Would the real developer please stand up?

  • Behind door # 1; .NET developer eating 800 page manuals for breakfast
  • Behind door #2; power user, business professional
  • Behind door #3; clerical person

If you are working in SharePoint and you guessed door #2, you would get top marks because that is the majority of development. Now wait, you say, what about the professional coder? You would also be correct, but not as much because they will develop fewer systems now.

Power users have been developing shadow applications for years. Shadow apps? You know, the 1000+ lines of VBA code in an Excel application, or the Access application that really runs the department. Just give me a report in Excel format? That Excel data is not used for a report but a data feed for a shadow app. Shadow applications are called shadow because they are meant to live in the shadows, everybody knows about them, but nobody talks about them. “They are unsupported”! Kinda like some of our relatives.

Professional developers are busy; their work takes a long time and they can’t satisfy all of the business requests. Smart business people don’t just go away and wait. They take the tools available to them and start building application they use to run their business.

It has been getting easier and easier to write applications. SharePoint has pushed this to a new limit where people with power user skills can now build and modify web sites easily by using components called Web Parts which allow you to mash up a web page quickly, and sort, display and edit data in a database in a flash. And you quickly have a working application.

So does that mean the guy behind door number #1 will they have to learn to say “would you like fries with that”? No, assuming he understands the realities of the new world. Someone has to build the web parts, manage the server, backup, recovery and all the plumbing that makes an application. As shadow applications come out of the shadows, they can be fully supported and integrated into the business process. The developer behind door # 1 has to acknowledge the new reality and work hand in hand with the guys behind door #2; if they can do that then everybody wins.

They guys behind door # 1 can build the infrastructure, the really cool and hard-to-do web parts; the stuff they really want to do. They don’t want to build systems just to read and write data to a database; that was tough 15 years ago and boring now. Just ask a developer to build a web page to read / write data to a database and watch their face. Then ask them to build a complex web part, and watch his face this time. The guys behind door number 2 don’t have to hide in the shadows and can work together with the professional developers. And, the guys behind door number #3 get a better integrated solution that is supported and works together instead of lurking the shadows.

Sound great doesn’t it? It is, but you have to be careful now that the lights are on and the real apps are exposed; more about that in a future article.

Gord Maric

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