Timeless Lessons – Part II

Following up on my previous post, I want to share an example of how woodworking has helped make me a better SharePoint practitioner? Take a look at the table to the right; nice legs, wouldn’t you agree?

Making those legs was a complex process requiring patterns, jigs, tools, and some skill. Patterns probably make you think about templates and, if you have ever used a jig, you will equate jigs to workflows. Today, in the interest of space, I’m going to focus on tools.

As a woodworker, I never underestimate the value of tools – as a SharePoint practitioner, I sometimes do. I look at the requirements of a site and I am drawn to “I can build that with (substitute favorite technique here) ”. But, I’m reminded that I’m being paid to complete the site, not so much to enjoy doing it. When you consider the time it takes to build, test, document, deploy and maintain hand-crafted solutions, you might see newfound value in tools. The tool on the right is a Pattern Maker’s rasp which has a random tooth pattern that makes it easier to control and produce smoother results. When I started making the legs for that table, I didn’t own a Pattern Maker’s rasp and, compared to the rasps I did own, this one was expensive. But without that tool, you can forget about making those legs.

Buying tools vs. building your own tools vs. hand-crafting solutions without tools is a complicated decision. Once you know the total cost to buy a tool, compare it to the cost to complete your project without the tool (number of hours * your rate per hour), then, in the spirit of the AIIM blog series, ask yourself these eight questions:
  1. Can I meet the requirements without that tool?
  2. Can I reuse what I build in a different site with the same requirements?
  3. Does the tool offer other features that would help meet other requirements?
  4. Will my solution be as easy to deploy?
  5. Will I be able to alter my solution as requirements change? As SharePoint changes?
  6. Will my solution be easy to use or will it require my time each time it’s deployed?
  7. Am I planning to document my solution? If not, will my solution be of any use if I’m not here to maintain it?
  8. Is the cumulative weight of all my hand-crafted solutions sustainable i.e. can I maintain them all?
Building solutions is rewarding and often results in a “perfect fit” solution. Along the way, you can sometimes save your company money. On the other hand, adding tools to your collective toolbox can improve the broader SharePoint experience. A balanced approach is required if the goal is a robust and sustainable SharePoint installation.

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