CMS Fridays: SharePoint And The Square Peg, Round Hole Scenario

So your IT boss comes to you and says, “Hey, we just got SharePoint, and we want it to do this.” Whatever this is, this is not the a use of SharePoint that would think would be anywhere near achievable.

We run into it all the time — Microsoft representatives that we work with sell some Fortune 500 company SharePoint as the panacea for their problems, and we have to implement it. There are many reasons for this, some including there’s still a huge hole in the Content Management System product profile (or, who the hell wants to dedicate $2 million in licensing for Vignette or Documentum, or deal with the pain and performance issues of Plone or the stupid conceptualization of Joomla), or someone wants to push SharePoint as a platform, and we’re just masochistic.

In any case, someone should sit down and figure out what the business problem that needs to be solved before moving forward, just to see if there is a match. If there isn’t a 100 percent match, here are some ideas, with SharePoint being the Square Peg.

Make the round hole fit the square peg

SharePoint is a great platform, and has a particular way about being used, but if you try to do too much with it, development schedules can go out the window, developers will set the building on fire, and it’s just generally a bear to deal with, like any software product.

In that case, look at your business problem and see how you can make it fit SharePoint better. Very few business problems are solved with out of the box software (and if they are, those developers are rich beyond belief).

Need to do authentication, but it’s a different model than SharePoint? Use SharePoint. No way to change the WYSIWYG editor in SharePoint because there’s a way that it uses a certain HTML tag? Relax, have a martini for lunch, and use SharePoint.

Make the square peg fit the round hole, but look for tools to reshape the square peg

If there’s a business problem that isn’t being solved by SharePoint, there may be a third-party web part that solves it because someone else has thought about it. Remember, the idea is to look buy before build, because build is much more expensive for your company or client.

Two companies that have built a lot of controls include Telerik and Infragistics, extending SharePoint pretty far out of the box. Some of the custom controls and web parts replace existing SharePoint technology, and they solve development and design problems quicker by licensing.

There are also lists of free web parts you can download.

Pick a different peg completely

SharePoint isn’t for everyone, especially for those that live and die in the Open Source space, but it does have a great market segment. It just might not be for you.

Look at what you are trying to achieve, and if SharePoint fits 70 to 80 percent of it, then go for it. If it doesn’t, look at other products or even doing custom development.