Microsoft's Office SharePoint Server 2007, or "MOSS" for short, is Microsoft's first integrated server platform that aims to provide web content management, enterprise content services, and enterprise search, as well as shared business processes and business intelligence dashboarding to the small/medium enterprise. Like its predecessor SharePoint Portal Server (SPS) 2003/WSS 2.0, MOSS is fundamentally dedicated to unstructured document storage, structured list storage, and group collaboration. The word "share" has not been removed from the mission concept, which goes something like "connecting people, processes, and information."
This is SharePoint's raison d'etre. That has not changed. What has evolved are several new core capabilities. Some seem quite natural extensions and others we feel are indicative of new pathways.
The 2007 product takes a few smaller steps forwards in the Web and "Web 2.0" content management areas, as well as one larger one, with the integration of Web Content Management and Publishing features, previously found only in Microsoft CMS 2002.
Among a number of new integration points, on the back end MOSS now works closely with Microsoft Exchange for Public Folders (read more), on the front end MS Office apps are tied to MOSS in a more sophisticated manner, and the new SharePoint Business Data repository opens channels for chatter between MOSS and any SQL DB or Web Services interface. Information is indeed being connected.
The business use possibilities for the platform are opening broadly and quickly. It is our opinion that, if the product's history foretells its future, the six pillars of MOSS are going to stir not only the content management marketplace, but the business intelligence pot too.
The Six Pillars of MOSS 2007
1. Collaboration By integrating Workspaces, Tasks, Forums, Surveys, Blogs, RSS and Wikis, the platform builds on the wild success of the 2003 collaboration features while hitting the Web 2.0 check box items for the new wave of collaboration and knowledge management applications. Point players in this space -- SocialText, BlogTronix, SuiteTwo, eTouch, BaseCamp, Automattic, etc. -- will no doubt out perform in select areas, on a feature by feature comparison, but previous adoption rates, customizability, and convenience will carry MOSS a long way here. 2. Portal A one stop site for everything enterprise-related. This concept is getting tired. Or maybe we're just tired of it. SharePoint is no longer branded as a "portal server" in the 2007 version (though the word is still in the product API Namespace). However, SharePoint still is a portal framework and web parts are still portlets. In fact, this remains one of the primary differentiators between the pay per CAL SharePoint version and the free WSS offering. Some new goodness with Master Pages, new flexibility with a pluggable Single Sign-on architecture, better search, and much improved Visual Studio integration will help on the portal side, but overall its not that exciting to talk about. 3. Enterprise Search Search was a bit of a painful thing with SPS 2003, especially when it came to integrating various content stores. The core problems have been addressed and the functionality broadly expanded. MOSS 2007 opens up ACL-aware search across both local and remote data stores with features that enable specialized search for people and expertise. The ability to index and search data in line-of-business apps via the Business Data Store integration is powerful and will please both business managers and developers alike. The new "Best Bets" feature adds a new depth of intelligence -- pulling search hits from entitled by not included search scopes. There's new meat here. We feel that in this 2007 release, SharePoint search is transforming from a check box to a compelling feature. 4. Web & Enterprise Content Management This is the big one for us. Microsoft is including core document management, major and minor versioning, check-in/check-out document locking, rich descriptive metadata, workflow (via Windows Workflow Foundation), content type-based policies, auditing, and role-based-access controls at the document library, folder, and individual document levels. The 2007 release builds on these capabilities delivering enhanced authoring, business document processing, Web Content Management and publishing, records management (DoD 5015.2 certification coming soon), policy management, and support for multilingual publishing.
Whew. There's a lot happening here. There are several different MS engineering groups working away at these features. No question about it, the content management functionalities in MOSS have been expanded broadly and will continue to do so. Existing MCMS customers considering a growth path will not necessarily find an easy migration story. With that said, the pathway there is evolving, MS' CM Assessment Tool is helpful, and the partner community -- migration, integration, and customization -- is pitching its significant weight in. 5. Forms Driven Business Process Microsoft has overhauled this aspect of SharePoint with XML driven InfoPath forms that are available on a variety of platforms including portable wireless devices. Client/Server based form maintenance has been centralized and improved for business processes for partner and customers. This area is not as close to our hearts, but is another dynamic one that captures attention. As InfoPath gains momentum and additional integration evolves between Visual Studio, InfoPath, and SharePoint, I predict we will a strong uptick in the developer community. 6. Business Intelligence Finally, BI has been improved across the board with web-based dashboards on the macro level, server-based Excel Services and Excel Web Services API's, line of business application and data repository integration, and more sophisticated abilities to monitor key performance indicators. Despite Microsoft's Performance Point BI server, this is one area of MOSS that we feel has the ability to shift the market. SharePoint 2003 transformed workgroup document storage and collaboration. We believe that SharePoint 2007 aims to do the same thing with BI. By enabling business users to build-out simple integration, dashboarding, and PKI monitoring MS are definitely looking for the next dimension for SharePoint growth.
The story and the product is certainly evolving. There are not a lot of deployments to date and, well perhaps we're biased, but the focus we've seen has been largely on the Web CMS and Enterprise CMS features. The impact of Enterprise Search, BI for the masses and electronic forms integration has not yet hit. But it will and as it does, you can stayed tuned here as we follow, dissect, and get dirty with MOSS.
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