2013 Crystal Ball – From a SharePoint of View

By Mike Alsup posted 01-01-2013 16:27


Today is the first day of 2013.  Like other prognosticators, this is a good day to summarize 2012 and pontificate on my expectations for 2013.  Here is what I saw in 2012 in the world of SharePoint Content and Records Management:

  • Lots of SharePoint Adoption.  At the SharePoint Conference in November in Vegas, it was revealed that there were now 75,000 customers and 135,000,000 users of SharePoint.  In the field, I saw enterprise adoption in theory, but mainly collaboration sites and intranets and lightweight knowledge management.  Lots of enthusiasm for the possibilities of SharePoint and a clear intention to use it for content and records management.  At some point.  When the standards and infrastructure are more mature. 
  • Lots of Infrastructure Consolidation.  In the field, I mainly saw infrastructure consolidation to SharePoint 2010 from both SharePoint 2003 and MOSS 2007.  Some migration of share drives and legacy content management platforms to SharePoint, but more emphasis on getting administrative governance and application development standards right.  Looking forward to SharePoint 2013 cautiously. 
  • A more mature assessment of build vs. buy.  In prior years, many organizations said that they only believed in SharePoint out-of-the-box solutions.  This proved painful from a cost and application upgrade perspective, and especially painful from a reinventing-the-wheel perspective.  Consultants, analysts and case studies consistently made the point that many functions and features have been very well implemented in other organizations and are now more cost effective to buy than to build.  Organizations that have established their SharePoint foundation and understand the trade-offs of build vs. buy are the ones that are constructing SharePoint reference architectures based on standards and best practices with add-on components and frameworks. 
  • Waiting to See on SharePoint Records Management.  As a provider of records management applications for SharePoint, we naturally would have wanted to see the wholesale adoption of SharePoint as the primary repository for records.  We saw active Early Adopters, lots of proof of concept implementations and retention schedule updates and people who wanted to do it.  But mainly, they wanted to understand best practices from others who had already done it. 

Here is what I expect in 2013:

  • Getting Ready for the Hybrid Cloud.  There is talk about “the Cloud” in all of the forecasts for 2013.  I think it is a data center where someone else pays for the electricity.  There are public data centers, private data centers that you don’t own, and on premises data centers that you do own (unless you have sold them to an outsourcer).  The issue is what standards are used for building, accessing and managing cloud applications.  In the world of SharePoint, the functions and features of the product are very similar in the cloud (Office 365), but some implementation aspects are very different because of the limitations of the new SharePoint App model and multi-tenancy (among other things).  We learned a lot about this in 2012. 

Much of the work to create SharePoint 2013 was to enable a “Cloud First” strategy.  Many types of business logic and business processes need to be hosted outside of SharePoint in Office 365.  The stature of Azure rises dramatically in this regard and many ISV’s are exploring the re-hosting of their software products into Azure.  What our teams have seen is that Azure is very powerful, but developers must be more aware of remote communications, security protocols, and industry standards.  Both SharePoint 2013 and Azure will provide significant additional levels of scalability to organizations.  Finally, with SharePoint 2013, Azure servers will make their way inside the firewalls of large organizations to provide additional capabilities in SharePoint, either on-premise or in private clouds. 

  • Confusion about SharePoint in the Cloud vs. SharePoint On-Premise.  In its preparation for a Cloud First world, Microsoft has changed its model for the development of some SharePoint applications.  This will probably confuse a lot of large organizations when they learn that the approach to SharePoint application development that they have been supporting since MOSS 2007 is still supported in SharePoint 2013, but it is not Microsoft’s favored model.  The traditional SharePoint model is a Server-side application development model.  The new SharePoint model is a Client-side (App) model that leverages web services.  The new SharePoint model is better from a Cloud First perspective, but it uses some different API’s, software development models, and approaches to business logic.  Customers of many SharePoint ISV’s are likely to demand updated applications to take advantage of the new platform features and changes in SharePoint 2013.  There will be multiple product lines emerging from SharePoint ISV’s to support the SharePoint 2010 model and the SharePoint 2013 models where once a single model was enough. 

The SharePoint market going forward is bifurcated, with many organizations using the SharePoint 2010 model on-premise, and others using or waiting on SharePoint 2013 in Office 365 when it becomes more mature.  Organizations are looking for hybrid solutions to integrate their Office 365 and on-premise deployments.  The question is how best to create hybrid SharePoint environments that govern both Office 365 and on-premise applications and information in an integrated fashion.  Some organizations that have not yet migrated to SharePoint 2010 from MOSS 2007 will conclude that the migration to the SharePoint 2013 model is a better path forward. 

  • Records Management 2.0 becomes Hybrid Information Management.  The beauty of SharePoint for records management is that it enables transparent records management on a platform that users want to use.  With proper infrastructure, architecture and standards, records management can be implemented in SharePoint team sites without users needing to understand the intricacies of their file plans and retention schedules.  With the proper implementation of SharePoint content types and an information lifecycle that is provisioned on an enterprise basis, all that users need to do is select a content type and then either a user or an application needs to declare a piece of content “final” at the right point in the lifecycle.  Everything else can happen behind the scenes. 

We call this Records Management 2.0 (RM 2.0) to distinguish it from the generations of RM implementations that failed for want of user adoption.  The RM 2.0 approach is more about content types and the information lifecycle than it is about whether SharePoint is the repository of record.  (Some ECM suites have achieved similarly transparent records management capabilities, and many of the best enterprise implementations of RM 2.0 in SharePoint have been built with the legacy ECM Suites as the repositories of record, but they never had the level of user adoption to propel them through the enterprise.)  I expect that 2013 will see accelerating adoption of SharePoint both for content governance in SharePoint team sites and as an enterprise repository for records.

This will enable the deployment of content lifecycles that include Office 365 collaboration and document management sites that are integrated with on-premise SharePoint RM sites.  Some organizations will go for Office 365 RM and some will opt for on-premise SharePoint RM.  With appropriate SharePoint add-in applications, a continuum of team sites with In Place RM and SharePoint Record Centers will enable significant progress towards the achievement of enterprise content governance.  

  • Content-Enabled Vertical Applications.  Here is a blast from the past.  Enterprise content governance in SharePoint enables an application platform for what Gartner once labeled Content Enabled Vertical Applications, or CEVA’s.  Large organizations have been trying to establish a consistent platform for the management of their unstructured content in applications that they could easily integrate with their ERP and LOB systems.  But as soon as they got CEVA applications built, the platforms or the standards changed (again).  ECM Suites have just been too expensive to build the hundreds or thousands of applications that would make up an enterprise of governed content.  The overwhelming adoption of SharePoint has overcome the issue of what the platform will be.  Microsoft calls these Composite Applications.  Whatever.  SharePoint wins.  We saw the first wave of these Composite Applications in SharePoint 2010, and expect a lot more in 2013. 
  • Enterprise-Enabled On-Ramp to SharePoint.  Here is another blast from the past.  The digital mailroom enables the somewhat universal on-ramp to SharePoint.  I saw this compellingly described at the Kofax Transform event in San Diego, but I think it applies generally.  From emailing of documents, to smartphone photos of expense receipts, to portals with document drop zones, to process work flows, documents come from everywhere.  An enterprise on-ramp from Readsoft or Kodak or Kofax recognizes the content of the documents, triggers recognition and business logic, and forwards the objects to SharePoint sites which are enabled for ERP system integration, search, further workflow, and lifecycle content governance. 

This is what the SharePoint ECM market is working toward in 2013.  Not all of this will be achieved early in 2013.  Another exciting year in SharePoint ECM-land.  Users win.  See you in the field. 

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