Product review by Wendy Neal for SharePointWendy.com and paid for by TeamImprover
Most people are familiar with organization charts – they are useful business tools that illustrate relationships between people within the organization, usually in a hierarchical manner. They can help employees easily identify who does what in the company, what the chain of command is, and the distribution of authority. They also provide managers with information that can be used to assist with budgeting, planning, and workforce development.
Since the 2010 version, SharePoint has included a feature called the Organization Browser that displays organizational information. It is a web part that uses the Manager field from the User Profiles to build a hierarchy of people. It is by default located on every user’s My Profile page (it can also be added to other pages if desired).
While the standard SharePoint Organization Browser has garnered much excitement since its inception, and visually the interface is very nice, it does have some limitations in functionality.
For example, you cannot create an organization chart from a SharePoint list or a relational database. It only supports Active Directory as a data source for employee data. You also cannot apply conditional formatting, nor can end users configure the starting position of the chart. Displaying assistants is not possible through the organization browser, and it does not support SharePoint Foundation (only Enterprise versions).
SharePoint Org Chart to the Rescue
TeamImprover offers a variety of web parts designed to help teams work more effectively. Their SharePoint Org Chart web part provides all of the capabilities mentioned above that the SharePoint Organization Browser lacks, plus a whole lot more. It allows you to easily create, search, and traverse the org chart both up and down the hierarchy. Just a few of its features include:
- Utilizing a SharePoint list or a database, as well as the User Profile Service, to obtain the employee data
- Printing support
- Searching by names and job titles
- Supports multiple managers, assistants, and vacant positions
- The look and feel is completely customizable with a vast choice of colors, layouts, and conditional formatting
- Very user-friendly, wizard interface for quick configuration
- Allows end users to control the starting position of the chart
As I was performing my evaluation of the SharePoint Org Chart web part, I was amazed at how easy it was to get set up and running. When first creating the web part, I used the wizard interface and left most of the default settings as is. Within seconds I had created an organization chart from a SharePoint list.
|Figure 1. Step 1 of the wizard allows you to choose a data source and a name for your org chart|
One of the few fields that I did change from the default value, I chose “A new SharePoint list” as my data source.
|Figure 2. The data source options for your org chart|
The next screen in the wizard allows you to further configure the data source. Since I chose a SharePoint list as my data source, I get options for setting the list name and specific view, as well as the primary key column and the manager (or parent) column. These fields are already set for me based on the new list that was created. Had I chosen an existing list instead of a new list as the data source, I would have to explicitly set all these properties.
|Figure 3. Step 2 of the wizard allows you to configure the data source for your org chart|
The next screen asks you to select the information to display on the chart. I left everything at their default settings, however you can choose to display any columns that you wish. You want to be careful about selecting too many columns to display as there may not be enough room on the chart.
|Figure 4. Step 3 of the wizard allows you to choose the fields to display on your org chart|
There are a few options for formatting the org chart at this point, including template and box styles, background type, color, size and depth, etc. If all settings are left at their defaults, your org chart will look like the one in the preview pane below.
|Figure 5. Step 4 of the wizard allows you to format your org chart|
At this point I changed a couple of settings to see how the look and feel of the chart would be affected. You can update the preview right in the wizard interface before saving to review what you’ve done. I chose to hide the navigation arrows, moved the photos to the right, and changed the background color of the tiles. You can see the updated settings depicted below.
|Figure 6. The org chart in preview mode after a few settings have been modified|
After clicking “Done” to save the web part, the resulting org chart looks like in Figure 7.
|Figure 7. The finished org chart displaying sample data from a new SharePoint list data source|
Because I chose a new SharePoint list as my data source, a new contacts list was automatically created with several dummy records populated in it. This is very helpful as now you have some data to work with initially so that you can further customize if you wish before adding your actual data.
|Figure 8. When you choose a new SharePoint list as the data source, a list with pre-populated data is created|
After you’re finished with the wizard, you can always go into the web part properties where you’ll find a plethora of features that can be configured. The properties are placed into groups for easier manageability.
|Figure 9. Advanced properties that can be set on the org chart while in web part edit mode, groups collapsed|
There are far too many properties to go into detail on all of them, so I’ll just list a few here that I think are really cool.
The conditional formatting capabilities in the SharePoint Org Chart are very powerful. You can change the look and feel of certain items based on any number of criteria. For example, you could change the background color of the boxes for those people who match a particular job title. This is precisely what I did using the quick conditional formatting rules to change the box color to light blue if the job title contains “director.”
|Figure 10. Setting conditional formatting properties on the org chart (left) and its result after saving (right)|
There are even more properties that you can set conditionally using the full conditional formatting rules. Like the quick format rules, you can set a maximum of five rules. You can further enhance the boxes by changing background color, box style, and size; or you can set a custom image as the background and set the dimensions. You can even add custom HTML template code, which would allow you to add hyperlinks to external systems, for example.
|Figure 11. Additional conditional formatting properties that can be set on the org chart|
The org chart allows you to display any vacant job openings right alongside the actual people in the organization. I could see this being very useful to hiring managers or anyone who may be interested to see where the current open positions lie. This is accomplished by using a second SharePoint list that you specify.
|Figure 12. Vacant positions properties that can be set on the org chart|
Being able to display employees’ assistants in the org chart is a very handy feature, and one that the SharePoint Organization Browser doesn’t support. It’s nice when people in the organization can easily see the assistants as part of the org chart so they know who else to contact should a leader be absent from the office.
|Figure 13. Assistant items properties that can be set on the org chart|
There are several types of data rules that can be configured to determine the data that is displayed in the chart. The chart exclusion rules allow you to filter out unwanted Active Directory records from the org chart. I could see this being very useful for keeping administration or other non-user accounts from displaying in the chart. You can set multiple rules and utilize regular expressions for complex filtering logic.
Inclusion rules can also be set to be sure to include certain types of records, and you can also create truncate rules and specify sort order, among others.
|Figure 14. Data rule properties that can be set on the org chart|
Supporting Web Parts
There are a couple connectible web parts that are included with the SharePoint Org Chart web part. These include a Search web part that allows you to search within the org chart web part, and a Panel web part that will display additional information about a particular employee.
Both of these web parts are extremely easy to add and configure. After adding the web parts, you simply go into edit mode and configure the web part connections on each of them to get data from your org chart. Figure 15 below depicts what the resulting page looks like after conducting a search.
|Figure 15. Supporting web parts make the org chart interactive for the users|
Areas for Improvement
If I had to point out anything that could be improved upon, I’m hard pressed to find much, but there are a couple things that come to mind. First, there seems to be such a large number of configurable properties that it can seem a bit overwhelming. Understanding what all of them mean and how they affect the chart will take a while for someone to learn. I believe that in the next release this may be addressed by organizing the properties a little better.
The second thing I noticed is that the web parts seem to be designed for or geared towards a SharePoint site designer, a developer, or someone who is pretty savvy in SharePoint. There aren’t a lot of mechanisms in place to ensure that an end user could easily configure the web parts on their own. For example, all list and field names are free text fields where you must know the exact names and type them in error free. There would be less room for error if these were dropdown menus.
That being said, I do think the user guides on the Team Improver website have some very good reference material for learning about all the different features. It’s full of tutorials, screenshots, and examples for setting up your org chart. I actually didn’t even stumble upon them until after I had configured my org chart and added the search and panel web parts. What I really found helpful was the properties index page that lists out the various properties that can be set along with a description of what they are.
If you’re wondering what’s on the horizon for the SharePoint Org Chart, you can wonder no more. I’ve been told that the guys at TeamImprover are feverishly working on an Office 365 version of the chart (currently it only supports SharePoint 2007, 2010, and 2013 on premises installations). It’s still more than three months away from being released; however, I’ve been given a sneak peak of what it will look like (see Figure 16).
|Figure 16. Upcoming Office 365 version of the SharePoint Org Chart|
After putting the SharePoint Org Chart to the test, I’ve concluded that it is indeed simple and very quick to configure, as long as you use mostly the default settings. It can take a little while to learn all of the other features by experimenting with them and just seeing how the view is affected, but that’s the fun part. It is very powerful and flexible with its ability to display assistants, multiple managers, vacant positions, or to explicitly include or exclude certain data based on data rules. In addition, the ability to easily traverse the different teams or departments and the connectible web parts create an interactive experience for the user.
You can learn more about the SharePoint Org Chart web part on the TeamImprover website. You can also view their evaluation chart that puts the SharePoint Org Chart up against the out-of-the-box SharePoint Organization Browser with a side-by-side comparison of features.
This product review is an unbiased review and service by Wendy Neal to educate and bring awareness to great products to the SharePoint community.