Configuration: Mind over Muscle

My SharePoint-related posts are also published on Recently, they displayed my series of Business Examples and I received a Tweet from someone who appeared to be a little disappointed with my “Facebook in a Team Site“.

FacebookTweetWell, with my post title you could expect anything really. I mainly chose it because the business asked me for “Facebook functionality” in so many words. But at the time of creation, around 2010-2011, Facebook had much less functionality than today, so expectations may well be higher now than they were then. So yes, I can understand that for some this post may have been a bit of a disappointment.

But what really struck me, was: “SP Announcements, wow”. And I take it the “wow” was meant ironically. And that is where I disagree!

BecauseICanI often come across solutions where it appears as if the business analyst thought: “Oh, great, this is cool functionality! Let me use this as often as possible, just to practice. Let me experiment how complex I can make it, because it shows how clever I am. That will be good for my next assignment”.
It looks as if that person forgot that this solution needs to be maintained, often by a succession of business people who are not as expert as that business analyst. It appears as if this person forgot that people in the process will change, that content will be added but perhaps not removed, that workflow history may need to be purged, and that metadata may need to be adjusted. In other words: the inevitable changes that will happen over time, and the necessary maintenance that will bring, have not been accounted for.

My approach is different. I can not run away after creation. If things are too complicated or break down, I will have to provide the support. That is why I try to make things as simple as possible. It will be easier to explain to and maintain by the process owner.  It means things will not break down as easily if the management is handed over to someone who has not “lived through” the creation and implementation of the solution.
I never create a workflow when a “send email to Assigned To” or an Alert will do. I always try to use a custom list rather than InfoPath. How much value does the autofill of your name in an InfoPath form add, when your name will be shown in “Created By” by default?

For me, the challenge is to create a simple but robust SharePoint process, rather than automatically slap a workflow into the site and be done with it.

That is why I am really proud to solve a business problem with a simple Announcement List. That is “WOW” for me!


Well, and because I am not that good with workflows and InfoPath. 🙂

You may also like:

The Perils of InfoPath
The 80-120 rule for IT Projects
Empathy or Business Sense

Image courtesy of Ambro at

3 thoughts on “Configuration: Mind over Muscle

  1. TL Ferrell November 27, 2013 / 6:56 pm

    I totally agree. One of my mantras when I’m teaching my SharePoint classes — including the InfoPath/Workflow class! — is that I always use the simplest tool that will get the job done. I don’t use InfoPath when a list will work just fine. I don’t use workflow when an Alert will accomplish what’s needed. I don’t use fancy web parts or coding when I can show what I need to show via a view. Sometimes you might sacrifice a LITTLE UI polish or a small detail you’d like to have, but if it means easier implementation, faster implementation, and easier maintenance … it’s worth the trade-off.

    • Ellen van Aken December 24, 2013 / 9:04 am

      Thank you for the feedback, Tracey. Great minds think alike! 🙂

  2. Veronique Palmer February 7, 2014 / 8:38 am

    I agree wholeheartedly too!!! GREAT post Ellen! KISS rules!

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