Embarking on My Discovery Journey: How ULTIMATEFORMS Makes SharePoint Simple
Riyan Arshad
Riyan Arshad
June 17, 2024 | Products

 

Hello there! Having worked as a seasoned SharePoint developer for more than seven years, I've seen it all when it comes to creating and managing forms. I've worked on several projects in my career that have included creating and customising forms on a large scale. These projects have ranged from straightforward feedback forms to intricate multi-page processes. Replicating and maintaining consistent business solutions across many sites has always been one of the largest pain points. But let me tell you, after I found the Template Manager in ULTIMATEFORMS, my approach to these jobs was completely changed. Everything is now more simpler and less of a nuisance as a result.

I've worked on a number of projects over the years that called for substantial form design and customisation. From basic feedback forms to intricate procedures spanning many pages. The potential of SharePoint to improve productivity and expedite corporate processes through well-designed forms and solutions has always been my favourite aspect of working with the platform. With its extensive toolkit, ULTIMATEFORMS has revolutionised the process of creating, managing, and distributing forms among many SharePoint sites.

 

The Template Manager in ULTIMATEFORMS is a game-changer

for SharePoint developers like myself. Here’s why I’m particularly excited about this feature:

1. Efficiency: The Template Manager significantly reduces the time and effort required to replicate business solutions across multiple sites. This efficiency means I can focus more on designing and enhancing solutions rather than spending time on repetitive configurations.

2. Consistency: Ensuring consistency across different environments is crucial for maintaining the integrity of business processes. The Template Manager allows me to replicate settings accurately, ensuring that all sites adhere to the same standards and provide a uniform user experience.

3. Flexibility: The ability to copy settings between sites in different tenants and site collections opens up a world of possibilities. Whether I’m working within a single organization or collaborating across different organizations, the Template Manager provides the flexibility needed to manage diverse environments effectively.

4.  Automation: Automating the process of applying settings from one site to another not only saves time but also minimizes the risk of human error. This automation ensures that configurations are applied correctly and consistently, which is especially important in complex environments.

5. Detailed Reporting: Receiving a detailed progress report on the screen and via email after applying a template provides transparency and peace of mind. It allows me to monitor the process and quickly address any issues that may arise.

My Past Project Experiences

Over my career as a SharePoint developer, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects involving form creation. Each project presented its unique challenges, pushing me to develop innovative solutions and refine my skills. However, the journey wasn't always smooth. Here’s a glimpse into some of my past projects and the hurdles I faced along the way:

Project 1: Employee Onboarding System

One of my earliest projects was creating an Employee Onboarding System for a large corporation. The goal was to streamline the onboarding process by creating a comprehensive form that new hires could fill out online. The form needed to capture personal information, work preferences, and compliance-related data.

Challenges:

  • Complex Form Logic: The form required multiple conditional logic rules to display or hide sections based on the employee’s role and department. Implementing these rules manually using SharePoint Designer was time-consuming and error-prone.
  • Data Integration: Integrating the form with the company’s HR database to ensure data consistency was a major challenge. This required custom coding and careful coordination with the IT department.
  • User Experience: Ensuring a smooth user experience with a clean and intuitive interface was difficult given the limitations of the standard SharePoint form tools at the time.

 

Project 2: Incident Reporting System

Another significant project involved developing an Incident Reporting System for a manufacturing company. This system needed to allow employees to report incidents, track the status of their reports, and generate analytical reports for management.

Challenges:

  • Dynamic Fields: The form had to dynamically adjust based on the type of incident reported, which again required complex logic and custom scripting.
  • Approval Workflows: Setting up multi-level approval workflows that triggered email notifications and task assignments was cumbersome with the out-of-the-box SharePoint capabilities.
  • Reporting: Creating custom reports and dashboards to visualize the incident data was a manual process that required extensive custom development.

 

Project 3: Customer Feedback Portal

For a retail client, I was tasked with building a Customer Feedback Portal. Customers needed to be able to submit feedback forms, which would then be routed to the appropriate departments for action.

 

Challenges:

  • Form Customization: Customizing the feedback form to match the client’s branding and ensuring it was mobile-friendly required a lot of manual tweaking.
  • Data Validation: Implementing robust data validation to ensure the quality and consistency of the feedback submitted was a tedious process.

 

Overview of the Template Manager Feature

The Template Manager in ULTIMATEFORMS is a specialized tool designed to streamline the replication and deployment of business solutions across multiple SharePoint sites. This feature is available exclusively in the Microsoft 365 version of ULTIMATEFORMS, providing a robust method for copying all Ultimate Forms settings between different sites, even if they belong to different site collections or tenants.

Purpose

The primary purpose of the Template Manager is to enhance efficiency and consistency in managing SharePoint sites by allowing administrators and developers to:

  1. Replicate Business Solutions: Easily duplicate the configuration and settings of a SharePoint site to other sites without the need to manually reconfigure each one.
  2. Maintain Uniformity: Ensure that business processes, forms, and workflows are consistent across various environments, thereby maintaining a uniform user experience and operational flow.
  3. Facilitate Site Management: Simplify the process of updating or migrating settings across sites, reducing the risk of errors and ensuring that updates are implemented smoothly and effectively.

Key Benefits

  1. Time Efficiency: By automating the replication process, the Template Manager significantly reduces the time required to set up new sites with existing configurations. This is particularly beneficial when managing multiple sites or when new sites need to be created frequently.
  2. Consistency: The ability to replicate settings ensures that all sites adhere to the same standards and configurations. This uniformity is crucial for maintaining operational consistency and ensuring that all users have a similar experience across different sites.
  3. Flexibility: The Template Manager allows settings to be copied between sites in different tenants and site collections. This flexibility means that it can be used in various scenarios, whether for internal sites within a single organization or for sites managed across different organizations.
  4. Ease of Use: The Template Manager provides a user-friendly interface and step-by-step guidance for creating and applying templates. This ease of use minimizes the learning curve and allows even less experienced users to leverage its capabilities effectively.
  5. Automation: The tool automates the process of reading settings from the source site and applying them to the destination site. This automation not only speeds up the process but also reduces the risk of human error that can occur during manual configurations.
  6. Detailed Reporting: After applying a template, users receive a detailed progress report on the screen and via email. This reporting ensures transparency and allows users to monitor the status and success of the template application process.

 

Getting Started with Template Manager

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to use the Template Manager to create and apply templates in ULTIMATEFORMS:

Step 1: Install ULTIMATEFORMS App

Before you begin, ensure that the Ultimate Forms app is installed on your SharePoint site. You can install it by navigating to the Design toolbar button in any list and selecting the Solution Catalog from the top menu bar. Choose your desired business solution and follow the prompts to install it​​.


 

Step 2: Create and Configure Your Site

Set up your SharePoint site with all the necessary configurations and settings using Ultimate Forms. This initial setup will serve as the template for other sites.


 

 

Step 3: Access Template Manager

In Ultimate Forms, go to the Template Manager from the main toolbar. Note that Template Manager requires separate credentials which are not the same as your SharePoint Online credentials​​​​.

 

Step 4: Create a New Template

Once logged in, create a new template. You can specify which components to include in the template or choose to include all components by default. You also have the option to select specific lists to include in the template​​​​.

Step 5: Configure Template Settings

Optionally, configure the template to create or modify lists in the destination site. The source and destination sites do not need to be identical, but the settings will only apply to lists/columns with the same names in both sites. Ensure that modern web part pages and site navigation are replicated as needed​​.

 

Step 6: Install ULTIMATEFORMS App on Destination Site

Ensure the Ultimate Forms app is installed on the destination site where you want to apply the template​​.

 

 

Step 7: Apply the Template

Log into Template Manager on the destination site using the credentials of the organization that created the template. Locate your settings template and click "Apply to current site." The settings will be applied, and you will receive a detailed progress report both on screen and via email​​​​.

 

 

Conclusion

If you are a SharePoint developer or administrator looking to enhance your workflow, I highly encourage you to explore the Template Manager in ULTIMATEFORMS. Its powerful features and intuitive no-code interface make it an essential tool for efficiently managing and replicating business solutions. By leveraging the Template Manager, you can save time, ensure consistency, and reduce the complexities associated with manual configurations.

Start exploring the Template Manager today and see how it can transform your SharePoint development and management experience. Happy templating!

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