In our previous blog, The Best Solutions Met with SharePoint, we discussed SharePoint capabilities and how SharePoint is useful in developing cost-effective and faster solutions. But SharePoint is not always the best solution for every requirement. There are times when SharePoint capabilities seem limited and further customization is needed.
Here we would like to share some case studies where we achieved best solutions by customizing SharePoint.
Case 1: Uploading images and previews to a project management system
Within a project management system, a client needed to create checklists, which was achieved by implementing SharePoint’s built-in checklist. However the additional client requirement needed customization, which included adding features to upload images and show preview. When the image was double-clicked it would open in a new window. An ability to zoom image was also required, which is not a default feature in SharePoint. All surplus requirements were achieved by developing and integrating custom modules within SharePoint.
Case 2: Adding ratings and comments to a discussion board to SharePoint
AllianceTek was tasked with creating a SharePoint website that hosted a discussion board where users could give ratings and comments on a topic. While SharePoint has built-in ratings and comments as a different feature, here the requirement was to provide a combination of ratings and comments at the same time. This was not possible with SharePoint’s standard set of features. Additionally, the value of ratings in digit was unavailable, which was required to be stored.
In order to add the ratings and comments, we integrated a custom element that could enable the user to rate and comment at the same time. The value of the ratings in digits was also achieved through customization.
Case 3: Enhancing Business Intelligence with SharePoint
BI reports are quick and easy to deliver when the information has to be fetched from a single SharePoint site. But what if you manage a site collection? What if you have different SharePoint sites for each of your department, such as production, sales, and finance and you want a combination of information to create a report?
SharePoint has in-built capability to host multiple sites within a site collection. However, SharePoint lacks the functionality of getting information from multiple sites to create a BI report. As with the previous example, AllianceTek implemented a solution by using a custom report that could fetch data from multiple sites.
Case 4: Customizing process automation with workflows in SharePoint
SharePoint has in-built elements such as approval workflows, auto-task creation, alerts, and notifications. Generally, workflows create a chain of sequential actions. But what can you do when event-receiver fails? Or what if there are complex conditions and additional information required to be managed? In these cases, you need a custom workflow.
Every organization has its own structure of leave (i.e., vacation or time-off) approval. In our scenario, employees have two kinds of leaves – early leave and full-day leave. This required placing additional fields in a workflow and conditions to hide/show the fields. Moreover, the leave form also needed to display the count of leaves. When the leave form is submitted, information is sent via email to the authorized person along with a link to the form in SharePoint where he/she approves or denies leaves. While some of the features were possible, all the features could not be achieved within SharePoint’s default workflow premises. A custom leave approval workflow was devised to fulfill the requirements. The email and the form required us to provide customization.
Case 5: Meeting complex, specific security requirements with SharePoint
The document library for storing, accessing, and sharing documents makes document management naturally more secure in SharePoint. User access and privileges are easily controlled. So why, with all these great benefits, would you want to avoid a SharePoint solution?
Well, it comes down to the complexity and specificity of a requirement. Generally, SharePoint does things well, but if some specific challenges require a custom solution. As a rule, the more fixed and specific the requirements, the more difficult it becomes rigging SharePoint to meet them. Consider the cost of installation, additional custom coding, and deployment.
Our experience with SharePoint has lead us to this conclusion: When you need a fast solution and requirements are as simple as collaboration with basic CMS, reporting, or workflows, SharePoint is cost-effective and allows for faster development and simpler deployment, provided minor customization is involved.
However, SharePoint is not recommended when the needs are highly complex and require plenty of customization efforts that outweigh SharePoint’s inherent advantages.
Why did you choose to use or not use SharePoint to meet a technical challenge? How useful did you find SharePoint in meeting the requirements? Let us know your experiences in the comments below.