Everyone that has had anything to do with SharePoint over the year has his own SharePoint story. With such a vast platform used in so many ways, everyone has something he loves and something he hates. The only thing everyone agrees on is to disagree. For my money, SharePoint this year was characterized by SharePoint and Yammer, SharePoint and Office 365 and Mobile SharePoint. 

Before you start writing in to complain, keep in mind that, if nothing else, I understand your pain — I take it all on board — but at the end of the day, these three topics are what really grabbed my attention over the year. We'll look at them in a bit more detail. But first, let’s just mention some of the other issues that caused a stir.

ECM, Metadata, Governance

There was, for example, a lot of talk about SharePoint as Enterprise Content Management system (ECM). Acellion estimates that there are 17,000 organizations running it as their main ECM.

It also said 67 percent of all organizations that have SharePoint are providing access to all of their enterprise users, and that the total number of SharePoint license sold to date is around 125 million. Seductive, but not a prize winner.

Metadata was also a subject that many people were interested in, for obvious reasons. Mimi Donne took a look at it in September and pointed out that the key to a successful SharePoint implementation from a content management point of view is metadata.

SharePoint governance also came up on a number of occasions. This is a subject that is very close to our hearts, should be a core consideration for enterprises, and is likely to continue being of major concern in the years ahead.

We will leave this discussion for another time as it really requires a whole study in itself. Christian Buckley took the bull by the horns, and underlined a number of underlying principles that we have often pointed to here at CMSWire.

In a nutshell, Buckley pointed out that the underlying principles of good governance are the same managing SharePoint as they are for any or any other enterprise collaboration platform and those principles do not change whether that platform is on premises, in the cloud or a hybrid solution of both.

In fact, lack of a governance strategy for SharePoint generally points to a wider problem in the enterprise around their IT deployments and lack of planning around them. If an enterprise doesn’t plan for SharePoint, there’s a reasonably good possibility that it doesn’t plan for other deployments.

For the sake of those enterprises that are struggling with this, we hope we’re wrong and are happy to discuss this further at length in the New Year. However, this is not the place for it, but it is something that will come up again — frequently — over the course of 2014.

3 Issues in 2013

Buckley’s post contains a lot of more sound advice that users and SharePoint administrators, among others, need to consider. That said, in the social and/or collaboration fest of 2013, it just doesn’t have the mass appeal of SharePoint’s new social features, Microsoft’s moves to integrate SharePoint into Yammer or the enterprise collaboration and productivity possibilities of Office 365. Indeed, in the many discussions around SharePoint over 2013 Yammer, Office 365, and Mobile took pride of place

1. Yammer

Since Microsoft snapped up Yammer in 2012, it has spent considerable time and money finding ways to get Yammer and SharePoint to work side by side. As of the end of this year, the two have still some way to go before they are completely integrated, and it is likely that much of the SharePoint social story will be around this next year.

That said, every new social release for SharePoint, or addition to Yammer, has been inspected and dissected by the industry to see where the best advantage lies.

As Chris Clark pointed out in August, while every announcement is met with a flurry of activity, there is still no practical guide on how to get the best out of the two of them together.

Many of our contributors over the year have been preoccupied with this. Laura Rodger’s post on how the combination of Yammer and SharePoint will change the way we work offered some good, clear insights on where the two now stand.

He points out that with SharePoint 2013 and Yammer the new social features are obvious everywhere, and aimed to make work time more efficient. This is partly by design, and partly by the accidental play between the two applications. Social in SharePoint has become seamless and enables users push information around the enterprise at a rate that was previously impossible. In this respect, she offers five examples of the functionally that makes this happen:

  • Following: Enables users to easily follow sites, or any other kind of document for that matter.
  • Likes: Offers a like button for many features across SharePoint environments, including content, lists and libraries.
  • Tagging: Enables users tag content and follow tagged content. It also makes searching sites considerably easier.
  • Assigning Tasks: Tasks are now incorporated into the Newsfeed enabling users follow project sites and tasks.

Discussion Threads: Enables users hold conversations within the social platform rather than having them buried in personal silos.

But this is only the beginning; there is a lot more there and a lot more to come. That said, one of the most exciting possibilities is the development of true extranets for communications and collaboration with organizations outside the firewall.

With Yammer, the hurdles of expensive licensing for external users, governance of user lists and information, and security are all dealt with in a cheap, cheerful and secure fashion. It is interactive and social, and easy to adopt as well as being mobile-friendly and easy to govern.

As yet this capability hasn’t attracted a lot of attention from enterprise and business user, but it is likely that in the coming months, we are going to see many more examples of this.

2. Office 365 and SharePoint Online

Office 365, whether you bow to the inevitable or not, is going to finally wiggle itself into your enterprise. Over the year we have seen  ongoing development of Office 365 on both a functional level, as well as a commercial level.

When we say a commercial level, we mean in terms of the pricing plans that are making accessible to even households, even if some of the enterprise places come with all the productivity tools your enterprise could possibly want, including SharePoint Online.

Running in parallel to the development of Office 365 over the year has been the discussion around whether enterprise are going to move to SharePoint Online, or stick with the on-premises version.

There is, and will be, no final word on this as both versions clearly have their relative merits; on-premises is perceived being more secure, while the online version is considered easier to deploy with less initial capital outlay.

However, the possibility of hybrid versions now offers a simple compromise offering enterprises the on-premises for the management and governance of content that enterprises really don’t want used, or stored, anywhere except on-premises, and the online version for content that has few security and compliance requirements.

Even still, the cloud drum is beating louder and louder at Microsoft and more and more functionality is being added as each update comes and goes.

Office 365, at the last count, is available in 123 market and in 40 different languages, while Microsoft keeps adding new services and updates to its cloud offerings, particularly in the Dynamics range, that will fill in any of the business productivity holes that Office 365 may have left.

Moving into 2014, one of the big questions that is going to rise is how enterprises are going to respond to Microsoft’s growing cloud focus, and in particular the role it sees for Office 365 and SharePoint Online.

SharePoint also integrates with many other systems across finance, or human resources, not to mention the intranet and the extranet. This doesn’t really work to the same degree in the cloud. The question for next year and the coming years is how enterprise are going to deal with this.

3. Mobile SharePoint

It is impossible to leave SharePoint at the end of 2013, without taking a brief look at SharePoint and mobile access. Its not that there is any particular problems with mobile and SharePoint — or rather no more problems than there would be any other system — but with the increasing deployment of SharePoint in the enterprise, mobile access needs to be considered.

This is particularly true given that according to the research, more than 90 percent of enterprises in the US have implemented bring your own device (BYOD) strategies, which allow workers to access enterprise systems using their own devices.

The needs of workers and the challenge for enterprises is to enable workers to use these devices to access consistent, up-to-date views of those files so that they will be working on the most re-cent version of the file. This means offering a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to and from their device that enables secure SharePoint access, content creating and editing functionality and the ability to save that content back into SharePoint.

In the classic IT-centric model, users would access their corporate network using a VPN from their device, enabling them browse their SharePoint environments at will, find content, manipulate that content and then save it back into SharePoint.

In October, Wendy Neal pointed out that SharePoint 2013's new mobile features are definitely a step up from the mobile features in previous versions. In fact, one could argue that mobile devices get better support than ever before.

That said, she points out that the features are still not entirely mobile friendly. In fact, there are seven problems she says:

  • Mobile views have limited functionality
  • Contemporary view is not easily extensible
  • Office 365 is more limiting than on premises installations of SharePoint
  • Difficulty in creating responsive design SharePoint Sites.
  • Poor integration between responsive design and image renditions
  • First impressions by Office 365 users are not the best
  • Lack of Mobile Support for Custom Apps
  • Depending on who you talk to, there are other issues too. Next year, this will undoubtedly come under the spotlight against the growth of mobile workforces continues.

These are just some of the issues that we felt were particularly striking over the year, but there are many more, which we are happy to explore. Happy New Year.