Need an affordable EUC tool? Take a second look at the least-loved piece of software around: SharePoint.
‘Tis the time of year we’re supposed to give thanks. I’d follow suit, but KJR isn’t about following suit. In that spirit … among the curses of my personal existence is that when I hear just about any four-syllable word or phrase, not setting it to the tune of Oklahoma! is close to impossible. See if you can avoid it.
Halitosis! makes most toothpastes hide away in fear.
It drives your friends away, and your pastor pray
That he sees you in his rear-view mirror …
No? How about:
Folger’s coffee! Is hot, black, bitter, and has caffeine.
It doesn’t taste as good, as coffee should,
But it’s better than drinking Mr. Clean …
See? It’s like a monstrous earworm generator.
Speaking of earworms, you’ll be delighted to know researchers are working tirelessly to figure out what separates earworms from other music. Science marches on. Maybe they’ll find a cure for this horror that afflicts so many.
Don’t bet your life savings. That isn’t how the world works. You and I both know what will really happen: Marketers from around the globe will take advantage of this research to stick their messages ever more firmly in our heads.
If only they’d use their newfound powers for good.
Speaking of using newfound powers for good, last week we raised the question, what ever happened to inexpensive end-user computing (EUC) tools? This used to be a thriving software market segment, with products like dBase, Paradox, FoxPro, Access, DataEase, R:Base, and DataFlex competing on price, features, and performance for the hearts of end-users and independent developers around the world.
Now? There are products, but except for Access, which Microsoft increasingly treats as a forgotten stepchild, they’re too expensive to encourage widespread use, and they lack sufficient market presence to instill confidence in their staying power.
Except, that is, for the worst-explained product in the history of computing, SharePoint.
SharePoint folders! are just like shared folders but more slow.
Their taxonomies, reproduce like fleas, while their contents grow and grow and grow …
MAKE IT STOP!!!
Sorry. Where was I? Oh, that’s right, SharePoint, winner of the Rodney Dangerfield Can’t Get No Respect award ten years running.
Aside from the sludge-like performance of most implementations, the biggest problem with SharePoint is how few people know what it is and can do. Mostly, it’s deployed as a document management solution, without the document management. Which is to say, its taxonomies are managed just like server-based shared folders — they’re mostly ad hoc rather than designed and enforced, so what’s the point?
SharePoint has a raft of other features, which some enterprising training company might profitably list in order of declining visibility. Lord knows I’m not qualified to do this, except for being confident of what the last, least visible features would be: SharePoint provides a reasonably competent set of EUC development tools.
It lets users: Define tables (which for some unaccountable reason SharePoint calls “lists,”); join tables together (SharePoint calls this “linking lists”); create forms (SharePoint does call them “forms,” so that’s something); and define workflows.
And it has integration capabilities.
Not that yours truly understands any of this in enough depth to speak from authority. My personal experience with SharePoint is pretty much limited to using it for sharing project data and documents.
Is SharePoint the best tool for EUC app dev? From a features-and-functionality perspective, almost certainly not. But when evaluating software, features and functionality aren’t the entire ballgame. Whatever its flaws, SharePoint has three significant advantages.
The first is that you’ve probably already licensed it, so the incremental cost of making it available for EUC app dev is going to be less than licensing something else.
Advantage #2: If you already have SharePoint, you have SharePoint administrators and help desk staff who are accustomed to it. You won’t be starting from scratch.
The third advantage is much the same as when you have a repair job to do and the only tools available are a Swiss army knife and a roll of duct tape. They might not be ideal, but they’ll still give you a better result than Band-Aids and chewing gum.
Which is to say, SharePoint might not be the best tool in the drawer, but it probably does achieve the exalted state of good enough.