The topic of enterprise content management (ECM) on SharePoint is always a hot one, and the hype is ever-growing with the 2013 release. 

After all Microsoft is a Gartner MQ ECM Leader, so it must continue to innovate in this space to keep up with the other ECM leaders. At #spc12, I attended a session covering Microsoft’s efforts to increase their clout in ECM with SharePoint 2013. The presenters were Tejas Mehta, Microsoft Senior Product Marketing Manager, and Jim Masson, Group Product Manager -- Enterprise Content Management.

ECM in SharePoint 2010 vs SharePoint 2013

The session began with a quick recap of what Microsoft’s message was with the 2010 release and how that contrasts to the current message with 2013. In 2010, Microsoft really drove home the concept of combining traditional ECM capabilities with newer social capabilities on one platform. The impact of enterprise social was a major shift for Microsoft, and they drove that notion with much of the features in the 2010 Office/SharePoint products.

But we’re 3 years removed from that change, and most organizations are at the very least aware of enterprise social and looking at ways to invest in it. In 2013, the message with ECM is one of convergence and usability. This is in line with the greater Microsoft message about cleaner interfaces and better usability across all of their flagship products, which recently had brand new releases this year.

ECM in SharePoint: Create, Control, Protect

More specifically, the marketing team is selling the theme by highlighting 3 specific pillars, Create, Control and Protect.

Create: Content Creation & Access

The Create pillar is all about content creation and access. Microsoft is making it easier to find documents and e-mail together in SharePoint with unified views on team sites. For social, the newsfeeds are much more impactful for understanding how your colleagues are working with content that you’re interested in. The enterprise social features are much easier to use and they resemble the big social networks, as you can follow just about anything in SharePoint and even use mentions and hashtags, a la Twitter.

Control: Governance & Search Driven Experiences

The second pillar, Control, has a focus on a mixture of governance along with search driven user experiences. And although the oft-overused term of governance has been fairly played out, there were five specific things in the demo that showed how the product team is increasing value in this pillar.

First we saw a demo of dragging and dropping a document from Windows Explorer right into SharePoint without having to load any windows or apply metadata. This was also shown during the keynote, and for obvious reasons garnered several applauses. Right after that we were shown how you can edit more than one document at the same time from within SharePoint and apply different types of metadata than you could with 2010.

Specifically you can apply managed metadata terms en masse to all the documents in the library without much trouble. Again, applause from the attendees. The next is the ease of dragging and dropping e-mails from your inbox to Exchange site mailboxes, which can be unified with SharePoint documents on a team site. The great thing here is that any relevant retention policies will apply to both the documents in SharePoint and the Exchange site mailbox. The next was a really nice showing of the new metadata-based navigation with the content query web part in SharePoint. The idea is that you use a managed metadata term set to create a visually appealing navigation based on content already stored in SharePoint matching those terms. And last but not least, we were shown the support that SharePoint 2013 has for HTML 5 video content as well as its ability to automatically recognize video-based content when posting a link on the feed.

Protect: e-Discovery

The final pillar, and the most intriguing for me was the Protect pillar. This is where Microsoft is really adding a lot of functionality for end users, who are completely on the Microsoft stack. The key here is all about e-Discovery. As I mentioned briefly in the previous pillar, e-Discovery now spans documents in SharePoint as well as related e-mail in Exchange.

SharePoint 2013 now offers a fairly advanced set of queries that can help end users find content pertaining to a legal hold or some other reason. The pervasiveness without having to ask IT looks quite good so far, although a more in depth study will need to be performed to see how it will really compete with popular 3rd party e-Discovery tools. The demo of these new features also touched on the ability for a user to export the entire return set based on a query without having do much of anything with IT. Once content is found in SharePoint matching the query, the export will span documents in SharePoint, e-mail stored in Exchange, list data as an Excel file and webpages as an MHT snapshot. The pertinent e-mail is stored in a PST alongside the documents and Excel files. And it will even export a proper manifest in EDRM XML format for compliance reasons.

All in all, these e-Discovery features are quite promising, and it will be interesting to see how vendors respond to this and how they will adapt to remain competitive.

A more in depth look of the new e-Discovery features will be shown in a subsequent post detailing how these changes will be utilized across the entire Office platform.

Editor's note: Check out more conference coverage from SharePoint 2012 Las Vegas.