Today Microsoft announced the new version of SharePoint. Dubbed SharePoint Server 2013 (or, in it’s cloud form, part of Office 365 Enterprise) and it definitely seems like more than an incremental release.
The announcement was part of the announcement for the overall Office version 15 (Steve Ballmer called it “Office 15” when he came back onstage at the end of the unveiling this afternoon, but that isn’t the real name). A live preview in Office 365 was announced too so you can try it out (at the Office 365 Enterprise Preview or, for the full on-premises version at the TechNet Evaluation Center which also has links to the evaluation resources and a page of SharePoint Server 2013 product details).
That’s the starting gun to start pouring through the SharePoint Server 2013 docs and installing it. Not everyone feels the need to dive in so quickly though. There are 5 kinds of IT folks who will explore the SharePoint 15 beta:
- Kid-in-a-candy-store: These are SharePoint enthusiasts who just can’t wait to see all the new goodies they’re going to get when they upgrade
- Planners: SharePoint is already implemented and upgrading is inevitable, but they understand that many features require advance planning to leverage properly, so they want as much notice as possible about what audits, inventories, restructuring, associated infrastructure upgrades, and new budget will be required. Very smart – I tend to get along well with these people
- Prospects: These folks are prospective SharePoint owners, but the organization doesn’t currently use it or maybe it isn’t a widely deployed standard. They are looking for that special new capability that will finally win over the objectors who have been holding it back
- Chronic sufferers: SharePoint is deployed, but is causing pain due to a couple of issues like limits, scalability, or social features. They are looking at Microsoft as a pharmaceutical company that may offer a pill to help reduce their symptoms
- Lemmings: Not much thought here – just going along with the flow. If this is a new version, they’ll get it because you’re supposed to and eventually it will be tough to get support on the old version anyways. These folks may not care about the beta if they know they’ll just upgrade to the real thing when it comes out
We haven’t developed our full analysis of the new product, but I can give some advice to those of you trying out the preview.
First, look at how it changes the user’s lives rather than the sysadmin’s lives. There has been too much of the techie’s view imposed on SharePoint, which leads to it being deployed as a generic set of capabilities followed by a bunch of prodding and show-and-tell to get users to figure out what to do with it. Thinking about the services you’ll now be able to deliver on top of the infrastructure (“SharePoint as a Service”) yields more value. So look at how SharePoint Server 2013 will enable new business services for your end users, not raw features.
Next, think about how many new places your users want to use SharePoint such as connecting from their home PC to check on project status, checking a wiki or downloading a doc from a mobile device (maybe a tablet instead of a smartphone), or offline on a plane (in-flight internet services are still too expensive for me and not reimbursed by my company). SharePoint 2010 doesn’t do much to help in these cases, so hopes are pinned on SharePoint Server 2013.
Get beyond the reviewer’s guide and a quick look at the menus to really try out new features, especially the social part. The devil is in the details when it comes to usability. Social was a big hole in SharePoint 2010 and there is no real consensus on how to expose social capabilities. Facebook is a de facto standard, but one that many users use in spite of its interface, not because of it. So the only way you’ll know how good a job Microsoft did is to use every nook and cranny extensively and see how the interface works when loaded up with messages.
Finally, think about who will use SharePoint. Every new release is heralded as the one that will finally open it up to partners and customers, but real life deployments have been slower to those constituencies. Will this new release expand the scope of where you can use SharePoint?
Hopefully that gets you started with the right mindset. Over the next several months I look forward to talking to you in dialogues, at conferences, and in this blog to see how the great new stuff (and landmines) waiting in SharePoint Server 2013 and Office 365 appear to you.
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