that support SharePoint on all major smartphones and tablets. According to H3 Solutions, Mobile Entrée also provides templated applications that require no development, “allowing access to a wide range of SharePoint collaborative capabilities such as lists, libraries, discussions boards, surveys and workflows.”

H3 Solutions helped the Securities and Exchange Commission launch SharePoint 2010 agencywide. Now, the SEC is piloting Mobile Entrée among some of its workforce, said Joe Herres, executive vice president of product services and development and co-founder of H3 Solutions.

Often mobile users do not need all the SharePoint services they might access on their desktops. Instead, they need to search addresses and phone numbers, calendars, specific documents or company updates, Herres said. 

Besides the out-of-the box applications Mobile Entrée provides, it is also a Mobile Enterprise Application Platform with APIs that lets developers use Microsoft’s .net framework to write a mobile Web app once that is functional across all browsing platforms. Since Mobile Entrée uses the browsers already installed on the device there is no need to install any client-side software on devices. 

H3 Solutions provides three levels of customization for Mobile Entrée users. The first is through the use of the Configuration Workspace on the SharePoint site. The workspace is installed when Mobile Entree is activated and lets users pick and choose what content should be available on their mobile devices. The second level is through a feature called Themes, which are repeatable templates that users can apply for consistency throughout SharePoint sites. A third option is through Mobile Entrée APIs that let developers create custom mobile applications that integrate into SharePoint. 

Agencies also can extend SharePoint’s Business Intelligence features out to mobile devices with Mobile Entrée,  which provides mobile-enabled dashboards that use Excel, PowerPivot and Excel Services and IT-developed dashboards that use Microsoft PerformancePoint business intelligence software. 

Mobile Entrée, which resides on SharePoint servers and is managed by SharePoint, can run on Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server Standard and Enterprise. Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and 2008 are supported in both 32 and 64 bit. However, for full mobile business intelligence, users must run SharePoint 2010 Enterprise with Excel Services, company officials said. Additionally, as a SharePoint application, Mobile Entrée uses the same security model that is used by SharePoint for both user authentication and infrastructure access through the firewall.

A version of Mobile Entrée, ME365, offers access to SharePoint in the Microsoft Office 365 cloud-based messaging and collaboration suite. 

H3 Solutions’ Mobile Entrée is available to government agencies through the General Services Administration’s IT Schedule 70 contracts. 

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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