Warning: SharePoint can create chaos if not used properly

Though companies may be tempted to use SharePoint as a custom app dev platform, they should resist the urge as the product lacks key features

A report from Forrester is warning customers to consider carefully how they plan to use Microsoft's Office SharePoint Server product, which they say can wreak havoc in an IT organization when used as a custom application development platform.

The recently published report, "Now Is The Time To Determine SharePoint's Place In Your Application Development Strategy," outlines how, while SharePoint can be extremely useful for creating company intranets, companies should be careful when using it to create custom applications because the product lacks features -- such as in ALM and EAI (enterprise application integration) -- that other, more proven development platforms have.

Also, SharePoint is misunderstood in general, and while it allows users to create their own applications and customize SharePoint intranet sites quite easily, this can turn into a quagmire of complexity for the organization when it comes to managing and supporting those applications, the report said.

This complexity causes IT teams to become busy trying to "fill the product's gaps in application life-cycle management and enterprise integration as they create policies to prevent a new chaos of user-generated applications," according to the report, written by Forrester analysts John Rymer and Rob Koplowitz.

The problem becomes further complicated by the lack of people who have advanced development skills for SharePoint, they said.

In the report they outline several customer scenarios in which custom development on SharePoint got out of hand and became more than a company's IT staff could handle.

In one, a so-called SharePoint "power user" inspired "a reshuffling of IT," analysts wrote. The user built several popular custom applications using SharePoint, assuming that the development and operational organizations could support them. However, they couldn't because it required "specialized skills that neither organization possessed," according to the report.

The firm had to hire a new IT specialist to fill in the gap and expand SharePoint's role in the company's application-development strategy, according to a report.

Microsoft originally conceived SharePoint as a portal product on which companies could build Web sites. But with its release as part of the 2007 Office System, Microsoft has expanded the product to become a hub for collaboration, document-management and business intelligence, not to mention a development platform for building custom intranet sites and other applications.

SharePoint adoption has grown faster than even Microsoft could anticipate, which could have something to do with the lack of people with the skillset to deal with the product. The quick uptake also could have pushed SharePoint into uses that Microsoft hadn't yet prepared the product to deal with.

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Elizabeth Montalbano

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