When people call something vanilla, it’s sort of a misnomer. They think vanilla is boring, but it’s really a complex, layered compound and highly useful for improving the flavor of many things (cakes, ice cream, chocolate, etc.). Keeping that in mind, calling out-of-box SharePoint vanilla is not only accurate, but it’s also a compliment.
SharePoint Vanilla is a complex, powerful tool right away. It can be a highly useful platform for internal and public content management and communication. However, most hospitals and healthcare organizations need specialized tools and customization in addition to what’s available with SharePoint Vanilla (this is where those metaphorical chocolate chips and marshmallows come in).
Customization can range from specialized architecture to branding to applications and tools built specifically for the healthcare industry.
There are five basic principles of customization for a SharePoint site:
- Look and Feel – The appearance of your SharePoint environment is important, whether it is a public facing website or an internal employee portal. A customized look and feel increases user adoption and makes your content complement your hospital’s image. Look and Feel customizations can include color scheme and graphics, page layout, and site navigation. There is no longer any reason your SharePoint environment can’t look exactly how you want it to.
- Customization to Core SharePoint Functionality – These changes are made to the way SharePoint’s basic functions work rather than using add-ons or tools. For example, we had a client with a public facing SharePoint environment. SharePoint doesn’t really come with some of the web functionality necessary for populating pages with metadata (the title, description, and keyword list that users don’t necessarily see but that search engine spiders crawl). We made some code changes to the pages, making it easy for the client to add their metadata and improve their SEO practices.
- Application Integration – Sometimes customization is more involved than changes to SharePoint. Many hospitals and healthcare organizations need to be able to integrate information from their SharePoint environment into other programs or databases, like their electronic medical records (EMRs), or they need their existing tools like a Physician Directory, to display and work with their SharePoint site.
- Custom Tools and Applications – Custom tools can be built to function directly or be connected directly to a SharePoint environment. Form management tools, custom directories, and communication tools often fall under this category. One of the tools we built for a client was an application which allowed employees to submit ideas that could save the organization money. Tools like these make a SharePoint environment more interactive and content more accessible to your users.
- SharePoint Governance Strategy – Having a strong SharePoint governance strategy (i.e., structure, security and permissions, site growth, etc.), tailored to your organization, from Day 1 is the key to creating a manageable SharePoint environment for the long term. It may seem overwhelming to plan and deploy SharePoint Vanilla short term, but if the environment is created without a governance strategy, it can turn into anarchy as your site develops and user adoption grows.
SharePoint Vanilla is an extremely robust content management system, but with a little help, it can become a branded, interactive web environment that fits the precise needs of a hospital or healthcare system.
AVID Design offers full-scale written and visual communication services for hospitals and healthcare systems, including SharePoint, Web design, SEO and PPC content development and assessment, online video and rich media, analytics and measurement, content management systems and more.
Keir Bradshaw | Director of Web Development | AVID Design