What’s New in SharePoint 2013?
Planning a strategy for SharePoint 2013 starts, as it always has, with an understanding of the business problem(s) you are trying to solve. However, while the basic scenarios that SharePoint enables are still fundamentally similar, the features and capabilities of SharePoint 2013 are different enough that you will need to consider several key new areas when you are planning your strategy:
- Social collaboration
- Cloud computing
SharePoint 2013 includes a rich new set of social collaboration capabilities enabling expertise discovery, conversations, and content evaluation that were previously supported only with additional third-party tools. Your users may hear about SharePoint 2013’s new Twitter- and Facebook-style activity stream that supports familiar social capabilities like #hashtags, @mentions, following, and “likes.” If you had previously considered internal social collaboration features to be of limited value in facilitating key moments of engagement within your organization, you should reevaluate these capabilities. Now would be the time to consider if these new social capabilities, which extend far beyond blogging and simple status updates, fit into your business strategy. For some organizations, these capabilities may be significant in driving an upgrade decision. Another new feature is the ability to introduce “gamification” attributes in SharePoint 2013 discussion lists. This new capability allows users to build “reputation points” toward up to five achievement levels by performing activities such as creating a post, replying to a post, achieving likes or a star rating of 4 or 5 for a post, or having a post marked as the “best reply.” These features can be very effective in engaging users in some but not all scenarios, so it is important to think about the specific scenario you are enabling and the culture of the community in which the features will be leveraged.
Microsoft has made an even bigger bet on cloud computing with SharePoint 2013, going so far as suggesting that some new capabilities may be available in the online versions of SharePoint prior to the more traditional on-premises versions. (For example, opening up a site collection for easy access by users outside your organization is a feature that is available only in SharePoint Online.) There may be very valid business and technical reasons why SharePoint in the cloud is not appropriate for your organization, but “cloudy with a chance of SharePoint” is a key theme of this release—and you shouldn’t act as if the cloud doesn’t exist—even if it doesn’t apply to your current strategy.
Another key area of enhancements in SharePoint 2013 is support for mobile computing. SharePoint 2013 provides new, optimized experiences for different mobile platforms. For smartphones, SharePoint 2013 offers a simplified view for navigating and accessing document libraries, lists, and Web Parts. SharePoint 2013 also includes the capability to define multiple device channels, which enables developers to render a single SharePoint site in multiple designs based on the user’s device. While users were typically able to access SharePoint sites from mobile devices in previous versions, SharePoint 2013 automatically enhances that experience in some instances and allows developers and designers to explicitly define the user experience for different types of devices to create an even more functional experience for users. The most important strategic consideration for supporting a mobile experience for your SharePoint users, however, is evaluating the specific types of scenarios that your users will want to enable on their mobile devices on a regular basis.
As an example, while users may want to read and review a document occasionally on their smartphones, detailed document reviewing and editing will rarely be a critical scenario for mobile users. On the other hand, one could imagine that looking up a phone number or quickly finding someone with expertise in a specific topic might be a high-priority scenario. For the occasional-use scenario, it may not make sense to design a specific mobile capability. However, for the people-lookup scenario, it might make sense to build a highly focused and targeted mobile application designed to run on a smartphone.
While many organizations developed rich and engaging public-facing Web sites using SharePoint 2010—for example, ConocoPhillips (www.conocophillips.com), Dell Financial Services (http://dfs.us.dell.com), and Ferrari (www.ferrari.com)—making the commitment to using SharePoint for externally facing Web sites previously required a very deep knowledge of SharePoint in addition to expertise in Web user interface (UI) development. SharePoint 2013 allows Web designers to leverage familiar Web site tools to design a SharePoint site. It also includes other capabilities that support public Web site development, including
- Features that support capabilities to promote and recommend content that is relevant to and popular with visitors based on their activity
- Significant improvements to search that enable sites to aggregate and present content in new and flexible ways
- Improved capabilities to reuse content in multiple publishing environments with the cross-site publishing feature
- The ability to organize navigation based on managed metadata terms rather than physical location
If you haven’t previously considered managing both your internal and external Web sites with the same technology tools, SharePoint 2013 makes that decision much easier. It may be time to think about moving your externally facing Web site to SharePoint 2013 so that you can consolidate around a focused solution set.