It seems like only yesterday that we were shouting about the upcoming release of SharePoint 2010. In fact, it is just about two years ago (May 12, 2010) that it was released. And with a mere two years on the market, we’re starting to shout about the release of the next edition -- SharePoint 15.

Same As It Ever Was!

In fact, the new release is so far down the development road that people are already starting to address the issue at tech conferences all over. Issues such as user deployment, what it will contain, what will the new fantastical capabilities be, and so on,  are all being hammered out at IT gatherings everywhere.

If it sounds familiar, then that’s probably because it is; exactly the same kind of gatherings were going on before the release of SharePoint 2010. But as Chris McNulty, Strategic Product Manager at Quest Software, told us in an interview recently, the issues remain the same.

First, what exactly is known about SharePoint 15 is limited. Quest, McNulty told us, has been one of the companies working with the new version, and if anyone said or implied anything about it, then it would be the Big Sleep for them; sleeping with the fishes would be nothing compared with what Microsoft would do to them.

SharePoint 15 Roadmap

But let’s leave the drama aside. According to a leaked roadmap -- does anyone really believe in leaded roadmaps from Microsoft, or the Tooth Fairy? -- the next version of SharePoint will land in the first quarter of next year.

The beta is already heading out this summer -- and even Microsoft officially admits this. Recently it released the first technology preview to selected testers, from which McNulty is offering a number of pointers on how to prepare for the upcoming release.

For the record, he didn’t tell us what’s in it, but he did say that, in the previous version, much of the criticism focused on poor social-networking features, poor mobile support and substantial development needed for custom apps.

Among the other things that SharePoint 15 is expected to be is a better environment for cloud computing coinciding with a major upgrade of SharePoint Online in Office 365. There are also indications that there will be a better app marketplace and interfaces designed with social networking in mind.

Planning for SharePoint 15

And then there are the eight points that enterprises should consider if they are thinking about upgrading, and which Chris outlined to us recently, before bringing his thoughts on it to TEC 2012 recently.

What is interesting about them is that they are close to the things that we have been reporting about in relation to enterprises that are looking to move to SharePoint 2010.

Everything, McNulty said, is about planning; you can’t just jump into SharePoint 15. But you couldn't just jump into SharePoint 2010, or 2007 or 2003, for that matter. So just like the last time, Quest is advising companies to plan any future deployments, even if many companies appear to have had their head in the sand when that lesson was being given out the first time.

Companies that think they will be moving should start preparing now and not stand around until it’s actually launched; enterprises, he said, should have a “next version readiness” plan ready that should cover the following eight points:

1. Optimized Environment

Like the last version of SharePoint, IT managers are going to be on the front lines here. The first step to getting ready is to refresh the underlying infrastructure by, if necessary, refreshing hardware and applying current software patches.

Enterprises that are working on the old versions of Windows or SQL Server should also upgrade to the latest version.

2. Consolidate Content

We’re not sure if we should really mention this one as there’s a whole book that could be written on it. However, McNulty had been clear about this. Enterprises, he said, need to eliminate the islands of SharePoint within the organization and other legacy platforms such as Windows File Shares and Exchange Public Folders.

This content should be centralized and migrated to SharePoint 2010 where applicable, which will enable a smoother upgrade and content migration to the new version later.

3. Data Externalization

For content that is not essential in a business environment, enterprises need to consider moving less-critical content from expensive SQL Server content databases to less-expensive repositories.

This will deliver performance efficiencies in the short term as well as make the upgrade and migration process easier in the long term.

4. Governance Plan

Don’t start us on this one; This is another one worth a conference in itself and we’ve been arguing it for a long time, but nevertheless.

Governance is going to control what content is going to be migrated and to where it is going to be migrated. If you have a mature and well-developed governance plan for your SharePoint deployment now, it will be easier to carry that plan into an upgraded environment. If there are technical improvements in SharePoint 15, the basic principles of good governance will remain the same.

5. Enterprise Content Management

If you are considering moving content into a new and improved system, now is the time to analyze what should stay and what should go. Considerable amounts of content does not fall under the label of records so there’s a lot of it lying around that could be destroyed.

Apart from the fact that it is expensive to store unneeded content, it also complicates migration processes. Take the time now to define and implement a retention plan, which will save time and expense in the future.

6. Be Social

Many companies at this point have implemented social media and networks into their enterprise systems, but many have not really considered whether they should have done so in the first place.

While McNulty did not go into any details about what social features will be available in SharePoint, Microsoft has already explained that they are on the way.

Your enterprise needs to decide whether social is actually needed. If you do this, then you can also decide what social features are needed and whether the social features in SharePoint 15 are for you.

7. Custom Coding

With the new SharePoint on the way, McNulty advises developers to avoid using or developing any heavy customizations for now. There is no point in spending months developing something for SharePoint 2010 only to find that it is incompatible with the new version.

There are two possible consequence here: Either your customized project gets left behind and you have just wasted months of work and a gazillion dollars, or your company sticks with the customization and can't upgrade. Best to wait and see what’s under the hood.

8. Cloud Strategy

If you haven’t got one already, you need to develop a cloud strategy. This means deciding whether you want online, on-premises or hybrid deployments. Microsoft has made no bones about the fact that the new SharePoint is going for the cloud in a way that the current SharePoint Online in Office 365 has never done.

If SharePoint Online will play a future role, identify potential pilot projects and build out a phased approach for deploying SharePoint in the cloud. Armed with this assessment, you’ll be ready to move as soon as the next version is deployed.

The current SharePoint product is now two years old and Microsoft says 65 million users are using it. We have seen already that the release of SharePoint 2010 created considerable problems across the enterprise, as users had no idea where of what Microsoft was going to do.

The principal problem -- or the principal cause -- was that few enough companies had done any planning.

The advocates of planning are already out in force with this upcoming version and it is to be hoped that enterprises make the effort to start planning now. It will be interesting to see with the new version whether things are a little bit different.