Special aspects of the Discovery Phase for SharePoint-oriented projects

14 May 2014
By Igor Maslennikov, SharePoint Architect and Aleksei Kachanov, Chief Architect

SharePoint is a powerful and mature platform with lots of features for automating business processes in organizations. The platform is quite sophisticated and requires a comprehensive approach from the very beginning of the platform’s use, but the profits of its use are impossible to overestimate. It might be difficult for a company’s business executives to choose the proper set of features, licensing program and deployment type for their business needs, so you’ll probably need a specialist to help you out.
A Discovery Phase is important both for developers and customers. A thorough understanding of all processes existing within a company leads to better results and proper implementation of all necessary features.

What purpose does the SharePoint architect serve during the Discovery Phase?

  • Points out which features of the platform will be the most effective for reaching your business goals. They can explain how to use the maximum amount of out-of-the-box features with the minimum customization while leading to the best results as well as providing a realistic estimation of the required budget.
  • Deep investigation is required to understand server topology, since SharePoint can help to handle a significant amount of data
  • Authentication approaches must be defined and discussed, since SharePoint supports windows and Forms based authentications out of the box.
  • Content structure and organization must be planned. In some cases data migration from third party data sources is required
  • SharePoint has matured enough as a platform, so lots of third party solutions that extend the functionality are available. For instance Nintex or K2 can be an option if complex workflows are required
  • The SharePoint architect can help to plan end user trainings and knowledge transfers
  • Server installation must be maintained and administrated properly, so an architect level team member is the right person to advise on how to organize post installation and post deployment processes properly
  • A more defined and comprehensive understanding of how specific organizational needs map to the breadth of SharePoint capabilities.
  • Potential future phases identified where the organization’s existing SharePoint investment could be further leveraged to provide additional value in ways that may not have been fully understood before.
  • Even if that wasn’t your initial idea, SharePoint will evolve from a departmental business solution to an enterprise platform and an architect will help to reduce infrastructure costs as this evolution will be managed centrally by specialists in this field

It is very important to choose the proper set of Sharepoint features that are required for the successful and productive performance of the product depending on the market, such as the technologies used, scale of the company, requirements and so on. The platform may require a proper adjustment of business processes, so the sooner you have an experienced SharePoint Architect by your side to consult with, the better.

The main goals for the team during this stage are:

  • Discuss business processes with end users and match them with an out-of-the-box solution. The main point here is to indicate what out-of-the-box SharePoint features can be used.
  • Summarize the discussed points and prepare drafts and mockups
  • Investigate the company’s IT structure and suggest a way to migrate all existing structures to SharePoint
  • Come up with architecture and deployment approaches
  • To advise regarding proper licensing programs and third party tools as required

SharePoint 2013 is available in different editions and different installation types. It can be purchased as an on-premises installation or as SaaS platform. Installation types can be different as well – it can be set up as a farm or standalone solution. SharePoint specialist will help you to choose the best solution which match your requirements and save your money

The final stage includes delivering the discovery phase results. Usually it includes:

  • Proposal for project timeline and costs
  • Implementation Plan
  • Requirements specification including workflow descriptions, drafts and wireframes of future system
  • Architectural schemas and diagrams describing recommended approach
  • Servers topology schema

In conclusion, it is important to remember that marketing materials will never give you a full impression of any product. It is only a matter of time before you will face some unforeseen situations that can harm your productivity and the efficiency of your company’s work. To make sure that this won’t happen, you have to perform a throughout examination of your software and turn to experienced professionals in this field to avoid undesirable consequences.


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