SharePoint customizations: when costs outweigh benefits

You customize SharePoint to improve your business processes and gain competitive advantage. But instead of the benefits, all you see is more costs. How come?

Who doesn't customize SharePoint

Everyone does. Organizations use SharePoint for many different reasons. At the end of the day, everybody wants to get more return on their investment. SharePoint offers rich functionality out of the box, but by customizing it to their specific needs, organizations want to work smarter and more effectively. SharePoint customizations vary in size and complexity. They can be a simple widget downloaded from the Internet or a complete business application hosted in SharePoint. And despite the best intentions of the person who built it, if it's not done correctly, it will end up costing you money.

Hope for the best

Building SharePoint customizations is not trivial. Over the years we've seen different customization models and the recommendations changed as well. When extending SharePoint, developers have to know what works and what doesn't. They have to know the intricacies and considerations, and there are hundreds of them. Most likely, they don't know all of them. And so you hope for the best, that whatever they've built, will deliver on its promise and will help your organization instead of costing it money.

The risk is real. If your organization uses SharePoint on-premises, a single badly built customization can bring down a server, impeding the collaboration of the whole organization. If you use Office 365, even though your customizations don't run on servers hosting SharePoint, they can still severely impact your organization.

The price of high quality

Before using a customization, you should ensure that it's been built properly. You can do that by having its code reviewed. You could for example let one developer review the work of another or you could hire an expert. The first approach is convenient but the benefits are questionable. After all, how good is that other developer really? The second approach offers clear benefits but it's costly and time consuming. Not surprisingly, you choose not to perform regular reviews and blindly trust the work of developers. And it's a shame, because it puts you at risk of the customizations costing you money instead of adding value.

A plausible alternative

Some organizations defer to another option. They use tools to perform the review for them. By using automated reviews, they save both time and costs. What took days, is now being done in minutes. Since there is no price tag attached to an automated review, customizations can be reviewed as often as necessary. Such frequent reviews shorten the feedback loop, allowing developers to fix any issues faster, leading to additional costs savings. Additionally, an automated review doesn't depend on the experience of the particular individual, so it's no subject to personnel retention. The only problem with automated reviews is, that the most tools available on the market don't know SharePoint.

Automated reviews of SharePoint customizations

Many tools available on the market, can tell you everything about generic .NET or JavaScript code. But these tools don't understand SharePoint customizations. They look at a single file, but don't know how it fits in the bigger picture and how it interacts with SharePoint. And this is exactly where the most costly problems are: not in the generic .NET or JavaScript code, but in the many intricacies that SharePoint gathered over the years. Knowing the difference between what works and what doesn't, is necessary to build a customization that will deliver on its promise. So to know for sure if your customization investment will pay off, you need a tool that understands SharePoint and knows its complexity. Not reviewing your customizations before deploying them in your organization is not an option.

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