Sharepoint-based Enterprise Intranet

Developing, implementing and testing custom SharePoint-based enterprise intranet solutions and collaboration portals with extended functionality.

Problem

The customer is an ISV helping its clients optimize operations and business processes, increasing productivity and innovation. The software company has a line of its own core collaboration tools, enterprise portals and ECM solutions, based on Microsoft SharePoint.

The main project goals were developing the core solution and customizing it for a variety of industries, growing the enterprise customer base and increasing loyalty of existing clients.

Overcoming Microsoft’s lack of mobile-friendly solutions was another goal on the project. Prior to launching SharePoint Framework (SPFx), Microsoft SharePoint was notorious for not being mobile-friendly. SPFx helps provide internet-on-the-go solutions, with a Page and Part model enabling fully supported client-side development and open source tooling. SPFx allows teams to build responsive branded interfaces that run in browsers as well as a hybrid, native HTML experience on phones for interactive mobile-ready experiences. The SharePoint Framework supports all the existing development opportunities with SharePoint, from Office 365 add-ins to Full Trust Code on-premises, and integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Graph to bring a client-side approach to SharePoint Online.

Solution

Itransition is a long term partner of the customer, having helped with customizing and upgrading the client’s products, as well as developing new functionality. The partnership between the two companies is mutually enriching since the customer wanted to invest into mobile-ready internet-on-the-go solutions, and Itransition had already developed and implemented a mobile-friendly AngularJS-based framework supporting SharePoint 2013/2016 and Office 365, giving the customized solution an advantage over SPFx.

Using SharePoint and Office 365 expertise, Itransition’s team helped the customer with developing highly configurable and extendable SharePoint-based enterprise intranet solutions and collaboration portals providing extended functionality for self-service teams, department and personal workspaces provisioning. The developed solution is compatible with both SharePoint 2013/SharePoint 2016 on premises and Office 365.

The solution is hosted in private enterprise networks and is only accessible internally to the customer’s employees. It uses modern Microsoft approaches such as remote provisioning and client-side object model. The solution stores documents and web pages that users can create with the help of an intuitive web interface. The solution automates such business processes as provisioning of sites and collaboration workspaces for workgroups and projects, content approval and functionality.

Architecture

The solution consists of the following modules:

  • The main website (entry point) with news, tools, favorites, key figures, workspaces and a document search engine
  • The management website—a hidden system site, which contains configured site templates, permission templates, SharePoint add-ins for wizard and scheduled tasks processing
  • Workspaces—sites created by end users containing document archives, spaces for collaboration
  • Jobs site—a hidden system site with job schedules, which can execute business tasks (find dated content, update default values, etc.), based on out-of-the-box tasks or implemented jobs for end customers.
Architecture

The solution supports the following basic user roles:

  • Administrators who manage user accounts, groups and permissions
  • Site Creators who create requests for sites/workspaces provisioning
  • Site/Workspace owners who own created workspaces and have full control of access rights to these sites, managing site users groups and permission levels
  • Site/Workspace members or users with contribute rights who can create, modify and delete content
  • Site/Workspace visitors.

Product extensions allow for additional roles to be defined by the end customer based on business requirements.

The advantages of the solution are:

  • Highly extendable site templates mechanism
  • Highly extendable job processing mechanism
  • On premises and Office 365 support
  • AngularJS based UI integrated in SharePoint
  • The solution is implemented only with SharePoint client-side object model (CSOM).

Process

Team

Itransition’s team joined the project at the development stages of implementation and support. A Dedicated Team collaboration model was chosen for the mixed team of professionals.

The customer provided team leads, developers, architects, web designers, product managers and owners, as well as QA specialists. The tech lead managed branches, deployed the solution for customers and provided technological control of tasks and testing procedures.

Itransition provided an architect and 6 SharePoint developers who implemented, supported and tested the solution.

After finalizing the concept of the new product with the customer, Itransition came up with a frontend development plan, chose a technology stack and decided on page and component types to be developed.

During all project stages the customer provided high level ideas, suggesting features to be implemented, always open to compromising and finding the best requirement realization plan developed by Itransition.

The team had to deal with challenges such as on premise SharePoint and Office 365 support with the same code base, out-of-the-box SharePoint UI customization and support of multiple end user versions and core version. Thanks to a well-stablished communication process, weekly status calls with all team members and on-demand daily calls between Itransition’s developers and responsible parties from the customer all issues were successfully resolved.

To achieve the goal of growing the enterprise customer base, the following list of targets was created:

  • Custom website templates model
  • Support both on-premises and cloud installation
  • Support multiple authentication mechanisms: Windows, AD FS, Azure AD
  • Theming
  • Self-service sites provisioning
  • Wizard for self-service websites provisioning that utilizes implemented site templates
  • Scheduled tasks execution for business tasks
  • Front-end framework with a set of predefined configurable components
  • Custom pages based on the developed framework.

Core Technologies

Component
Solution/Platform
Itransition’s input

Websites

Out-of-the-box SharePoint 2013 websites

Implemented customizations on top

Provisioning mechanism and templates mechanism

SPMeta2 solution Implementation
AzureAD and AD FS authentication mechanisms ADAL library/Windows Identity Foundation Implementation
User Interface AngularJS Custom mechanism of Angular Single Page App
Scheduled tasks module Fully customized solution developed from scratch

Results

Even though it is an ongoing project characterized by constant improvements and customizations, it has so far proven to be a fruitful collaboration for both parties. The customer achieved the project’s goal of steady enterprise customer growth, with more than 16 enterprise clients, some of them reputable financial institutions, with up to 50 000 workspaces, already using the implemented solution which was developed, tested and supported by Itransition and can be used on all modern platforms.