Microsoft is heavy in its campaign since publically making available the Microsoft Office 2013 Preview for client and server operating systems in July. I spend a great deal of time discussing with our customers all things business productivity. One of the biggest questions that keeps coming up is whether they should upgrade to SharePoint 2013 sooner rather than later.
I have seen some of my personally most respected SharePoint evangelists already stating that this is not a technology driven answer/IT focused decision. The reality is, though, that business users and owners aren’t aware that sooner or later Office 2010 will be upgradeable to the latest and greatest major version of SharePoint 2013. IT has a responsibility to drive the future of productivity. I think where other evangelists are coming from is that the drive should be for business productivity NOT technology reasons. Just because something is technically deemed “sexy” by the average IT person, doesn’t mean the business needs to purchase immediately. One huge risk in any technology roll out is training and adoption of the new version, which is often the biggest sticking point of moving off of technology with which users are comfortable. There are still plenty of people on Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, even though the support window is coming to a close.
One great example of this is the new Apple iPhone 5 – I’ve not heard many users finding much improvement from their perspective around productivity, but they’ve had plenty of problems introduced by being early adopters of the technology.
The key to success with any technology upgrade is proving that return on investment from a productivity perspective – and it is the approach I take to answer my questions to existing SharePoint users around SharePoint 2013. I have done a few presentations at user groups on this, but figured it was time to put my top 10 down in an article.
1. Document Management
I have had two customers almost fall off their chairs after I’ve demonstrated the new drag-and-drop functionality of SharePoint document libraries. Uploading documents in previous versions of SharePoint have always meant a lot of awkward clicking and a huge change from using the file share where I just drag and drop off my local machine. Sure, there was “Open in Windows Explorer” but it was slow and unstable.
The other option of getting documents into SharePoint 2010 quickly was utilizing SharePoint Workspace, but that often was unpredictable and had document library scalability limitations. In SharePoint 2013, SkyDrive Pro is a new attempt at taking your content offline and replace SharePoint Workspace. The experience of taking your documents offline has also been improved by simply clicking the sync button. This is much more of the “drop box” experience that I hear is massively being adopted for its ease of use in businesses.
Some of the major reasons SharePoint doesn’t get adopted as a document management system is the ease of simply sharing files via e-mail attachments or through Sky Drive or Dropbox. SharePoint 2013 introduces a new concept of “Share” that really takes the effort out of security management for business users by simply nominating the user or group and what permissions with two clicks. In itself, it also introduces some concerns around the security mess you could be left with so usage policies need to be thought about. For more information, please read this recent blog post from Microsoft. Requesting access to a site now has a lot more traceability too, so if you go back to the site after you have requested access, it will detail who the request is with now.
3. User Interface
When you first see SharePoint 2013, you realize it is a significant change over what is now in SharePoint 2010. The main changes are the “less is more” theories being applied in cleaning up the interface. Getting rid of some of the SharePoint-nuances like “Site Actions” and replacing with settings cog icon, having the getting started “Modern UI” tiles being front and center – but more importantly removable – getting rid of the useless photo that survived both SharePoint 2007 and SharePoint 2010 in team site template! It feels like a more polished, ”user first” user interface.
Facebook and Twitter are the kings of social and have been around for a long time, and with the release of SharePoint 2013 some of the user experiences have been introduced. For me, the biggest additions are the “@” symbol to lookup people to reference in social activity updates, the new communities with badges to gamify collaboration, and the ability to follow not only people but also documents, sites and tags. SharePoint 2010 was really missing the last piece to truly encourage users to adopt social and invest the time in social tagging.
I, like many SharePoint users, spend a lot of time trying to find documents. I don’t have the capacity to think how every person in the business files documents away. No matter how good the information architecture is, stuff doesn’t always get put in the correct spot. Search enables me to discover information quickly, and SharePoint 2013 enables me to find things much more quickly with quick document previews in the web browser, much better search refiners on the left-hand side, and subtle improvements like “view library” and “send”.
6. Managed Metadata
When I reflect back on SharePoint 2010, the major addition was certainly the Managed Metadata service to allow me to tag content with a taxonomy or folksonomy of terms. This is a huge area for helping to improve discovery of content by searching and refining by terms. Although the user interface hasn’t changed since SharePoint 2010, there are a number of improvements – such as being able to follow terms from a social perspective. The other addition is the ability to have properties associated with terms, which has been introduced to have navigation driven by term sets. One great shame here is that this cannot be used to solve the cross-site collection navigation issue.
7. Site Policies
Site Policies were also available in SharePoint 2010 by accessing via the Central Admin user interface. The site policies allowed you to send email notifications to business users if their sites were not accessed for a set period of time. This really helps with business users who are accountable for sites and need to clean them up over time. This was really a “nag” email, and there was no real visibility of which sites were out of policy. In SharePoint 2013, the site policies now trigger workflows that you can build and have various configurations for handling inactive sites. This is still not as advanced as the site lifecycle management features of Governance Automation, though.
8. Web Content Management
Running internet facing sites on SharePoint has been around since MOSS 2007, but didn’t really mature in SharePoint 2010. With that said, it is clear that there is a great focus on this for SharePoint 2013. From a business productivity perspective, this not only benefits internet facing site authors, but also internal sites that want these advanced publishing features. Improvements in embedding video directly into pages, much shorter URLs, and the ability to have better multi-lingual and multi-device support means that your Intranet, Extranet will work much better!
9. Business Intelligence
Business Intelligence continues to evolve in SharePoint 2013 with improvements across the board in Excel client, Excel services, PerformancePoint services and Visio services. The in-memory capabilities of Excel client now allow business users to pull data from various sources and build amazing sheets in minutes.
10. Apps and the Marketplace
Apps are dear to my heart, with the release of our Labs prototype AvePoint MyView, which helps with productivity through bi-directional synchronization of tasks and events from multiple sites to Microsoft Exchange. This is one example of an app that can easily be added to your SharePoint site via the Microsoft Office Store to increase productivity. The new app model takes the risk out of customizations from an upgrade perspective and allows for much more flexibility than the sandboxed solution model. Out of the gate, there is not much there – but you can be sure that the marketplace will grow exponentially to benefit users.
I’m looking forward to hearing what businesses think are their main productivity drivers in the future – feel free to add your thoughts below in the comments!