Next week Microsoft will be unveiling details behind SharePoint 2013. My primary interest is in improvements in SharePoint’s social software capabilities. However, Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Yammer leaves questions about the future of SharePoint-provided social software capabilities, as well as the future of Yammer. In addition, the beta release of SharePoint 2013 and the Office 365 preview hinted at a number of possible changes. Here are a few of the things I will be looking for at the SharePoint Conference.
What are the current and future plans for SharePoint/Yammer integration? It’s doubtful that Microsoft made any significant platform changes to SharePoint 2013 to accommodate a close Yammer integration. There just wasn’t enough time to make these type of changes. However, we may see some creative use of SharePoint 2013’s capabilities that improves the current Yammer integration. In addition, what is Microsoft’s timing to enable a significantly tighter Yammer/SharePoint integration?
What SharePoint features will be provided on mobile devices? The big question in the room regarding mobile will be how well will SharePoint support Apple devices? However, this is not a simple question, given that SharePoint is a broad product. For example, do you need SharePoint’s activity stream visible on your iPhone? How about viewing and modifying a list (not just downloading documents from a library)? Or, how about rendering a full website? In short, the details of what features are supported on mobile devices is important here.
Is there a change in focus from features to applications?: Based on the Office 365 and SharePoint beta there appears to be a change in focus from simply adding new features, to now providing functional sites straight out of the box. In the past, SharePoint site templates have been provided more as a starting point that still needed work. A beefed-up team site template and the introduction of a community template are expected to ship with SharePoint 2013. They appear to be a cut above past templates and seem quite functional with little customization required.
SharePoint’s new activity stream-based user experience could be also considered an application of sorts, since it provides a social network experience out of the box. This not only shows how important Microsoft views social networking, but could be another example of Microsoft recognizing the need to for SharePoint to provide functional sites straight out of the box. Specifically, I will be looking for indications from Microsoft that this is a long-term strategy. A shift from simply adding more features to delivering social applications built using SharePoint capabilities.
Will we see any hypertext (wiki) improvements? Simple wiki pages were first introduced in MOSS 2007. A template for Wikipedia-style sites was added in SharePoint 2010. I’ll be looking for improvements in how team sites or communities can blend their content with wiki sites. In particular, I’m looking for more cohesive linkages between pages across sites. In SharePoint 2010, the only cross-site experience is provided via search and tags. I’d like to see pages across a SharePoint installation to be linkable using flexible wiki-style links (which should be easy to add by identifying targets using only a page title) rather than a hard-coded http links.
By the way, I am presently writing an assessment of SharePoint 2013’s social software capabilities. As part of this effort, I will be looking for answers to the above questions as well as examining SharePoint 2013 using Gartner for Technical Professionals (GTP) frameworks and architecture reference templates. These provide mechanisms for assessing products from a vendor neutral perspective and help avoid getting lost the flurry of new features.
An example of how these GTP frameworks are used is available in the report “Microsoft’s Changing Social Software Strategy: Yammer, SharePoint, and the Role of Cloud Services within Office.” If your company is a Gartner customer you may already be able to access this and other GTP reports. To see if you do, contact your company’s Gartner Membership Administrator. If you do not know who that is ask Gartner.