With an experience and expertise of standing hundreds of SharePoint Implementations and custom business solutions, we have had the opportunity to dive deep into the platform as a technology and understand its architecture to the core. We have successfully built frameworks that extend the architecture to build custom solutions and delivered many packaged products. We exactly know where it rocks and where it lacks.
But we still keep hearing that there are several SharePoint development projects that are shelved or shut down for various reasons and that made me write this blog today to summarize some commonalities in them and how to overcome. Why is this failure rate still high with SharePoint customizations, how is a development on SharePoint different from otherstechnologies and what are the “must knows” of getting your customizations right and successful. Here are some fundamental reasons that come to my mind and I call them the “5 Reasons that make SharePoint Customization an Expensive Choice”. These apply to any development process,but even more for SharePoint, for changing the implementation process half way is difficult here and a patch will always the weak link in the build of a system.
Reason #1 Clear Definition & Understanding -A good start is half the work done but a half thought work, an invitation to disaster.
It is not wrong to say that most of the non-IT business owners are scared and cynical to bring a change into their current process, however laborious and manual, what they do is. The few that come forward will make an attempt to define the process to their understanding and it immediately goes down the hammer for building.
Here starts our first problem. A manual process however well defined, it may be, should be streamlined and ironed out to capture all the cases and conditions. The integration points, flow of information, the business objectives with the process, the future vision of it, the accessibility, audience, bandwidth, threshold limits, etc. should all be considered before such requirements are finalized.
Identifying business stakeholders, a good business analyst to interview/analyse the business process and assist with defining the proper requirements should be your first step before investing on the development.
Points to Consider:
- Identify the business goals
- Involve all stakeholders to know the exact set of necessities and expectations
- Define the requirements and process flow
- Involve the business leadership to get the future vision of the process
- Retrospect the requirements and its objective, resolve deviations
- Create mock ups for critical elements.
Reason #2 Right Technology Partner to deliver -It takes two to Tango
Once the business requirements are defined, identifying a good team to deliver and get you there is a challenge. Finding a right technology partner who can not only talk about technology but strive with you to understand the business, partner with you for the success of the business, not just say yes to everything asked but make recommendations to build a successful product is a key. I call such guys technology specialists for they will not shy away from saying no, will not try to reinvent the wheel but use it to build a wagon that can get you places in the fastest time.
Such technology partners can help you pick from the options possible keeping the scalability options for future growth, the user experience and feature set using the advanced technology stack. They can give your vision a plan to accomplish, match it to your budget and time constraints and work with you towards a successful implementation.
Points to Consider:
- Evaluate the depth and breadth of their technology expertise
- Estimate the proposals not by the cost but with the value and thought process put into.
- Pick the right combination of resourcing – In-house, contractual or managed outsourcing.
- Reference checks are a great means of gauging.
Reason #3 Timeline to create value –Rome was not built in a day.
There are three things to define a project resourcing. Scope, budget and timelines. As we covered the first two already, let us see how the timelines influence. The world is moving towards the agile methodology of development and this works great. Breaking a project into smaller sprints with defined scope and getting the pieces to evaluate as they progress can help you saving from the disaster of building a monster.
But this agile methodology comes at a cost. The cost of project management, extensive planning, risk resource underutilization, periodic user acceptance testing (UAT), etc. Timely coordination and dependency mitigations, stakeholder accountability will play a key role. One has to always strike a balance and make the right choice based on the size of the project, the risk involved and the time in hand for a go live.
- Updating the timeline with changes in requirement
- Release management and Go-To-Market to be prioritize on every regressive cycle
- Use ready-to-use apps and add-ins like Saketa apps, to accelerate the cycle
Reason #4 Creating WOW factor with user experience -Design is not just what it looks and feels like. Design is how it works.
This user experience for the Out of the Box (OOB) SharePoint applications is not that great. The simple reason I can think of is that Microsoft did not foresee SharePoint to get so popular and be used in so many different ways. It’s a great collaboration portal with robust workflows, file management capability, rules driven archival and all. But it was not planned to be a fancy Intranet portal or a grandeur client portal providing lots of customizations like existing other web CMS platforms. But, SharePoint is catching up on that front and it is giving the developers the capability to improve the user experience.
The general mind set however among the technology partners and businesses is to build the functionality first and then work on improving the user experience which from my experience is never an easy task. It will result in a lot of rework, loss of time and a product ready but not usable, a low to no business buy-in interest.
Points to Consider:
- Plan first on the usability and accessibility of core features
- Evaluate user engagement and system behaviour
- Visual and interactional consistency across user’s journey
- Gather feedback at early stages from real power users
Reason #5 Achieving the return on investment –Weigh in the costs to the value adds.
Once the project is complete, it becomes an obvious call, to expect a return on entire investment.It takes good lapse to build an entireproject, involving rich resource and investing time to get propercommercial output. Folks, real story start now, requirement to face theactualuser group putting vast probabilities into practice for utilizing the services.Elaborating the technicalities and it’s usagewithtutorials, trainings and documentations should be developed for sustainability and easy acceptance ofproject.
Reaching the investment break-even quickly is the desire of every business owner.Once the customization timelines are achievable, tThe overall shippable product is to be evaluated for acceptance, in terms of both, end users or internal members. Then, we map Expected result and actual result to be mapped and considered considering all feedback and suggestions to attain maximum efficiency and efficacy. Achieving profitability both with respect to resources and deliverable output with project become a prominent aspect. Elaborating the technicalities and usage of the entire customization, tutorials, trainings and documentations should be developed for sustainability and easy acceptance of system.
Points to Consider:
- User acceptance and usability to be considered
- Mapping objective of customization with actual results and realigning the deviations
- Overall opportunity cost to be considered
These pointers can help you evaluate all the efforts and encourage you to pre-mortem entire customization, to be competitive, in the faster and ever changing IT economy. Though, there can be many other reasons to which all or any of you must have encountered. Ready-to-use apps and add-ins are gaining wider acceptance to increase the speed-to-market. We encourage the use of killer booster apps available for SharePoint. We term it killer booster because they are meant to kill time and cost, evaluate the product experience before you buy and make your team productive from day one with no wait.
Go forth and be productive with ready-to-use SharePoint apps.
About Author: Sashi Pagadala is a founder and director – products at Saketa. He is passionate about applying technology to customer success. His incessant pursuit for customer success has earned years of repeat business and great respect for our work. With his leadership, Saketa, has built flagship apps, add-ins and ready-to-use component to boost the development of SharePoint and Office 365. These accelerators help clients to increase the speed for Go-To-market. For personalize demo or consultation on SharePoint and Office 365 Booster, contact me