Thursday, September 16, 2010

SharePoint Pillar: Composites

The sixth and final pillar in my “Pillars of SharePoint” series is “Composites.” The concept of composites in SharePoint is to enable lay people to build their own business applications without requiring code. This is accomplished by hosting as services on SharePoint tools that these people are used to using, such as Excel, Access and Visio. In addition, developers may develop Business Connectivity Services components, or building blocks, to allow a non-developer to create web pages to view and edit functionality against the core business systems.

SharePoint has been designed to present data from your disparate business systems in one place without the requirement to duplicate that data in the SharePoint database. Rather than using Enterprise Application Integration or Business Process Management to keep disparate systems in sync, consider using SharePoint to allow real time access to view and update data on those systems from a central location with which your users are already familiar.

Another solution in the Composites area includes using InfoPath Forms Designer and SharePoint Designer to build business forms and workflows without the need to write code. These tools are efficient and are steeped in SharePoint integration. In fact, many developers have leveraged InfoPath and SharePoint Designer to deploy codeless solutions to save time and money on a development effort.

In conclusion, I hope it is apparent to you that Microsoft did not choose six feature areas that they hoped to address with SharePoint and then start writing components that they thought would fit nicely into those areas. On the contrary, SharePoint has evolved over a period of time (about a decade) in response to incremental feedback for functionality enhancements requested by Microsoft customers and partners. In the end, SharePoint offers a wide array of features that had to be categorized somehow so that the product could be introduced more succinctly. That is where the feature areas, or pillars, come in. So it is impossible to understand what the pillars mean without diving into the specific feature areas, but the specific functions are better explained when grouped by feature area. Hopefully I have given you a good taste of the specific functions by feature area. Although the format will be different, I will continue to dive deeper into specific SharePoint functions in future posts.

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