Managing SharePoint Designer

SharePoint

I recently received an often asked question from a colleague and friend. Business of all sizes struggle with this, especially when upgrading to a new version of SharePoint. Here it is:

Question:

Would you recommend using SharePoint Designer for enterprise level solutions. We are hanging a debate at work, we are still using MOSS 2007.

The following is my answer to him.

The answer is that "it depends." Mostly on what the business needs and what IT can afford.

My recommendation is to disallow it on MOSS 2007. There are two very big reasons for this:

1. MOSS lacks the controls IT needs to ensure security and stability of the platform. In cases where Designer has been used inappropriately, the platform has suffered. This leads to a decision to never (again) support Designer.

2. Allowing Designer means more customizations will be made. While not a bad thing in and of itself, it means your next upgrade will be increasingly challenging and costly.

With SharePoint 2010 at Service Pack 1 already, companies should be considering an upgrade. In 2010, there are better controls for Designer. You can choose to allow some aspects (like the ability to modify site settings or create mashups) while disabling others (like modifying the site definition/design).

SharePoint Designer Settings screen

I’ve found that business users understand this and are willing to wait for the upgrade. As part of the upgrade, roll out new features in phases while educating users about the rules and  how best to use the new features. As I said before, companies that allow Designer in 2007, usually regret it because it makes the upgrade so much harder. Of course, this doesn’t apply to sophisticated organizations that have a well-designed, and well-executed governance plan, but that’s a rarity.

I think a good compromise is to wait it out for SharePoint 2010. I do think that Designer is a valuable (even a must-have in some cases) tool for end users (see @WonderLaura screencasts here). Part of SharePoint’s core principals is to empower the user – do this with some boundaries (governance) and everyone will be happy.

To read more about Managing SharePoint Designer, see: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepoint-designer-help/managing-sharepoint-designer-2010-HA101838275.aspx

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