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Once upon a time, back somewhere in the '00s, I worked for a company that had a simple SharePoint deployment. If memory serves, it didn't do a whole heck of a lot. It was essentially a document storage portal used sparingly, if not downright begrudgingly, by various departments -- part intranet, part file server, part rudimentary website. It was a tool you only used if you absolutely had to, one more likely to induce grumbling than productivity or efficiency. Although no doubt there were more sophisticated SharePoint environments out there, I also suspect I'm not alone in my early experiences.
Times have changed. SharePoint 2013 rings in another significant phase of the platform's continuing evolution. Suffice it to say, this is not the boring corporate intranet of yore.
The buzzwords are all here, with mobile and social leading the way. Microsoft has injected ample doses of both in SharePoint 2013. A variety of mobile-friendly changes enable better user experiences across devices, a must these days for multi-platform and bring-your-own-device environments. It's a potential boon for SharePoint admins who don't want to lose sleep over employee screen sizes, operating systems and other factors that can make the help desk's phone ring off the hook. On the social front, Microsoft wants to put a whole lot more "share" in SharePoint, strengthened by its 2012 purchase of Yammer. New tools such as Community Sites should go a long way toward better meeting modern expectations for social and collaboration interactions.
Of course, it's not just about social and mobile. Search is front and center. As Microsoft program manager Kate Dramstad pointed out in a blog post, "a great search experience is characterized by how easy it is for the user to quickly find what they are looking for." That seems to grow more true with each additional gigabyte of stored data we create, share and store. The hunt-and-peck methodology simply isn't a sustainable way to find the information and tools you need in most organizations these days.
SharePoint 2013 also embraces the modern app paradigm -- not entirely unlike how Windows 8 has app-ified the traditional Windows experience and ushered in Microsoft's first real app store. Developers can publish their apps to SharePoint's public store, or to corporate stores built specifically for the user communities they support. Microsoft is pushing its cloud app model here, although it supports a diverse set of development language and tools. And of course, the SharePoint store will include third-party apps for companies that don't want to be in the development business.
A host of publishing, design, legal and management enhancements are part of the newest release, too. Bottom line: SharePoint might still be many things to many people and organizations, but we can officially say goodbye to the snooze-inducing document portal.
Though there's still no formal date for the general release of SharePoint 2013 and the broader Office 2013 portfolio, Microsoft expects to make it widely available during the first quarter of this year. SharePoint 2013 already is available to volume license customers.
We should note something that might be easy to take for granted or otherwise overlook: There are both on-premises and cloud versions of SharePoint -- SharePoint Server and Office 365, respectively. Our focus here, unless noted, is on the server-based version, although there is obviously a lot of feature overlap between the two. For its part, Microsoft appears to recognize that different companies have different cloud strategies; it will continue to offer and support both server-based and online versions of SharePoint and other Office applications.
Are you planning to upgrade, or have you already started? What features and enhancements are you most excited about? Tell us in the comments.
Similar to the way Windows 8 overhauled the traditional desktop OS for the mobile era, SharePoint 2013 acknowledges that many users expect to be able to use their desktop applications on any device, no matter how big or small the screen. Users now can pick from three different mobile browsing options. These include an HTML5-based "contemporary" view, which optimizes for various screen sizes across iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices. Unlike prior versions, SharePoint 2013 also enables developers and administrators to deliver customizable, device-specific designs rather than a one-size-fits-all experience. Geolocation and push notification functionality also has been added.
SharePoint might be popular, but it has never been especially social. That's something Microsoft hopes to change with SharePoint 2013, bolstered by the company's acquisition of Yammer. New social features include the requisite newsfeed of organizational activity (pictured), the introduction of Community Sites, and other changes intended to better foster sharing and collaboration. Get a detailed breakdown of SharePoint 2013's social features over at The BrainYard.
There is an enormous emphasis on improving search in SharePoint 2013, both for IT and end users. The reason is obvious: If users can't find what they need when they need it, then all of the features in the world can't help. Developers and administrators get more control over ensuring strong search performance. One example: The new ability to customize the appearance of search results based upon content type, rather than simply delivering a uniform list as in the past. Microsoft's SharePoint Team Blog offers an extensive post on the basics of developing a successful search experience for your users. There is also new hybrid search support for environments that run both on premises (SharePoint Server) and cloud (Office 365) instances of SharePoint.
Want to make your legal department happy? SharePoint 2013 ushers in a new set of tools for managing the e-discovery process when necessary. Discovery is the legal process by which the two parties in litigation collect and share evidence. E-discovery simply applies the same concept to the enormous amounts of data generated in the digital age. SharePoint's new eDiscovery Center allows for searches across SharePoint, Exchange and Lync environments, querying and filtering data by specific variables, and placing holds on content that might be subject to legal review.
Words like "social" and "sharing" might be more popular among marketers and users alike these days, but SharePoint is as much about publishing as collaboration. That's true not just for internal sites but public-facing content as well. SharePoint continues to build out the available tools for Web content management (WCM), including new authoring and publishing capabilities, such as cross-site publishing for managing multiple sites. New design and branding features -- such as the mobile interfaces mentioned in a previous slide -- give designers more options without requiring SharePoint-specific development expertise.
Organizations that run SharePoint Online as part of an Office 365 environment are getting a new set of management tools integrated with Office 365. (Note: a midmarket or enterprise Office 365 plan is required to use the SharePoint Online Admin Center.) These enable administrators to run many of the newer SharePoint features, such as creating a corporate app store, optimizing search settings, adding and managing users and sites and more. Microsoft recently detailed the new admin controls, along with the related SharePoint Online Management Shell, in a post on the SharePoint Team Blog.
As is usually the case with major application releases, there is both addition and subtraction. Some features of SharePoint 2010 (pictured) have been removed in 2013, or will be in a future release. These include things such as certain site templates, Web services, and other under-the-hood elements. Microsoft notes that many of the retired features are related to the significant changes to search functionality. The company has published a full list, along with notes, at the Technet site. We recommend you read it prior to kicking off an upgrade.