Microsoft SharePoint

Apr 08, 2010

How do you determine if SharePoint is right for you? What are some of SharePoint’s (SP) strengths and weaknesses, and how do these attributes match up with a business’ needs and objectives? Recently, Inorbital attended a Webinar called “What’s So Special About SharePoint?” hosted by Real Story Group. In short, the discussion was a starting point for businesses to begin a discussion in determining the compatibility between SP and the business needs, and highlighted the breadth of SP’s features.

First, from a high level point of view, here are the pros and cons of SP:

Pros

  • Breadth of services
  • Close synergy to Microsoft Server & Desktop and other MS products
  • Emphasis on individual & department empowerment in regards to content

Cons

  • Cost
  • Ease of use for same tool available elsewhere
  • Other tools available that can provide same function with better usability
  • Due to 3 year development cycles for SharePoint, product and technology can be outdated 

The webinar proceeded to detail four points on how SharePoint may be a good fit for your needs:

SharePoint is a good fit if…

1) …your company is currently using or will use an all Microsoft stack. 

In other words, your team will evolve around a Microsoft-centric integration platform:

 

  • Using all MS technology
    • SP server
    • SP Foundation
    • SQL Server 08 / IIS 7.0
    • Active Directory
    • Membership Provider
    • .NET 3.5 Framework
    • Windows Server 08
    • etc,

However, just because the technology fits, it does not translate that overall SP will be an ideal solution. Also consider the following:

  • SP requires good administrator and development skills. Does your team have the skill-set?
  • To fully integrate and leverage SP’s features, your business will likely need consulting skills
  • Troubleshooting may be a challenge due to its architecture and the number of components which may have contributed to the issue
  • SP 2010’s complexity increases in this regard

In summary, SP is easy to setup and start using, but difficult to customize and leverage its full set of features.

2) …your team can master MS’s ‘ecosystem’ and architecture

Resources for support such as Microsoft’s SDKs and Codeplex are a start. Third party tools are available as well to complete customized solutions. In general, areas which require third party tools for integration usually include search, archive and SP farm management.

3) …you want many services under the same roof.

The focus for your solution is breadth over depth. Again, SP, in general, is easy to setup with an abundant features and services at hand to begin. Will this be sufficient for your needs? To see some SP demonstration sites, www.wssdemo.com is a good resource.

4) …there’s an emphasis to empower individuals and departments, and to control results

One of SP’s attributes is to bypass central authorities. By doing so, this gives ownership and empowerment to team individuals and departments to generate and organize content and sites. This link provides a good resource which elaborates on the definition and different aspects of SP governance.

While this may be a positive for some, it may be a negative if the team cannot abide by governance rules. The team may neglect to care and ‘feed’ into the SP environment. Since empowerment lies within individuals and departments, rogue deployments may appear and thus will lead to clutter and disorder.  The opposite effect where there is too much top-down control in the environment is also harmful where it may lead to a stifle of site generation and overall adoption of SP. A fine balance of governance adherence must be found to leverage SP’s features without much unwanted side effects.

Conclusion

Like any other technology, a robust and thorough process must be executed to determine whether SharePoint can satisfy your business needs. It is commonplace to use SharePoint because it is a default option. In the end, while this may be sufficient, this conclusion must be reached after thorough analysis and review. An approach which includes an understanding of the solution’s business objectives, a development of system requirements, and the execution of an exhaustive testing phase can be used to determine SharePoint’s compatibility with your business needs.

Also, evaluate SP against other tools and technologies as well to highlight each of the respective strengths and weaknesses. If SP is the solution, be prepared to take advantage of the rich support and ecosystem that Microsoft offers.

Lastly, establish and refine governance before using SP and certainly before SP grows into disarray.  

Until next time!

By  Charles Chan - Producer at Inorbital.com with many years experience dealing with a myriad problems and solutions related to websites. 


About the Author

Tony Tullio

Tony Tullio is a veteran in the interactive business and Director/Founder at Inorbital and always looking for great web apps and useful websites. Let us know what you think about this topic by commenting or rating or connect with him via Twitter  LinkedIn