Migrating to SharePoint 2013

By Chris McNulty, strategic product manager, Quest Software
Tuesday, 30 October, 2012

Migrating to SharePoint 2013

SharePoint is a powerful tool for enterprise collaboration - when used well. With the release of SharePoint 2013 pending, now is a good time to examine your organisation’s use of the tool, and the merits of migrating to the new version.

It may seem like everyone’s talking about SharePoint adoption. But why?

For more than a decade, Microsoft SharePoint has sustained high growth rates, year after year. It’s the fastest growing product at Microsoft to reach more than US$1 billion in annual sales, with well over 100 million users worldwide. With all this use, why is there still so much talk about adoption? Isn’t SharePoint pretty well ‘adopted’ by now?

Clearly, no.

Sure, SharePoint has pushed its nose into more than half of the Fortune 1000, but it’s a dynamic, complex ecosystem, with no shortage of customisation and functional pieces. It’s not a commodity or a one-size-fits-all tool, like messaging. So SharePoint itself differs in how it appears to different organisations.

One classic definition of ‘adoption’ I like is “to choose as preferred”. User choice is the critical catalyst to triggering a self-sustaining SharePoint reaction. But it’s a challenge, because choice is as much about soft preferences as it is about hard functional deployments.

SharePoint advocates are a tenacious bunch. We have a hard time admitting failure. So it can be hard to tell when a SharePoint rollout failed. Even for a failed project, servers are still up and running and you have a small group of advocates still posting and using content. A deeper look, however, will show lots of subsites that have gone dark, with no content updates or visits in more than a year. Usually, there’s no use of SharePoint for anything beyond document management - no social, no business intelligence, no workflow.

The statistics demonstrate this. Based on recent conference surveys conducted by Dell, user satisfaction with traditional SharePoint document collaboration is 33.2% higher than satisfaction with the ‘rest’ of SharePoint.

Before we talk about how to improve satisfaction, we need to understand why this happens in the first place. It really comes down to two potential problems:

  • The mix of deployed capabilities is completely mismatched to user needs and requirements.
  • The functional mix is ‘right’ but unusable because of complexity, lack of training and interface design.

There’s no end to the broad range of adoption techniques to be considered. Governance, of course, is crucial. Establishing business/IT alignment on intended uses and outcomes helps steer users to the ‘right’ solutions.

Cross that bridge to the SharePoint promised land

User behaviour is a tough thing to change, especially for technologists who are used to empirical data and technical solutions. User mandates and browser home page lock-ins may lead to use but such users are rarely satisfied.

Emotional bonds to a website are hard to sustain. Users look for ease, simplicity and functionality but they are also motivated by group identity. They may want to feel that they’re at the forefront, but they don’t want to be first - because they don’t want to be alone.

Social use of SharePoint holds tremendous promise for transforming the nature and currency of enterprise collaboration. One of the best ways to encourage use is to create a lively newsfeed environment using content updates and tagging. SharePoint is intrinsically a strong collaborative environment because it supports document versioning and simultaneous co-authoring.

Email, on the other hand, is a horrible place for collaboration - no one ever knows where the latest document can be found and how to update the right version.

Reminding users to save documents to SharePoint gets tiresome. For better or for worse, users are comfortable with sending document attachments around. Wouldn’t it be great if collaboration could shift into SharePoint without disrupting long-standing user habits?

QuestSoftware/Dell’s Attach This provides a simple answer (and it’s available as freeware). When users send attachments via Outlook, they get a simple dialogue box that offers to transfer the attachments to SharePoint and replace the file with a link. That’s all. The server version of the product adds administration functions to publish preferred SharePoint locations to save files, generate reports and set security on uploaded files.

SharePoint provides a wealth of great capabilities beyond document management and there is no reason to be afraid of SharePoint and keep users at arm’s length, ‘outside’ the browser.

Again, there’s no single approach to adoption that works in all cases. But shifting collaboration from email to SharePoint while driving use provides a tipping point to help cross that bridge to the SharePoint promised land.

Migrating to SharePoint 2013

We know that SharePoint is a powerful and rapidly expanding platform for enterprise collaboration, but how beneficial are the new features in SharePoint 2013 and how can enterprises determine what value they will get? These are the questions organisations must consider as they learn more about SharePoint 2013.

Before deciding how and when to move legacy SharePoint content, Windows file shares, Exchange public folders and Lotus Notes applications to SharePoint 2013, whether on-premises or online, businesses must understand the latest version’s new capabilities, and more importantly, why these capabilities are critical for modern enterprises.

Seven things enterprises need to know about SharePoint 2013

Quest Software has identified seven things every organisation needs to know about SharePoint 2013.

  1. Modernised user interface: Those who have watched Microsoft’s updates to its websites, Windows 8 previews or the Modern interface released on the Windows Phone will like the new look and feel, which includes animated tiles and inline navigation.
  2. Putting the ‘share’ back in SharePoint: The Share Menu item provides a simple way to share a document via a personal or team SharePoint site. Previously, a document had to be moved to a public area or links had to be sent around - now, it is simple to just ‘share’.
  3. Adding a social element: In one of the biggest new features, pictures and links are as easy to post to SharePoint as they are to Facebook. In addition to following people and tags, SharePoint 2013 lets users subscribe to, and follow, documents.
  4. Borrowing from Twitter: Twitter has introduced us to using @ and # in a routine update. @ directs a post to people (@yourname). # indicates a topic we can search for and follow. On SharePoint 2013, @ directs a post to SharePoint users. # identifies the next word as a dynamic keyword to track in SharePoint’s Managed Metadata Service (MMS).
  5. It’s all about the apps: Everything - custom lists, libraries and, of course, applications - is now available in an app. This means no direct server access is needed to run or install applications, which can be added or bought online from the Microsoft SharePoint Store or in-house marketplaces.
  6. Managed metadata: MMS is now much more robust as tag properties, pins and terms can be ‘anchored’ to prevent accidental duplication. In addition, MMS terms can themselves have properties, like price or colour, and can then be used directly in navigation.
  7. Enhanced search: Microsoft’s investment in FAST has been echoed in a completely re-tooled Search subsystem.

Any time a new version of SharePoint is released, companies around the world ask themselves, “Is now the right time to move?” To really be able to answer that question, organisations need a thorough understanding of what new features are available and, most importantly, why these features provide critical benefits for today’s modern enterprise.

While the SharePoint 2013 Preview is available, organisations can download Quest Migration Suite for SharePoint 2013 Preview for free, and move content to SharePoint 2013 on-premises and online from SharePoint 2003/2007/2010, Windows file shares and Exchange Public Folders. They can then ‘test drive’ these new capabilities, letting them make an informed decision about how and when they should migrate to SharePoint 2013.

The tool is available at http://www.quest.com/PRNewsSharePoint2013Migration092012.

Images courtesy of iStockphoto

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