At Habanero, we believe you shouldn’t be afraid to customize SharePoint.

From the very beginning, we’ve believed in building amazing user experiences and it is not surprising to us that a big percentage of SharePoint intranets fail because they simply aren’t usable and intuitive.

But the challenge our industry faces is how do you design an ideal experience without significantly increasing the complexity of a future upgrade? The industry refers to this as the hidden customization tax, as it is not always clear what the long-term implication and cost is to a customization. We believe that the risk of the long-term customization tax should always be balanced against the short-term risk of a failed user experience. 

Fortunately, over the past two years with the introduction of a continuous feature release cycle in Office 365 and SharePoint Online, Microsoft has established new development patterns and practices to help the partner community understand the available techniques and customization boundaries. What this means is that you can leverage Office 365’s SharePoint Online to create a custom intranet or employee portal and still enjoy the benefit of the new features being added to the platform on a regular basis.

We’ve adopted these patterns and created some of our own to mitigate the customization tax. Even though almost everything we were able to create on-premises is possible to do in the cloud, we’ve evolved our thinking to be more stringent about the boundaries and also ensure we are leveraging as many of the out-of-the-box capabilities as possible.

We’ve labeled this cloud-first development approach Responsible Development. The approach respects Microsoft’s suggested development patterns and practices, and only recommends the creation of SharePoint customizations where they are absolutely needed to create a great user experience that facilitates end-user adoption. We don’t believe in customizing a SharePoint portal just because you can, but rather customizing a SharePoint portal when you should.

SharePoint customizations should be treated with a high degree of care and consideration because there are many long-term implications and possible hidden costs that can surface unexpectedly.

Ultimately, we want our clients to save money when they move to the cloud, but also want to ensure their employees have access to world-class tools as part of their digital workplace experience. Our Responsible Development techniques can make this a reality.

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