I was pretty sure that I have written about this subject before, but I can’t find it so here goes. One of the things I love about SharePoint is one of the most often overlooked features – the fact that sites can be destroyed. When I say “destroyed” I mean exactly that, deleted, eliminated and removed from use. When I say “overlooked” I mean that we are usually focused on building sites to support an ongoing need or to automate a permanent process; I mean that we are thinking long-term or permanent. In our case, it’s because we tend to focus on Content Management solutions as opposed to playing to SharePoint’s strength of collaboration.
This week, we started the process of setting up a new temporary site, just as I was getting close to eliminating a similar site. Both sites were built in support of a systems development effort, and both benefit from several of SharePoint’s out-of-the-box technology.
The older site was built to organize documents related to a major redesign of our policy rating system. We used SharePoint to hold spreadsheet models, sample reports, SQL Select statements, documentation and we even used a SharePoint wiki to design changes to a user interface. We had a discussion list to track problems and potential solutions and we had a task list to keep people aware of pending deadlines. Today, as we are beginning to build out a more comprehensive site for our underwriting department, we are moving the useful artifacts from the development site to a permanent home. Soon, we will simply delete the old site. I must say that I wish SharePoint had some of the features of my daughter’s old game, Kid Cad, which let you delete structures by running a bulldozer through them or by using explosives. Microsoft could have at least added some sound effects to list, library and site destruction.
The new site will be used to help us as we design and develop a replacement for our foreign reinsurance management system. Right now, we are simply providing access to some reports that are being used to verify our data conversion process. As the system grows and as we start breaking ground on design issues, we will likely expand our use of SharePoint. This makes sense for a few reasons.
Proximity – If you’ve been reading this blog for even a little while, you knew that was coming. Having the things you need clustered together is a good thing. People like being able to find everything about a project in the same general area, and SharePoint allows us to quickly assemble highly functional little areas.
Feels Like Home –Yeah, I’m dreaming, but people are getting used to SharePoint and we are starting to benefit from the fact that they generally know what to do to get from A to B and how to get back to A. That may not sound like much, but navigation was a big complaint early on, so either people have figured it out, or they’ve stopped complaining. We have already delivered some reporting solutions to this department in SharePoint, so I think the feeling of familiarity will actually help us.
Easy to Delete – I have been doing systems development for 35 years, and one thing that hasn’t changed is the amount of stuff that gets generated. Not only do we create a lot of tables, diagrams, reports and data, we tend to spread it around, and forget where we put it. I am reasonably sure that I could find documents related to development projects from the early 1990’s if I looked hard enough. When we do tear this site down, just like the one I mentioned earlier, it will go in one smooth motion.
SharePoint sites can be made to stick around and serve future employees, but they can also be built for a single, temporary purpose. That’s one of the good things about this platform. Unfortunately, humans have a tendency to hold a certain pride of authorship that causes us to keep sites after they have served their purpose. We tell ourselves that “this data might be useful someday…” or “we may need to show this to the auditors…” or “we may want to review this when we make the next change…” Those aren’t hypothetical; I’ve said all three of them before. If the site is good, make it a template, and then light the fuses.