CMS Fridays: Correctly Assessing The Task Ahead Of You

There’s a post over at Knowledge Forward about how SharePoint is not a gap, it’s an ecosystem. It’s   true — there are gaps in the platform that allow third party vendors to build all sorts of nifty tools and web parts to fill those gaps. While it’s arguable that those gaps are intentional or not, what it does point it out is that SharePoint is incorrectly positioned as an out-of-the-box cure all for all your content management ills that can be implemented in two weeks exactly as you want.

(That may be part of the reason why there’s so many awful SharePoint implementations.)

MOSS is more of a framework of “Where do you want to go today” without needing to build the system from scratch and requiring money and time to do all that testing on what really should be out-of-the-box compnents.

SharePoint can do a lot of things, and sometimes almost anything, but SharePoint implemented incorrectly can equal months of pain and believe me, I’ve seen it. SharePoint however positions itself very well against the Documentums and Vignettes of the world in providing a solution that provides extensive control over workflow and document management but doesn’t break the bank.

It doesn’t mean it’s any easier to implement; it just means that you probably need three or four MOSS Architects when building a system with Vignette or Documentum might need 10 or more consultants who would cost twice as much per hour.

Here’s a few tips to make your life easier:

What Are You Trying To Do?

Figure it out — what’s the purpose of the SharePoint implementation? There’s a lot of things that it does well, and there’s also a lot of things that it doesn’t do well. SharePoint is excellent at document management, collaboration and other internal intranet needs. It’s blog and message board tools, however, aren’t as effective as they could be. The list might make SharePoint a deal maker or breaker.

List what you need out of any content management solution, and prioritize what’s more versus less important. This will help you evaluate how close SharePoint gets you to the final product.

What Does SharePoint Provide “Almost Out Of The Box”?

There’s a lot of functionality in SharePoint that gets you 90 percent of the way to where you want to be. Figure out what functionality you need out of SharePoint, and look for web parts and configurations that gets you almost all the way there.

If it’s not quite what you need, but close, either consider the time it takes to customize it, or consider changing your requirement so it fits the tool. This may seem like a backwards thing to do things, but if it saves

What Are The Gaps That Need To Be Filled, And How Do I Fill Them?

There are a ton of companies to provide tools that play well with SharePoint, and fill in some of the gaps where SharePoint falls short.

For example:

  • Telligent has a product called Evolution, which fills in collaboration gaps where SharePoint isn’t as effective as it could be. Evolution is a complete social media package with blogging, message boards and social network components that includes web parts the integrate directly into SharePoint.
  • Telerik provides a lot of smaller web parts like a totally configurable HTML editor that plugs directly into SharePoint. It comes with a bunch of other tools, but the editor is what sold one of our clients on how much control (or lack thereof) they could give end users editing SharePoint content.
  • Infragistics also builds presentation layer controls that helps give end users a top notch User Experience in using SharePoint. Remember, some of those gaps aren’t just product-driven, they may be UI Driven.