I’d like to share an analogy for SharePoint. Just imagine you’ve bought a new house. That house is SharePoint.

The chances are, you will have had some help in the process from the likes of solicitors, estate agents, removals companies and so on. Those guys are the SharePoint partners. Their job is to help you find the house and get settled in.

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And maybe that’s it. Maybe the house is exactly what you need. After all, SharePoint out of the box does provide a lot of features that can be used to solve business problems. But the chances are that you’ll want to do something. It could be as small a thing as a fresh coat of paint and some new curtains, or it could be a loft conversion, or it might be a whole new extension. Depending on how major the work is and what your skills are, you might try some DIY. Or it might be time to call in the partners again.

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I’ve had people ask me why go with SharePoint they then need to do loads of customisation work. The answer is that it’s a lot quicker and easier (and generally cheaper) to do a bit of adaption to something that already exists than it is to start from scratch, in the same way that it’s easier to do a kitchen refurbishment to an existing house than it is to build your own home from nothing. Plus, you can move into a house and start getting the benefits of living there; the construction work can take place later as appropriate. You can deploy SharePoint and start getting some return on investment and add in the customised features at a later stage of the project.

We can take this metaphor a step further, because there is more than one type of house and more than one type of SharePoint. You could have a little terraced house, a spot in the suburbs or a large place in the country. You can have Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 Standard, or Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 Enterprise.

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In this economy though, not everyone can afford to buy a house of their own. What do they do? They rent. SharePoint Online.