Since it’s the end of the year, it seems like everyone is publishing top ten lists, so I might as well jump on the bandwagon. This isn’t really a summary of my top ten “whatever” that occurred over the past year, but rather just a general list of the things I love about SharePoint.
A while back I was talking SharePoint with my boss and he asked me a very simple, yet perplexing question. He said, “Why do you love SharePoint?” Sounds simple enough to answer, right? Immediatley I had a plethora of thoughts floating around in my mind, but I couldn’t seem to get a solid grasp on any of them with so much going on in my brain.
I probably managed to stammer out a few reasons, but to be honest I had never really put that much thought into the question before as to why I love to work with SharePoint. I just knew that I did. So I thought I’d sit down and actually try to articulate why it is that I love SharePoint. This list is that attempt:
1. Configuration vs. Development
This may sound weird coming from a developer, but I love the fact that you can quickly get sites up and running with minimal effort. And one of my biggest pet peeves is recreating the wheel for common web functionality. So if a site’s requirements include a couple or more of the common out-of-the-box features of SharePoint (e.g. security-trimmed navigation, audience targeting, auditing, search, security groups, content management, authentication and authorization, personalization, help interface, logging, etc.) then SharePoint is definitely the way to go. In addition to not recreating the wheel, all this stuff has already been tested by Microsoft, so not only do we save money in development, but we also save money in testing and we reduce the time to implement.
2. SharePoint is a platform that you can build upon
If SharePoint’s powerful out-of the-box functionality doesn’t meet your requirements, you can easily program against the platform using a variety of different interfaces. Following are some that the development team uses where I work:
- Server-side .Net interface
- SharePoint web services
- Microsoft PowerShell
3. Third party products integration
One of the really great things about SharePoint is that if something can’t be done out-of-the-box, and if you don’t want to build it yourself, chances are that someone else has. Whether it be vendors who specialize in SharePoint add-ons, or something you find on CodePlex or other code sharing sites, there are a ton of great solutions or tools that can integrate with SharePoint. In addition, many other CMS or storage systems have created web parts that will interface with SharePoint, so that you can keep your content where it is yet still access it through the SharePoint interface.
4. Instant admin screens for list data
I don’t know how many times pre-SharePoint that we’ve built custom applications that store some kind of data in a database, of which admin screens need to be built in order to allow others outside of IT to manage that data. Or even worse, we’d build the tables to store the data, then not take the extra time to build admin screens so some unlucky Help Desk person would inherit the task of updating the database whenever a change was requested.
Well SharePoint changes all that, since for every list there is an interface already built to add, edit, and delete data. And if you don’t like the way the out-of-the-box list forms look or behave, you can easily customize them using SharePoint Designer.
5. SharePoint is complex
This may sound like it would be more of a reason to hate SharePoint, but for me that’s one of the reasons I love it. I seem to have an insatiable appetite for learning, and I can definitely say I’ve learned an incredible amount since I started working with SharePoint over four years ago. I also don’t care much for monotony or boredom, and every day truly is a new challenge with SharePoint. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart or someone who doesn’t crave learning.
6. End users are empowered to build their own sites/communities
We rolled out SharePoint 2010 company-wide back in August 2011 – since that time we have nearly 40 top-level team or project site collections, and almost 60 sub sites under those site collections. The growth has been mostly viral as we haven’t invested a tremendous amount of time (yet) in publicizing or training people to use SharePoint. It definitely takes the burden off of IT so we don’t have to spend our time managing content for all these sites. And it’s a godsend for users as they now feel empowered to create their own solutions to make their jobs easier, and they no longer have to feel like their ideas aren’t important enough on a company scale to warrant sending a project request to IT.
7. News articles and other content management can be handled by Marketing, Site Owners
Also easing the burden on IT, SharePoint allows end users to manage their own content, such as news articles or policy documents. I love SharePoint’s publishing features for content management. We aren’t far enough along in our implementation yet to realize this benefit, but it’s one of things we’ll be working on implementing in 2012.
This is a feature of SharePoint that I really like, especially for a secure digital workplace using Intranets. With our recent roll out, we included an “iGoogle”-type search center landing page that includes personalizable web part zones. This allows each user to personalize their home page with whatever content they wish. As one of the default web parts (which they can remove if they wish) we included the My Links web part so users can add bookmarks to frequently-used web sites, whether they be external or on the Intranet. This finally lets us do away with the (maddening!) practice of adding link after link to the left navigation of our old Intranet, even if only a couple people in the entire company ever used that site! Now everyone can add only the links that they want to see to their My Links web part, and not clutter up everyone else’s links list.
9. Microsoft Office integration
SharePoint 2007 integrated with Office 2003/2007 to some extent, however that integration got a lot tigher with SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010. Working with documents is now a more seamless experience, and there is better integration with Outlook and PowerPoint than in the previous version. Also I love how SharePoint connects with Visio, InfoPath, and SharePoint Workspace.
10. The SharePoint Community!
Saving the best for last, this is probably my favorite thing about SharePoint. The vast community of people willing to offer solutions and share their knowledge about SharePoint is incredible. I don’t know how many times I’ve solved an issue by reading someone’s blog post, or posting to Twitter with the #sphelp hashtag, or posting questions to forums. SharePoint folks are so quick and willing to help another SharePointer out and for that I’m grateful, yet at the same time amazed at how unselfish this awesome community is.
To Love or Not to Love
These are some of my thoughts on why I love SharePoint that I quickly came up with on a Friday evening. There are probably even more reasons to love SharePoint. Do you love it or hate it? Why?