The Perils of InfoPath

PerilsInfoPathOur Business Solutions team has not used InfoPath very often. It is really a very cool tool, and I love its transparency, but people often experienced an access denied or other annoying error message that prevented them from working with it. It may have had to do with our customization.
Next to that, some forms can be very complex, especially when you need different views for different people, of  if they take data from other lists or even from other systems.

We have had to refuse support when a customer support form broke down. It had tons of clever functionality built in: conditional notifications, different views and it imported the customer’s name from SAP when the SAP number was entered. The person who had created the form had left the company without any documentation on the setup, so it would have taken a specialist (which we did not have at that time) many hours to figure out how the form worked.

Identical icons.
But there is another danger in InfoPath forms, or rather in the libraries they live in, and especially in SP2003 and SP2007.  Those libraries have  identical icons…and I guess you can tell how this story will unfold. It’s tagged with “Bloopers”…but also with “Lessons”. 🙂

My colleague-who-wanted-to-investigate-the-boundaries-of-Sharepoint (I mentioned him earlier) had a challenging project: creating a quiz in InfoPath format. We could not think of another way to do this 60-question quiz, which had an extensive score calculation built-in that resulted in your preferred Learning Style. The whole Quiz was a manual exercise, and our Learning & Development team could no longer calculate the score by hand because of resource restrictions  They did not want to leave the scoring to the user, so we wanted to see if we could automate it.
All completed forms would be collected in the library, but everyone could only see their own form.
My colleague spent about 10 full days on this form, and after enthusiastic and extensive testing by both parties we could finally mark the project as completed.

A few weeks after sign-off we received an anguished call from the owner. Her intern, who was on a cleaning spree, had deleted the library because it contained no documents. Could we restore it?

Unfortunately we could not, since my colleague had not kept a copy. So he could do it all over again…

What have we learned?
These are the preventive measures we took from that day onwards:

  • We added the text “System List-Do not delete!” or similar text to the description field of every custom-configured or otherwise important list or library we created from that time on.
  • We saved a template of every library or list with complex configuration in the List Template Gallery of the site, and also in our own Team Site
  • At the moment of handover, we created a backup of every site that we  configured (and sometimes also saved the template in our Team Site).

In SharePoint 2010 Microsoft has finally addressed this library icon issue. But if you are working with an older version, be careful!

Form and Document Library with identical icons – SP2007
Forms and Document Library with different icons – SP2010
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2 thoughts on “The Perils of InfoPath

  1. Pingback: Intranet Lounge
  2. Victor January 14, 2013 / 11:49 am

    I have to do exactly the same work, a quizz with score calculation!
    It’s my first time on Infopath, so i’m a bit desesperate…
    Can you share a template? or explain me quickly which steps to take?
    Thx!!

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