A journey into the unknown - Alice Popkorn FlickrThe need for good document management and sharing capabilities is essential to the success of any type of business. There is no shortage of software solutions tending to this need, either. It seems there are dozens of solutions to choose from, depending on the unique discipline of your group or company.

In the company I work for, we have been using Autodesk Vault products since before they were Autodesk products. With the exception of a few years where we toyed with Pro Engineer® as our primary engineering drawing solution, we have been an Autodesk house since the late 1980’s. Even during those few years, we maintained our Vault for the many Autocad® and Inventor® drawings we had.

Outside of engineering we have several systems for document management in various departments. An ERP system for managing our inventory, purchasing, shipping etc. Accounting systems for financial reporting. A CRM system for maintaining account information on all of our customers and suppliers, as well as any projects, quotes or opportunities linked to them. And within, or surrounding all of these systems… documents. Thousands of documents. Drawings, purchase orders, quotes, emails, manuals etc. Keeping track of all of these documents floating around in a massive file server system, and ensure that everyone had access to them, was becoming a bit of a nightmare.

Enter Microsoft SharePoint®. Our IT department researched solutions for this growing document crisis, and settled on SharePoint as the solution that best fit our needs. So what is SharePoint you may ask?

From Wikipedia:

Microsoft SharePoint is a web application framework and platform developed by Microsoft. First launched in 2001, SharePoint integrates intranetcontent management and document management, but recent versions have broader capabilities.
SharePoint comprises a multipurpose set of Web technologies backed by a common technical infrastructure. By default, SharePoint has a 
Microsoft Office-like interface, and it is closely integrated with the Office suite. The web tools are intended for non-technical users. SharePoint can provide intranet portalsdocument & file managementcollaborationsocial networksextranetswebsitesenterprise search, and business intelligence. It also has system integration, process integration, and workflow automation capabilities.

Within SharePoint our primary focus has been to gather all documents surrounding the accounts in our CRM into a single location. These documents can be accessed by going directly into our SharePoint intranet page, or through links in the CRM system itself. My challenge as CAD Manager was to figure out a way to make any drawings associated with a particular account or project, also available from that same SharePoint site. Fortunately Autodesk and Microsoft teamed up to create an integration package for just such a purpose. This strategic partnership is detailed on the Autodeskwebsite.

The Autodesk Vault 2014 for SharePoint 2013 integration is available for download from the Subscription website. Yup, you need to be on subscription to benefit from this integration.

This integration also works for Vault 2015. I downloaded this integration package, and the adventure began. Before I tell the story of my epic journey, let me show you one of the finished products. Within our Intranet, IT established a page just for the CAD department. I have since personalized this page and included several lists of documents, including Vault links, which people regularly access. Other lists will be created on project specific pages, which have yet to be created. This page serves as the prototype of what can be done with this integration.

Now… let’s take a look at what it took to get here for someone with no IT experience, flying by the seat of his pants. [ed. The only way to fly!]

Powell IntranetA sneak peak at our company home page on the Intranet

Powell SharePoint CAD PageThen for comparison, the CAD department’s home page

The First Steps into Darkness

The Journey Continues – Crisis Resolution

Searching, Listing and Filters

Image Credits: Powell Fabrication and Manufacturing inc and Alice Popkorn (Flickr)