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Top 5 Ways That Your Application Can Be Built on SharePoint in Office 365

 

Danny:             Hi, this is Danny Ryan, VP of Business Development for ThreeWill and I’m here with Eric Bowden. Eric is the Principal Consultant for ThreeWill. Thanks for joining me Eric.

Eric:                 Thanks Danny, thanks for having me.

Danny:             And today, what we wanted to do was cover a recent post that Eric had written on the top 5 ways that your application can be built on SharePoint in Office 365. Eric, first question, really is why write this? What were you thinking when you were putting this blog post together?

Eric:                 Foremost, Office 365 it’s a great platform for developing applications and I just want to be sure that folks who are using and making are getting a great benefit out of SharePoint and Office 365 today but I just want to be sure that folks are aware that there are incrementally easy ways to develop custom applications on the platform and get greater value out of it.

Danny:             Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric:                 I think a lot of times people are thinking, OK I have a custom need I want to develop a custom application on the platform and they’re thinking the most extreme the most complicated case in developing in SharePoint when in fact, there are really at least four levels of application development on the platform before you get into that mode that people normally think of as developing applications on the platforms. So I really wanted people to be aware of just how easy it is to really configure and customize the platform to get greater value out of it.

Danny:             I can see how like right now people are moving to the cloud that customization might be a dirty word, right? Because some of the things that might be prohibiting them from moving all the way into the cloud, so what you’re trying to say is with this, is basically don’t think that when we talk about building apps on Office 365 that you’re necessary talking about things like full trust code, you’re building out a custom app that what we’ve thought about in the past, things have actually changed with Office 365.

Eric:                 Yeah, that’s a great point. I think you’ve highlighted a key concern, you know people do have fears so they think of this as a multi-tenant environment.

Danny:             Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric:                 My organization is new to Office 365 and folks have a natural concern about anything that which they think of custom applications developed in the cloud and in this new kind of cloud environment. But, in fact, as we go through these options you’ll see that there are options which are really isolated only to one particular site and only one particular location within the cloud. So I just want to alleviate concerns that when I’m customizing the environment that it could have a broader impact.

Danny:             Got you. Now the first one you start out with is this SharePoint out of the box configuration. Tell me a little more about that one.

Eric:                 So this one, there’s a huge amount of power and capability in SharePoint merely from creating and configuring lists.

Danny:             Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric:                 So really this SharePoint out of the box configuration, this is lists and libraries, Office 365 has great support for office document types as well as video document types. So one of the popular options that we had have been with configuring video portals that allow users to easily find and view videos in Office 365. So there’s a lot of options which is really just configuring list libraries oh and custom views.

Danny:             Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric:                 So you can have views that help you easily find records, documents, and videos, grouping and sorting, and that’s really just configuration but there’s a great value that people can see just with that.

Danny:             Awesome.

Eric:                 And now the next one that you have is Work Flow Applications. Are these getting more complex as we work our way down? What’s happening as we look …

Danny:             Yep, yep exactly.

Eric:                 Yeah, so these are incrementally getting more and more complex as we go but really not a lot more complex as a builder. They’re really a gradual step and so the next one is Work Flow applications, so what I’m referring to hear is our SharePoint designer work flows. And there are out of the box work flows that are provided. For example, approval work flows. We were working recently on a project that made use of document sets and an approval work flow for that document set. This document set was around purchase orders and then the invoices that are charged against those purchase orders and so there is an approval process for invoices and a purchase order, and that was just an out of the box approval work flow.

Danny:             Nice, nice. Now the next one that you have is Site Pages and Java Script applications. Tell me about that.

Eric:                 Yep, so this one is a pretty big jump in the functionality that you get but it’s not a real big jump in terms of the complexity the developer complexity. So we are getting into the Java Script, we are getting into custom pages, but these Java Script files and the custom pages are really being uploaded or we might use the word injected, so they’re kind of being injected into this particular site. And it’s only scope of that application is only a specific site and these are cases where we might have custom forms or custom pages to support a business process, but still in terms of the developer complexity and the impact to the Office 365 environment is still, it’s very low. The same as the first two options.

Danny:             Got you. The next on is Windows Desktop and Click Once application.

Eric:                 Right, so this is … Up until this point we’ve really been looking at either simply configuring SharePoint or what we would refer to as browser customizations, but now with the Windows Desktop and Click Once applications, these are options where we have some more heavy custom application development that needs to occur. For example, one project that we worked on, used a click once application to generate PDF documents. And so back in the old days this would have been server site code running on a SharePoint server but with Windows Desktop applications and Click Once apps we can take that heavy code centric processing and move it off onto a desktop application or as a click once app.

Danny:             Nice, Nice. Now the final one that we have here is SharePoint apps.

Eric:                 Yeah, so SharePoint apps all the way to the end of the 5 that I’ve listed, what I see as the most complex but it’s also the richest in terms of the features that you can build into it. SharePoint apps, these are what most people think of. When folks are out in the field, saying I need to create some custom applications, SharePoint apps is what people are most thinking of and I really … Part of this blog is a way to discourage that because SharePoint apps, that’s where we’re looking for usually an Azure environment. These are called provider hosted apps, where the heavy processing and the UI is hosted outside of SharePoint. These have the highest functionality …

Danny:             Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric:                 But they also have the infrastructure that you need to have set up and they’re the most complex of the five and they’re really the kind of app, of course, we would like to see more of but it’s really here impart to illustrate that there is a lot that can be done before you get to SharePoint apps.

Danny:             Nice, Nice. I appreciate you taking the time to spell these different options out. One last question, it seems like if you have all these different options, how do you decide which one you go with? Is there a, I don’t if there’s a thought that you’d want to start with the simpler modes first and then decide if it has to have some functionality that requires a SharePoint app then you go with that or is there any rules of thumb that you’ve run by that determines what you end up getting?

Eric:                 Right, I would say … I always favor this in my application design is just shoot for the simplest approach that will meet the need. However, you don’t want to be too short sided. So be thinking about, what is this application going to look like in the next two or three releases.

Danny:             Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric:                 Also, be thinking about what will it take to sort of translate if I take a simpler approach that I don’t think is going to meet my needs down the road, be thinking about what it’s going to take to translate that sort of simple approach into a more complicated design down the road. For example, maybe I might start with site pages in Java script applications, which is sort of my third tier out of five.

Danny:             Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric:                 And then maybe down the road, I might want a full blown SharePoint app because I have some back end processing that’s necessary. Think about what kind of job that is.

Danny:             Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric:                 You know off the cuff, it’s usually not that big of a job because you’re just kind of moving those things from SharePoint into a provider hosted environment.

Danny:             I appreciate you taking the time to lay out these options for us and for any of the listeners if you’re interested in building out apps on Office 365, please feel free to drop by our website ThreeWill.com and look for this blog post, “Top Five Ways Your Application can be Built on SharePoint and Office 365.” Drop by, leave a comment for Eric if you’ve got other things that you want to add to the conversation and we really appreciate it. Thank you, Eric, for your time.

Eric:                 You bet.

Danny:             And we appreciate you listening to this podcast.

Eric BowdenTop 5 Ways That Your Application Can Be Built on SharePoint in Office 365

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