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Microsoft SharePoint 2010 and The Last Great Hope

by | Jun 22, 2010 | ECM Industry, SharePoint | 8 comments

Anything that defines the “future of productivity” deserves a welcoming befitting a king: “the lion roars back”! Luscious superlatives take a number…

And now back to our regularly scheduled program… Yes, SharePoint 2010 has arrived (officially since mid-May). Yes, SharePoint 2010 is a good improvement over the previous incarnation (MOSS 2007). And yes, most importantly, SharePoint 2010 taps well into the new (vastly better) Office 2010. And yes, SharePoint 2010 is the silver bullet to fix all your ECM problems. Errr…ok, that’s one yes too many.

Though no silver bullet, and perhaps just a smidgen short of the future of productivity, SharePoint 2010 (and, in my opinion, even more so as a hosted solution) definitely has a place at the table. As with all things hyped and dipped in unlimited marketing resources, the trick is to figure out what is real and what is relevant to your needs. So, consider:

  • Capacity, scalability and performance have improved considerably under SharePoint 2010—no more 2000 item view list limit!! And, Microsoft has done a good job providing metrics, tools and guidelines in this area. SharePoint 2010 requires 64-bit hardware, so installation and, in particular, migration from an existing MOSS 03 or 07 platform needs to be planned carefully, even more so than before.
  • SharePoint 2010 integrates very well with MS Office 2010, including Outlook calendaring and, heretofore ignored/talented stepchild, Visio. The most exciting part of this integration is the ability to use and edit metadata across SharePoint and Office. This propels true usability and greases the skids tremendously as far as adoption is concerned. The fact that Office is the reader and editor of choice for a lot of content held in SharePoint makes this integration truly relevant.
  • SharePoint 2010 provides the option for imbedded FAST (the search engine). This is a big upgrade over MOSS 07 and brings enterprise functionality and scalability to SharePoint search.
  • As usual, Microsoft has put focus on usability and in SharePoint 2010 there are some notable application usability improvements (such as the enhanced Ribbon, rules for content storage, smarter folders, a term store to manage taxonomy, offline capability through Workspaces, and, of course, the seamless integration with Office 2010).
  • Ease of development: an oxymoron in MOSS 07—more like lots of development—at least as far as web applications were concerned. SharePoint 2010 promises to be far better with a revamped SharePoint Designer and more web services and UI and functional components out of the box. Also, the new Business Connectivity Services (BCS) promises to ease integration with third party applications (such as SAP or Microsoft CRM).
  • SharePoint 2010’s other enterprise-like features: more comprehensive administration capabilities, easier deployment over distributed networks, better backup and recovery options, auditing/compliance features. Notable improvements in breadth and depth of such features over MOSS 07.
  • Surprising improvements in records management capabilities, including the convenient, in-place record declaration. Though SharePoint has claim-to-fame largely for collaboration, and in SharePoint 2010, even more so, with a social networking slant (blogs, wikis, Cloud-tagging, activity feeds into its MySites, etc.), Microsoft has stealthily taken strides to make SharePoint a legitimate records management alternative. SharePoint 2010 is still some way short of the maturity and depth of features provided by the more established records management tools in the market, however ease of use and pull of momentum are definitely in its corner. Watch this space for more in-depth research and opinion to come…

So, some compelling reasons to drink the Kool-Aid. Maybe none more compelling though than its inevitability. Inevitable as, errr, Mr. Know It All not knowing anything at all! SharePoint is here to stay, as proven by the already-out-of-control “SharePoint Sprawl”. Also, frighteningly (CMIS implications aside), Microsoft is quite possibly the only truly one-stop-shop ECM vendor around…not that that’s really all that good: one vendor fits all or the best vendors fit together?

So, buying the hypothesis that it is inevitable, what next? Well, first, what is needed? What does the user need? No tool will solve a problem just because…in fact, in vacuum, it’s likely to compound it. What is the problem? What are the, ahem, six 5Ws (What, Why, Where, When, Who, How)? Back to basics. Yes, clarity, simplicity rule. Don’t let the expensive consultants tell you otherwise. It’s my experience that most of us spend a lot of time and induce a lot of heartburn on edge cases. Spend time on what really matters, and then de-scope and simplify that even more. If, after all that, SharePoint 2010 is still inevitable then consider these three things:

  • What does the user need?
  • What does the user need?
  • What does the user need?

Dilbert on User Needs

Dilbert on User Interface Needs

As engineers, we will spend a huge amount of time and energy on what we would like and what works for us—can’t everything be ext-js, RESTful, Spring Observer, n-tiered, service oriented, virtualized, mirrored, horizontally scaled, run on distributed ESX on redundant 4 way blade servers?! Oh, and, please adhere to the very large and complicated Enterprise IT Policy and System Architecture document (because it’s “Enterprise” it must be the right thing to do, right?!), and to every word of every paragraph of the System Requirements Specification (SRS)—written eighteen months ago by a large committee of “stakeholders”—and be sure to offer up all of the vendor’s glorious catch-all feature-set… Surely, exaggeration to make a point…not really. Bottom line either way: no user: very bloated, very expensive, very politically damning shinny shelfware.

Getting off the user-need soapbox for a second, the next BIG thing to figure out when thinking SharePoint 2010 is migration—nine times out of ten…or maybe 97 times out of 100 it will be needed. Migration from an existing SharePoint (03 or 07) application to the 2010 toolset, migration from a legacy application to SharePoint 2010, migration from another CMS to SharePoint 2010, migration of content and metadata…pick and choose your weapon of choice. Experience tells me that migration is NEVER EASY and its scope is almost ALWAYS UNDERESTIMATED. There are a number of tools that can help, but the solution goes way beyond tool selection; there needs to be a thorough plan (actually a Plan A, a Plan B, a Plan C and maybe even a Plan D). Oh, and let’s not worry about fixing the sprawl just yet…that’s a much bigger deal!

Not to be a buzzkill, but that’s not all. There is a lot more to consider depending on your specific view of the world. One other thing for sure though is licensing. In the great (and truly annoying) tradition of most Enterprise Software vendors, the licensing is a matrix of variables and if-thens. Every family needs a resident cost-accountant to truly savor such mind-bending aesthetics…

So, SharePoint 2010 represents some interesting opportunities for users and organizations and poses some further dilemma in the ECM space. A definite improvement over MOSS 07 but not (yet?) the iPhone of its genre. Competitors beware, Microsoft is coming…is here.

Lots to look forward to!

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8 Comments

  1. Michael Bernstein

    Sorry I put my comments inthe wrong blog post! Good article. What do you think about SP 2010 as an intranet app? I noticed you didn’t cover the social aspects as much which was interesting. Why do you think records management is improtant for SP? Do you have other blogs coming up on that?

    Reply
  2. Jim Nasr

    Thanks for your comments. I think SharePoint 2010 is an excellent Intranet platform. As you mentioned, I did not really cover the social networking features of SharePoint 2010, however there are a number of tools (such as the much improved wiki builder and MySites) that do a great job of supporting collaboration and would be very useful on internal team or company sites. There are a number of blogs out there that do a very good job of explaining these social networking features.

    I think RM for SharePoint is a big deal because it brings SharePoint into domains and conversations it would not have ordinarily been in. People make a lot of noise about DoD 5015 2&4 certifications when it comes to RM, however my experience is that most organizations simply don’t need that level of compliance–the buzzwords are used as a filter to limit the options or for vendor posturing. To me usability is a huge issue when it comes to RM. Usability-savvy tools such as SharePoint or Alfresco could be a legitimate selection in many cases. I am researching this area in much more detail now…hopefully another entry by myself or one of my colleagues to come.

    Reply
  3. Steve

    I agree! Sharepoint is an amazing resource and with the apps and 3rd party addons like CorasWorks,it makes it so much easier to integrate, making the process of building the tools that increase productivity, more productive 🙂

    Reply
  4. Jim Nasr

    Steve, thanks for the comment. I am not familiar with CorasWorks but had a quick look at your website. I am interested in finding out more, particularly about your CorasWorks Federal since there is good overlap with a lot of our services work. Feel free to contact me offline.

    Reply
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