Today we have the pleasure to have an article from our Partner company Cloudriven from Finland. This time a more development focused topic. By Antti Jokinen, Cloud Architect at Cloudriven Everything is going to the cloud. Software vendors wanting to build new products or services on top of SharePoint will have to adopt the cloud-first strategy. But is there any point in building a cloud service that is targeted to SharePoint?
Challenges with doing SaaS on SharePoint
Classic SharePoint solutions don’t work well with the SaaS model (Software as a Service). I am referring to the type of SharePoint solutions that deploy SharePoint artifacts, such as site columns, content types, site templates, and page layouts. You know, content management stuff. When you are building a cloud service, you want to keep all parts of the service in your control. You don’t want to deploy something to your customers‘ environments, which you cannot update whenever you like. Even bigger challenge with the classic SharePoint solution model is that the SharePoint platform is constantly changing. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where Microsoft announces that some fundamental building block of your product will be deprecated in the future. The Cloud Application Model (CAM) immediately makes SharePoint much more appealing to software vendors building cloud services. It sets you free from the challenges mentioned above, but still makes it possible for you to bring your cloud service into SharePoint context. So far the CAM has not totally matured, but it’s work in progress. Eventually it will be great and many companies will build apps on it and bring their cloud services in SharePoint context. Tendances hommes Don’t compete with the platform So if you want to embark on a mission and start building a cloud service for SharePoint, what should you build? Maybe you will build something to augment SharePoint’s document management features, or a proper newsfeed, which makes it possible to follow all user activities from a SharePoint site. Or maybe, for once, you will make permission management so easy that anybody can do it directly without training. If you are planning to do something along those lines, don’t bother. Product planning based on the idea „Hey, this is missing from SharePoint“ doesn’t work. Before you know it SharePoint gets an update and you find yourself competing with the platform. Even though you will probably be able to stay ahead of the platform functionality in usability, too many of your potential customers will always be quite happy with the out-of-the-box features. If you want to make a really good cloud service and sell it to the whole SharePoint world, I suggest you forget SharePoint. At least until you come up with a properly good idea for your service. Build a service that solves bigger problems than those of SharePoint site owners. Build a product that connects directly to some common business process and the daily work of a lot of people. When you come up with an idea that makes peoples‘ work easier and more efficient, you have taken the first step towards building a successful cloud service. Then, build your cloud service in Microsoft Azure and design it to work independently. Build it according to best practices and make sure it fullfills the common requirements of cloud services such as self-service, multitenancy, scalability, and security. Bring in customers early on in the development process to validate your idea and to get real-world feedback. Then, when your service is ready and you have paying customers using it, build an app for SharePoint, which you will distribute via the SharePoint Store. With the app, you will extend the reach of your cloud service to SharePoint sites of your customers, making it possible to connect to that business process that you are trying to affect with your service. Provided that the process is maintained in SharePoint. Like Cloudriven’s Habit for Performance Management, also the idea for Gravity was born as a result of out-of-the-SharePoint-box thinking. Gravity is a great concept that can help improve end-user adoption of SharePoint. The idea is, however, much broader than SharePoint alone, and it could be used to improve user adoption of any product. So, is there any point in building a cloud service for SharePoint? Yes, but don’t design it to only work with it. About the Author:
Antti Jokinen is a seasoned SharePoint architect, who works for Cloudriven in Finland. He has recently taken some time off from SharePoint and started building cloud services for Azure. Antti has a developer background and long experience of managing offshore development teams. Lately he has received his biggest kicks from ASP.NET MVC and front-end development.