Developing for a Constrained Environment

Earlier this semester, the Lowe’s team posted about our project and a meeting that we had with Lowe’s IT upper management. At that point in time we were still gathering requirements, focusing scope, and trying to gain a solid understanding of Lowe’s ORBIT process. Seven weeks later, we are just about ready to deploy the SharePoint application we built that will centralize the ORBIT process and make it more efficient.

One of the biggest, and most important challenges we faced in development was to make sure that our SharePoint solution would work properly once deployed in Lowe’s environment. I know that sounds obvious, but you would probably be surprised at the number of projects that companies pour time and money into that ultimately don’t work once they are deployed in the real world. This can happen for any number of reasons, but the problem usually stems from the lack of understanding of requirements and constraints. You can think of requirements as the pieces of functionality that a solution must provide and constraints as the rules or limits that you have to follow while providing those functionalities.

Because of the level of SharePoint support at Lowe’s, we had several constraints that kept us from using a lot of the internal and external functionality that SharePoint provides. We weren’t allowed to use SharePoint Designer, Enterprise Services, or custom code – each of which provide several layers of functionality that out-of-the-box SharePoint can’t provide on its own. At the beginning of the project we didn’t realize the full impact of these constraints, but as we did more research we began to discover just how severely these constraints were going to limit us. We then researched all of the functionalities that we were allowed to use and spent time experimenting with them in an environment that mirrored the Lowe’s environment.

If we hadn’t paid such close attention to the requirements and constraints, we almost certainly would have built a solution that didn’t work correctly once deployed in Lowe’s environment. But, because of the time spent researching and experimenting, we were able to stretch the out-of-the-box SharePoint features to their full potential in order to provide the various levels of functionality that Lowe’s desired.

Written by: Ryan Clardy, Capstone Student

The University of Alabama MIS program allows students to work on real projects that provide real value to real companies. Students learn to leverage people, processes and technology to solve problems and meet the challenges of today’s businesses head-on. For more information, call 205-348-5525 or visit http://cba.ua.edu/mis.

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