How the Microsoft SharePoint PnP Community changed my career – and can change yours too – PnP Overview

I know what your thinking!! “Really David?? A software community changed your career?! Maybe you need to get a life!!”. Stay with me though for this series of articles and I really believe by the end, you’ll feel the same as I do.

Growing up in the 90’s I was a HUGE sports AND technology fan. While that is a combination of interests that is common today, back then, it wasn’t. The internet and technology was not as advanced or wide spread as it is today. My first real computer included 8 megabytes of RAM…..MEGABYTES. An additional 8MB stick of ram cost $250. (Thank you mom and dad..they bought me 16MBs, bringing my total to a whopping 24MB).

The point is that diving deep into technology and software development was not as easy, cheap, nor was it considered as cool to do as it is today. (Yes, it is cool!!) When things didn’t work, you didn’t have many outlets for help. Today there are hundreds of help sites to connect people all over the world. But not all of them are very collaborative or friendly.

Regarding the sports fan in me, I loved the concept of having a band of brothers, all working together towards a common goal. The camaraderie….the chemistry….the “I’m going to work hard to make you better, even if I don’t benefit by it, even if it costs me time that I could spend doing something else that does benefit me” attitude that is part of a tight knit team… I craved.

Fast forward to present day and you find these two types of interests connected more than they ever were in the past. “Teams” of Software Developers are found everywhere. Although many times, these teams are assembled by circumstance or coincidence. Perhaps they work at the same employer, but might not have common interests, goals or the chemistry needed to take a team from good to great. They may not even like each other. Those teams are not inspiring, productive or any fun to be part of. Or perhaps a team comes together by being members of the same co-working location or user group based on a common geographic proximity, still somewhat coincidental!

That brings us to the SharePoint Developer Patterns and Practices Community (PnP). This is not a community team comprised and put together by coincidence. It’s not assembled by way of a selection process looking for only the best community members judged by some elitist governing counsel. It’s not even geographically aligned….other then I guess we are all on earth…LOL.

The PnP SharePoint Community is comprised of me and you, making the decision to be involved and EVERYONE is welcome to be part of the community. This provides the opportunity to be helped by others that genuinely want to help you. In turn you can choose to help others that genuinely appreciate being helped.

Now to me, what’s truly amazing is this community initiative was not started by some rogue, disgruntled group of developers that needed help, but were not getting it. This community of openness and inclusion was started by Microsoft…YES…that Microsoft. The faceless machine that critics have said doesn’t care about it’s users or developers.

Well, I’m here to tell you that they do! They care. They listen. They even let and WANT the community…YOU…to help determine the future of how their software functions and play a role in improvements that are developed. They empower the community to shape the future of their software. See https://open.microsoft.com for a few examples.

Microsoft even provides many ways for the community to be involved and be heard. UserVoice, one example, is a site where you can submit an idea or feature request and let the community vote on if they believe it to be valuable…..AND the Microsoft SharePoint Engineering team act’s on these requests!!! It’s not just a veiled attempt at making the community feel empowered.

For a company the size of Microsoft, I believe this is revolutionary! Let’s face it. It’s Microsoft. Their software is so en-grained into the everyday business of doing business, they don’t have to care. Will not caring alienate and drive away some customers? Absolutely! But it’s a numbers game for many other software conglomerates similar to Microsoft. The numeric facts are that people and businesses will still buy, even if the software company doesn’t care enough to listen to their users. BUT…the open Microsoft does care! I’ve personally been a part of contributing to and benefiting from other PnP community members contributions…that’s empowerment and gratitude at the same time!

I love SharePoint Development. But I’m the first to admit, in the past, SharePoint Development came with its fair share of frustrations and the feeling of no real ability or power to fix or improve those frustrations.

The platform had a 2-3 year long cycle of usage between versions, but during those 2-3 years of developing solutions for SharePoint, there was very little improvement in the software. Understandably so…this is a massive platform and sending out frequent updates to clients to install on physical servers all over the world was not practical and hard to keep in alignment. With this in mind, even if Microsoft wanted to be more collaborative with empowering the community, before a centralized offering like Office365 and SharePoint Online, it was almost impossible to achieve.

With SharePoint Online, part of the Office365 suite of services, Microsoft can make frequent and regular updates that enhance not only the developer extensibility, but also the general user experience.

With this new rapidly progressive enhancement experience, the PnP provides ways for members of the community to have an impact that was never before possible.

Over the next few weeks, I will publish articles that cover the categories of PnP that have completely changed my SharePoint software development life for the better.

The topics will include “Community Exposure”, “Community Contributions” and my favorite, “Community Camaraderie”.

These articles will highlight how you can get involved in the PnP Community and make a difference!!!

Author: David Warner II

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