SharePoint Advice from Microsoft Experts

SharePoint tips for collaboration

SharePoint Advice from Microsoft Experts

By Adam Levithan | August 24, 2016

In preparation for the Collab365 Summer Games I sat down with four SharePoint MVPs who have been 'SharePointing' for over a decade. We took a trip down memory lane, looking back to our very first moments, and discussed few areas we discovered through trial and error. While a lot has changed and improved in SharePoint, we imagined a scenario where we could talk to our starting SharePoint or Office 365 self to share these secrets for all those who continually work with these technologies or are just getting started.

While new developments are aimed at making adoption of these technologies easier, Naomi Moneypenny, CTO of Synxi says it best

'New advances in the SharePoint framework will definitely continue to make a lot of things easier. But it’s always going to mean that it will continue to become more complex in some ways too because now its broader, now you can do more things.'

So what were some of the common threads and standout advice? Here are the top five things we would’ve told our younger selves.

1. Start with the basics

Naomi: Because a lot of the times we see people trying to implement things that they can actually be done with OOTB parts. They just don’t have enough of an understanding of how things could actually work and so if you can look at how metadata is automatically populated inside of a library you might not have to build a workflow or force users to do certain things.

Jared Matfess, Senior Consultant at Slalom Consulting: Understand the value of search and the value of metadata.

A lot of folks are in the same boat when they’re complaining about search being terrible and spending all this money and all the rework that goes into people recreating files or content that already exists out there on the intranet. I really wish I had had that search focus and metadata, tagging when I first started in SharePoint.

2. Prototype in SharePoint first

Rob Windsor, Independent Consultant & Pluralsight Trainer: The first thing you need to do is understand SharePoint, what you can do using the built in functionality and features of SharePoint. I came into SharePoint as a developer, and when you're doing development the first thing you do is start opening up visual studio and start going through prototyping and building your application. In SharePoint the last thing you do is open visual studio. First you look at web browser, SharePoint designer, can I do it through other productivity tools. And when the answer to those is no, you look into enhancing things with visual studio.

3. Leverage as much as you can the work of others

Naomi: I see this a lot, I see people try to recreate the wheel and don’t want to reuse stuff that was built by others. And now you have incredible resources like The O365 Developer Patterns and Practices. There’s lots of ways to learn how to use Patterns and Practices that have been established and then being able to build those inside of your organization.And it doesn’t matter if it’s truly at a dev level or whether it’s actually about how you architect something inside the system. What’s most important I think is to really understand that you have a general framework for these things and that you can actually think through all the different steps. Otherwise you spend a lot of work going through the same things that other people will have to work through, and so really thinking about having that general architecture there.

4. Understand all sides of SharePoint

Todd Klindt, Distinguished Architect at Rackspace: I started with SharePoint Team Services 2001 so the advice I wish I had taken more of was I wish I had paid more attention to the development side for a couple of reasons. 1. I did a little bit and it helped me navigate discussions with developers. You need to go out to Channel 9 and watch a developer video, or Microsoft Academy. It will help you out, even as an Admin.

Rob: So if I had talked to somebody who had gone through that first gigantic step into going from a .net developer into being a SP dev I would have been pointed like the book that I used – Ted Pattison’s book, Inside Windows SharePoint Services 3.0. which took me step by step through the development pieces I needed to understand and the terminologies I needed to understand to be able to put a lot of this stuff I learned in context.

5. Identity is huge and just going to get 'huger' over the next few years

Todd: These days, for people doing our job now identity is huge and just going to get huger over the next few years. Part of that is because of hybrid, you have to have your identity story nailed down tight in for hybrid to be usable. And your users aren't going to be happy having two different user names/passwords and things not syncing.

It's also going to be useful to you because the bad guys are just getting 'badder' and smarter, and identity is a good way to mitigate that risk and figuring out where your holes are, what works and what doesn't.

Join a few of us tomorrow with our friends from Collab 365, on the Round Table webinar, Are You Ready for SharePoint or Office 365?. We'll be taking your questions and continuing our discussion on how you can get ready for whatever your next step is with SharePoint or Office 365.

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Adam Levithan 2018

Adam is a Group Program Manager of Secure Collaboration at Exostar and a Microsoft MVP advocating for collaboration by connecting business needs with the right technology. Prior to Exostar, Adam was a Product Manager for Migration at a market leading ISV and a Practice Lead for Office 365 in a cutting-edge Microsoft Consulting firm. Over the last decade Adam has been responsible for moving customers to the cloud, designing and implementing information architecture (SharePoint Farm and content) and increasing user adoption. Adam is an ongoing member of the SharePoint Saturday DC coordinating committee and active speaker at many national events.

Written By: Adam Levithan