The Method of SharePoint, a study in SharePointology

In this blog post I will dig deep into the many faces of SharePoint, not just from a technology perspective, but more so from its softer side, the conceptual side, the approach, the method of its reach, and much more. I’ll call it SharePointology; A term I thought I can first introduce here on this blog, but as it turns out, someone else has it. Man! Gosh! Darn it!. Not a problem at all I say. This is just amazing. Anyways, we keep going.

Introduction

SharePoint, as a technology, offers organizations and their employees an opportunity to connect with one another, communicate and collaborate on teams, manage and define their data, locate and personalize their content, automate their processes and as a result make better business decisions. It doesn’t stop there. SharePoint goes out the door connecting you with your customers. And today, all of that is available to the enterprise. With SharePoint 2010, Microsoft is reaching high grounds. Not a surprise to anyone in this field. With every new version, a new experience we shall have and a new way of doing things.

SharePoint 2010 is The Business Collaboration Platform for the Enterprise and the Web. It has many features from creating sites and team workspaces for both internal and external consumption to automating business processes and integrated data and reporting capabilities. More and more you’ll find as you dig deeper and deeper into the platform.

Now, having been involved on many SharePoint-related projects, I’ve noticed a trend in the product. We’ve seen some new and amazing features come online and we’ve seen some old ones stay afloat. We’ve seen some features that still have the same issues and some new ones with a whole set of their own problems. Few come to mind; HTML rendering still a mess even though there is a much better focus on usability and accessibility. Navigation Inheritance from one Site Collection to the next still an issue. Personalization Links for My Sites, etc.

So, what’s the matter you think? Where are we doing with this? Here are few of my observations that will hopefully shed some light onto the conversation; I call them collectively, The Method of SharePoint. Well, of Microsoft.

Please note: anything you read here is my own opinion with a sliver of insight and creativity Smile yeah, ok now.

The Method of SharePoint

Reach – Go wide then deep. A simple approach to cover more ground. In a SharePoint sense, add features then improve on existing ones. SharePoint has always been called the “Swiss Army Knife” of collaboration software. It has a wide range of features from content management capabilities to reporting and process automation. In the professional services world, there’s always this question: Go for large-size projects less volume per year or reach more customers and increase your pipeline, but deliver small? Which one is good for you? I don’t know. SharePoint seems, at least from my opinion, to go for the features and increase its reach. SharePoint is not and I don’t think it will be in the short term, The Enterprise Content Management platform around. Unlike some vendors out there, SharePoint is still missing some depth when it comes to Records Management and Content Management. Deep auditing and workflow capabilities still missing. We’re still faced with the same problems and nothing has changed in the solution. Ask some SharePoint Administrators. Yes, in SharePoint 2010 we have better auditing and monitoring capabilities, but we still don’t know the answer to who has access to what question. We’re dependent on third party vendors to fill in the gap. This brings me to my second observation.

Fill in the Blank, Third Party Heaven –  Do a BING on the phrase “SharePoint” and come back and let me know what you find. Thousands and thousands of pages producing technical content, videos and training material, blogs and newsletters, off-the-shelf software products to fill every gab, full life cycle management systems built for SharePoint, 3rd party vendors upon 3rd party vendors, community and open source projects, etc. etc. etc. SharePoint this and SharePoint that. Everybody wants SharePoint and we’ve been competing on who can come up with the next SharePoint plug in or adapter or web part or middle-tier product to complement what SharePoint Out-Of-the-Box (OOB) offers. You can say whatever you want; product team missed this or they didn’t figure this out or that out, etc. I say, Microsoft is smarter than all of us. If you want to stay around, you don’t build a complete package. You give your customers what they need at the moment and what they can handle. You buy time. You build a market around the product. For us developers, we love to write components that show up somewhere. We love to integrate. And that’s what we have with SharePoint. A fill in the blank policy written for developers meant for the business.

Market Induction – Oh well, here we go. Let’s build a product, a great product with a great vision and call it SharePoint. Then, lets’ build a product that breaks the product we just created. Let’s call this one SharePoint Designer. Great idea. Offer and promote product features to a wide range of users; Average, Power User, and Site Administrators. Don’t forget the Farm Administrators though, SharePoint 2010 offers a plethora of monitoring, reporting and control features to make sure things don’t get out of hand. We will also add this throttling feature to BCS and Lists and such, but allow the developer to override it. Nice I say. Actually very good. See, what’s happening here is an execution of a strategy to keep the ball moving forward and not in just one direction, but in many directions. Microsoft doesn’t just think of the business and the business user (power to the people), they think of us technical folks also. Everybody has something to do and work on and no one gets tired. The market grows in many directions. Imagine SharePoint is here and there is no way to extend its functionality, modify it, configure it, or do anything with it except through a single interface or tool. Imagine this for a second and you’ll see what I mean. It’s all about balance. I give you something 50%, you get excited, you hire me, I code the other 50%. We’re both happy.

From the horizontal to the vertical – Pretty soon, SharePoint itself will become it. A single unit of work and feature set. It will mature enough to start driving deeper, going vertical into .NET; its underlying power house. Pretty soon things we needed code for will be able to do without a line of code. Example: Visual Web Part, Visio Workflows, etc. SharePoint will become the transportation system on which our work travels. Things will become simpler and simpler as technology advances and SharePoint adapts. SharePoint will drive more into .NET than it has ever driven. Notice this version, V4 (2010). REST got introduced. WCF got introduced. JQUERY got introduced, Client Object Model (managed and ECMA or JavaScript) got introduced. I am hoping MVC get’s in there as well. All of this should make you think about the direction here. I’ll summarize it for you:

  • More into the .NET platform for consistency, simplicity, converting people from pure .NET to SharePoint developers and back and forth
  • Back to the 1990’s with more support for client side scripting. Better user experience now we’ve got the tools with Ajax Support and SOA models

Pretty soon, the horizontal goes vertical, matures, finds more common ground and genericise its features.

Summary

Looks like this post is growing out of hand and I need to close it down here. I’ve enjoyed writing this post and I hope you find it interesting. I’ll try to break some of this down and organize it better next time around. Till then, think of SharePoint more than you do today. Look at its angles and ask yourself why is it like this. Hopefully you’ll figure out where its heading next.

Take it easy.

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About jharbieh

I'm an IW Solutions Architect with background in requirements gathering, planning, design, architecture, and development (not necessarily in the right order). Currently, my focus is on the Microsoft Cloud, Productivity and Collaboration space. Hope you enjoy what I write about here. Thanks for visiting. Johnny Harbieh
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