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Organizations developing custom apps to surface external data in SharePoint 2013, need to follow a specialized set of procedures

In a set of video tutorials on the topic of how to work with BCS to surface external data in SharePoint 2013, or SharePoint Online, Office 365, Fabian Williams, a SharePoint Server MVP provides a set of guidelines likely to be very useful for any organizations planning on developing custom apps for similar needs. The title of this video tutorial set is Working with External Data in SharePoint 2013 using BCS and Workflows – On Premises and Online.

The first 3 video tutorials in this set of training content are full of references to the preliminary steps any developer should take to ensure the custom app, which is the subject of the development effort providing the topic for the course, is not only useful, but also supportable. So any organization with a past history of expending serious resources (time, money, personnel) to develop custom solutions, only to find management and user support, post implementation, were less than optimum, will likely benefit from a review of this set.

Fabian’s attention to this approach to the topic can be found as early as in the first few seconds of the second video tutorial in the set, titled “Overview of External Data with SharePoint BCS”. Fabian states one of his objectives: “If we’re talking about BCS, and if we’re talking about workflows in the context of external data, I want you to have an understanding of what that external data is. It’s EXTREMELY important. How you interact with that data depends on a, where that data is, so there is some logistics involved. Is it behind your firewall? Do you own it? Is it out there in the cloud in Office 365, SharePoint Online, Azure?”

This writer has to admit feeling a bit uncomfortable listening to this portion of the training set. Why would Fabian take the time to make a point of the absolute NECESSITY of his audience understanding the importance of thoroughly understanding these foundation steps? Eventually the point became clear. Fabian took the time to focus on what amounts to the imperative of app developers thoroughly assimilating the data architecture supporting their custom solution in order to drive home a point about “supportability” and the need for realistic solutions design in this area of organizational need.

Seen from this perspective, in other words, reflecting on this new set of video training content as, in part, an exercise in how to put together an approach to custom app design, which promises success either for SharePoint Online Office 365, or for SharePoint 2013, On Premises, Fabian’s presentation is entirely consistent with sets we published earlier this year on the SharePoint 2013 App Model, jQuery and JavaScript and Beginning Development.

Ira Michael Blonder

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