SPLF: Rob Manfredi’s ‘Accelerating Application Development on SharePoint’

Yesterday morning at SharePoint Leadership Forum 2012, Rob Manfredi began his session by explaining that he would be addressing the "age-old question of 'build vs. buy,' and how we should approach enterprise solutions on SharePoint." 

Referencing Philip Zimbardo's Time Paradox as both a useful starting point as well as a framing concept for his presentation, Rob shared the Paradox with attendees: "Time is one of the most powerful influences on our thoughts, feelings, and actions, yet we are usually totally unaware of the effect of time in our lives."  Bearing the Time Paradox in mind, and applying it to the workplace, Rob advised that, "if a problem has already been solved, we don't want to rethink that."

The inadvisability of rethinking already solved business problems is of particular importance regarding smaller business applications, said Rob. A better approach, he said, was to ask the question, "how do we [incorporate] all of those systems into a common platform?"  His recommended answer to that question involved inserting a "framework solution" layer of reusable components between SharePoint and your custom configuration and code.  Or, to put it another way, to employ a mix of build and buy that best suits the needs of a given organization.

Suggesting that attendees think of SharePoint as "the glue that connects workers together," Rob went on to emphasize that developing collaboratively with your stakeholders will ultimately lead to wider adoption.

Rob defined the components of framework solutions as being: applications (pointing out that "Nintex, pmPoint, and PM Central are all applications"), Web Parts (components filling a specific feature-gap), and solution accelerators.

By way of example, Rob described some of the components that would be necessary to build a complete case management solution, from case initiation to case closing.  These included advanced tools for workflow management, alerting, data aggregated from many sources, and more, and though he allowed that "you can build [them] yourself," he went on to ask, "but why do that?" when they're already available off-the-shelf.

As well, Rob pointed out that although you might even be able to develop components cheaper in some cases, there are still considerations to bear in mind, such as will they be forward-compatible, and will they work across sites?

The ultimate benefits of the frameworks solutions approach as defined by Rob is that, "allowing for different views into the same data source [within] the same collaborative environment [represents] the true revolution of what SharePoint is doing within a corporation … and since we're reusing the components, the cost-savings are tremendous."

In closing, Rob shared what he referred to as several "truths" with which decision makers are faced:

  • SharePoint is no longer a "nice to have" file share
  • Critical applications are being brought onto SharePoint
  • Control is becoming centralized with exposure at the highest level within the organization
  • SharePoint and its implementation/support is part of your governance guidelines
  • Developers must face the make or buy decision
  • Opportunity to take advantage of SharePoint to deliver functionality in a newer, more efficient way

Complete coverage of SharePoint Leadership Forum 2012:

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