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10 Reasons to Choose entellitrak Over SharePoint as Your Platform for Application Development

Steve Gaitten's avatar

By: Steve Gaitten

July 12, 2012 | Open Architecture

You are one of the individuals responsible for choosing the platform on which enterprise applications will be built for your organization.  You are also probably one of the individuals responsible for delivering applications and solutions to key stakeholders across your organization.  You’re facing an ever-increasing demand for new applications.  Choosing the right platform could be a career decision. A bad choice could lead to failed projects, end-user revolt, long delays, and cost overruns.  You have to get this right.

You have SharePoint.  It’s actually caught on reasonably well with end-users.  People are getting comfortable using SharePoint document libraries instead of the old network file share.  Many departments have created SharePoint team sites and are using them for lightweight collaboration.  It might still be difficult to justify the full cost of all those SharePoint CALs (Client Access Licenses), but it looks like SharePoint is going to a long term part of your infrastructure.  Microsoft assures you that SharePoint is a great platform for application development.  Why shouldn’t you look to SharePoint as a candidate platform for app dev?

Prior to joining MicroPact, I worked at Bamboo Solutions, a leading provider of add ons for SharePoint. For the last 4 years, I’ve been fully immersed in the SharePoint ecosystem.  I’ve worked with hundreds of companies developing applications and solutions on SharePoint.  Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to take an in depth look at the pros and cons of choosing SharePoint for application development.

Based on my experience, here are 10 reasons to choose entellitrak over SharePoint as a platform for application development. Here we go:

#10 - The Cost of .NET/SharePoint Developers

There’s no doubt about it, SharePoint is hot.  But its popularity has caused a prolonged shortage of SharePoint expertise.  If you can find SharePoint developers at all, you’ll discover they are getting top dollar. This can significantly drive up the cost of ownership both during build and over the life of the application.

By comparison, entellitrak features an open architecture that you extend with Java.  Not only do you probably have significant Java expertise in-house already, but these resources are easier to find, and less expensive.

#9 - Forward Compatibility with Future Versions of SharePoint

You need to keep in mind that Microsoft is going to release a major platform upgrade every 3 years.  If you want to keep pace, take advantage of the latest technologies, and make sure your environment is fully supported, you’re going to have to migrate all of your applications every 3 years.   If you want your portal and document management applications to leverage the latest version of SharePoint, you’re also going to have to migrate all of your applications.  The integration between Exchange, SharePoint, Office and custom applications sounds elegant, but it comes with dependencies that can be costly.

While MicroPact also regularly introduces updates and new features to the entellitrak platform, you will have more flexibility and no mandate to upgrade your applications.  You decide when and if to update your line-of-business applications, not MicroPact.

#8 - Limited Workflow Capabilities and the Cost of Add-ons

SharePoint has limited workflow capabilities.  SharePoint can handle basic document routing and approvals, but if you want advanced functionality, you’re going to have to look at third-party tools like Nintex or K2.  Adding the complexity and incremental cost of third-party tools to your application development increases risk as well as expense.  At the end of the day, you could develop multiple entellitrak-based applications for the cost of the add-ons you need in order to make SharePoint provide equivalent functionality.  entellitrak offers native process management capabilities that do not require augmentation with third-party tools.

#7 - Portability to the Cloud

Currently Microsoft’s multi-tenant instances of SharePoint (Office 365 / SharePoint Online) don’t support customization.  You get SharePoint “out-of-the-box”, or nothing.  At a significantly higher cost, you could move up to a dedicated server (formerly BPOS-D), but even then there is some complexity to what Microsoft is willing to certify.

By comparison, entellitrak is 100% cloud-ready today.  entellitrak applications may be hosted on premises, in a public or private cloud.  There are no complexities related to customization or custom configuration.

#6 - Dependence on Enterprise Features of SharePoint

Which version of SharePoint are you running?  Foundation (WSS), Standard (MOSS) or Enterprise?  It makes a big difference when it comes to application development.  Microsoft has carefully crafted the various versions of SharePoint to reserve some key functionality (e.g. filtering, data integration, search, dashboarding etc.) for the more expensive versions of SharePoint.  Before you commit to SharePoint as your platform for application development, you need to make certain that your requirements don’t dictate an upgrade from Standard to Enterprise.  There is a very significant difference in the per user costs (CALs).

#5 - Microsoft Lock In

How dependent do you want to be on Microsoft?  Ok, you’re probably comfortable standardizing on Exchange and Office.  You may even be increasingly comfortable with the integration of Lync and SharePoint.  But how much further are you willing to go?  Are you ready to choose Dynamics over Salesforce?  Are you ready to choose Windows Phone over Android or iOS?  It’s as simple as the old adage, “Don’t put all of your eggs in the same basket”.  Before you commit to building all of your line-of-business applications on SharePoint, make sure you consider the long term risk of building 100% of your IT infrastructure on the Microsoft stack.

Again, entellitrak is open architecture that natively integrates with many platforms and technologies, including SharePoint.

#4 - Time-to-Value

How long will it take to build and deliver your SharePoint application?  An entellitrak application can literally be configured and stood up in a matter of hours – that includes creating a data model, developing the user interface and applying process rules.  In practice, we typically take more time than that to provide polish and complex functionality.  But ease of use and an accelerated time-to-value are distinctive features of the entellitrak platform.  Once you can describe the characteristics of the entities to be tracked and processed, most of the rest of the work to deploy a complex application is pure configuration.

entellitrak also offers 20 existing pre-configurations for common business process applications.  Unlike SharePoint’s “Fabulous 40” site templates, entellitrak’s pre-configurations are full featured applications that you can actually use.

#3 - Dependence on Third-party Components

As mentioned with regard to SharePoint’s limited workflow capabilities, there are other significant functionality gaps in the SharePoint platform.  If you want robust social functionality with SharePoint, you need to buy Newsgator (at least until we hear about the integration plan with Yammer).  If you want to extend SharePoint functionality to mobile users, you need Mobile Entrée or Colligo.  If you want data aggregation or calendaring you need CorasWorks or Bamboo.  Introducing all of these third-party solutions adds complexity and risk to your development efforts.  Each third-party app also has its own upgrade and maintenance cycle. 

The relative simplicity of entellitrak allows you to focus on building robust functionality into the applications that your stakeholders require.

#2 - Complexity of the SharePoint Interface

Most end-users require some level of training to navigate a standard SharePoint site. Even if you don’t use SharePoint regularly, you can still probably relate to the fact that Microsoft’s user interfaces can be confusing and difficult to learn. Have you tried Office 2010? Are you familiar with “the Ribbon”, the row of controls at the top of applications like Word and Excel?  “The Ribbon” is what Microsoft refers to as “fluent UI”. The user interface changes as you navigate around an application, presenting the controls that are most relevant to users in a particular area.  As a practical matter, the fluent UI can make it very difficult for end users to accomplish common tasks.

Microsoft added “the Ribbon” to SharePoint in the 2010 release.  Personally, I find the SharePoint Ribbon even more confusing than the Office Ribbon. 

entellitrak provides a flexible user interface that you design.  entellitrak allows you to present only the controls your users need to get their work done.

#1 - Support

Once your application is built and rolled out to end-users, who’s going to support it?  Not Microsoft.  Microsoft may provide you with support for SharePoint, but they are not going to help your end users with your custom SharePoint application. 

MicroPact will support your custom entellitrak application.  Your end users will have a number to call and a person to talk to when they have problems.  Whether it’s user error, or a genuine technical problem, MicroPact will own the issue and work with you to resolve it.  For mission critical applications, this is a key consideration in choosing a platform.

Summary

I like SharePoint.  I think it’s an extremely useful platform.  SharePoint is great as a basic content management system (CMS) for the enterprise portal.  SharePoint is well suited for document management and lightweight collaboration.  But it’s less clear that SharePoint is the ideal platform for application development.  I say, let SharePoint do what it does best – portal management and document management.  Choose an open architecture platform like entellitrak for application development, and integrate with SharePoint via web services when it makes sense.

About the Author

Steve Gaitten was MicroPact's Director of Digital Initiatives from April 2012 to January of 2013.