Sunday, 29 March 2009

Keep SharePoint Simple

Today sees the release of the eagerly awaited film ‘The Damned United’. For those outside the UK this is a film about the legendary football manager Brian Clough. ‘Cloughie’ was probably the best manager of all-time. He took two unfashionable Midlands teams (Derby and Forest) and made them the best in the land. He even guided Nottingham Forest to two European Cups after taking charge of them when they were in the Second Division. The film is based on the brilliant book ‘The Damned United’. I read the book last year and found it to be the most gripping Football book I have read. Even though it is difficult at times to know what is fact and what is fiction it chronicles the great achievements of ‘Old Big Head’(as Brian was affectionately known). I am looking forward to seeing the film, but just hope they don’t drift too far from the excellent book. So why am I going on about a film about a man who wore a tatty green goalkeeper’s top in my weekly SharePoint blog? The reason is my SharePoint message this week is ‘Don’t change it too much’. In the same way I hope the film stays true to the book I would encourage all SharePoint Projects Teams to try where ever possible to stick to ‘Out of the Box’ SharePoint (whether it is full MOSS or WSS). This might seem a bit boring and you might be surprised that somebody who works for a SharePoint Consultancy company is suggesting keeping it simple, but there are a few reasons. Firstly, if you stick to the basic ‘Out of the Box’ you know that you are following a path that many have successfully followed before. This means that if you do encounter problems you can quickly Google the problem and usually find hundreds of other people who have had the same problem. If disaster does strike restoring (or rebuilding) your sites will be so much easier if you haven’t made too many adaptations. Also the more changes you make the slower your SharePoint sites will load. We all know how annoying slow loading pages can be from life before broadband. The more you use SharePoint Designer and Visual Studio to enhance your pages the harder it will become for the everyday users to make changes. Some of you might not want the users making changes, but the beauty of SharePoint is that it can be personalised. IT are overworked enough without having to make every little change to the SharePoint system. Another advantage of Out of the Box SharePoint is it is a supported environment and ‘should’ also work whenever Microsoft supply Service Packs, or Hot Fixes. It is also easier to provide generic training for users. If you haven’t tried the short computer based training clips by CBTClips for SharePoint they are worth a look. Probably the most important advantage of ‘Out of the Box’ SharePoint is it saves you money. It saves on development and support costs. I suppose if the film was identical to the book this would also save money. Although, if it was exactly the same and you had already read the book would you even need to go and see the film. Even with ‘Out of the box’ SharePoint you can add your own flair. Changing theme, adding glossy pictures, moving webparts around, changing size of columns and adding some corporate branding can all make SharePoint more appealing. However, if you want to use all the features of SharePoint and a decent level of performance it will still look like SharePoint. I am reminded of an episode of ‘Fawlty Towers’ when an old lady moans about the view from her bedroom window. Basil says something like, ‘It’s a view of Torquay what else do you expect to see from a Torquay hotel window’. Although, I have said an advantage is saving money, it is important that the term ‘Out of the Box’ doesn’t just mean you run the install and that is it. Any successful SharePoint project still needs a good Project Team, involvement of a SharePoint Consultant/Specialist (perhaps I should mention Officetalk here), End User training and continual reviews. Just before you go radically changing it try and take a step back and ask your Project Team “What benefits will we get from these changes and what affect will they have on the performance of the system?” Now, it is time to go off and see the film ‘The Damned United’ and see how similar it really is to the book. Brian Clough was a legend and deserves a film about his life.

11 comments:

Harish Mathanan said...

True, SharePoint is quite capable of providing solutions OOTB, without getting carried away with customisations. Sadly, and surprisingly not many know, every OOTB functionality that SharePoint offers.

PS: Clough was fine, but I still rank Shankly and Paisley higher. And in current time Rafa rocks! :)

Marco Schirmer said...

I agree. Over years many customers invested in highly customized Notes/Domino applications that often cause problems during a platform migration. I hope we won't see the same problems with SharePoint. What we need is more OOTB functionality, cool ready to use webparts and maybe a real framework for developing custom SharePoint solutions.

Chris Burt said...

Agreed. I have no programming experience or team members who do either, yet we have run a consulting firm based exactly on the principals outlined in your article.

Jose Antonio said...

That is the way we use to develop our SharePoint Simple CMS.
The change from the previous version of Sharepoint to the current was terrible. The next year we will get some nice features but maybe some surprises...

François said...

I agree up to a limit...
Can we really refrain from adding too many custom-made to WSS/MOSS when the users require more ?

I remember the time when the EDITOR (MS) like Lotus would just say: "customise the basic features and we won't support you when you upgrade a minor release"
now Microsoft has no choice as the environment is so open to customise it that they have to help customers when they screw up the environment.
Using Solutions & Features for customisation should be Best Practice though so that environment can be restored / re-installed quickly.

johnfmoore said...

Andy, I mostly agree with you. SharePoint is so powerful out of the box that you can deliver many powerful applications with minimal work. My SharePoint in Action series highlights this clearly (see here if interested:

http://johnfmoore.wordpress.com/2009/03/06/sharepoint-in-action-project-management/

)

However, it is a powerful application development platform that people can, and should, extend as needed. Keep it simple if you can but be unafraid to make it less simple if needed.

John
http://twitter.com/JohnFMoore

Jon Marks said...

Great article, and a lovely analogy. Can I infer from this that you don't think SharePoint is appropriate for a good ol' public facing www. site where they all need to look very different and do very different things?

Andy Dale said...

No I think SharePoint can be used for websites and still be kept simple.

Officetalk designed the following website \ Intranet using out of box SharePoint in less than 10 days.

http://www.dfsmiddleeast.com

Please take a look.

US said...

Torquay Hotels, Paignton Bed and Breakfast,Brixham Guest Houses, B&Bs,Self Catering apartments Totnes, Torbay, Caravan Sites, Camping & Touring, Holiday Accommodation in the English Riviera. Shops, Business, Restaurants, Whats On, Theatres, free dating.Torquay Hotels

Andrew P. Agosto said...

Excellent information to many people like to read articles to learn about these issues of great interest.Oups... my blog disappeared from Les Explorers list ; )So many people leave a comment in your blog, For this we can know that your blog is very Wonderful,Cheers for your performance, I hope you continue to post such good articles. clipping path

Thom's Erika said...

Aw, this was a very nice post. In concept I wish to put in writing like this moreover ?taking time and actual effort to make a very good article?but what can I say?I procrastinate a lot and not at all appear to get one thing done. clipping path service