November 26, 2018

Integrating SharePoint Portals

Key Challenges

   Integrate two SharePoint portals used by thousands of team members.
   Incorporate existing third-party applications into the integrated portal without increasing costs or resource usage.
   Implement incremental changes to minimize downtime.

Balancing Capabilities, Costs, and Cohesion

One of our clients, a large retailer, approached us in 2015 to improve their SharePoint-based employee portal. The portal allows employees to read company updates and access required third-party applications. The client independently owns several thousand stores. Employees at the independent stores can access the portal. Employees at our client's licensee stores could not access the portal.

To maintain customer service standards, our client trained and educated the employees of the licensee stores. Our client did not employ the licensee store employees. Because our client did not employ the licensee store employees, licensee store employees could not access the existing employee portal. Instead, licensee store employees received company information through hard copies and emails. Our client needed a better method to onboard new employees. Our client also wanted to maintain a separate SharePoint portal for their full-time employees.

Our Approach

To improve licensee store employee onboarding and training, our client asked us to build a licensee employee portal. The client wanted to release information simultaneously to the main employee portal and the licensee employee portal. We first cloned the full-time employee portal onto a separate system. But the separate solution introduced a logistical problem. Programmers needed to write code for each portal. To increase efficiency, we generalized the logic running both portals.

Challenges Along the Way

Due to the size of our client’s SharePoint farms, we could not load the entire production environment in lower testing environments. We used proxies to reproduce errors. We did not know whether bug fixes were successful until fixes reached the production environment. The size of our client also complicated bug fixes. Our client is responsible for over 10,000 stores. Proposed changes to the SharePoint farms must pass a vetting process of at least three weeks.

Still, mistakes are unacceptable. Mistakes result in downtime, interrupting the workflow of thousands of company and licensee employees. During our time on the project, we worked hard to develop trust and demonstrate competence through reliable results. The project lead emphasized patience. “We were not impatient, and we were thorough in our work. If we said, ‘this is the hotfix,’ we were absolutely certain.” Our diligence and attention to detail paid off. “We proved we were the best,” our project lead noted, “we were technically capable and thorough in our work, and the work speaks for itself.”