LA Fitness is working on a project to renovate and rebuild its intranet for more than 25,000 users using SharePoint 2013, and the IT teams needed customized coding for extensions on layout and master pages, says Jim Zhang, manager of SharePoint development. One major benefit LA Fitness has seen already with SharePoint 2013 over 2010 is that custom coding and extensions in general are much easier to accomplish in the newer edition, says Zhang. They're still needed in 2013, but they are easier to do.
Custom extensions have also been made to connect SharePoint 2013 with other Microsoft applications, such as the financial management and ERP product Great Plains. That wasn't easy to do directly out of the box with SharePoint 2010. "We had to build a lot of Web services and work flows" to make it possible, Zhang says.
Another area where extensions were needed was in controlling content availability for users as they log in to the intranet, to be sure they can see only the content they are authorized to view.
Similar extensions and additional code were needed to provide custom search of the intranet and of the data available within SharePoint to users, says Kathleen Cramm, director of business intelligence for the company.
In addition, creating very sophisticated workflows, including things that are based on a series of conditions, requires extensions that are built by the LA Fitness IT teams, says Bedar. "It's easy to do some limited workflows out of the box, such as alerting somebody that something has been changed. But if you actually want to put some Boolean logic in there ... then that requires more sophistication."
Overall, big design changes in SharePoint 2013 make it much safer to run with extensions, consultant Beckett says. Now, instead of the extensions running within SharePoint, they run alongside it, making them less problematic for the main application.
"This is better," says Beckett. It appears to be fairly well-integrated, but the actual code is running somewhere else. "That mitigates a lot of the quirks and makes it much simpler for organizations to manage and control it."
Even with the new version, however, there are always going to be cases where users will need to extend SharePoint's built-in capabilities, Beckett says. "Companies are always going to push the boundaries."
Scott Jamison, CEO and chief architect at Jornata, a consulting company that has developed SharePoint extensions and customizations, says these are the most popular areas where customers ask for help: