Don’t break my customization! (My pre-WPC homage to the SharePoint Partner)

By Dave Martin posted 07-04-2013 16:26


I think people are getting tired; tired of seeing all of their hard work go up in a digital plume when it is time to move along to the latest and greatest. And to this end I am of course referring to SharePoint 2013.  [Cue the backlash of scathing opinion]

Since the release of SharePoint 2007 (or MOSS 2007 for the purists that I have surely and already offended) we’ve been doing stuff to augment, extend, enhance - call it what you will - SharePoint.  These modifications first came as pure customizations – custom code and applications written alongside SharePoint to backfill on specific organizational or industry requirements.  Since 2007 Microsoft has continued to do a lot more out-of-the-box with every new version of SharePoint to the benefit of its demanding legions of faithful and to the detriment of its information management solution competitors (you know who you are).

But for some strange reason, these same competitors have gotten away with breaking customizations for nearly 20 years, and not only that pointed the finger at SharePoint and said, “well if you [customer] go with a customized version of SharePoint, what happens when the next version comes out and all of your customizations no longer work?”

Yes… what happens indeed.

Well the first thing that happens is people get angry.  The second thing that happens is the angry people look at Microsoft and say, “How could you!?!”

Have you ever heard of WPC?  The Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference is one of the biggest annual hi-tech conferences in the world, it is run by Microsoft, for Microsoft Partners.  Fifteen-thousand plus attendees fill a convention center, and usually an adjoining pro-sports arena, to listen and learn how they can make the most from a company that offers partners around $8 of opportunity for every $1 of Microsoft license sold. It’s a pretty big affair.

My point?  That there are thousands of vendors out there extending and enhancing SharePoint to meet the unique and specific requirements of customers who leverage SharePoint as a platform for information management. Meaning: if you have a need to extend SharePoint, chances are there is a product (not a customization) out there, in this giant ecosystem, that can help you.  These partners do so for a number of reasons, profit being the number one reason, but simplicity is another.  Simplicity, because Microsoft gave partners a foundation; a development environment from which to build.  Also, Microsoft has given partners an ecosystem, and not only one that pays out, but as you would imagine, one that pays back – solution partners promote the upgrade model Microsoft depends on with their products; customizations on the other hand, do not.

I would go further to state that because of this ecosystem and how the SharePoint solution add-on catalogue has grown, a customization for SharePoint no longer has legs. More so, these customizations will become an even bigger nightmare to tackle when the inevitable next version of SharePoint comes out (think past SharePoint 2013 and even more Cloud).  What I am also saying is that this customization challenge is the same for any platform, not just SharePoint, it's just that unlike any other information management platform SharePoint has a partner ecosystem supporting it that is nearly 30,000 partners deep.  Ideally what we should be looking to do is embrace products that actually sit on top of SharePoint, built by a certified Microsoft partner, with a development cycle, support system, and a level of responsibility intact, so when the next version of SharePoint does hit the shelves that required bit of functionality that does not come out-of-the-box is fully supported and ready for the transition.

So try not to be frustrated and angry when the next version of SharePoint comes out, think about how to refresh the environment in a way that supports your specific needs in a practical and repurposeable way. Think about the value of a product/add-on to SharePoint, not only for the benefit of long-term support, but for the benefits of not having to rewrite it every three years, the fact that someone else will support you if you have problems (without additional post-purchase fees), and the fact that a packaged solution will get up and running faster than having to wait for a custom developed solution to be… developed.

Because the truth is your customization was destined to be obsolete and ultimately get broken. They call them “one-offs” for a reason.

#AIIM #InformationManagment #microsoftpartner #WPC #Collaboration #sharepoint #SharePoint