One of the more misunderstood topics we cover during our training and consultancy and a question that tends to get forgotten in the build up to deploying SharePoint is “How do we configure SharePoint?”.
Now this whole post might be great for some and not so much for others and this is just due to the SharePoint Skills and other IT Skills you may have but we will try and cover all variations of Configuring SharePoint and what your options are no matter what your skills are.
So where do you start when it comes to configuring SharePoint?
This question will depend on a couple things about your business and your overall approach to deploying SharePoint within your business. The 2 Key points before identifying how you want to configure SharePoint will depend on Budget and Timescales. You might be thinking right now that everyone should know this and your correct!!! Id expect to see this agreed before any SharePoint Deployment and Development however be prepared for the answer “I don’t know what budget we have!!” and “aslong as it gets done!!”( You have been Warned).
Why is Budget and Timescales so Important?
If you can identify these 2 key points very early in your SharePoint Deployment this will lead to a very successful project.
Now the Reason that Budget is important not just to me but every other business in the UK and Europe from experience is that this will quickly identify what you can and cannot achieve realistically with SharePoint and how much money you can invest into the Technology.
Also a clear understanding of Timescales will help greatly and this helps to plan your development and what you can again realistically get done in certain timescales agreed before the project starts.
How do I configure SharePoint?
Now that you have identified your Budget and Timescales its now time to start configuring SharePoint.
What do I do?, What can I use?, Why do I need to configure SharePoint?…
Those are just some of the question you will need to answer but we will now cover the 5 Methods of configuration you will need to know about.
1) Out the Box Configurations
Out the box configurations are the easiest to master, easiest to set up in a short space of time and certainly the most cost effective as everything is built in and just needs configured using your Browser. I Love being able to demonstrate the Power of the Out of the Box functionality and for me this is an ART!. A skill set that seems to get overlooked far to often. If you can set up and configure SharePoint using the OTB tools you no longer need Developers or 3rd Party Companies sucking up your budget. This skills set can be achieved through simple SharePoint Training or reading resources online (however be careful about what you read online and action on a live server). You can achieve a lot more than you think by just using the OTB tools you will be surprised and with SharePoint 2013 this is much easier than ever before.
2) SharePoint Designer
The next configuration tool you have to your disposal is SharePoint Designer and the best part is that its FREE and who doesn’t like Free stuff!!. What I say to anyone doing the SharePoint Designer Course before we even start though is everything you do in the browser you can also do in SharePoint Designer, However there is certain aspects of SharePoint Designer I Love.
Custom no Code Workflows, Modify/Create Custom Master Pages, Modify OTB CSS, Uploading JS Files, Modify XSL, Modify Search Templates… The list goes on and on.
Did I Mention its Free!!
So far we have used no custom code however to use SharePoint Designer and the more advanced topics its better to have a more advanced technical knowledge of SharePoint as this will greatly help what is required to be built and how to build things correctly! This will be your first impact into your budget and it will be SharePoint Designer Training or Hiring a SharePoint Specialist to help identify how best to manipulate SharePoint and use the OTB features with the Browser in Step 1 and SharePoint Designer in step 2.
3) SharePoint App Store / 3rd Party Apps and Tools
It will come as now surprise but SharePoint as a Microsoft Product jumped on the App bandwagon in SharePoint 2013.
Now most of the functionality you will want out of SharePoint you can achieve OTB or using SharePoint designer to Manipulate the OTB tools. However at the moment I write this there is now a vast amount of downloadable Apps and Technology readily available for Free or at a small cost.
Why do I want Apps?
The conversation you need to have with yourself here is :
“What do I need SharePoint to do?”
“Can I do this Out the Box or with SharePoint Designer?”
“Can I afford a Developer to built and maintain this custom functionality that I need?”
Note : Once you have an in house Developer this question may not be relevant however its not often you come across this skillset within an organisation.
What App is for me?
If you identified that you cant do it otb or with Designer and you can afford to pay a developer its time to look in the App Store. As SharePoint 2013 gets older the amount of resources available just keeps growing. So have a look and see if you can find an App that will do the functionality you are looking for. Facebook, Twitter, Accessibility, Theme Builders, Content Look Ups, Calendar Overlays the list is endless…
4) Custom SharePoint Development
To Often businesses go straight to this option and its scares the life out of me for various reasons especially if you hire an external developer to come in and do the work for you and this could cost a lot of money in the long term life of SharePoint.
The skills you will need for SharePoint Development primarily are C# and .Net. If you have these two skills you can basically do what ever you want with SharePoint with no real Restrictions other than the knowledge of the SharePoint the Developer has.
Ideally you will want to have a SharePoint Developer within your Business who understands SharePoint and is a very competent Developer using Visual Studio and other tools available. Having just one Developer in House will greatly increase what you can achieve with SharePoint.
If you have unlimited Budget and a short timescale for a medium to large scale rollout then this might be your chosen Development pathway however its not always necessary and you can save yourself Thousands of Pounds!!! Even more.
5) SharePoint Specialists and External Development
Your final option after trying to keep all development in house is to now use a SharePoint Specialist company. This will Save a Business a vast amount of money and ensure that the Project fully takes advantage of the Technology as the Specialists will understand what can be achieved using the OTB features and what requires to be developed and this will Save Time.
So using External contractors or External SharePoint Specialist Company can Save Time and Money! and with proper Documentation, Training and a smooth handover this can then be managed in house with your own SharePoint Trained Experts.
This might seem a huge cost when you get a quote for SharePoint work to be done Out of House however just think of the money you save Hiring Staff, Calculate the Amount of wasted time making Decision unsure of the Technology boundaries again you will save money, no Staff Training or It Training, Incorrect Installation and Down Time of Servers while they get fixed by regular IT staff.
Obviously it sounds like im pushing our skillset as a SharePoint Specialist but through years of Training and Consultancy with Business who already have SharePoint and seeing the amount of money and time that has been waste. I feel as though I need to let people know there is more options available than you think to getting the most out of SharePoint.
If you have any questions about your own SharePoint Development or Deployment of SharePoint please feel free to get in touch and we would be happy to answer any questions you may have.