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Smacking SharePoint into shape

Todd R. Weiss | May 30, 2013
Shops often need to add functionality to the core software.

In the past, spreadsheets were sent back and forth between people and divisions with information about trips, sales, performance and more. But the collaboration capabilities in SharePoint 2010's enterprise version are streamlining and improving on that, says Seth Brickman, director of onboard revenue and tour operations for Holland America Line.

Some custom coding extensions were needed to achieve the goals, Henthorn explains.

One area was in trying to solve the problem of getting user-maintained data out of the systems they were created in, and into the company's data warehouse, he says. SharePoint workflows "allowed us to use an Excel file stored in SharePoint to get the data into the data warehouse and create a report," Henthorn says. "We had to use custom code to do it, as well as working with built-in SharePoint workflows."

Custom extensions were also required to add informational banners across the portal pages, which allow administrators to broadcast messages to users through the portal, says Henthorn. The messages can communicate status reports and other information to employees, including such things as when the data warehouse isn't working or other system advisories.

LA Fitness is working on a project to renovate and rebuild its intranet for more than 25,000 users using SharePoint 2013, and the IT teams needed customized coding for extensions on layout and master pages, says Jim Zhang, manager of SharePoint development. One major benefit LA Fitness has seen already with SharePoint 2013 over 2010 is that custom coding and extensions in general are much easier to accomplish in the newer edition, says Zhang. They're still needed in 2013, but they are easier to do.

Custom extensions have also been made to connect SharePoint 2013 with other Microsoft applications, such as the financial management and ERP product Great Plains. That wasn't easy to do directly out of the box with SharePoint 2010. "We had to build a lot of Web services and work flows" to make it possible, Zhang says.

Another area where extensions were needed was in controlling content availability for users as they log in to the intranet, to be sure they can see only the content they are authorized to view.

Similar extensions and additional code were needed to provide custom search of the intranet and of the data available within SharePoint to users, says Kathleen Cramm, director of business intelligence for the company.

In addition, creating very sophisticated workflows, including things that are based on a series of conditions, requires extensions that are built by the LA Fitness IT teams, says Bedar. "It's easy to do some limited workflows out of the box, such as alerting somebody that something has been changed. But if you actually want to put some Boolean logic in there ... then that requires more sophistication."


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