Lead consultant Steven Richardson discusses his favourite SharePoint tools for migration, workflow, form development, digital signatures, and people search.
Over the last 15+ years, I have had the pleasure of working on many SharePoint projects varying in size and complexity.
One question I often get asked is what my favourite tools and add-ins are for various tasks. Whilst this can be tricky, as it is very dependant on the specific business requirements, budgets, and internal IT capacity, I often end up recommending the products below for Migration, Workflow, Forms, Digital Signatures, and People Search.
Just for clarity, I have no affiliation with any of these products (except the staff directory app). I receive no commission or other incentives for recommending these products. I prefer this as I feel it allow me to give my clients impartial recommendations, based solely on their needs.
A key component of SharePoint projects is often migration. This may be of content and documents from an earlier version of SharePoint, or documents from the file server or a 3rd party document management system.
My preferred tool for this is usually ShareGate. The main reason for this is the combination of simplicity and the level of granularity it offers.
SPMT is a very simple free tool provided by Microsoft for migration to SharePoint Online from earlier versions of SharePoint (2010 +) or the file server.
Mover was recently acquired by Microsoft. Whilst Mover SharePoint integration is still in its infancy, I believe this will be improved over the next 12 months, and could well end up being the tool of choice
Workflow capabilities are one of the great benefits of SharePoint. It allows us to build list-based applications rapidly that can really add value to an organization.
For this, I have chosen 2 tools, dependant on environment. One for on-premise SharePoint, and one for SharePoint Online.
For on-premise SharePoint, my preferred workflow tool is Nintex. Once again the primary reason being ease of use. This is something you can train a superuser with, allowing them to create and maintain workflows themselves. It also offers an array of functionalities and connectors.
Whilst Nintex also have a solution for SharePoint Online, this is a little bit more limited than the on-premise version. This is understandable as the on-premise version has full access to server-side components, whereas the Office 365 version runs client-side. Whilst it is still a good tool, I feel this has recently been surpassed by Microsoft Power Automate (previously flow) and Logic Apps. The array of functions and connections available is continually growing and you can really create some powerful enterprise-level automation, direct from SharePoint.
K2 is a very powerful workflow engine, which we have used when organisations already have it set up with other products. Whilst the learning curve can be steep, the capabilities are very impressive.
When it comes to form-development there is a lot of options. My preferred choice for end-users is Nintex. Whilst it can be costly, it makes it very simple to create rich engaging forms, without relying on IT.
Cognito forms are easy to create WISYWIG forms that can be integrated into SharePoint lists using Power Automate
In recent years, and with the rising popularity of Office 365 we are getting a number of service-based clients such as solicitors, accountants and financial advisers asking us to build secure client portals in SharePoint Online. A key requirement of this is often an easy way for the clients to produce pdf documents that can be accessed by there customers and digitally signed.
My preference is Docusign due to the seamless integration with SharePoint document libraries, allowing customers to sign the document, and the signed version to be uploaded as a new version of the original document. Also, the standard plans are very cost-effective, although do have a limit of 100 transactions per year. For higher volume transactions, bespoke plans are available which are also relatively cost-effective.
Adobe Sign. Often clients are already using this, therefore we would recommend them to continue with it as it also has nice SharePoint integration features
With this was I am biased. Over many years of developing SharePoint intranets, I was continuously asked to implement a Staff/People Directory, and could never find a good one on the market. Therefore, I decided to develop my own and publish it on the SharePoint app store.
This retrieves user data from People Search, User Information List, or a custom list and displays it using the excellent Datatables plugin. This gives it very rich functionality such as search as you type, filtering, sorting and exporting.
The ShareGate team have an excellent blog on how to create your own People search in SharePoint
This is certainly not a comprehensive list of the tools available. I will look to produce this in a future article. However, I hope it gives you a few ideas and tools to look at.
If you need any assistance or advice on these tools or general SharePoint advice, don’t hesitate to get in touch