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The BPA Solutions Web Part Portfolio (Pt 2): BPA xRM Changes How Users View Data in SharePoint

  • 0 Comments
  • August 22, 2014
  • by David Lohnes
  • BPA, SharePoint 2013, Web Parts,
  • Leave a comment

In my last post I introduced Fusion’s partner for almost two years running, BPA Solutions, a SharePoint application publisher that has created a significant improvement on the native SharePoint user experience by developing a series of interrelated web parts that it packages together into a platform on which it builds business applications.

Fusion sells BPA’s premade applications, but we also use its platform to develop custom applications, and in this and subsequent posts we are going to take a more detailed look at BPA’s web parts to see what makes them such a strong development platform.

At its core, the BPA platform (which BPA calls xRM) is built on three main web parts:

  1. BPA Data Viewer
  2. BPA Data Editor
  3. BPA Navigator

Taken separately, these web parts provide nice features you can get other places: an improved Quick Launch (for example you can get that here or here), tabbed views (here or here), and better forms (here, here, or here). But taken together as they were designed to be taken, BPA’s web parts transform how a user interacts with their data in SharePoint, both when they view it and when they enter it.

A Better Data-Viewing Experience in SharePoint

We’ll start with how BPA xRM transforms the user’s data-viewing experience.

SharePoint stores data in basically two ways: Lists and Libraries.
Libraries can have folders, and lists and libraries can have metadata columns; items in lists and libraries can have relational lookups to items in other lists and libraries; and all of this information can be presented to the user in predefined views or in dynamic search results. All of this is good and a huge improvement on what users get when they use Windows desktop alone to manage their data.

But while SharePoint does a good job of tracking all this data and connections, it doesn’t always do the best job out of the box of helping users navigate those connections in a seamless, intuitive way.

Take the simple (and common) example of sales process tracking.
To track a basic sales process in SharePoint, what would you need?

  • a list of accounts
  • a list of contacts
  • a list of opportunities
  • a collection of documents for quotes and the like
  • a collection of follow tasks and contact reports

All of these can be very easily created in SharePoint, and they can all be linked to one another in appropriate ways. Every contact can be linked to an account; every opportunity can be linked to an account and a selection of contacts, etc.

But once it’s done, what does it look like?

Without custom code, it can be quite difficult to integrate all of these elements into a single, cohesive user experience. Too often you’ll be forced to look an account or look at an opportunity or upload a document–not do all at once.

What does it look like with BPA xRM? It looks like this:

xRM Page View

xRM Page View Annotated

All the data, all the relationships, all the actions you want for interacting with and adding to the data are all available in a single view. And what’s more, BPA xRM supports a Click Through interaction with the data. That means if you click on one item, for example one of the opportunities listed on the page, then you get passed through to another page just like this one that shows the Opportunity details and the documents, contacts, tasks, etc. that are associated with it. And if you click on a Contact on that page, you click through again to a dedicated contact page that shows all the information for that contact. In this way, not only does BPA xRM provide a comprehensive view of all the data in one page, it offers a seamless transition from data set to data set. SharePoint out of the box offers nothing even close to this elegance and utility.

Next time, we’ll take a look at how the BPA xRM platform improves not just data viewing, but data editing.

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