With each new release of SharePoint I become like a kid in a candy shop, ready to find all the new and exciting goodies that have been made available. SharePoint 2013 has been no exception.
Since the release of the Customer Preview I have been anxiously digging in and trying to find what new and exciting things have been added. What I have found so far has been a pleasant surprise, and not quite what I expected. In this article we are going to highlight some of the key areas that have caught my attention and how they could easily add ROI to your SharePoint investment.
The first impressions I had of 2013 were that they were trying to provide a more natural experience that allows you to easily navigate to the content you want, without getting lost in so many extra elements. I greatly appreciate the way that in 2013 the Ribbon becomes available, but doesn’t necessarily open to display a large collection of configuration options before I am ready.
Another great feature is how easily you can work with and edit content on the page. New enhancements to inline editing make the interaction with the content much more natural and expected. There are less options available to me on the primary menus so that I can more easily accomplish my primary tasks.
The other options still remain available, but they are hidden until I am ready to access them. This is a huge improvement in efficiency for common tasks and should have a great impact on your organization. By making these features more natural to the everyday user, the need for training is reduced to only really being required for the more advanced features.
Another big thing I have noticed so far is the tight integration with the Office 2013 release. For a few releases now they have been released all under the Office Product line, but for the first time I am really seeing the value in having both the latest version of Office and the latest version of SharePoint. They complement each other in such a great way that I wouldn’t want to have to use one without the other. You add additional tools to the mix, such as a Windows Tablet and I am ready to go!
So far the improved functionality and general enjoyment of working with the latest release is what sticks out to me as being the greatest improvements. Some of the smallest changes in how things are presented or integration have made a huge impact in this release.
Once I got through my first impressions, it was time to dig in. One big area that I have enjoyed looking into is the area of Social within SharePoint. In the past, social elements such as My Sites and tagging were nice, but they didn’t really drive me to use them. Within 2013, the story changes. So much more is available and the changes are great improvements that will drive Social sites to be the central hub for a user. Being able to easily access and work with the relevant data when I need it is a huge step forward.
There are two main components of Social: My Sites and Communities. My Sites are really my view into the organization and my location to provide and record my expertise and content to others within the organization. Within 2013 the same features from 2010 are present, but they are displayed to the users in a new modern format. This means that things are more natural in terms of navigation and sharing content. They also include additional features around Microblogging and Newsfeeds.
Communities are a new concept within SharePoint 2013 that foster discussions among a community of users. The idea is that users can access the different communities and join those that are interesting to them. A community portal can then be used as a way to roll up date from all sites within the environment that are based on the community template.
Out of the box, the community templates include functionality that allows you to assign moderators and also designate levels of award, such as expert, to various people within the community. They will be shown to others who access the community and allow them to quickly and easily see who is actively engaged in the community.
Web Content Management
The other big improvement within SharePoint 2013 that is of great interest to me is the area of Web Content Management. This area is of great interest because it addresses one of the biggest pain points that I have faced building SharePoint solutions on previous versions, which is the ability to share and publish content and settings across multiple site collections.
Through some of the additions to this release we will be able to use the new publishing features to share content across various site collections. And sharing content is just the beginning to the new features available. We also have the ability to create friendly URLs, target content to specific devices and do advanced content rollups based on search.
And since these features are based on concepts in global term stores and searching, we are able to utilize concepts that we are already familiar with to add a whole new level of functionality to our solutions.
In terms of next steps, the best suggestion I can give you is to start playing!
You can go to the Office Preview site and quickly get set up with all you need to take the new products for a test drive. Since the products support a side by side installation, you can run the preview office suite along with your current office products. I have been doing this for several weeks and I have been very happy with the results.
In the beginning the best thing to do is learn about all of the new features and how they are intended to be used within the solutions. As you begin to learn these items you can then step back and look at your specific business scenarios. At that point you will be able to easily map those new features and capabilities back to your environment. Since the best SharePoint solutions are built with the business in mind, this approach helps align you with your ultimate goal.
Editor's Note: Still working with SharePoint 2010? Then you might be interested in reading this article of Jennifer's: