Self Service Business Application Delivery

Enterprise, Microsoft

One of the biggest business benefits I have seen from implementations of SharePoint – is the notion of self service Business Application Delivery. A lot of times, to actually fullfil a real requirement through ICT/ IM&T, through Terms of Reference, Project Control, Specifications, Vendor Qualifications can take months if not years.  That’s the reality of massive Enterprises like in the Energy Sector.

 

For example:

A base requirement to a move away from passing a form based Excel spreadsheet (Well data) sent via email, into a custom list. Such a simple requirement one might think.  But to get that into a finalized and working solution – it can be a nightmare.

Application

What options to the internal customer are there?

  • Go through the whole process as a Bespoke Application Development, with a either Single Source Contract, or a Qualified Vendor (i.e. Tendoring process) which takes months or even years. Thus leading to disappointment for the internal customer, whether that be Well Engineering or finance or whoever. I have heard so many times that Information Technology is perceived to be a blocker not an enabler for the business. How did we become so badly thought of?
  • Buy a Purchase Point Solution / off the shelf or hosted package. Hope that it really fits the required purpose, and fills the gaps again, whether this can be implemented as a contract, whether the information or security is even allowed outside the company, who will support the solution?
  • Develop a in-house .net solution – as another island of automation inside a sea of different standards and governance.
  • Use an existing Platform (i.e. SharePoint) as a a vehicle for this business application delivery and show the users what they can do themselves.

Of course, each situation is different, and a solution might involve one or all of the above aspects. But if possible have some sort of ‘this is our portfolio’ of solutions and platforms, and thus managed developed application delivery.

Application Delivery via SharePoint

SharePoint has many wonderful features and tools ‘Out Of The Box’ which are available to help and assist Business Users in many ways to provide quick win solutions and in many ways automate their business processes. Not least custom lists or Infopath( Fosl ), workflows and PerfomancePoint dashboards.  This offers great potential on a strategy level to quickly deliver Applications to the Organisation. Done right, it can lower costs, reduce timescales, reduce training costs, and assist with ongoing support challenges.

Applications2

Leveraging this as a platform and training the power users to be self sufficient with Out of the Box features, means that you don’t end up with such things as:-

  • Rewriting security mechanisms every time – we all know the situation where the security mechanism isn’t aligned with AD and manually maintained. Which becomes a nightmare over time.
  • Version x of some coding library as a legacy code on some application (i.e. the in production version is written on .Net 2.0 and only runs on windows Server 2003, the company who created it – no longer exist.)
  • Training and user adoption issues. Users become familier with one interface.
  • Support issues – support staff have one understandable starting point for document problems.

The starting point is training and educating the Power Users on what features are available to them and having a narrow defined remit.

i.e.

This is how you can import a Spreadsheet or create a custom list

This is how you can have different views.

This is how lookups work.

This is how you can use the corporate managed metadata.

I am saying it that way because the SharePoint environment as a platform has a lot of features which might not be implemented in your organisation for a variety of reasons (infrastructure, Operational, support, cost, alternative solutions.)

For example: if you are already a mature Records Management solution then you wouldn’t want to create new islands fo functionality in the business.

 

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