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Extending SharePoint Functionality

14th October 2016

SharePoint’s out of the box functionality means that it is a capable platform for most businesses.  The core services of document management and collaboration that are built in improve the ability of staff to control and share information through an organisation.  However, in order to unlock the full potential of SharePoint and deliver meaningful change in a business, it is usually necessary to extend the basic functionality of the software through applications or custom development.

The way in which SharePoint is extended is dependent on the version that your organisation is using.  The latest versions of SharePoint – 2016 and Online – use an app model in which many popular add-ons are available to install outside of the core code so that they can be updated and hosted separately.  Older versions of SharePoint had extensions which were much more tightly integrated into the platform.

In addition to “off the shelf” extensions that offer standard functionality, it is sometimes necessary to use custom development to add specific features that your business needs, or to configure multiple other plug ins to work together correctly.

Popular SharePoint Applications

One of the most common uses of SharePoint beyond document management is as an Intranet.  Typically, a SharePoint intranet will offer a range of functions for staff including:

    • Holiday booking
    • Expenses tracking
    • Training
    • Internal News
    • Departmental information

Most of these extended functions can be included in current versions of SharePoint as specific apps that have been pre-built and can be “installed” to deliver the required functionality.  For simpler organisations, these types of app are suitable.  Pre-built apps are designed to offer the functionality to the widest range of organisations, however when there are specific needs, they will often not be suitable – such as in larger businesses where individual Team Sites are used.

For more complex organisations, bespoke SharePoint development is usually a more appropriate solution.  This way, the functions that are required can be tailored specifically and rather than settling for “Good enough” the business gets “just right”, which will usually lead to more efficiency.

There are disadvantages of bespoke development.  The code base needs to be supported by the development company – so it is wise to use a firm that you can work with long term – and also as it may be more tightly integrated into SharePoint than an app, any changes to SharePoint itself may require further development in the future.


Two key considerations that need to be part of the app selection process are the compatibility of the application with the installed version of SharePoint, and also whether any additional server resources will be required to run the software.

It is essential that any new apps are fully tested in a development environment prior to go-live to ensure that they do not conflict with existing configuration work.  Also, the sysadmin will need to consider whether there are any changes to the SharePoint hosting requirements to ensure that there is no detriment to performance.  Having access to a reliable SharePoint Helpdesk service to assess the impact of any new extensions can help minimise incompatibility or downtime.

For more information about how igroup can help your business test and deploy applications into SharePoint, please contact a member of our team today on 0203 697 0302.

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