SharePoint User Managed Solutions, a new LinkedIn group

I just started a LinkedIn group: SharePoint User Managed Solutions (SUMS). Its purpose is to share best practices, ideas and business opportunities, around the deployment of User Managed Solutions in SharePoint.

What are User Managed Solutions?

What I call User Managed Solutions, in the context of SharePoint, are solutions that can be installed, customized, maintained, upgraded, using only tools that are available to SharePoint users. These tools are mainly the SharePoint user interface and SharePoint Designer, but could also include desktop applications, like the Office suite, or other tools that rely on Web services.

The techniques used to build the solutions include:
– Client side code (JavaScript, jQuery, stylesheets, Web services, etc.)
– Page, list and site templates
– Themes
– Data View Web Parts
– Reusable workflows
– Metadata (Content types, Calculated Columns)
– etc.

A couple notes:
– “User” is not restricted to end user / business user, it means anybody who accesses SharePoint through its user interface.
– the solutions can run either on the client side (e.g. JavaScript) or on the server side (e.g. workflows).

Why a new social network?

In the past few years, several factors have pushed the development of User Managed Solutions:
– SharePoint environments where server side implementations are not possible (BPOS for example), or are prohibited (company policies)
– the evolution of Web design and browsers, making client side options more and more attractive
– Microsoft’ s move to open SharePoint customization to a larger public: SharePoint Designer free since April 2009, Web services and Object model, templates and themes, reusable workflows, etc.
– Increased visibility, thanks to the SharePoint blogging community showcasing more and more advanced solutions, involving in particular Data View Web Parts, scripts and Web services.

Still, these opportunities are not yet used to their full potential. SharePoint remains a world where the emphasis is largely on IT specialists and .NET developers. By creating a dedicated network, I hope to make it easier for those among us, who are interested in User Managed Solutions, to meet their peers.

Who could benefit from this new group?

User Managed Solutions involve different actors, creating a bridge between the business and the technical worlds.

Business users understand the immediate benefits of the solutions, but not necessarily the long term or large scale implications. they need more guidance to deploy the solutions in a sustainable way, and assess their value against other options.

Business analysts and consultants benefit from the versatility of such solutions, allowing them to better answer the business users’ needs.

Solution providers can deliver solutions that are more flexible and better tailored to specific needs. But to make this work, they need closer interaction with analysts and end users.

Why LinkedIn?

There are many ways to build a social network. I already rely on blogs, forums, and twitter. What interested me in LinkedIn was the business dimension.
In particular, there’s one issue I currently see with User Managed Solutions: many potential users are attracted by their versatility,  but are reluctant to pay the full price of a custom development. I hope that by mutualizing the requirements and developments, we can identify more win-win opportunities.
I also hope that by bringing the actors together, we’ll build a more professional approach, where solutions are actually managed and not just copy-pasted (think JavaScript/jQuery). This will increase their credibility and recognition among SharePoint professionals.

To get started, and show what I am expecting from this new group, I have posted a first discussion:
Lightweight, interactive charting solution