How SharePoint's App Model Can Help Your Business

How SharePoint's App Model Can Help Your Business

By Brian Prigge

Two basic strategies exist in the world of enterprise software to help you in building your line-of-business system:

  • the all-in-one solution
  • the best-of-breed solution

The all-in-one solution puts functionality under one large system, while the best-of-breed solution lets different vendors handle each distinct function.  Each option offers benefits, but each also has limitations.

Strategy #1: All In One

All-in-one solutions tend to be extremely extensible platforms that encompass all of the necessary modules for the company to function. They’re known as enterprise resource planning or ERP systems. 

Their size and shape vary by vendor. Some are cloud based, while others are installed solutions; some are web based and others are client based.

Through all the permutations from all the vendors I have seen, I’ve noticed one consistent theme:  No single company is good at everything. 

I’ve seen many ERP implementations, and, when I ask employees their thoughts about them, the conversation sounds something like “Most people like it, but is really having a hard time with it.” The troubled department ranges from IT to Operations to HR, but there’s always one. 

Strategy #2: Best of Breed

Best-of-breed solutions tend to be a cocktail of various systems that were all chosen for their individual strengths at performing a certain function.  In a best-of-breed environment, it’s not uncommon to have five to 10 applications, ranging from expense reporting to field scheduling to data synchronization, all running in a single environment. 

Although each function is completed in the best possible way for that company, user experiences tend to be disjointed, training takes weeks instead of days, and data flow between applications can be difficult to understand and troubleshoot.

Strategy #3: Combining

There is a third option that is, in my opinion, significantly underrated and seldom considered—combining your best-of-breed applications in the form of extensible platforms and custom development. 

When an overarching best-of-breed solution such as SharePoint can be extended to consume the other applications, you improve end-user experience and reduce end-user confusion. And you get the best-of-breed benefits that led you to these vendors in the first place. 

The App Model, unveiled in SharePoint 2013, lets you do just that.  The flexibility to develop in any language that supports OAuth lets developers choose the appropriate platform for the best-of-breed application they are integrating with.

Without sacrificing performance or user experience, everything can be brought in under one umbrella in a SharePoint environment--either on-prem or in the cloud. 

A best-of-breed solution built on SharePoint provides a single URL for users to remember, a consistent UI, and pre-built authentication and authorization, making application development reasonable without the expense and hassle of traditional application development.

 

Brian Prigge is a SharePoint Architect with RAMP,  where he leads the implementation of SaaS-based architectures into custom SharePoint integrations. Prior to his position at RAMP, Brian worked as a SharePoint consultant and trainer for a Chicago-based consultancy and as an engineer at a prominent automotive security company.  He has worked with a wide range of SharePoint farm sizes throughout the entire project lifecycle, allowing him to provide a well-rounded perspective on the complex nature of SharePoint.

 

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