May 24, 2017 // By Ramona Maxwell
Many consulting firms have generated an entire practice around customizing Microsoft’s SharePoint collaboration platform, and some went on to build repeatable solutions addressing needs that always arise – branding, connections to existing line-of-business data and applications, directory information, security, reporting and the like. Selling variations on a ready-to-go portal subsequently allowed them to profit greatly from their initial efforts.
Today, many of those portal frameworks are outmoded due to changes Microsoft has made to the SharePoint platform. A consulting company’s chief competitor in the ‘portal-in-a-box’ space would be Microsoft itself, as its key offering of SharePoint Online within Office 365 addresses nearly every effort most companies make to tune a portal to their liking with a minimum of programming required. Much of this expansion has been to the dismay of smaller solution providers now relegated to enhancing legacy versions of the product, but for consulting companies who typically work at enterprise scale SharePoint’s rebirth as a member of the modern web has revealed fantastic new opportunities for interoperability between SharePoint and rest of the IT landscape.
What if my Intranet doesn’t fit in a box?
A content management system may not be the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to a primary business tool for exposing actionable information, yet it should be. Enterprises owning multi-terabyte document stores and petabytes worth of industry data flowing through their analysis engines, find their value quickly diminishes if key information they hold is not readily consumable. Today’s solution provider has to be able to synthesize output from any number of analytics sources and deliver it securely and in near real time. They also must be able to bridge the gaps between existing line-of-business systems, whether in the cloud or a data center, assuring the collaboration system has access to key applications. In some cases those applications may not exist, or may need modernization to fit into the information architecture as a whole. At each juncture, security implications require exhaustive review. A consulting firm must be capable of implementing proper controls, and meticulously testing new applications and connections to assure they meet the highest standard of protection from both internal and external threats. Enterprise implementations must be scalable to accommodate modern enterprises who may require thousands of co-branded portals to serve their clients, with specific custom functionality and security organized to distinguish between shared and private assets of participating entities.
No less important is the ability to customize search so that is relevant to the business unit it serves. Searching for ‘tuna’ should bring up very different results at a food wholesaler than it would at NOAA. As consultants, we are dismayed when we see a company previously on-boarded to a CMS saddled with search that was never been configured to speak the language of their business – effectively creating a haystack syndrome that blocks access to vital information.
Another worthy endeavor is migration, not limited to migrating between on-premise versions of SharePoint but also from massive installations that no longer want to manage infrastructure – enter Platform as a Service. Massive data stores that may not have previously had appropriate records management practices applied will benefit from a thorough discovery process followed by classification and deduplication prior to being made accessible in the portal. A firm qualified to handle this endeavor on an enterprise scale will have a full complement of professionals including business analysts and project managers experienced in the records requirements of your particular industry vertical, not just developers skilled at ‘lift and shift.’
Choose the Right Approach
Should you buy an Intranet in a Box? If you are an SMB and need a rock-solid collaboration portal with industry leading security and reliability, then it’s a great option and the leader in this space is Microsoft. A Modern Team Site in SharePoint Online will surround you with items you and your nearest colleagues are working on, and you can collaborate on them in real time. Subscribe to add-ons such as PowerApps (workflow) and PowerBI and you will quickly have a portal rivaling any built to spec over the past decade. Additionally, capital typically invested in building and maintaining an on-premise SharePoint farm can instead support provisioning more employees. Your portal runs on the infrastructure of the second-largest cloud services provider in the world, and your company can focus on its core business.
In contrast, if your portal project requires experience with very large installations, has complex regulatory requirements or consolidates disparate LOB systems then you will benefit from utilizing a consulting firm that employs qualified professionals across a broad spectrum of disciplines and is accustomed to working at scale. Magenic has the experience, people and a proven methodology to bring your enterprise portal vision to reality. You are welcome to contact us to discover more.