This blog posting is authored by Mike Alsup, Senior Vice-President at Gimmal. Mr. Alsup has been a leader in Enterprise Content Management and Records Management for more than 30 years. He spent his early career with Accenture and Booz, Allen & Hamilton. He was a co-founder of two successful Content Management companies, BSG Consulting, and Align Solutions, which went public as Luminant Worldwide. At both of these companies, Mr. Alsup led Content Management teams in the development of solutions for a wide variety of clients. (This blog posting has been repurposed from the AIIM Communities which are visible at AIIM.org)
Like many others in the ECM and RM ecosystem who write and speak and consult and build solutions, I have been trying to figure out how to think about the Public Beta of SharePoint 2013. We have had our consultants and architects and product guys crawling through it. I get that it’s a big deal, but what is it? (Note – Some of the SharePoint 2013 strategies and features are still under wraps from an NDA perspective, but others have been described publically in selected forums.) So, a month after the announcement, what and how are we thinking about SharePoint 2013?
The first time I saw a set SharePoint 2013 sites demonstrated, my first impression was how much I liked them, like the first time I held an iPhone. There is a cleanness and freshness to the visual presentation that is remarkable. The integration with other new Office applications, like Outlook and Word and Excel incorporates a new set of features that actually seem new. This sounds like fanboy talk, but I haven’t seen new features this compelling for years. Microsoft makes the point that users are better off not extensively customizing the UI from a support and upgrade perspective. But, this is the first user interface (UI) I’ve seen lately that merits less customizing. Simple is powerful.
It’s really all about the cloud
Microsoft is putting most of SharePoint 2010’s on premises (On Prem) capabilities into the cloud version of SharePoint 2013 (Office 365 (2013)). Not all, but most. It is clear that Office 365 (2013) has precedence going forward. Microsoft is moving down a path to replicate the success that Exchange has had in the cloud in Office 365. I think this also means that we won’t be waiting 36 months for the next generation of SharePoint features because they can be added more incrementally in Office 365.
Some of the fundamental changes in SharePoint 2013 reflect the requirements and complexity of managing a multi-tenant platform. Microsoft is addressing the complexity of current SharePoint applications so that they can more easily scale Office 365 with multi-tenancy. This may require extensive re-architecting for SharePoint applications to adopt the new capabilities of Office 365 (2013). This is because the design approaches that were used to customize business logic in On Prem SharePoint 2010 applications may require alternative design approaches in Office 365 (2013). The web is now the target platform for SharePoint 2013.
It’s a major change for many of the SharePoint ecosystem product providers
There are a lot of infrastructure changes to move applications to SharePoint 2013, especially Office 365 (2013). For example, there was no access to SharePoint Farm-level features in Office 365 (2010) and there probably won’t be in Office 365 (2013) due to the multi-tenancy requirements, among other things. Deploying applications to Office 365 changes many of the core assumptions and approaches that we have been recommending and building in our On Prem SharePoint 2010 solutions. For the ecosystem providers with a significant product history, this will be a bigger change because it may force diverging product lines to be maintained. One product version for Office 365 and another version for On Prem. Also, the new app model is a significant change from how organizations previously deployed and managed applications. Elegant and simple from a user perspective, but very different nonetheless.
It’s an incremental change for users but a major infrastructure change for their organizations
The new features in SharePoint 2013, in both On Prem and in Office 365, are easy to use and intuitive from a user perspective. A user will have an easy transition between sites in the cloud and on-premise, between 2010 and 2013. The challenge in moving users from 2007 or 2010 to 2013 is not in the user experience. This migration will be about as difficult as teaching ducks to swim. The issue will be planning the implementation, figuring out all the infrastructure changes, and migrating SharePoint 2007 and 2010 applications and data to a very different architecture in Office 365. Because of the rich features of Office 365 (2013), organizations will need to consider what their On Prem, cloud and hybrid strategy is really going to be. The information architecture and purpose of each platform needs to be fundamentally evaluated in ways that weren’t relevant before.
It’s a big deal for Records Management
There was essentially no records management in Office 365 (2010). Now, there will be a true Records Center and In Place Records Management in Office 365 (2013). Many of the types of records-centric customizations that were enabled On Prem will probably not allowed in Office 365 (2013). Many SharePoint ecosystem product providers built tools that enabled clients to manage file plans and records disposition and vital records in a scalable way in SharePoint 2010 that will need to be very different in Office 365 (2013). For example, sites in Office 365 (2010) will not be able to “send to” an On Prem Records Center. This is an entirely new area for “Best Practices”!
What does it all mean?
For me, the Public Beta of SharePoint 2013 still begs as many questions as it answers. First, will large organizations adopt Office 365 for records management? Even if the platform is proven and wonderful, the concept of moving business records to the cloud is just foreign to many of our customers. This may change with references and case studies, but this will take time.
Second, the holy grail of records management is unified policy, retention, holds, search and disposition for physical and electronic content and email. SharePoint 2013 adds the new dimension of “in the cloud” and “on premise”. SharePoint 2013 is a significant opportunity for consultants and integrators and migration service providers because it is very powerful and will be widely adopted. Integrating with it will be complex from many legacy platforms and will require a significant investment.
We are searching for and evaluating and architecting solutions that we hope to have completed before SharePoint 2013 is generally available. I will expand on the changes we see from the perspective of a SharePoint ecosystem product provider as we further evaluate the impact on our solutions and as we can share information on some of the remarkable new features and capabilities of SharePoint 2013.