SharePoint 2010 for Collaborative Product Development Applications

Picture 11I’d like to share some of my initial thoughts about SharePoint 2010 technologies presented by Microsoft during this week. This is my first and not systematic impression. I’ll, also, try to eliminate all marketing messages and product re-branding that Microsoft made. I’d like to focus on SharePoint from the technological standpoint and analyze what potential, I see to use this technological platform to develop Collaborative Product Development Applications (also known as PLM).

What is the box? Coming from MOSS 2007 to SharePoint 2010 Microsoft added FAST Enterprise Search product as part of SharePoint. This is probably the most significant product enhancement. Rest of the package is significantly improved, but keep the same functional scope. Of course, it includes all technological components – .NET framework, Office 2010 and many others.

So, what is the basket of technological components that can make it attractive to develop Collaborative Product Business Applications? Here is my short list – Content Type, List and External List, Business Connectivity Services, Web Parts, LINQ, Workflow Services.

Content Type. This is the basic data modeling element in SharePoint. Defintion of content type well integrated and accomplished with rich set of tools. On one side, this is of course, not a replacement for RDBMS and have many limitations. Don’t take me wrong. Content Type cannot be use for product modeling, Bill of Materials etc .. However, on the other side, accomplished by events, notifications, workflow and additional embedded features can be used to define a model of collaboration.

Lists. This is very powerful, in my view, element of collaborative structure. You can “share a list” in many ways and this is very flexible. Simplicity of the list-based collaboration made a success of SharePoint. This is my opinion. Expanded with something called “External Data Lists” in SharePoint 2010, can be used widely to share information between people. The purpose of External List is to share data located in external applications and data sources.

BCS. I already touched BCS as part of my post about SharePoint 2010 Composites. BCS is fundamentals of SharePoint connectivity to external data sets. SharePoint definitely focuses on how to collaborate and access data in enterprise systems, which make it quite powerful tools. BCS (formerly known as BDC) was expanded to become CRUD (Create Read Update Delete). In MOSS 2007, BDC was available only to access read-only data from external systems.

Web Parts
. As a technology, Web Parts are not unique in SharePoint. However, SharePoint contains rich set of Web Parts that can be used together with different content types and lists. Therefore, I see it as sufficient set of building blocks for collaborative applications.

The same as WebParts, Workflow is a not unique, but quite efficient bundle of the process-oriented technologies. SharePoint contains very basic stuff out of the box, but additional tools allows to develop new processes. Some of the tools look very impressive and allow to develop processes in the traditional, diagram-based view, but also in the view of english-typing conditional text.

You can tell me, some of these technologies are available also without SharePoint. You are right! The question is not if you can use LINQ or Workflow services independently. My point is if SharePoint as a package will become attractive enough for software and service developers in the area of Collaborative Product Data Management. And, if yes, how all these components can be used together to develop cost-effective and powerful applications.

I’m sure IT, Service Companies and PLM vendors will be making their own tests and assesments about what are pros and cons of SharePoint 2010. Product BETA will be released later this month and released in the beginning of 2010. What is clear, SharePoint 2010 is a significant commitment from Microsoft to provide the platform for enterprise organization, and it can be considered as a valid option for organizations these days.

I will continue to share my future thoughts, ideas and analyzes about SharePoint and will be interested to hear your voices too.
Best, Oleg


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