SharePoint 2016 here we come :)

Just needed to mark this day so that I can remember it. Barely 12 days after the debut of SharePoint 2016 technical preview, my team have upgraded Webparts360 AppStudio to support it. While some of you may not grasp the significant of this achievement, for me this have been ONE long journey that began in 2007.

We started building solutions for SharePoint since 2003 BUT we lost most of our work when MOSS 2007 came out. Overnight, our software became obsolete. One of our more irate customers told me off saying that our solution was short sighted and poorly constructed because it could not survive simple thing like a platform upgrade. He postulated that just like in defensive driving where you learn to be more cognizant of your environment and trends, you need to build software with the same fervor. That’s much more important when you consider building your solutions on a platform such as SharePoint since it is possible to run so many business critical workloads within a single system. I took all his comments to heart and decided to create Webparts360 – a tool for all seasons ! Our first version was on MOSS 2007 because that was also the first time when Microsoft published its API. This enabled developers to leverage on its contents and functions to build on top of it. Instead of competing, we find ourselves completing that platform. So we systematically selected features that required to building the type of solutions that my customers wanted. First, we built many web parts that did different things but then we realized that unless we simplified it – migrating to the next version was going to be tedious. Eventually, we narrowed it down to only three ! SmartList – for input and process, SmartView – for output and reporting and SmartMenu – for navigation. Since then, you could build countless solutions using these three powerful and flexible components.

Then we met Coca Cola. Suddenly, our three web parts felt really naked. They have been using Lotus Notes for a long time but they decided to switch to SharePoint. We were asked to help them port some of their solutions over to SharePoint. So they assigned an experienced Notes developer who build those Notes solutions to work with us.  Then we learned how comprehensive is Notes as an applications development tool. Moreover, we also learned how extensive were Coca Cola’s IT governance methodology. A typical project involves building on a development server, unit testing on a SIT server, and user acceptance on another UAT server before finally going live in the final production server. If your web parts were handled individually, you essentially have to deploy it at least three times – that is, if you don’t have any errors. And that’s what our solutions manager was created to do – to package and deploy a complete solution from one server to another server with just a single click.

This ability means that every project that we did becomes a reusable software asset which could save you a lot of time by not having to start from scratch. So our clients proceeded to build hundreds of solutions with our tools.

And then SP2010 came along… Once again, it broke our code. However instead of having to fix each solution, we simply have to find a way to re-engineer our web parts to support the new version. Once that was completed, all the 2007 solutions could be deployed to 2010 and everyone was happy.

Then SP2013 came… but this time we were better prepared. And our clients happily upgraded to take advantage of its new capabilities. But things changed when once again we had to make Webparts360 support Office365. Nevertheless, we soldiered on and overcame all the limitations that came with a cloud service that was managed by Microsoft.

Now, with Webparts360 you can build even more powerful solutions on Office365 that combines the other workloads such as email, calendars, contacts into SharePoint online. We also re-engineered our package and deployment tool so that you have the same control as were only possible with on premise implementations.

To date, I am not aware of any other tool that addressed this rather crucial requirement – the ability to deploy a complete customized solution on Office365. But even before we could celebrate this feat, Microsoft announced the technical preview of SharePoint 2016.

So that brings us to today where once again, our clients are spared the problem of having to think if their solutions will run on SP2016. I wonder if any of the other third party SharePoint vendors are helping their clients to solve this problem.

And webparts360 runs on SP2016
And webparts360 runs on SP2016

Now you know why they are smiling? SP2007 -> SP2010 -> SP2013 -> O365 -> SP2016. But I guess unless you see your tool as a platform applications development tool, you will not consider it as an important feature. The only competitor that we see is AppExchange of SalesForce fame. But their claim to fame is their ability to make those same cloud apps run on mobile devices… That of course, is the little secret that we have been cooking in our research lab. But that is another brand new exciting chapter which I reveal soon. In any case, I digress…

Good job, development team. I am so proud of you!

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