SharePoint Not Always “The Answer”


Dun dun dunnnn.

As the post title suggests I want to talk briefly about a mentality that I am starting to see pop up everywhere and I want to hopefully illustrate that while SharePoint is totally “sexy awesome” it is not always the best choice for solving an issue.

Anyone who has worked with SharePoint or any technology for that matter for a long enough time understands that it is easy to get into the mentality of ‘thinking SharePoint’. That is the mentality that we immediately take many proposed projects, requirements and solutions and begin mapping them to SharePoint. For those who have done BVPS, or understand the Microsoft Stack they will begin ‘thinking Microsoft’. In my whole hearted opinion ‘thinking Microsoft’ is okay any day of the week. (If you have linux, apple, or other non Microsoft talent/infrastructure then thinking with those technology options also makes sense. For the purposes of this article I am going to assume you are pro Microsoft or have significant investment/talent in Microsoft technology. If not feel free to provide me information in the comments as I am open to alternative suggestions and products.)

What I don’t think is okay is when you start thinking too limited in that giant scope that is Microsoft’s technology offering and begin thinking only in one subset of that technology. In this case SharePoint.

Some examples of other powerful technology offerings from Microsoft are:

  1. Microsoft Dynamics AX
  2. Microsoft Dynamics CRM
  3. Microsoft Dynamics GP
  4. Microsoft Dynamics NAV
  5. Microsoft Dynamics SL
  6. BizTalk Server
  7. Commerce Server
  8. Communications Server
  9. Exchange Server
  10. Identity Lifecycle Manager (ILM)
  11. Forms Server (if using WSS)
  12. Project Server
  13. Groove Server
  14. System Center (Configuration Manager, Operations Manager, Mobile Device Manager, Essentials)
  15. Internet Security and Acceleration Server (ISA)
  16. MapPoint
  17. Microsoft Office (Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Project, Word, Publisher, Outlook, InfoPath, OneNote, Groove, Communicator, Visio)
  18. Performance Point Services (just in case you haven’t looked into PerformancePoint Server)
  19. Search Server (if using WSS)

Couldn’t think of any others off the top of my head here, but you get the point. There is alot out there and you should at least be aware of what each of these ‘do’ or what typical issues they ‘solve’ by reading about them. Almost every one of these can be used with SharePoint and many have integrated webparts and other components which add tons of value to your SharePoint deployment.

If somehow I still haven’t convinced you to check out the other products out there I am going to try and give an example of what I mean when I say ‘thinking SharePoint’ instead of ‘thinking Microsoft’.

New set of requirements pop up, and a solution is conceptualized at a very very high level and someone says “Let’s put it in SharePoint”. You of course being a SharePoint Technologist (Dev, Admin, BA, User etc) say to yourself, yes we can do this in SharePoint and begin breaking down the requirements and mapping a potential solution. (Obviously more analysis, communication etc necessary but this oversimplification gets the concept across.)

Now imagine that high level solution sounds like it relates heavily to the Sales Process and deals with concepts identified and resolved by Microsoft Dynamics CRM. If this is the case then before you go into SharePoint mode you should go into comparison/evaluation mode. Where you take what you know (and most likely clarify/identify more) and evaluate what makes the most sense. In this case building the solution in SharePoint, or implementing the solution using another Microsoft product/service.

In many cases the above example will still be done in SharePoint based on requirements and known information. (Some examples of why it might make sense to use SharePoint always exist such as maybe it’s not a long term solution but a quick fix, maybe it doesn’t need the complexity CRM brings to the table, perhaps you have no talent/infrastructure in house available to support CRM and after evaluating the cost it just doesn’t make sense based on the expected return/value etc etc.)

The important thing is that we were aware that the other technology option existed, we evaluated it, and we also probably will plan for it in some capacity when architecting the solution. SharePoint “can” do anything you want and solve any problem you come up with, but sometimes another technology exists which solves the problems in a more comprehensive, scalable, and cost effective way.

I am hoping at this point you will take a bit of time if you haven’t and read over (from a high level) what the other Microsoft products are. Everyone knows about Microsoft Office (Excel, PowerPoint, Word, etc) but many people don’t fully understand the other Microsoft products which work well with SharePoint. Find out more about them all here: http://www.ms-gearup.com/etoolkit/#-1 (index is a good place to start) or do a google search and read up about them. You might be surprised by the other existing technologies and how robust they can be.

Hope this helps,
Richard Harbridge

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