SharePoint is often regarded simply as a set of sites that house web pages and document libraries. Just below the surface, however, there are dozens of out-of-the-box web parts that demonstrate how far SharePoint extends beyond those capabilities. Business users can build powerful filter web parts, InfoPath forms, Access Apps, custom Search parts, and more. The story doesn’t end there – SharePoint is an enterprise ready solution platform, and it is intended to host and deliver your critical line of business solutions.
At Tahoe, we spend a lot of time thinking about SharePoint as a Line of Business (LOB) application platform. We are constantly looking for creative ways to leverage SharePoint’s workflow, business intelligence, search, Business Connectivity Services (BCS), and other features that facilitate critical business processes – presented through a rich, web-based user experience. We’re proud of our recent selection to the Microsoft Business Critical SharePoint Program, but what really gets us excited are the results we help our clients achieve.
In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the key returns you might realize by using SharePoint as a platform to host LOB applications, including Unification, Transparency, and Adoption.
Unification through SharePoint LOB Solutions
When you implement LOB solutions in SharePoint, you open the gates to unifying and sharing enterprise data and to coalescing LOB applications themselves. Today, your line of business solutions may consist of standalone .NET applications, SAP modules, powerful Excel workbooks, rogue Access databases, and more. That’s quite a few unique solutions, with each of them hoarding their data.
SharePoint is designed to bring all of these critical data stores into one place so users aren’t replicating processes, duplicating data, and learning multiple systems. The .NET applications’ SQL stores and SAP data can be brought into SharePoint through Business Connectivity Services; the Excel workbook can be stored, viewed, and edited right from SharePoint; and the Access database can be ditched and rebuilt for the enterprise as an Access App.
With all of the data available in SharePoint, you have a single source of the [data] truth, and can begin building other applications that leverage this master data from within the SharePoint web boundary.
Transparency through SharePoint LOB Solutions
Why is it taking so long to move logistics plans through Supply Chain Planning? Who is holding up approval on this new product line?
The insight you gain into critical business processes by moving your LOB solutions into SharePoint is substantial, and the returns are often immediate. SharePoint is a natural fit for handling tasks and approvals, as well as a powerful platform on which to implement workflows.
If you’re managing tasks in SharePoint, you can see who owns them, how many and when they were created, and when they were completed. A range of features (from list views to Performance Point dashboards) allows for concise reporting and visualization of data. You may figure out that you need another resource in Supply Chain Planning because one person can’t handle the volume of tasks created each day. The next thing you know, time to deliver Supply Chain adjustments drops 70%, enabling the transport of more product to market.
SharePoint also features approval workflows right out of the box, and when needed you can build custom workflows with .NET and in Azure to do just about anything you can imagine. With approvals automated in SharePoint, you can monitor, send out reminders, reassign, and delegate – and metrics regarding ownership, time to completion, quarterly turn-over, etc. will be there for you to mine.
Adoption through SharePoint LOB Solutions
To quote our CEO, Ray Conrad, “[Technology must enable] organizations [to] meet the expectations of their customers, employees, partners and suppliers, with progressive solutions that match the power and simplicity of consumer tools. Think robust, personalized, and mobile.” Great user experience increases adoption significantly, and UX and Design are among our core competencies.
Moving solutions into SharePoint, you can build interfaces that are just as Ray described…powerful and simple. Further, they can be endlessly elegant as SharePoint 2013 adopts the latest in web development technologies. With this approach, users end up working with business tools that are as familiar and seamless as their favorite web site. When functionality is intuitive, you decrease cognitive friction, leading to reduced user abandonment.
SharePoint isn’t always the correct place to implement and integrate your LOB solutions, but it is definitely a first class citizen in this space, and should be considered as a top choice for your enterprise. We’ve found opportunities to improve unification, gain insight and transparency, and increase adoption when driving LOB solutions and processes through SharePoint. In the end, these gains turn into a true return on investment for the platform.