Those who are following my blog posts, webinars and training, know that one of the ways I differentiate myself from the competition is that I only utilize SharePoint out of the box functionality. Today I would like to explain the advantages of my philosophy and business model.
What do I mean by SharePoint Out of The Box functionality?
Out of the box functionality in SharePoint means that I do not use any coding or 3rd party tools to solve business needs and wants of a client. So essentially that means that I use native functionality that is available in SharePoint, like default web parts and all the features that already exist and are available. Obviously I customize the sites and web parts with custom metadata, views, security, look and feel, but only rely on what’s available already within the application. No single line of code, no add-ons or third party web parts from the SharePoint Store.
Advantages of using SharePoint out of the box functionality
One obvious advantage is cost. If you rely exclusively on native functionality, there are no additional licenses for you to pay for. Moreover, custom solutions, custom code mean you have to pay extra for such services, overhead time for developers, testing, etc.
2. Readily available expertise
With sticking with out of the box SharePoint functionality, you can easily find proper expertise on the market, or decide to even configure and maintain your sites yourself. There are plenty of resources, videos, blog posts on the web that explain ins and outs of SharePoint and its features. Anytime you have customization, it is a different story. Now you need to find an expert who is familiar with certain app or code. Alternatively, you will need to make sure your internal SharePoint resources can support whatever you have customized/coded. For example, if you decided to implement complicated workflow using SharePoint Designer or decided to alter look and feel of the page/theme of your SharePoint sites via custom coding and hired someone to do so – making changes to any of these might become a project by itself.
3. Worry-free upgrades
If you are using SharePoint online (in the cloud) you don’t have to worry about upgrades because Microsoft does it for you. However, if you did some fancy customizations to a page and totally changed its look and feel with custom coding, don’t be surprised if something does not look right next time you login. You have no control over updates in SharePoint and won’t have any warnings when they happen. Same thing with 3rd party web parts from SharePoint Store – you want to make sure these web parts will support/be compatible with any SharePoint changes and will be supported long term by its developers/authors.
4. Quicker time to market
With SharePoint Out Of The Box, since you don’t need to learn any custom products, code anything, etc, you can configure the sites, web parts, metadata, views, security in no time. Custom solutions, coding, 3rd party add-ons mean you have to learn them first, test them, provision in test environment and then release to your live sites. That all takes time.
Any time you introduce or inject custom code into SharePoint, you need to make sure the code is clean and does not slow your SharePoint environment. I once worked with a client, they hired a third party developer to customize the look and feel of their pages. The good thing was – it looked awesome. The bad news was – I could go and brew coffee while the page was loading (actually it was good news to me because I had a chance to go and drink a cup of coffee).
6. There is already so much functionality that exists in SharePoint out of the box
If your organization requires robust intranet, extensive collaboration functionalities, robust document management system or robust ability to manage projects – there is already so much that already exists for you in SharePoint. You can do wonders with all the features available. We could easily spend days and weeks talking about all the functionality that is already available in SharePoint/Office 365. The bottom line is – first try to utilize what’s available to you with regular SharePoint/Office 365 subscription and exhaust those features first before spending additional money and resources on something custom.
Should I only use SharePoint Out of the Box functionality?
Absolutely not. SharePoint Out of the Box obviously has its limitations. If your organization has been using SharePoint for a while, and does want to get to the next level in terms of functionality, workflows, interface with other tools, etc, by all means, custom solutions and/or coding might be the way to achieve this.