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Find this Podcast “Using ASP.NET vs SharePoint on Projects” on the ThreeWill Soundcloud, Stitcher, and iTunes.


Transcript

Danny Ryan:Hello and welcome to the ThreeWill podcast. This is your host, Danny Ryan and today I have Mr. Tim Coalson here with me, the famous or infamous Tim Coalson here with me. Welcome Tim.

 

Tim Coalson:Thank you Danny. I think infamous is probably most appropriate.

 

Danny Ryan:For this podcast what we’re going to do is we’re going to follow up with one that we did yesterday with Mathew, since you’re working with Mathew. Yes?

 

Tim Coalson:Yep. Working with Mathew.

 

Danny Ryan:Awesome. In fact we brought that up yesterday during the podcast, which I’m sure you’ve listened to, right, Tim?

 

Tim Coalson:What podcast?

 

Danny Ryan:It was a podcast about the project that you and Mathew are in and on right now and we actually brought you up in the end and we had some nice things to say about you. Can you believe that?

 

Tim Coalson:It’s hard to believe but I will have to say that my customers apparently listened to that podcast and brought it up on one of our calls today.

 

Danny Ryan:We didn’t say anything negative about you Tim. For some reason, I guess it’s your great personality, you tend to take the jokes really well and put out the jokes really well around the office. Sure.

 

Tim Coalson:Yeah.

 

Danny Ryan:Awkward silence. Quite. Yes? Today, our topic. Since Mathew already stole the thunder with what’s going on with the project that you guys are working, we did a followup with him for folks who may have not heard that specific episode, it’s on a public facing site. Is that correct?

 

Tim Coalson:That’s right. A support site for tax and accounting software.

 

Danny Ryan:Excellent. A lot of our projects are using SharePoint for intranets, extranets, and then with these public facing site, we pointed this out with Mathew as well is that we’re using ASP.net for this site for the web technology. Correct?

 

Tim Coalson:Right. In this case it’s a site that’s been out there a while. We were brought in primarily to do a rebranding of the site but over time we are starting to expand the site, to leverage some more current, I guess, back end systems. For example, now we’re changing the site and ya’ll probably talked about this yesterday, to integrate with Salesforce on the back end for case content as well as knowledge based content. We’re moving from integration with some homegrown systems that have been developed in-house to now using more standard systems like Salesforce.

 

Danny Ryan:The question I wanted to get to in this episode was, you’ve been our go to SharePoint front end guy for quite a while. I know you’re not into the graphic design but more into implementing it on SharePoint, but I wanted to get your thoughts on the differences between using asp.net versus using SharePoint on projects. It doesn’t have to be an expansive list, just some initial thoughts. It could be pros or cons about using asp.net versus SharePoint.

 

Tim Coalson:It’s interesting, with SharePoint, especially in large corporations or maybe even not even large, but corporations that already have a SharePoint presence, SharePoint as a corporate asset. One of the things about working on projects, usually we’re brought in by the business. We can focus on the business problems, coming up with a good business solution, and with a SharePoint infrastructure already in place we don’t have to worry about a lot of the logistics that we do in non SharePoint projects. For example, acquiring IIS front end web servers, worrying about a database back end. With a SharePoint infrastructure already in place, a lot of the logistics, a lot of the networking things that have to be thought about for a non SharePoint site, a lot of those have already been taken care of by the time we come in, because there’s already a SharePoint infrastructure in place.

 

Then, our time and energy is spent on providing a customer solution, working with the customers, understanding what the problem is, coming up with the appropriate list and other SharePoint configurations, workflows, to help solve that problem. With asp.net, of course the advantage to that is you’re not constrained by some of the constraints that SharePoint would put on you. SharePoint, especially Office365, some of the customizations are generally, don’t want you doing a lot of heady customization of the UI, because Office365 is a ever evolving platform. They’re continuing to roll out new features, so they don’t always guarantee from one day to the next that everything’s going to be the same. With asp.net for example, you’re in full control of everything that you do. Therefore you can come up with a more creative UI, use some of the more modern Java Script libraries to integrate. Even though you can use those with SharePoint, you’re not constrained by using a cloud platform that you don’t control. You have a lot more creativity that you can bring to the table.

 

Danny Ryan:Nice. It sounds like what I’m hearing you say is with SharePoint we end up being able to focus more on the business problem or the solution that we’re trying to create as opposed to, it sounds like with something where you’re starting from the ground up with asp.net, you’re having to put a lot of that infrastructure that’s typically already in place for the project.

 

Tim Coalson:Right. In some cases some of these companies already have that infrastructure in place so you’re possibly building on existing platform, IAS web servers, single server databases. In some cases a lot of that infrastructure may already be in place even for an asp.net solution. It depends on where they’re at. If you’re going to reuse existing infrastructure then you don’t have to spend and energy on that.

 

Danny Ryan:Mathew and I talked about, the process doesn’t change here. We’re still using scrum, we’re still doing sprints. Anything from your standpoint as far as the user interface, as far as mocking things up and things like that. Are you working with their graphics department? How are you working together with someone to produce out the screens?

 

Tim Coalson:Our initial work was a rebranding which we’ve rolled out that rebranding to production, now we’ve moved on from that to an integration but in the original rebranding we did bring in our graphic designer, one that we work with a lot, who has a lot of great experience building a lot of public sits. We came up with a lot of concepts. We looked around at some of the leading sites. Your Apple, your Google.coms and tried Linkedin as well, to try to leverage what are some of the more common metaphors that are being used on websites for notifications, for example, breaking new on CNN. We wanted to leverage that type of concept on our site so that when there was something important that we wanted to communicate to users, that we would have that banner across the top in red that would get their attention, but we would also allow them to be able to acknowledge that notification and then they would reclaim that real estate in UI.

 

We leveraged a designer to help us go through. We created various screen mocks and ran those by our customers, got feedback, made modifications and then also in this case, we had to work against corporate standards that had already been defined. They actually had a branding website that had a lot of details, color palettes and even more detailed design specifications that we had to adhere to. In this case it was bringing both our creativity but also leveraging their corporate branding assets.

 

Danny Ryan:What’s been the big difference from moving where you’ve been doing more about front end rebranding to more of an complex integrations on the back end? What’s been the primary difference? Has it been more communication or is it less communication? What sort of differences that you see as you move more into integration typed work?

 

Tim Coalson:It’s involved a lot of communications. Essentially there’s three teams. There’s the support site team, then we have a enterprise service bus team. They’re developing the services that we consume and then of course on the back end there was actually a group writing apex code in Salesforce who read and write data into Salesforce itself. Really trying to make sure from a interface perspective that we’re all in agreement as to here’s what the interface is and then as changes are made in each of the different levels, making sure that we’re all in sync in terms of the timing of those, so that all of sudden things don’t quite working.

 

Really a lot of communications that’s necessary. Then, even beyond the interface itself, coming to a common understanding about, from a business perspective, what is their requirements on the back end and making sure that flows all the way through. For example, today we were talking about dates. Salesforce stores dates in a UTC format. Part of our discussion was, how do we want to deal with those dates on the front end website? Do we want to convert to some common date that would be an offset of the UTC or do we want to have more of a localized date so that based on each user’s locations we would show that date for that person? Things like that have part of that conversation.

 

Danny Ryan:You’re focusing in on the integration. The site’s live. I found that out from Mathew. What’s the next couple of months look like for you?

 

Tim Coalson:Right now we’re integrating with cases in Salesforce, then we’ve got a second phase that will integrate with knowledge based content. Our knowledge based content will now come from Salesforce. Some of the next phases include some enhancements to the functionality today. Today there are certain payment options that a customer can go in, they can sign into the site, then they can set up different payment options. In the future we’re going to expand those options to include more options to pay, credit card typed payments. Be able to do monthly payments, things like that. We’re going to expand some of the user options to make it a more customer friendly site to give them the most flexibility and to allow them to be able to do that through an online instead of having to make a call into a call center.

 

Danny Ryan:Nice. We’re over ten minutes, Tim. Wasn’t that quick? That was painless, right?

 

Tim Coalson:Time flies.

 

Danny Ryan:Do you want to talk about the client is or how great Mathew is? Or, who do you want to talk about how great? Or how great I am, how about that?

 

Tim Coalson:Yeah. Obviously. We do have a good team. We do have a good customer. That’s certainly a big one. You are viewed as a partnership where your customer trusts you that you’re going to make good decisions, and you trust your customer. It does make for a much better working relationship. We have fun on the project. It’s a much better experience and I think the customer gets more out of it, we get more out of it. It’s all around a good relationship.

 

Danny Ryan:That’s awesome. Thank you for taking the time to do this, Tim.

 

Tim Coalson:Thank you.

 

Danny Ryan:I’ll see you in three months, then?

 

Tim Coalson:It’ll fly.

 

Danny Ryan:It will fly by and thank you everybody for taking the time to listen to this podcast ASP.NET vs SharePoint. Please drop by threewill.com and have a wonderful day. Thank you so much. Bye bye.

 

 

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