Arguably one of the reasons for SharePoint's success over the last few years is the ecosystem of third party products and developers that help to support it. Generally speaking, if you want to add to or expand the standard SharePoint feature set, there is a product or plugin that fits the bill. Visual workflow design, list and document level backup and a hundred weather webparts -- all can be readily and easily added to your SharePoint environment.

But who will be setting the pace in the new year, and what software is worth keeping an eye on? Let’s review some of the most interesting third party products on the market for SharePoint right now.

Nintex Live

The Australian-based Nintex has built a solid reputation over the last few years with a number of excellent SharePoint products, not least its "Workflow" visual designer tool. Nintex Workflow has found real favor in the SharePoint community by allowing power users to build some quite complex functionality, all running on top of the out of the box workflow engine.

Nintex hasn’t rested on its laurels, and late last year launched their "Live" product. Essentially an extension to the standard Workflow tool, Live allows workflows to connect to a multitude of cloud-based services. Prebuilt components exist to allow workflows to connect to Twitter, Facebook, Google and Bing. More importantly, Live allows workflows to be connected to Office365 and SharePoint Online. In essence this allows SharePoint "on-premise" to be connect to SharePoint Online.

The product is still in its early days, but 2012 will surely be the year that Office365 really starts to find some traction in the enterprise market. Likely SharePoint installations will become fragmented between traditional on-premise solutions and those in the cloud. Nintex Live might just find itself perfectly positioned to bridge the gap between the two.

In addition, it is natural that clients will want to start connecting their SharePoint systems wherever they are held to more and more cloud services. Nintex Live provides an easy way to achieve this, using the visual "non-code" tools users are already used to.

The future looks bright for this product in 2012 and it will be very interesting to see the direction that subsequent versions take.

Quest Migration Suite

Anyone who has worked on website or intranet projects will know that data migration is always much more complicated than it first appears. The seemingly simple act of moving existing data from one system to another can quickly get very complicated. SharePoint is no different, and indeed manipulating sites, lists, metadata and permissions can often add another layer of consideration to the work.

There are a couple of tools on the market designed to help with this problem. The one that currently stands out is the "Quest Migration Suite." Previously a set of separate products, they are now merged into a single holistic application.

Quest has focused on two key areas with this new release -- allowing users to quickly install the tool and then allowing them to perform actual migrations with minimum effort. This speed of operation and ease of use is refreshing to see, when other similar tools often overcomplicate things.

Data can be migrated from SharePoint 2003 or 2007 to 2007, 2010 or SharePoint Online (part of Office365). Entire site collections can be moved, as can single sites, lists or webparts. The suite also includes dedicated tools to move Windows fileshares to any SharePoint flavor, as well as exchange public folders. In both instances, available metadata can be maintained, which is often an area that makes data migration tricky to do properly.

Quest Migration Suite is by no means the only migration on the market for SharePoint -- far from it. But its focus on users, and dedication to simplicity and speed makes it stand out from the crowd.

The Colligo Suite

Colligo Networks has long been the darling of the SharePoint third party community, largely as a result of its contributor line of applications. The range provides offline access to SharePoint content, deep integration with Outlook and strong metadata functionality. There are currently a number of products offered, including a free version, a professional paid version and a dedicated add-in for Outlook.

What marks this company out for inclusion in this list is its next generation of products. These include "Colligo Administrator" and "Colligo Email Manager." The most interesting product is the recently released "Colligo Briefcase." This is an iPad application that allows users to securely sync and view SharePoint documents and lists on their mobile devices. Whilst a number of iPad apps exist that already do this job, Briefcase is the first to truly consider the needs of the enterprise environment. It supports centrally managed installation, deployment and customization, and will work with major mobile device management systems.

As the use of iPads in the enterprise shows no signs of slowing down, more and more people will want to access their SharePoint systems in this seamless manner. Briefcase is one of the first enterprise-class applications to allow this. With the Colligo name behind it, it is sure to find a strong user base and will raise the bar for other developers. This can only be a good thing for SharePoint as a whole.

Editor's Note: You may also be interested in reading: