The Next SharePoint Upgrade Through 2010 Hindsight

By Marc Solomon posted 09-20-2010 22:42


Global manufacturing ushered in the use of ERP systems. The rush to web interfaces and B2B commerce nurtured the demand for sales force automation and CRM apps. That leaves a lot of unclaimed territory for connecting workers to enterprise-wide processes and hard-to-quantify ROI -- a.k.a. indirect financial business outcomes. That’s the power grab.

Is Microsoft making the most of it?

That's a question I'd have an easier time addressing if I was persuaded that upgrading to SharePoint 2010 was as timely as it was inevitable. Peer pressure alone ain't going to do it -- especially when the most vocal proponents are a vested group of integrators and developers. I’ve yet to hear the real world response from the folks who pay the actual licensing bills.

Of course if Microsoft’s standard features addressed our unique requirements there would be no extended network of gold partners. Indeed the success of the partnership business model rests on the assumption that Microsoft produces customers better than it designs software. Connecting to its user-base was never a two-way conversation. Hence we’re likelier to know we’ll lose ten minutes to a fire drill in our office complex than the complex MS Office patch we’ll need to update before we hit the evening commute home.

I'm not dismissing the consulting community. One of the important realizations about upgrading to 2010 is the critical role that the selection of a capable Microsoft partner factors into the upgrade equation. Part of that means an IT consulting outfit that understands you and Microsoft in equal measure. That means a team that dazzles us with shiny, new features when they answer directly to our own chronic, thorny problems. OK. So here's a deal-breaker. I've got a lot of sunk cost vested in the MOSS regime. The only less compelling reason for jeopardizing that investment is needing to forklift over the entire structure. It's like moving day when you're bringing along all the boxes you never unpacked in the place you're about to vacate. Enterprise content migrations are no place for pack rats.

In fact the upgrades should be aspirational -- not just because of cool new features but because they force us to toss stuff. That's not just orphan files and folders but even entire sites and collections. Why build new libraries and list sites just because we sign a new client or launch a new product? Any sound metadata structure should be capable of capturing and recycling those anticipated patterns. That's the beauty of search, rather than site-driven architecture.The user is no longer bothered with the business of location for finding their stuff or anyone else’s.

That new feature is called Content Organizer and I'm hoping we can configure it without much fuss. That would make SharePoint 2010 not just a decent product but a revolutionary process. It's been those workflows that have long separated the seasoned implementers from the more casual adopters. An out-of-the-box process flow like Content Organizer would let the sanitation folks haul away the shiny, new SharePoint 2010 cartons and leave the architecting to us KM grunts. Otherwise, those MOSS customizations are here to stay – at least until the next upgrade cycle.

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