In August 2012, D&M moved entirely from Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS), including SharePoint, to Microsoft's new Office 365 cloud-based version, which features Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online.
Not everything that D&M has done with SharePoint needed extensions, he says. Sometimes projects just require looking at SharePoint in ways that hadn't previously been considered. That was the case when D&M decided to completely revamp the management of its many product websites around the world. Using the built-in content management tools in SharePoint, D&M was able to consolidate the Web content and the sites themselves to make it all easier to update, manage and modify, explains Alexandrou.
The firm wanted to use SharePoint and not a separate content management application because the platform is already a dependable and proven base, he says.
Dozens of the company's brand websites from around the world, which previously had been administered separately and inefficiently, were pulled into one content repository so that they could be centrally managed.
"We used the same templates for the sites, regardless of what country they were in, so they would look and feel the same." While no major third-party extensions were needed for the website consolidation project, Alexandrou says that he and his team gained a new appreciation for the SharePoint investment they had already made.
Advice: Use caution
Chris Beckett, a Microsoft Certified Master in SharePoint who has written two books on the 2013 version of the suite as well as a blog about SharePoint, advises users to be cautious and plan ahead when considering add-ons.
The problem is that customization, including add-ons, can make it tougher to upgrade cleanly to the next version, he says.
Adopt a deployment strategy of careful progress and small steps, he suggests. Pilot the add-on installation and, when making changes, know why you are doing them, he says.
One big piece of advice that LA Fitness' Bedar has for enterprises looking to extend their SharePoint deployments: Get your own people trained as experts in SharePoint so you can do most extensions on your own.
"Don't hire consultants," he says. "Get something set up and learn from it. Gain some experience. Then you might want to spend some money to do something that you can't do out of the box. That's what we did here."
SharePoint 2013 beckons
Customers say they're excited about SharePoint 2013. Eastman Chemical is evaluating the new version and plans to deploy it later this year, McGuire says. With the latest version, Eastman is looking to expand the reach of its SharePoint investment into more social media and mobile worlds for its users.
"We cannot get to SharePoint 2013 fast enough because we want to be able to deliver documents" via mobile devices more easily, through features such as SkyDrive Pro, which replaces the Work Space functionality that existed in SharePoint 2010, says McGuire.
SkyDrive Pro is a special library or folder that allows users to link to it from multiple mobile devices. It can be synched with other libraries and files to be shared with other users. "We think our users are really going to take advantage of that opportunity," says McGuire. "It really will help our mobile workforce."