Many enterprises use Microsoft SharePoint for day-to-day collaboration, and also to develop web-based business applications.
Though originally launched and sold as a document management and storage system, Microsoft SharePoint is highly configurable and it makes sense to use the platform for developing powerful apps that fulfill key business processes.
While many developers are content with Microsoft’s 40+ SharePoint 3.0 application templates that offer out-of-the-box solutions for specific business processes, such as tracking marketing campaigns, and Help Desk coordination, several others require deep customization beyond what such templates offer. Today’s highly dynamic business world, where businesses try to seek competitive advantage through innovation, places a premium on flexible business application solutions. Many developers use the out-of-the-box templates as starting points for deep customization, while others develop their own custom templates from scratch, using Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer 2007.
Regardless of the approach, here are ways to enhance SharePoint application development capabilities, to further such ends.
Leverage Collaboration Features
A key USP of SharePoint is the plethora of collaborative features on offer that enhances the functionality of applications developed using the platform.
The top collaborative option is Community Sites, modeled on Facebook, allowing employees, hitherto working on silos, to communicate with one another in new ways, such as based on shared interests, rather than on the basis of departmental affiliation. App developers could enhance the worth of such communities by adding micro-blogging, news feeds, tagging and other features. News feeds make available updates from others, notifies about changes made to documents and websites, and overall keeps the user in the loop of things.
“My Sites,” another popular collaboration option, allow users to upload documents. Enabling this feature allows an always-on-the-move employee to sync the contents of the library, in one or more systems, and access it offline.
Yet another popular collaboration tool, OneDrive for Business, enables storing digital documents in a central cloud-based repository, facilitating easy access and share.
Applying the right mix of collaborative features in application development facilitate free flow of information and open communication, which in turn encourage sharing of experiences and enable better decision-making capabilities.
Offer Deep Integration with Enterprise Communication
SharePoint’s collaboration features extend to offer deep integration with the available enterprise communication infrastructure.
Developers may leverage the easy integration with Skype and Lync to offer a powerful way to communicate with customers and colleagues, without leaving the platform. The functionality may also be used to make explicit the full contact information of participants, during online meetings.
The “Site Mailbox” feature creates a shared project space, allowing users to create a common pool of emails and documents. Storage, retrieval, and editing of files become very easy, through drag and drop.
Leverage the Improved Search Functionality
The revamped search core in SharePoint 2013 features FAST Search, a powerful search engine that operates within company networks, and makes it very easy for users to search and locate stashed away enterprise content, including query results from multiple locations, authored documents, information on previous projects, contact information, and more. SharePoint also co-opts Microsoft Bing capabilities, offering end users a seamless and easy out of the box (OOTB) experience.
Developers may leverage the advanced search capabilities to offer content by search, continuous crawl and for general performance enhancement.
Provide Mobile Functionality
Microsoft offered native mobile functionality in SharePoint 2007 and 2010 version, but these options were weak, and best forgotten. SharePoint 2013 however makes amends by introducing a slew of mobile tools.
- A new “contemporary view” that renders site in HTML5 offers better mobile browsing experience, including touch-screen interaction.
- New back-end mobile “channels” automatically rearrange SharePoint site rendering for different mobile devices.
- Geo-location tags, news feeds, push notification to alert users on new content, and improved viewing of MS-Office documents offer even more convenience and unlock new possibilities for the mobile.
Several third-party apps, such as Colligo email manager, Infragistics SharePlus, Filamente, and Harmon make the SharePoint mobile experience better, and more responsive
Extend Collaboration to Enterprise Social Networking
Much of SharePoint’s collaborative features, such as community sites and the enhanced search capabilities are already modeled to facilitate enterprise social networking. Developers seeking to further social collaboration may explore enterprise social networking (ESN) suites such as NewsGator and Jive Software that connect seamlessly to SharePoint, and offer mobile capabilities to ESN.
Leverage Other Niche Capabilities
SharePoint 2013 offers a host of other intuitive features, such as new document set features, automatic translations to multiple languages, managing discovery cases and holds, improved caching and more, all offering considerable scope for performance improvements. Features such as metadata navigation, n URL, and image rendition improve SEO.
As it is with all initiatives, success in the quest of enhancing SharePoint application development depends on customization based on business needs. For instance, if social collaboration functionality is added just because everyone else seems to be doing so, the initiative is bound to end in failure.
SharePoint now offers easy drag and drop feature, requiring minimal code, but it still makes sense to partner with us to enhance your SharePoint development capabilities. Our team of skilled and experienced developers have already seen it in action in enterprise setting and can guide you to move forward in the best way.
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