Sep 06, 2012

Three Critical Improvements to SharePoint 2013

Mike Moore

Mike Moore

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SharePoint 2013 is going to follow suit when it comes to the new look and feel of Windows 8.  The entire environment in SharePoint 2013 has changed to look like a mobile application out of the box.  The shapes are flat, look like tiles, and the interface lends itself well to a smaller screen.  In addition, Microsoft is starting to support additional browsers and HTML5.  No, Safari is still not fully supported, but why would they take that step if they are trying to remove the iPad from the enterprise?  The three main focus areas of SharePoint 2013 are going to be on mobile, social and better organization of content.

Improvement #1: Mobile

In SharePoint 2013, you will now be able to publish your newly developed Windows phone applications to an enterprise application store, which will allow users to download and use them on their Windows 8 operating systems, tablets or Windows Phone.  Yes, you can insert your comments about not owning a Windows Phone, never wanting to buy a tablet and the inability to upgrade to Windows 8 here, but the bottom line is that you can do it.

Despite the obvious pains involved, some companies will opt to use this functionality because they are already bought into SharePoint and being able to use the mobility features are very attractive.  Currently, no other provider is going to let you develop your own online store within your enterprise without having to publish to their infrastructure.  Plus, you can develop the applications for your own app store using Visual Studio templates.  Microsoft even provides tools you can utilize to check your applications for best practices and performance issues.

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Improvement #2: Social Media

If you have used News Gator to expand your current SharePoint environment for social news feeds, sharing content and communications, the improvements to SharePoint 2013 should be familiar.  With improvements to My Sites, the introduction of the Community Site template and features that previously had to be purchased through third party tools or custom developed, Microsoft continues to provide a much needed social aspect to the enterprise.  I would note, however, this new functionality won’t be as full featured as other social capabilities in the marketplace today, and Microsoft does still lag behind the “bleeding edge” when it comes to social collaboration.

  • My Sites: Microsoft has improved My Site to be the one stop shop for users to access their documents, connect with colleagues, and ‘follow’ things going on in the organization.  Even more so than in SharePoint 2010, the 2013 environment has streamlined the social capabilities, offering threads including micro-blogs, conversations, status updates, and other notifications.  The goal here is to eliminate the need for the personal file share and begin to surface all necessary work documents through your My Site.

  • Community Site Template: Now you can create a community site encapsulating many social features allowing a user to find and share information with other users.  This template includes improvements to discussion capabilities and provides functionality to group, sort and filter data by relevance, post types, and best rated content.  These sites can also be used to find people with similar interests or skillsets to share reusable IP and/or knowledge.

Improvement #3: Content Management

Although mobile and social capabilities will be highly publicized improvements of SharePoint 2013, the improvements Microsoft has made to their content management capabilities deserves some, if not equal, recognition.  Microsoft has vastly increased the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) specialist’s arsenal with features such as Managed Navigation, Display Templates, the Content Search Web Part, the Design Manager, Cross-Site Publishing, and eDiscovery.  Let’s touch on few key items from that list.

  • Managed Navigation: Microsoft has created a feature that is used to generate Search Engine Optimized (SEO) friendly URLs derived from your organization’s metadata structure.  This allows search another way to provide valuable data to the end user, leveraging pre-defined enterprise metadata already in place.  Now site directories powered by SharePoint Search can become a reality, leaving the physical site structure relatively flat and allowing metadata to be used to organize the sites and their content using metadata enabled URLs.  For Example, URL can hold a Department value and enable multiple options to auto-tag documents or be able to identify a document associated to a department based on the URL location of the document.

  • Design Manager: With Design Manager, you can now do more look and feel modifications than ever through the native SharePoint interface.  For example, this tool will allow users to make HTML snippets that are reusable across the site collection which are then automatically synched to the master page and/or page layout.  Snippets can be published to a gallery and then be available across the site collection for consumption.  In this way, users can create commonly used look and feel features that can be standard templates used throughout the site.

  • Cross-Site Publishing: SharePoint now enables users to publish and consume content across site collections and even SharePoint farms.  This feature is search enabled and users can now collaborate on content across environment boundaries such as intranet and extranet environments.  Now duplication of content becomes less of a problem and exposing certain content to external partners or users is an easier possibility.

  • eDiscovery: In SharePoint 2010, automated governance was introduced with the ability to put a site on “hold” and not allow further changes until it was appropriately audited.  In SharePoint 2013, users now have the capability to not only put a site on hold but also allow users to put individual content such as documents or even emails on hold for governance and audit purposes.  It is currently unclear whether email holds will require Exchange Server 2013, but if I had to guess based on past releases including new functionality, the answer would be “Yes”.

If you are interested in finding out more about these items, please reference the link below.  Microsoft has done a good job explaining these enhancements in more detail.  In addition, if you would like to learn how upgrading or customizing SharePoint 2013 could help your business, please contact us.

Many of the documented SharePoint 2013 improvements and viewpoints expressed in this blog are able to be referenced on MSDN here:

If you are looking for visual representations of the items talked about in this blog please feel free to reference the new look and feel here:

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