SharePoint is all about integration. After all, it integrates your office documents, business data, day-to-day processes and employees in one searchable, navigable location. But to SharePoint consultants such as myself, “SharePoint integration” means one thing: A marriage between SharePoint software and another software system.
Depending on the system and how it is integrated, this software can add dimensions of functionality without replacing it. Consider, for example, a database of products that your employees must access using a very old, clunky piece of software. Due to limitations of this outdated software, only the name of the product is searchable, and only after a very slow and time-consuming log-in process. Sounds like your company might be bleeding dozens of man-hours a week!
But if we integrate that product database with SharePoint, we suddenly make it searchable across all available fields. That way, your Marketing and Sales departments never have to leave the software when they’re writing up sales reports. They simply use SharePoint’s integrated search to find the product they’re looking for. Its search capabilities look across all fields and allows you to filter results according to product category, dimensions, color, and any other field that is integrated into SharePoint from the original system.
And the process doesn’t have to be one-way. There are plenty of solutions out there for writing data from inside this software back to other software systems. Let’s take a look at a few different ways we might integrate a software system with SharePoint:
- Business Connectivity Services
- BCS is a way to map data from external systems, such as databases and XML documents, to SharePoint lists. These lists are known as “external lists” and give users nearly all of the features of a list, with the added advantage of reading and updating data to and from the line-of-business system.
- Custom Web Part
- A custom web part written in .NET can be dropped onto any SharePoint web part page. Custom web parts give more flexibility around the way data is manipulated, grouped, displayed, and written back to your other software system.
- Custom .NET Page
- Like a custom web part, a custom .NET page can be dropped into any of its page library. This gives developers nearly full access to the capabilities of .NET and can be linked and managed within the share point framework
There are lots and lots of options to consider when it comes to integrating your line-of-business system with SharePoint. But don’t worry—we’re here to help!