Development of a multipurpose custom SharePoint intranet

Itransition created software for easier customization of SharePoint intranets. With its help, the company implemented and tested 20+ unique SharePoint enterprise portals.

Customer

The customer is an ISV that helps their clients optimize operations and business processes through boosting employee productivity and fostering organization-wide innovation. The software company offers several proprietary collaboration tools, enterprise portals, and ECM solutions, all based on Microsoft SharePoint.

Challenge

Being the customer’s long-term partner, Itransition has been assisting the company with customizing and upgrading their products. In the new project, Itransition’s SharePoint development team was to take up the challenge of creating a universal set of tools that would facilitate the entire SharePoint development and customization process. They also had to create a core solution that would represent a typical SharePoint intranet with the essential functionality. The customer wanted the intranet to be compatible with the SharePoint on-premises, cloud, and hybrid deployments. The intranet was also to be mobile-friendly to save end customers’ investment into developing a standalone custom SharePoint mobile app.

With the software on hand, the customer planned to easily tune custom SharePoint intranets and adapt them to the needs of the existing clients operating in different industries, as well as attract new clients looking for a corporate SharePoint portal.

With extensive experience in SharePoint development, Itransition’s SharePoint team joined the project to deliver both a framework that would ensure painless customization of future SharePoint intranets and custom SharePoint components that can be deployed across different SharePoint implementations.

The final list of tech requirements:

  • Front-end framework with a set of predefined configurable components applicable to on-premises, cloud, and hybrid SharePoint deployments
  • SharePoint site provisioning
  • Custom SharePoint site templates
  • Rich SharePoint theming
  • Adjusted scheduled tasks (timer jobs)
  • Multiple authentication mechanisms: Windows Identity Foundation, AD FS, Azure AD

Solution

The delivered custom framework enables SharePoint developers to provision SharePoint artifacts regardless of the deployment model. While developing the solution, the team utilized:

  • SPMeta2 library with a set of APIs to create SharePoint artifacts in line with the Microsoft’s remote provisioning model.
  • JQuery and AngularJS, which are the main frameworks for creating SharePoint intranet UI.

The key idea behind the solution is that it allows SharePoint developers to create sets of custom components, such as SharePoint sites, lists, and branding elements. All components can be used as templates and spread across the entire deployment. This is a great way for end customers to cut costs: instead of ordering multiple custom SharePoint sites, they can use the existing templates for a variety of business purposes.

Once Itransition finished their work on the custom framework, the SharePoint developers moved on with designing and implementing a set of SharePoint components to be used as the basis of a SharePoint intranet.

The final set of deliverables includes:

  • The SharePoint homepage—a SharePoint site with news, tools, favorites, key figures, workspaces, and a search feature.
  • The management site—a SharePoint site that contains configured site templates, permission templates, and SharePoint add-ins. It also enables the processing of scheduled tasks.
  • Workspaces—SharePoint sites that can be created by end users to manage document libraries and organize collaboration spaces.
  • Timer jobs site—a custom SharePoint site with preconfigured timer jobs that run at a scheduled time to perform recurring tasks (sending notifications, ensuring governance execution, etc.).
Architecture

The solution supports the following user roles:

  • Administrator manages user accounts, groups, and permissions.
  • Site Creator makes requests for sites/workspaces provisioning.
  • Site/Workspace owners are users responsible for the created workspaces. They can manage access rights, site users groups, and permission levels.
  • Site/Workspace members can create, modify, and delete content.
  • Site/Workspace visitors can view the content published on a site or a workplace but cannot edit it or add new content items. 

Apart from that, intranet administrators can add custom roles based on the particular business contexts of their organizations.

Development process

Team

The customer’s team included team leads, developers, architects, web designers, product managers, product owners, and QA specialists. The tech lead managed the entire development process, controlled solution deployments at end customers, and provided the technical assessment of the delivered solutions and testing procedures.

Itransition’s team included a SharePoint architect and 6 SharePoint developers who implemented, tested, and supported the final solution. The team was also responsible for drawing up a detailed development plan, choosing the most suitable technology stack, and deciding on SharePoint components to be developed.

The team had to deal with various challenges such as delivering deployment-agnostic framework and solutions, customization of the UI and out-of-the-box SharePoint features, as well as ongoing support of multiple solution versions at each particular end customer. Thanks to a well-established communication process between Itransition’s developers and project stakeholders all challenges were addressed successfully.

Core Technologies

Component
Solution/Platform
Itransition’s input

Websites

SharePoint 2013

Customization

SharePoint site provisioning and custom site templates

SPMeta2 Implementation
User authentication Microsoft Azure (ADAL)/ Windows Identity Foundation Implementation
User interface AngularJS Custom mechanism for creating single page apps
Scheduled timer jobs SharePoint 2013 Custom solution developed from scratch

Results

Using their SharePoint development expertise, Itransition’s team helped the customer create a configurable and extendable SharePoint intranet that can be implemented in enterprises regardless of their size and business domain. The developed solution is compatible with SharePoint 2013, SharePoint 2016, and SharePoint Online. It is based on modern development approaches such as remote provisioning and client-side object model (CSOM). The solution facilitated the custom development of SharePoint sites and collaboration workspaces.

The customer achieved the main project goal of ensuring a steady growth in the enterprise customer base. The solution operates in over 20 companies from finances, telecommunication, biotech and other industries.

Itransition keeps collaborating with the customer and assists them in supporting the implemented solutions and enriching them with new features.