Another post for BCS… this is Juan Balmori, I’ve being working in the SharePoint 2010 release on how to simplify customers lives by using data from external systems in Office client applications such as Word and Outlook. This time I am going to focus on how to pump business data into Word 2010. In order to be successful here you’ll need to understand the concept of External Data Columns (aka EDCs) and content controls.
In SharePoint 2010 there are three main artifacts you can use to play with external data: External Lists (which have being discussed in great detail on this blog), External Data Web Parts, and External Data Columns, the main subject of this blog entry. An External Data Column enables you to aggregate information from external systems into regular SharePoint lists, such as a document library. Typical scenario for this is to add a ‘Customer’ column (whose data lives in a CRM system) into document library that stores ‘Contracts’. This feature was previously shipped with MOSS 2007 as Business Data Column (or BDIL), but this time you can pick the desired external data in Microsoft Word 2010 inside the document content (and not just resolve on the document properties panel).
We also learned that many users require embedding data from external systems into Word documents (i.e. customer and/or product names, prices info into purchase orders documents). Typically this implies switching to a complex backend system, finding the data you are interested, copying that data, switch back to word and paste and format the information there. We aimed to simplify that experience by making external data columns available as content controls inside Word 2010.
It is the combination of both concepts (EDCs and Content Controls) which makes it possible to have external data into Word! Now let’s clarify the concepts with a simple example:
Assuming you already have an External Content Type ‘Customer’ (from your CRM system) you want to create a document library of ‘Contracts’ and you need to add customer information on it (such as name, address, phone, etc.). You’ll need to follow these steps to pick a ‘Customer’ for the contract directly from the CRM system and within Word:
That’s the basic functionality. You’ll probably have the following questions:
Recipient has Word 2010, BCS installed and data on the cache
Users will be able to read the data in the document and pick and resolve from the cache, they can upload the document manually to the library. Document will replace existing copies.
Recipient has Word 2010, BCS installed and an empty cache
User will be able to read the data but will not be able to pick or resolve new data.
Recipient has word but not BCS installed
May receive prompts to install .NET framework 3.5. User will be able to read the data but will not be able to pick or resolve new data.
User has Word 2007
User will be able to read the data but will not be able to pick or resolve new data, the external item picker control will not be shown.
User has a previous version of Word.
Data is read only as text.
-Juan Balmori Labra, Program Manager