Architect SharePoint Solutions For The Long-Term

Product:  SharePoint and IA

SharePoint is so easy; and then again, SharePoint is so hard.

Easy
It’s easy because it’s simply a matter of configuration; no customization is required for 80% of your solutions.  A business user given the appropriate permissions can configure the majority of the requirements; no Developer required.  A user may create their own lists, libraries, columns, values, etc.  No waiting on IT.

Hard
It’s so hard because it appears as a blank slate and you have to configure everything.  Its learning curve is a bit steeper than say Word, Excel or PowerPoint.  These office products are fairly stand-alone; while, SharePoint is a platform where each step is built on top of the prior.  SharePoint resembles a house in that each room (list, library, etc.) has a purpose and lives in the context of a bigger picture.  A stove or refrigerator do not belong in the living room and the bathroom does not belong in the space of the kitchen.  In addition, SharePoint solutions are usually architected for strategic purposes.  Meaning, there is an understanding of what success means now and how that success will be translated and accomplished with minimal effort for the long-term.

Extrapolation
This term refers to a starting point from which to draw future inferences or conclusions.

I often use this term in the SharePoint world to demonstrate how a solution that appears solid in the short-term will fall flat on its face when extended out into the future.

A solution that appears “manageable” in the short-term, may in the long-term yield unbearable consequences to the point where the users may cry out “Save Us From SharePoint”.  When really, it wasn’t SharePoint’s fault at all!

It was a poor solution architected by someone who thought they knew what they were doing in an effort to “get something done and out the door in the short-term” because they most likely had someone breathing down their neck to “get it done”.

If you are in that same position, I beg you … stop the assembly line and get trained on UI, UX and IA.  And, then start architecting solutions correctly.  The users will love you for it!

Case in Point
We have all heard the sayings …
– There is beauty in simplicity!
– Work smarter, not Harder!
– Keep It Simple Smarty (KISS)!

In a recent case that I became aware of, a client needed an existing SharePoint Site re-architected to provide improvements in
– user experience
– content management (lists, libraries, images, pages)
– search

The definition of “improvement” is that something changed for the better; intuitive or measureable changes or benefits.

To stay politically correct; the new and “improved” site did not measure up to the expectations that had been set.

Here’s a few examples …

Navigation
Horizontal Scrolling in the Navigation is a big issue for users.  We read top-down and left to right.

Navigation on the site consisted of a 2 level horizontal navigation bar.  Why do we think navigation can defy the culture?

Lists & Libraries
Ten (10) document libraries were created for each “type” of document versus retaining all documents in a central library.

Multiple lists were created for each “type” of list content versus retaining all items in a central list.

Pages
Numerous pages were created with hard-coded links to lists, hard-coded links to documents and hard-coded contacts.

Impact Zones

SharePoint – this platform will take a direct hit from the users when the long-term consequences of this short-term solution start hitting ground zero

Business Users – this will be a full time job keeping all of the hard-coded links updated

IT – how many calls will the Help Desk receive when broken links start escalating and the Business Users are at Whit’s End

There is a better way to use precious time, money, people and technology.

Information Architecture

IA is the “sweet spot” between the 3 C’s
– Content
– Context
– Consumers

Another word for “sweet spot” is “Usability”.  That may relate to
– the ability to Find relevant content
– the ability to use keywords to Search for content
– the ability to Filter content in a list or library

The above 3 Usabilities are made possible with a centralized
– List (Announcements, Calendar, Authorized Users, Events, Specialties, etc.)
– Library (Document, Picture, etc.)

Why create multiple Lists and Libraries when one of each will make the job so much easier for Producer of the content as well as the Consumer.

Simply create multiple columns within your list or library that will facilitate the ability to Find, Search and Filter the content.

How has SharePoint affected you?

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