If you’ve followed this blog at all you know that I love cars and prefer to make analogies
to SharePoint with them. In a previous post I compared SharePoint to a Ferrari. Most
Ferraris have 6 speed transmissions. The 6 speed gated shifter in the Ferrari is iconic,
and makes a satisfying clicking sound as you precisely maneuver through the gears. Shifting through
the gears in a Ferrari takes a bit of practice before you get it down. Likewise it takes
awhile for an organization to implement a great SharePoint site. The six speeds of
SharePoint might be different for every organization (and every SharePoint Pro for that
matter). This list will at least get you out of neutral and out on the track.
First Gear – Metadata
Metadata is a very powerful concept, and I feel that many SharePoint professionals assume
that business decision makers and end users understand it. Failure to understand how
metadata works can end up with your organization recreating public drive folder structures
on SharePoint. That is what causes traffic jams and multi-car pile-ups on your SharePoint
highway. That said, metadata is simply information you attach to documents or list items to
organize and sort information. For instance, a department column can be created to sort
Admin docs from Finance Docs. Simple concept, yet extremely useful!
Second Gear – Views
In order to create views you must first establish good metadata to organize information. A
view is simply a subset of information from a list. Once you have some views created, we
can move on to third gear!
Third Gear – Webparts
Webparts allow you to change the look and feel of a website. You can add content and change
it around to look however you like. Displaying views are one of the most common uses of webparts. SP2007 used to have a set of content arranged out of the box. I personally believe that since SP2010 they purposely made it ugly out of the box so that you were forced to change it. So go ahead and do it!
Fourth Gear – Workflow
When you reach redline in third gear you can pretty much go to any gear from there
depending on current needs, but I had to put them in some order. So let’s call workflow
fourth gear. Workflow allow you to accomplish a vast number of things like notify
appropriate users of status changes and to take action, update list items, create list
items, tasks, etc. You can access limited workflows in the UI front end, and much more extensive ones in SharePoint Designer.
Fifth Gear – External Data Integration
With Business Connectivity Services you can connect to offline data. You can connect to
pretty much any database with this feature. It opens up a whole new world once you pull
this data into SharePoint.
Sixth Gear – Dashboards
Ah, the top gear right? Not really, as I already explained that gears 4-6 could be
done in any order based on needs. Still, dashboards provide some eye candy for executives
and users to see trends and be able to make good decisions based on good current data.
Also, it is often the end goal for implementing a SharePoint solution in the first place.
I’m quite sure that someone will come along and ask what reverse is used for. Backup and
restore of course. And while a Ferrari will backup just fine, restoring after a crash can
be painful. There are however (third party) tools that can make it easier.
As I said, your gears might have different names. You might even have more gears (oooh fancy!) The point of this post is just to get you out of neutral and moving. If you have a better set of gears, please post it in the comments. Or post it on twitter @SharePointRoger. Happy motoring!