There’s no doubt that one of the biggest draws to SharePoint comes from the flexibility of the platform. This flexibility comes in many forms: internal customisations can be applied to improve out-of-the-box SharePoint features, external data can be can be brought in from outside applications and databases, and companies have the option of either on-premises or cloud-based environments. This flexibility is a key driver behind Office 365’s position as the most popular enterprise cloud service on the market. Thanks to the dedication of Microsoft Partners around the world, additional features through SharePoint extensions extend the platform—whether on-premises or in the cloud—far beyond their standard capability, helping make the platform more accessible, more powerful (and therefore more popular) than ever.
In today’s post, we want to talk about some of the best SharePoint extensions available for both on-premises and online and how you can get the most out of them.
1. Office 365 Centralized Deployment Service
Microsoft is fully aware that partners can improve the platforms they use to get their work done. Not just that, but they actually encourage it. Earlier this year, Microsoft released the Office 365 Centralized Deployment Service. This allows administrators to deploy Office web add-ins across the breadth of their Office 365 environment through the Office 365 admin centre or the use of PowerShell scripts.
The right add-in can benefit your organisation by making the tools you use everyday work more efficiently in ways you may not have considered. And by deploying them from a centralised location, you ensure that your users will be more likely to start using them. It also allows admins to leverage third party add-ins the same way you would with apps from the Office Store or on Microsoft AppSource.
The Centralized Deployment Service is an important starting point when it comes to extending your Office 365 environment—acting as the means for you to start implementing the best add-ins for extra features and improved functionality.
Business Connectivity Series (BCS) allows you to incorporate data from external sources—applications, web services and cloud databases. This is useful when you need to:
- Display information from external systems
- Display data in a SharePoint list format for users to interact with
- Make backend data sources show up in SharePoint search results
Introduced with SharePoint 2010, BCS is a useful but technical process. BCS Meta Man, from Lightning Tools, can simplify a lot of the processes involved in SharePoint Business Connectivity Series, removing the need for writing code. Check out how you can make the best use of SharePoint Business Connectivity Series and BCS Meta Man here.
3. Content Rollups (Lightning Conductor)
Content rollups—the process of combining multiple SharePoint lists into a single list—is actually an out-of-the-box capability in SharePoint. The problem, however, is that users are restricted to a single site collection, which can bring about some limitations. As the size of a Site Collection should, by recommendation from Microsoft, not exceed 200GB, large organisations are likely to need multiple site collections for all their content. But each Site Collection has its own set of permissions, and content therefore cannot be rolled up across them using out-of-the-box methods. Using the right SharePoint extensions can resolve this.
The Lightning Conductor add-in for SharePoint Online or on-premises, for example, allows users to roll up any type of content across multiple Site Collections without a cinch. Check out this article for more details.
SharePoint permissions reports are the bane of many administrators lives—identifying and accounting the who, what, where and why in terms of permissions and access to files. But these reports are as important as they are time-consuming. Broken SharePoint permissions are a real threat to internal security if not monitored with the utmost care.
Again, this is an area where you can survive with out-of-the-box SharePoint permissions management, but your options are limited. Users have to view permissions per site rather than holistically across your environment. PowerShell scripts can be used to scrape together permissions and offer a high-level overview, but it’s quite the technical task.
Using SharePoint extensions like external SharePoint permissions management tools can provide admins with more control over their environment, making it a smoother and easy-to-manage experience. Check out this post on more of the benefits users can expect from permissions management SharePoint extensions.
5. Internal Comms
Instant messaging, social media comment threads, emails, and even emoji ‘reactions’ count as instant communication between users. But perhaps the grandfather of online communications is the online forum. And although it precedes many of the communication methods we’re now familiar with, it’s still of great use in the enterprise thanks to its simplicity and depth.
Social Squared for Office 365 and SharePoint lets you use enterprise discussion forms to collaborate, ask questions, find answers and provide feedback to colleagues. Check out this post for more information on the benefits of communication forums and Social Squared.
Lightning Tools offer some of the best add-ins for SharePoint Online and on-premises around. We can help you to fully extend your SharePoint environment and make it as powerful as possible. Take a look at our list of add-ins for on-premises SharePoint and Office 365 for more information, or get in touch with us today.