Friday, August 03, 2012

SharePoint 2013: Platform or Application?

I would not have expected the debate about SharePoint as an application vs. a platform to begin again, but that seems to be the case. A number of SharePoint consultants and other SharePoint experts are expressing concern about a few features that have been changed or removed from SharePoint with the SharePoint 2013 Preview release. The most obvious being the SharePoint Designer Design View--which has prompted a hot discussion on the MSDN SharePoint forums. These individual items may be annoying some people, but there’s more going on here. This isn’t just a few items being removed, it’s part of a fundamental shift in the SharePoint messaging. SharePoint has been promoted heavily as a customizable platform, but that message is changing. I posted this reply in the forums:

I believe this is part of a larger discussion. If you read the messaging coming from the SharePoint team, this change is consistent with a move away from SharePoint being such an open and customizable platform. That's not my opinion; here's the supporting quote:

"Use SharePoint as an out-of-box application whenever possible - We
designed the new SharePoint UI to be clean, simple and fast and work great
out-of-box. We encourage you not to modify it which could add complexity,
performance and upgradeability and to focus your energy on working with users
and groups to understand how to use SharePoint to improve productivity and
collaboration and identifying and promoting best practices in your organization." -
Jeff Teper, VP SharePoint - The New SharePoint (SharePoint team blog post)

This forum response, from a user named Intrawebs, gives you an idea of the reaction: “I am a developer, but, when it comes to SP I try and do as much as possible in SP Designer vs. Visual Studio.  It federates responsibility and enables non devs to contribute more easily.  This will be a deal breaker for us, we use SP on our public and intranet sites.  Poor decision from MS…”

When SharePoint first came out, it's primary value was as an application--a quick way to create an Intranet. MCMS at the same time was designed as a platform--build your own site, but build any type of site. The market responded that they wanted both in one product and SharePoint made huge strides as a platform. Now it seems that the SharePoint team has decided that the pendulum has swung too far.

Is this a good change for SharePoint customers? Is it a good change for SharePoint customers? These are hard questions to answer. What is clear is that less SharePoint customization is probably not good for SharePoint consultants. There seems no way around the simple formula that less customization = less work.

Some ISVs could benefit from this change. For example, migration vendors have to work extremely hard to support customizations, so there may be less work in that area. However, one of the reasons customers use third-party migration products (such as my former company, Metalogix) is to deal with customizations, so that’s not clear. Also, this is a preview release.

While the new SharePoint App model does add a new dimension to SharePoint development, I’m sure that most SharePoint devs would say that they expected this to be an additional choice rather than the only choice.


Unknown said...

> We designed the new SharePoint UI to be clean, simple and fast and work great out-of-box. We encourage you not to modify it

It's a good (if frightening) quote.

Unlike many people, the sites I made did tend to use the standard UI as far as possible, because even in the earlier versions of SharePoint, that was a very clean looking (and usable) UI.

However, even given that basic approach there was still the need for some minor amendments to the UI because of company requirements etc. and apart from that there was often a need for the kind of additional functionality that DVWPs brought to the site in a controlled way.

In my words that was not "modifying" the UI, it was "tweaking" it.

It seems to me that Mr. Teper doesn't get the difference and in fact by making such minor tweaking impossible without code, he is in fact pushing people in the direction he says he wants to avoid - or in other words in the direction of sites where Visual Studio is in use to provide similar functions to those available out-of-the-box and while the programmer is at it to amend the UI for good measure.

Surely uncontrolled code is more likely to cause problems than non-code DVWPs where Microsoft has provided the DVWP code oob?

Walker Obrien said...

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