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January 08
SharePoint for Everyone! Yes, Even for Your Family!

The more immersed I get in SharePoint, the more I see uses for it for everyone in everyday life.  Construction companies keeping track of projects, Hair salons keeping track of clients and schedules, Accounting firms maintaining customer records for years, car dealerships, schools, anyone that needs to track data, collaborate, and stay organized could find huge benefit from SharePoint.  Yes, even your family.

To add to that, I’m sick and tired of people asking me what I do for a living…. actually, I’m sick and tired of trying to explain what SharePoint is. I’m weary of “It Depends”. I’m fed up with ignorant SharePoint bashers. This esoteric platform deserves a real world test for the common man, and it’s time to eat my own dog food. I’m ready to subject my poor family to perils and heartache that can be accompanied by epiphanies and elation. It’s time my family started using SharePoint.

So! Welcome to my “SharePoint for Everyone” experiment where I plan to use SharePoint to help my family collaborate and better organized for 2013.

Are you crazy? SharePoint for your family?

My sanity is sometimes debatable, but I’m serious about the belief that SharePoint can be of use to my family. Life just gets more and more hectic, with more information to organize, more things to remember, and more things to forget. SharePoint could immensely help the average family overcome a lot of frustration and disorganization! Some of the ideas that flood my brain:

Calendar of events

Probably the most obvious, but we can easily track my sometimes crazy travel schedule, various appointments, school activities, school breaks, vacation schedules, due dates for bills, etc.. etc.. etc… There’s always something I need to be aware of. Also, thanks to my development skills I can enhance SharePoint’s calendar to make it more useful and relevant. 

Shopping Lists

So, another obvious one. I can set up a shopping list and whenever we run out of something, or need something, we just add it to the list.  Then, when someone is at the store, just pull up the list on their phone and mark it off the list as they grab it. Simple, common sense, and will make it easy to not forget things.

Let’s take this Shopping List scenario to the extreme to talk about what you COULD do in SharePoint. I could inventory all of the food in my house and put it in a SharePoint list, indicating quantity of each item. When I use an item, I update this list to say how much is remaining. When I run out of an item, it automatically adds the item to my shopping list.

One step further, I have a list of recipes that are linked to my inventory of food. Let’s say I’m at the store and decide I want to make one of these recipes. I pull up the recipe on my phone and it tells me what ingredients I’m out of and would need to purchase in order to make that recipe because SharePoint knows what ingredients I need and what ingredients I have at home.

Let’s take it one step FURTHER… Let’s say I know I drink one gallon of milk a week and I don’t want to have to bother with updating my list all the time.  I can create an entry in my list that indicates my usage of the item how often I run out of it, and SharePoint would automatically deduct that amount for me and add it to the Shopping list without me doing anything.

AND another step further. Let’s add a dollar amount to each item in my food inventory. I can then look at my recipes and see how much each meal would cost to make. I can calculate based upon my recipes I plan on making and my usage of items how much I can expect to spend on food and easily create a food budget. 

Holy cow.. can you see the potential???

Chores and tasks

I always forget to do something, wouldn’t it be great to have an individual task list so I could know what potential chores I have. I could assign chores to the kids. You could prioritize the chores.

Let’s take it one step further.  You have a list of rewards (stay up 1/2 an hour later, extra desert, have a friend stay over, go to the movies, etc.).  You then assign an award to a task/chore.  Your kids have a list of awards they have earned, and whenever they complete a chore, it adds the reward to their list.  Now, your kids have incentive to do more and you can keep track of what you promised them they could do.

Data… data… data…

Wow, think of it. A document library with all your photos, tax forms, manuals for your various appliances and electronic components (or links to the web sites), warranty information with contact information for the manufacturer. Contact lists with phone numbers for Dr’s, family members, mailing addresses, a check box to indicate if you send them Christmas cards, and another checkbox to indicate if THEY send YOU one.

How would you like to have a family FAQ??? Holy cow I would.  What to do when the internet stops working? How to switch the TV downstairs to the PS3 from the xBox? How to wash a load of whites? ANYTHING you or someone in your family asks or may forget you can put in an easy to find list. And if something new comes up? JUST ADD IT!


And ALL of this information can easily be searched using SharePoint’s search capabilities.


Each person can have their own custom view of data. When the kids get home from school they can easily see what list of chores they have to do, they can add due dates for upcoming homework and projects. They can see the family calendar and know what’s planned for the rest of the week.

Let’s say little Timmy comes home from school. He opens up his web browser on his computer which just happens to have the family SharePoint site as his home page (you could even have it send you an email when he does this so you know he’s home from school). It lists the chores he needs to do before he jumps on the xBox. One of these chores is wash a load of towels. This chore also has a link to the FAQ on washing towels. So, he can click on the link and see what he should set the water temperate too, how much detergent to put in, and where to turn the dial. So, he has no excuse for NOT doing it. Let’s say he uses the last of the laundry detergent for this load of towels, so goes in the site, searches for detergent, and marks that you are out of it. It automatically gets added to your shopping list. So, when you stop by the grocery store on the way home you will automatically have detergent in your list when you pull up the list on your phone. When Timmy is done with the laundry, he marks the chore complete and you get an email (if you want) letting you know he did his chores. 

Sound like something you wouldn’t mind having?

It’s potentially pretty amazing if you think about it. I wish I had this all set up right now. So, instead of asking WHY would I do this??? I ask, why aren’t you??

But there are other products that do what you are trying to do!

Before you get to huffy and point out that there are other “friendlier” products that do a lot of what I’m going to attempt, let me point out:

  • They can’t do everything SharePoint can do, and because SharePoint is so flexible and extensible I have very few limits to what I can theoretically accomplish.
  • SharePoint can do all of it, and all of it in one place, so I don’t have to have 5 phone apps and 5 web sites to keep track of. I can do it all in one place. Plus, with SharePoint’s rich API I could even programmatically connect to some of those other applications if I really wanted to.
  • To be blunt. I don’t care. Those other products don’t pay my bills.

So, could I accomplish all of this cheaper and easier? The honest answer is, I don’t know. I don’t know of any one product that could do everything I mention except SharePoint.

SharePoint might be okay for YOUR family, but the average family doesn’t know how to use it.

This is a very valid argument, SharePoint is not simple to grasp. However, if my little experiment is successful I could try and make it accessible to everyone else.

I plan to create a Site Template that has all the artifacts in place that I used so anyone could create a site and get going. I could create tutorials and videos that will hold your hand through the process and allow anyone to start getting benefit immediately.

So, yeah, it may be hard for the average person to start from scratch. My hope is, *I’M* the only one that has to start from scratch here.

But SharePoint is expensive!

Let’s make one thing clear. I’m NOT NOT NOT proposing that anyone set up a SharePoint farm in their house. That would just be ridiculous and I would not wish that on my worst enemy. Between Office 365, SharePoint Online, and other options, it’s actually really affordable to use hosted SharePoint. My next bog post in this series will walk you through the choices I made for hosted SharePoint.

The biggest challenge I see

Funny enough, the biggest challenge I see is the main challenge most organizations face when using SharePoint: user adoption. I’m going to have to strongly persuade my family to use SharePoint. I’ll set up a computer in a central location, set up bookmarks in their various computers, tablets, and phones. I’ll get them in the habit of it being the first thing they do when they get home is to log in and look at their dashboard. It will take effort. They will complain at first…. or maybe the entire time.  We’ll see.  My hope is that once they start seeing benefit from using it, when they have that first “ah ha!” experience, then it won’t be an issue.

This whole experiment may fail miserably, or maybe, just maybe, I’ll end the year being more organized than ever before in my life, have a less frustrated family, more free time on my hands, and more money in the bank. Skies will part, rainbow colored unicorns will deliver bacon on silver platter, and all will be right with the world.


like the idea

Love the idea. I've heard "rumors" that MS will be releasing an official iOS app for sharepoint. granted there is an ios requirement there but it could make the shopping lists that much more useful.
 on 1/9/2013 5:54 PM

Hosted vs. local

Here's an interesting quandary that your article unwittingly brings up.  You mentioned a family FAQ that could include questions such as "What to do when the Internet stops working?"  And then later you suggested using a hosted solution such as Office 365.

Anyone see a problem with this?  I guess you could always get to your family FAQ with your mobile phone in the case of an Internet outage, but still...

So my tendency would be to go with a local server running SharePoint Foundation, but that can make it somewhat difficult to connect to from outside the home.  Especially if you want a family calendar hooked up to Outlook from work.  So maybe Office 365 after all.  You'd just have to probably keep that one particular question on a sticky note.  :)
 on 1/9/2013 6:17 PM

SharePoint Architect, Developer, Blogger, Speaker, Author, and general pain in the butt.
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