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Governed Utilization of the Features and Functionality in SharePoint 2013/Office 365

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This chapter is from the book
This chapter covers the core strategies for implementing some of the most high-profile features of SharePoint 2013, such as sites, site collections, and the social computing while ensuring that the implementation is done in a governed, best practices manner.

With Microsoft having referenced SharePoint 2013 as, SharePoint Server 2013, Office 365 (Enterprise), and SharePoint Online in many news articles, recent conferences and publications, the term SharePoint 2013 is used in this book to refer to SharePoint Server 2013 and Office 365 | SharePoint Online for this and all following chapters, but the integrated solutions such as Microsoft Lync, Microsoft Exchange, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM are specifically referenced as they may be specific to an existing on-premises environment you currently have implemented or features of an Office 365 plan for which your organization may have procured.

At EPC Group, we have SharePoint Server 2013 on-premises as well as Office 365 Enterprise, the E3 plan, along with SharePoint 2013 instances in the Microsoft Azure platform and in Amazon Web Services (AWS) because we believe that the future of SharePoint is going to be that of a very hybrid nature. Both Microsoft Azure and AWS have trial offerings that you can also test and integrate at any time to begin to gain experience in the hybrid cloud.

I believe that SharePoint’s on-premises version will not be phased out for at least six to seven more years, and Microsoft has recently announced they have already begun working on the next on-premises release. This is my personal opinion, but I think with what has been released by Microsoft’s rather vague references regarding “the cloud versus on-premises” and their ratcheting back of “cloud first” in press releases, they very much initially overstated how many firms would be “all in” in moving to the cloud in SharePoint 2013’s release. The public, private, and hybrid cloud offerings and technology are covered in much more granular detail in Chapter 5, “Implementing a Best Practices SharePoint 2013/Office 365 Information Architecture.”

The out-of-the-box SharePoint 2013 features that can quickly be deployed to your organization’s user base are vast, but the key to a successful SharePoint 2013 implementation is rolling out SharePoint in a governed and methodical manner.

One of the key areas to keep in mind that will ensure long-term SharePoint success and save the organization’s information technology (IT) budget over time is thinking of SharePoint’s user base from a device-centric approach and considering the related audiences and roles associated with them.

There will be various departments, user types, and specific content they will want to access. What type of device will these users use to access SharePoint?

There will obviously be internal users with secured authentication accounts using company-issued laptops, tablets, and mobile devices, as shown in Figure 3.1, but what is the expected user experience you are going to provide to these users? Your organization’s “bring your own device” (BYOD) policy may be in its infancy or even well-defined, but mapping out this strategy from the beginning is very important. Will your organization support a wide array of devices as SharePoint matures and new technology is developed?

FIGURE 3.1

FIGURE 3.1 An example of the wide array of devices from which users may access SharePoint.

It is important to have a common user experience throughout your user base, and it can vary based on the device and the related browser. This needs to be governed and support based on your organization’s policies, but you should always think in terms of being device as well as browser agnostic whenever possible; you should also follow a Responsive Web Design (RWD) user interface (UI) design for your SharePoint sites, communities, and branding elements, as well as all custom development. The Responsive Web Design methodology (e.g., Responsive Design) is important because it assists in providing your users an optimal viewing experience with common reading and navigation that will allow for functions such as panning, scrolling, and resizing across devices.

When planning your user base and the related features and functionality you will provide, it is also important to map out not only the devices, such as those in Figure 3.1, but also the locations of the users, as illustrated in Figure 3.2. If you’re a large or global organization or one that has users in multiple locations, in various countries, or possibly spread throughout the globe, you will need to keep the user experience and RWD in mind from a “device channel” perspective.

FIGURE 3.2

FIGURE 3.2 An example of a possible user base across the country or even across the globe.

Understanding Device Channels in SharePoint 2013 (BYOD)

Regardless of the type of implementation your organization is trying to accomplish in phase 1, it is key to understand the underlying capabilities of SharePoint 2013 to ensure that your initial plans take full advantage of SharePoint’s out-of-the-box capabilities. SharePoint 2013 contains a device channel feature that is part of the SharePoint 2013 publishing infrastructure that will enable your organization to render site content, its images, and even the underlying content type while maintaining the same URL (uniform resource locator) across a selection of different devices.

On a recent project, EPC Group’s architecture team was tasked with implementing SharePoint 2013 with a specific and aggressive go-live date. This phase 1 deadline was for internal users with Active Directory accounts and was not targeted toward external or “mobile” users of the organization. It was key to walk through the Responsive Design considerations with the stakeholders of possible future phases and future mobility needs because there was a custom branding and UI design that their marketing department was having us implement in phase 1.

The design was very appealing and looked great, but it was important to help both IT and the business understand that the “look and feel” that would be implemented should follow Responsive Design but also take into consideration the “device channels” or ways the users within their company would access SharePoint long-term so that this branding would be compatible in future phases.

There is a difference in the “desktop version” of the SharePoint site compared to a “mobile rendering” of a SharePoint site. Your overall design must support a variety of devices that your organization may currently support as well as take into consideration possible devices that may be allowed in the future.

In most SharePoint 2013 implementations, the initial strategy will target internal users; however, the mobile or BYOD strategy will quickly follow so it’s key to think in these longer terms regarding design. It’s also important to get an initial inventory and/or develop a “governed device list” for your organization to know exactly how users will be accessing SharePoint content.

Most devices allow for users to go to an app store to purchase or download additional browsers, so implementing your “supported” list is key to being able to let users know whether their device’s entire configuration is supported by the organization’s SharePoint 2013 deployment.

Table 3.1 shows an example of how you can start a device inventory of what will be allowed in the initial phase as well as what might be allowed in future phases.

TABLE 3.1 Device and Related Browser Inventory

Device Type

Audience for Device

Known Browser Type

Is This Supported in SharePoint 2013?

iPhone

Executives, power users

Safari

Yes

Windows Phone

Some users in marketing, external user group “a”

Internet Explorer

Yes

Android

External user group “b”, some IT team members, etc.

Chrome

Yes

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