One of the great things about open-minded, intelligent people is that they can disagree and still enjoy each other’s opinions. (Yes, you guessed it, I’m saying that so that Bjørn doesn’t just dismiss me right off. He knows me well enough that I don’t think he will, but still…)
Bjørn posted a well-thought-out set of ideas today entitled “Why Out-of-the-Box Makes No Sense in SharePoint“, and I wanted to post my contrarian thoughts on it.
To me, SharePoint implementations in a large percentage of the cases ought to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. By this I mean that if a SharePoint implementation is successful, it will fundamentally change the way people work. We can’t always know what those changes will be in toto because there are many contributing variables, like the organization’s culture, incentive structures, process maturity, leadership style, etc. So starting with slightly adapted “out of the box” functionality can be a very good idea.
Let’s go back to Bjørn’s house building analogy. We bought our house, which is over 100 years old, because we liked the “bones”. We could see ourselves living it in quite happily. Over time, we’ve changed various things based on our actual living style: new paint in a few rooms, new track lighting in the rooms where we felt we needed it, etc. It turned out that we were wrong about a number of assumptions going in. We didn’t actually need to renovate the kitchen, for example. Even with my wife being a personal chef and cooking constantly, it fully meets our needs. So think of the time and expense that we saved in *not* doing the renovations up front. It’s not that the house is just “good enough”; it’s great.
The same thing can happen with SharePoint, but it all depends on the organizational readiness, and those non-technical factors I list above are the indicators of that readiness. If the “applications” that SharePoint is intended to provide are extremely well thought out right up front, then get out the hammers, nails, screwdrivers, and bow saws. But if the need is more of a vague “we need collaboration” or something closer to that end of the spectrum, then starting with out of the box is exactly the right idea.
This may be the difference between me and what Bjørn or Todd Bleeker et al would call “Developers” (see the comments here). I guess that some of my developer stripes may have washed off in the management consulting car wash, but writing code is often the absolutely last thing you should ever do. I’ve said it a thousand times, so if you know me you’re tired of it, but sometimes note cards are the right answer. Out of the box can be exactly the right starting point; I would argue that a SharePoint implementation should never be “done”. As we live in the SharePoint house, we will need to do renovations from time to time, many of them minor, some of them major. It’s all about getting to the right living space for the family. And an organization’s evolution toward a technically supported collaborative environment can be just like that.