Smacking SharePoint into shape

Shops often need to add functionality to the core software.

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Extending SharePoint via the cloud

Alex Alexandrou, vice president of global information services and Web technology at D&M Holdings, a global wholesaler of high-end audio and video equipment, got some help for his SharePoint deployment when the firm wanted to make some collaboration and workflow improvements starting in May 2010.

The company previously had been using Google Apps for file collaboration and workflow online, but that caused concerns about governance, he says. "We found that thousands of pages weren't being managed properly. We needed it to be more structured." Security and version control and tracking were among the issues.

To accomplish this, D&M extended its licensing agreement with Microsoft to bring on SharePoint Online, which added much of the needed technology, he says. "We found another way to get value out of our SharePoint investment."

   Alex Alexandrou
Alex Alexandrou, vice president of global information services and Web technology at D&M Holdings, says his firm "found another way to get value out of our SharePoint investment" by bringing on SharePoint Online.

In August 2012, D&M moved entirely from Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS), including SharePoint, to Microsoft's new Office 365 cloud-based version, which features Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online.

Not everything that D&M has done with SharePoint needed extensions, he says. Sometimes projects just require looking at SharePoint in ways that hadn't previously been considered. That was the case when D&M decided to completely revamp the management of its many product websites around the world. Using the built-in content management tools in SharePoint, D&M was able to consolidate the Web content and the sites themselves to make it all easier to update, manage and modify, explains Alexandrou.

The firm wanted to use SharePoint and not a separate content management application because the platform is already a dependable and proven base, he says.

Dozens of the company's brand websites from around the world, which previously had been administered separately and inefficiently, were pulled into one content repository so that they could be centrally managed.

"We used the same templates for the sites, regardless of what country they were in, so they would look and feel the same." While no major third-party extensions were needed for the website consolidation project, Alexandrou says that he and his team gained a new appreciation for the SharePoint investment they had already made.

Advice: Use caution

Chris Beckett, a Microsoft Certified Master in SharePoint who has written two books on the 2013 version of the suite as well as a blog about SharePoint, advises users to be cautious and plan ahead when considering add-ons.

The problem is that customization, including add-ons, can make it tougher to upgrade cleanly to the next version, he says.

Adopt a deployment strategy of careful progress and small steps, he suggests. Pilot the add-on installation and, when making changes, know why you are doing them, he says.

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