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Getting Back to My Roots of Designing Collaborative Solutions with SharePoint

Introduction

I sat on a call yesterday and heard a customer envisioning a collaborative solution with SharePoint that would help make their work process more efficient. This call allowed me to reminisce on something that I’ve been missing over the last few years. 

… the real grass-roots foundation of ThreeWill has always centered around collaboration, helping teams work together better, so moving back into a role of envisioning a collaborative solution with SharePoint was exciting.

 For most of my career at ThreeWill2007 to 2015, my primary focus habeen designing and developing departmental solutions on the SharePoint platform. These solutions allowed teams to “Work Together Better” to complete various business processes.  

But in late 2015, I started work on a public website where the initial goal was to update the branding this turned into a 3year engagement that included a number of enhancements, such as: improving the SAP integration to view and pay invoices, an integration with Service Cloud for adding and viewing Web Cases, integration with Service Cloud to retrieve and view Knowledgebase articles, and, lastly, integration with Coveo to surface the KB, and help content in a user-friendly user interface. During this time period, we built some extensive logging capabilities that provided a lot of insight into the various ways our customers used the website. 

Getting Back Into My Roots

Although this was all cool stuff with its own unique set of challenges and fulfilling to be part of, the real grass-roots foundation of ThreeWill has always centered around collaboration, helping teams work together better, so moving back into a role of envisioning a collaborative solution with SharePoint was exciting.  Because many of our corporate customers have SharePoint available as a service (SPaaS) of their IT group and because of the robust set of “out of box” capabilities in SharePoint, ThreeWill chose SharePoint as our platform for collaborative solutions, around 2007.  SharePoint provides a lot of collaborative capabilities that are easily configured by a “power user” and easily consumable less-savvy users. Custom Lists are probably the most powerful out of box feature that may go largely unnoticed by many users.  The ability to create a list of data with a number of different columns and column types comes out to be a simple task.  Additionally, layering different views of that data (different views of columns, sorting, grouping) is also a simple task.  Many power users can leverage these capabilities and surface important data to a group of people that need to collaborate around this data. 

So, as a consultant, my first goal is to help customers understand what they can get “out of box” with SharePoint.  Custom lists coupled with out of box workflows takes collaboration to the next level where participants in a business process are pulled into the process at the appropriate time based upon a workflow notification and associated task that can be viewed on a dashboard.  Customization of these workflows through a tool like SharePoint Designer enhances the experience even more. 

I’ve also found that sometimes solutions may be more complex and require list designs that are more complex. Or I’ve also seen when a customer desires a custom user interface because they don’t like the outofbox SharePoint user experience. This leads to us consultants having to design and develop engaging user interfaces that read and write data from SharePoint lists. This is a fun and rewarding experience.  With the ability to leverage some of the more modern JavaScript libraries like angular and react, it’s possible to create clever interfaces that simplify the viewing and entry of SharePoint data. It’s also possible to output this data in various formats including Excel, PowerPoint, PDFetc. 

Conclusion 

Hearing that customers have been able to streamline work processes by eliminating phone calls, emails, duplicate data entry or even manual entry on paper forms is always a rewarding experience as a developer.  Working togethebetter is possible when a team can clearly define their work process and allow us to design and build a solution that makes their collaboration engaging, efficient, and productive. I’m glad to be back in this role and the camaraderie it creates with customers when we can envision, design, and develop a solution that helps them “Work Together Better. 

Tim CoalsonGetting Back to My Roots of Designing Collaborative Solutions with SharePoint

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