It’s hard to believe SPTechConBoston 2013 is right around the corner. Two and a half years ago, SPTechCon was my first opportunity to observe how our team interacted with our clients after joining Axceler. Something that really stood out to me that night was how deeply invested everyone from Axceler was in our customer relationships - from Sales to Product Management, Marketing to our Executive team.
Back Bay Social Club SPTechCon Boston 2011 (Click here to register for this year: conta.cc/1cgBnoO)
It’s interesting to reflect on the past couple of years and think about how we’ve evolved as an organization, particularly our products and customer offerings. A few weeks ago I had a conversation with Erin Glenn, the SharePoint Team Lead at Goodwill Industries and one of our very first clients.
Goodwill Industries of Central Virginia is part of a network of 165 community-based, autonomous member organizations in the United States and Canada. Goodwill’s work and mission are focused on long-term employment solutions for persons with disabilities and individuals with social and economic disadvantages. To fund its mission, Goodwill Industries of Central Virginia collects donated clothing, household items, computers, and automobiles to sell in its 20 retail stores, two outlets, and at weekly auctions. In 2012, Goodwill served over 16,000 individuals throughout Central Virginia and Hampton Roads through career development, training, and support services.
Erin has been part of the Axceler customer community since 2008, therefore could speak to what has changed over the years - and what hasn’t.
Erin shared her initial thoughts on Axceler:
“Even though Axceler was new, the attentiveness that Sales and Product Management gave me to understand what I was looking for was huge.”
As well as her opinion on Axceler five years later:
“I’ve been a customer for a long time and that hasn’t changed. As a tool, ControlPoint speaks for itself but it’s the Axceler people that make it a winner in my eyes…
…It’s never just a Sales call, it’s a Solutions call.”
Through all the accomplishments and benchmarks we’ve achieved over the years, it’s nice to know that the core of what made us a success initially still remains the same.
Read Erin’s full story http://info.axceler.com/Portals/61447/docs/goodwill_case_study.pdf
Existing Axceler customers can view our full Case Study library along with detailed product guides, common ControlPoint use cases and complimentary Axceler Academy training videos all from within our Customer Portal. https://support.axceler.com/home
For details on Axceler’s full suite of ControlPoint Products please visit: http://www.axceler.com/products/index
I was one week into my new position and this conference was my first opportunity to introduce the Customer Success team our customers and the company – while just starting to forge my own relationships with both.
This year we’re holding our evening event at The Back Bay Social Club (conta.cc/1cgBnoO ), the same location where I originally observed how our team interacted with our clients.
Since our last collaboration corner blog post, it seems that a new research study has been released every week, all highlighting the impact of collaboration tools on the social enterprise. The notable studies continue to hammer home why businesses should invest in collaboration tools as well as how success can be achieved and boost the bottom line.
Considering data from the following three studies, while each show gains within the enterprise social networking space, we still have a long way to go.
While the studies show organizations understand the value of enterprise social networks (ESN), there is an opportunity for enterprises to improve ESN visibility, adoption, engagement and ultimately, the bottom line. With business and IT leaders understanding how employees are using collaboration platforms, they can use this data as a starting point for developing governance strategies. Also, this level of insight can prove the effectiveness of social strategies as well as help business leaders continue to justify the investment.
IBM Report: How Social Business Can Help Organizations Succeed
In May, IBM released a report researching the best practices that successful social businesses use to increase profits and improve customer satisfaction. Two important stats from the report show how social tools can help all areas of a business, with 54% of companies surveyed planning to use social tools to support customer service processes and 60% looking to help sales become more social in the next two years.
Axceler’s take: These stats prove that businesses are already in the process of evolving into social businesses. However, while these businesses transform, it’s equally important to ensure governance strategies are in place to ensure social collaboration is most successful. Over half of respondents to our recent governance research of 1,000 SharePoint administrators admitted to not implementing any form of a governance strategy, and this can seriously inhibit collaboration processes. We have found implementing a governance strategy that secures data, meets compliance rules and connects to business goals can result in an improved ROI and a more efficient, collaborative workforce.
Facebook Ranks Top 'Enterprise' Collaboration Platform
Consulting firm Avanade released data showing that 77% of businesses and IT leaders are using social collaboration technologies, but it may not mean SharePoint or Salesforce. Instead, 74% of the IT decision makers surveyed said that they’re using Facebook and other consumer tools for the majority of their collaboration efforts.
Axceler’s take: We recently spoke with FierceContentManagement about this topic and determined that it’s important to make a distinction regarding this research: Collaboration in the enterprise is not the same as enterprise collaboration. The biggest threat to business leaders who don’t realize the difference between enterprise-class tools is the potential for data and intellectual property leakage through these consumer-based social platforms, specifically Facebook and Twitter. However, the good news is that if a company is already using Facebook to collaborate, enterprises should be ready to take the next step towards safer collaboration using enterprise-class social tools. IT admins are realizing that their employees are consumers of social platforms and are helping drive business decisions, and leaders need to jump on this trend to minimize threats and maximize collaboration. Developing a governance plan can help ensure a successful transition from consumer social tools to platforms made for the enterprise.
With New Study And Marketing Campaign, Microsoft Puts Renewed Emphasis On Its Social Tools For The Enterprise
Microsoft recently released a new study that provided an update on the state of enterprise social use, perceptions as well as the disconnect between employees and managers. For example, 37% of the 10,000 knowledge workers surveyed said that they could do their jobs better if the management team supported the use of social tools more. Furthermore, 77% agreed that they liked using new technologies at work to increase productivity, but 34% said that the IT admins underestimate the benefit of social tools in the workplace.
Axceler’s take: Microsoft’s study raises important concerns by those working frequently with collaboration platforms and what changes need to be made to bridge the gap with IT admins. Axceler’s recent research supports these findings, specifically looking at governance strategies and their effect on enterprise collaboration – social tools are adding significant value to organizations, but oftentimes are disconnected from business goals. Our own Christian Buckley has recently discussed how governance strategies can help build trust between both parties and result in measurable business improvements and more productive employees.
Even though these studies do show much progress can be made with ESNs, we’re glad the data has surfaced, as we’re here to help companies take the next steps in their collaboration strategies.
Do you agree with these studies? Does your business have data to support or challenge these findings?
Many organizations are making hard decisions about whether to move from their existing SharePoint environment to the latest version of the platform. Unfortunately, the decisions don't stop there -- this latest release from Microsoft is causing many organizations to seriously consider their near-term and long-term strategies for the cloud, as well. While there is definitely a lot of hype around "the cloud," the reality for the SharePoint platform is that this decision is in front of us all: do we remain on premises or move to the cloud? And is now even the time to move to SharePoint 2013 at all, or do we augment what we have today? There are many options available, from architectures to hosting options, and from social collaboration solutions to workflow tools. As Tony Byrne from analyst group Real Story Group puts it, we can "extend SharePoint, supplement it, or complement it." All of these possibilities give CIOs and their SharePoint administrators options and flexibility in how they design their platforms, allowing them to focus on the needs of their business.
These are not easy decisions. I talk with customers regularly who are trying to decide how to move forward, and my advice is purposely broad: make your decisions based on the needs of the business, not based on industry buzz. One of my most popular SharePoint webinars and presentations is on how organizations can get the most out of their existing SharePoint deployments (usually 2010). That is not to say that there are not compelling reasons to move to 2013, but is more of a testament of a strong 2010 platform -- and the need for organizations to really understand what it means to move into the cloud, and to appropriately set expectations for what SharePoint can and cannot do within each version.
The following outlines some of the advantages and disadvantages of each, hopefully helping you to better understand which option may work best for your own business needs:
- Remain on premises using SharePoint 2010
There is nothing wrong with making the most of your existing SharePoint investments. Let's face it -- SP2010 is a stable platform, and may be delivering solid value to your business. While you should definitely weigh the costs of managing the infrastructure, maintaining the necessary support and development expertise in house to keep things running, and any other 3rd party or educational costs, the numbers may lean in the direction of keeping things where they are -- at least for the time being.
As your end users begin asking for features and capabilities not available out of the box -- such as social collaboration, or deeper line of business application integrations -- make sure you adequately identify the costs of enhance the existing toolset, either through custom development or through the partner ecosystem. For example, solutions from partners like NewsGator, Neudesic, and Attini provide fully integrated social tools that work natively with SharePoint. Or you can subscribe to Yammer, which provides some light integrations into the platform, allowing you to push content one-way from SharePoint to Yammer, as well as to embed your Yammer feed into team sites.
I do recognize that there are still some customers on older versions of SharePoint, such as 2007 or 2003 (I haven't run across many SPS2001 installations for a while). In these cases, I'd say that there is even less of a reason to stick with your current system, and to consider jumping ahead to 2013.
- Move to Office 365
While there may not yet be complete parity between on prem and Office365 versions of SharePoint, you can bet there soon will be. When you bundle the power of SharePoint with the #1 enterprise email platform in the world and the most economically-priced communication tools out there, how can you not see the value of moving to the cloud? But the real story here is not as much about the capability of the solutions as their delivery method: is your business goal to develop and maintain SharePoint hardware and software expertise, or to run your business? Do you want to constantly test and deploy patches, updates, and new features -- or let the system handle these remotely? That is the power of cloud.
Of course, for some organizations, the lack of parity between platforms is key. Many companies extended SharePoint to meet their unique business requirements, using it as their central collaboration hub. The costs of re-architecting these platforms in the cloud (possibly using Windows Azure) may be expensive, or not yet possible due to limitations of Azure or the SharePoint APIs. Before you run head-first into talks with Office365, take the time to understand what workloads, customizations, and features are essential to your business so that you can accurately map them to Office365's available features.
- Move to on-premises SharePoint 2013
Microsoft recognizes that a percentage of organizations will never be able to move SharePoint activities to the cloud -- whether because of compliance and regulatory issues, or out of perceived (or real) data security issues. In these cases, there will continue to be an on premises version of SharePoint available.
As with organizations who plan to stay with their 2010 environments, there are advantages (customization and integration flexibility) and disadvantages (slower update/new feature release cadence from Microsoft). As you review your SharePoint strategy, make sure to discuss your requirements and concerns with your Microsoft rep, as they do listen to feedback from customers on which features and capabilities within SharePoint Online (office365) should be prioritized for release to the SharePoint 2013 on premises version.
- Maintain a hybrid environment, with both SharePoint on-premises and Office 365
Hybrid will likely be a popular solution for the next few years as the online platform matures, and as organizations slowly migrate their on prem assets toward the cloud model. Some advice for organizations considering this model: be sure that you thoroughly understand the governance and administrative overheard of managing two platforms. For example, Office365 provides some great tools and reporting for management of your SharePoint Online environments, but the granularity of this data -- and your ability to dig into log files -- is very different than what is available on prem. As part of your platform requirements and planning, be sure to map out your reporting and governance requirements in detail, and thoroughly understand the gaps between platforms.
As many of you know, Axceler has established itself as a leader in the SharePoint partner ecosystem with our flagship product, ControlPoint for SharePoint Administration, giving administrators a powerful and flexible tools for permissions management, reporting, information architecture management and re-design, auditing and compliance, and for distributed management that gives farm admins down to power users more control over their environments. ControlPoint leads the category, and provides powerful functionality to help organizations quickly clean up and maintain control over their SharePoint environments -- which, by the way, is an essential prerequisite to moving to a new version so that you know exactly the state of SharePoint, from permissions and content storage down to your team-level governance policies.
As you begin to think about your SharePoint 2013 upgrade and which aspects to move into the cloud, remember that Axceler offers flexibility in how you manage these environments. Of course, ControlPoint works with SharePoint 2007, 2010, or 2013, but we were also the first vendor to provide governance and administration for the Office365 platform. What's more, our award-winning platform allows you to manage your SharePoint assets across a hybrid environment within a single interface, reducing the risks and overhead of managing two platform architectures.
You should migrate to the latest version when it makes sense for your business to do so -- not because a vendor tells you its time to move. The reality is that security or regulatory issues may require you to keep certain assets on premises, while other assets and workloads can easily fit into the cloud model -- and Axceler can support this hybrid model, giving you a single console view into both on premises and cloud SharePoint environments, simplifying the complexity of governance and management across an otherwise complex architecture.
If you have not yet seen ControlPoint in action, isn't it about time you saw a demo of the #1 SharePoint governance and administration platform? Contact Axceler today.
The short answer is, not a lot.
Many people who I have spoken to seem to think the new version of SharePoint will bring a new age of security, a world where permission managements takes but a second and 2013 central admin is as different to 2010 as Windows Vista was to Windows 7.
Permission levels themselves are the same in 2013, there is only one notable difference; Override Check Out is now Override List Behaviours, otherwise it won’t take you long to familiarise yourself with the levels; which are identical.
One of the biggest changes to security in 2013 is the Authentication Model; claims are now the default for SharePoint 2013 web applications. Claims-Based authentication uses ‘tokens’ which identify the user and certain attributes like username, email etc.; these attributes are known as claims. The good thing about claims is that you are able to allow multiple authentication types on a single web application, and you don’t need to extend it (allowing different sets of users to see the same content by using an addition IIS web site to host it). For those of you wanting to use classic authentication I’m afraid that Claims is the default, you will need to use PowerShell if you want to use classic, but I wouldn’t recommend it (and neither would Microsoft)
End users will not see much difference from all of this, one thing new to the 2013 environment though is the use of OAuth. OAuth is used to authenticate and authorize apps and services, without the user having to provide credentials to the app (many social media sites use the same feature, so you have probably used this already yourselves without realising) it does this by establishing a trust between the app server and SharePoint so the app can access its request. So how does this all work then? A user signs in to SharePoint 2013 and is authenticated through Claims. They then use an Office Store or an app catalogue app; the app is granted permission by the user to access SharePoint resources on the user's behalf. When a user launches an app, SharePoint 2013 posts a context token to the app. The app then calls back to SharePoint 2013 to access the SharePoint resources on behalf of the user by using an access token.
If you look at pairing this with Active Directory Federation Services you can set up multiple applications and systems that trust the authentication cookies you enable, so the user just signs into ADFS and has access to all these systems without having to sign in again. This would be my recommendation. It will simplify the permission process and allow a uniform access for users, after all we want to increase adoption on our new SharePoint as much as possible, so let’s make it easy for them, even if it is not much easier than 2010 for you.
To continue our monthly series on major conversations, news and analysis that impacts the enterprise collaboration market, this month we’re addressing how enterprise collaboration impacts a business.
Most CIOs have a hard time measuring the business value of social collaboration tools because they don’t have control or insight into the platforms. This is a hot topic right now as companies are realizing that in order to make collaboration successful, they need a unified plan with visibility into how the tools work together and who is using them. The value of collaboration is seen when the tools employees use empower them to find information they wouldn’t have known existed.
Below are a few articles that highlight the latest conversations around how enterprise collaboration is leading successful business communications:
Report: 6 ways social media can drive business impact
In March, Brian Solis posted an article on VentureBeat around how the disconnect between social media strategies and business value is causing executives to rethink their approach. In his survey of close to 700 executives and social strategists, only 34 percent of businesses felt that their social strategy was connected to business outcomes and only half of all companies surveyed felt their top executives were “informed, engaged and aligned with their company’s social strategy.”
Axceler’s take: We couldn’t have said it better. In a recent blog post, our CEO, Mike Alden discusses our company survey data, which also demonstrated a disconnect between understanding the value of social collaboration and governance strategies within organizations. In order to increase employee productivity and gain valuable company insights, businesses need to ensure strong governance strategies are in place when implementing social collaboration tools.
Office 365 and Yammer integration: What's coming
Mary Jo Foley of CNET recently published an article that highlights Microsoft’s news around the Yammer integration roadmap. She also reports that starting in 2014; Microsoft will be updating Office 365 with "new social enhancements" every 90 days, which will include integration between social and collaboration/e-mail/IM/voice/video and line-of-business apps.
Axceler’s take: We applaud Microsoft for recognizing the value of integrated social collaboration and look forward to evolution of the company’s solutions. Regardless of how businesses prefer to communicate, governance is the key to successful company-wide collaboration. The benefit of Yammer integrated into SharePoint is the search experience, yet social is another layer of the search experience and it’s about adding context to content, making documents and information much more easily accessible and findable. Considering these additional layers of integrated tools, unified governance across platforms, even non-Microsoft applications, will be even more crucial as data will be shared in even more places.
Enterprise apps get social
Bob Violino recently covered that while enterprise social software adoption is accelerating, executives are increasingly demanding the data to support why they should be using the software in the first place. Bob outlines the key reasons for using social and also defines where companies are facing collaboration challenges, such as making the decision of whether or not to use multiple social platforms with enterprise applications or to standardize on a single social platform.
Axceler’s take: The data collected in enterprise social tools can enhance business processes, make employees more productive and can also offer an analysis of the company’s efforts for executives. Business can learn a lot about their customers using social tools to communicate with a brand, as well as about their employees communicating internally. With insights into who is collaborating the most often and how, businesses can then make actionable decisions to empower their employees and improve the collaboration environment. With governance policies in place, businesses can also set permissions and have control over the collaboration platform to ensure data is secure and accessed by the appropriate user groups.
Is your business getting more comfortable with social collaboration tools? If not, what should be done differently?
The Axceler team is in Sydney, Australia this week participating as a Gold sponsor of the 4th annual Australian SharePoint Conference (#AUSPC). With members of the team from Axceler offices in Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Sydney offices (what, nobody from London?) it has been a couple lively days demonstrating the ControlPoint suite, including Administration, Governance, and Migration, as well as the new ViewPoint for SharePoint product. There has been a constant flow of traffic through our booth, and some great partner and customer discussions.
As part of the Australian SharePoint Conference program, Axceler participated in the SharePoint Idol contest in which applicants were encouraged to create videos showcasing one or more SharePoint solutions. Axceler's Los Angeles Sales Engineering team accepted the challenge, and created something light and fun rather than bore conference attendees with another product overview video. The end result is entitled "A Tale of Two SharePoint Admins" and can be seen in full here:
Representing the Los Angeles SE team, Steve Goldberg (@iamgoldberg) took to the stage and walked the audience through the video spot, which has also been playing in steady rotation at the Axceler booth. Other finalists included Zevenseas, Newsgator, and Mindjet. Conference organizer Debbie Ireland counted votes from the audience, and quickly declared Axceler the winner, with a visibly emotional Steve Goldberg accepting the award on behalf of his California team.
Other notable events from this week's conference: the Axceler team, with partners Artis Group (http://www.artisgroup.com.au), hosted a SharePint Wednesday evening at the Hilton, with many of the conference speakers, organizers, and attendees participating. I was also a speaker at the event, presenting my popular session '10 Best SharePoint 2010 Features You've Never Used (But Should)' and receiving great feedback from the audience.
From Sydney, some of us make our way over to Auckland for the New Zealand SharePoint Conference (#NZSPC) and look forward to doing it all over again. For those of you planning to attend -- see you there!
Good collaboration is essential for any organisation to improve efficiency, drive innovation, save time and ultimately reduce costs. By mixing collaboration and technology, processes can be greatly simplified which will return huge cost savings.
Collaboration now comes in many formats including sharing ideas, file/document sharing, knowledge transfer and good old fashioned communication. People can now communication in so many different ways such as phone, instant messaging, web/video conferencing and email.
When thinking about how we collaborate in SharePoint specifically, there are essentially three types of collaboration:
- Community focused (blogs, social)
- Content focused (sharing documents, ‘liking’, rating, commenting, etc.)
- Knowledge focused (finding people with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience)
In SharePoint 2013 you will find a new site template called a Community Site, which provides a forum experience in the SharePoint environment. Communities can be used to categorise and cultivate discussions among a broad group of people across organisations in a company. Communities promote open communication and information exchange by enabling people to share their expertise and seek help from others who have knowledge in specific areas of interest.
SharePoint 2013 has also drastically improved the way that users can collaborate socially. Firstly the new MySite capabilities are a great improvement and you only have to look at Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer last year for $1.2B to see how serious they are taking the social way of working.
These changes also show how collaboration and technology in the enterprise is adapting to a workforce that expects the same experience they get through public social software such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
And it is not just SharePoint. Look at the other collaboration platforms that may ‘pop-up’ within an organisation. Within Axceler we have a number of platforms in use such SharePoint, Yammer, DropBox and SalesForce’s Chatter.
With all these different ways to collaborate it has never been easier to share knowledge, ideas, share documents and communicate both within and outside the organisation. All of the new SharePoint 2013 features are specifically going to drive SharePoint adoption so you are going to see usage grow.
The challenge to IT is that this only increases the risks of information getting into the wrong hands, intellectual property leaks and your organisations reputation damaged.
Your users will also find it more challenging to locate the information that they need with so many different places to collaborate.
To help minimise the risks of increased collaboration, these are some of the things that you should be considering:
- Define best practices, particularly if there are multiple collaborative platforms in the organisation
- Ensure sufficient user training so they know these best practices
- Assess and reprioritise the IT security program’s balance between compliance and protecting secrets
- Increase visibility of content and collaboration
- Define a clear governance strategy
Best practices are important so users know when and how SharePoint should be used. If there are other collaboration platforms in place, users need to know which data should be stored within SharePoint and what data should be held elsewhere.
Reviewing security across SharePoint on a regular basis helps to ensure that content does not get into the wrong hands. This should not be simply an exercise in IT; end users also need to get visibility on permissions to their content. For example, when a document is uploaded to a document library, do users truly know who will have access to view it?
By increasing your visibility on how users work with SharePoint and how they collaborate, you can make adjustments and recommendations to those best practices. Ensure you understand what content is being uploaded? Who has access to what within SharePoint? Who is actually accessing the sites?
All this information will then feed into your collaboration governance strategy.
For many users, the importance of a strong metadata and taxonomy strategy is unclear. Unfortunately, this lack of clarity is fairly widespread across most organizations using SharePoint. But it's not a problem just with SharePoint -- the same issues we experience within this community are often times common to every other knowledge management or collaboration platform. SharePoint stakeholders need to understand that metadata is foundational to everything else you want to accomplish on the platform.
Some metadata and taxonomy management can be streamlined and automated, but it will require a lot of up front work. There's no getting around it. It should be central to your SharePoint strategy, and a core aspect of your regular governance discussions. In my presentation The Connection Between Metadata, Social Tools, and Personal Productivity, I share a few "universal truths" that should be considered as you begin planning your metadata strategy:
- Metadata is fundamental to making social, knowledge management, and SharePoint work
- The business dynamics of how Information Workers capture, consume, and interact with data are changing
- Social tools are just another layer of the search experience
- Organizations don’t understand, much less track and measure, user productivity
Three of these four points are clearly visible within SharePoint's new social features, all of which center around keywords and metadata -- and can take advantage of your organization's taxonomy structure. Between development of SharePoint 2013 social features and the acquisition of Yammer, Microsoft has shown that they are serious about addressing the changing way in which we work, and improving the ability of our intranets, extranets, and external-facing websites to surface the right content, at the right time.
- Metadata drives search, content and task aggregation, and it enables most of the new features within SharePoint 2013. Think about the most common SharePoint scenario: adding a document to a document library. As you upload a file, you might have the ability to apply relevant keywords from a pre-defined term store. Your taxonomy adds structure to the content. In addition to the required taxonomy fields, you may also apply a few relevant keywords that are not part of the taxonomy, but which you know will provide richer context to the content. Folksonomy, in conjunction with a proactive governance model, refines your taxonomy so that common folksonomy terms eventually find their way into the managed taxonomy, so that others can use those terms more broadly. To make this model work requires some effort from your team -- a governance process to regularly review end user keywords, delete irrelevant terms, promote others, and overall optimize your platform for a healthy search experience.
- Social utilizes your metadata to enhance conversation, and make your dialog applicable to your work output. As shown in the following image, social interaction further enriches the context and visibility of your content. I my example above, the document owner applied both taxonomy and folksonomy. Social applies additional folksonomy -- by sharing the document with others, liking it, rating it, commenting on it.
We don't always know what content we're looking for. The limitation of the traditional search model is that we only find that content which fit into our specific search terms. If someone uploads content without applying taxonomy or folksonomy (which, let's admit it, is the case for the majority of our content) then you rely on your search crawler to search through titles and metadata descriptions. But through our social connections, we may locate new content based on personal and professional relationships, and through tags (an ever-growing folksonomy) applied by people you've never met and maybe never will…..because they were able to find that content through their social circles and apply some context of their own.
- Productivity improves when people can find their content, and (more importantly) when the processes you ask them to follow -- to ensure that metadata is assigned, and that your compliance/security guidelines are being met -- also fits into the way they need to work. That's really the key: design solutions that match the needs and working habits of your people, rather than force people to learn a new way to work. Social tools tend to be a more natural fit for the way that people connect and collaborate.
To be honest, the last universal truth is still a "work in progress." Measuring end user productivity is a difficult task to master -- and is a topic for a future post. My best advice is to monitor usage of your platform, and begin to understand the features and tools that people gravitate toward, and those they avoid. Overall, I cannot stress any more the importance of thoughtfully building out your metadata and a taxonomy strategy. The lack of a strategy can impact these common scenarios outlined above, and your ability to leverage the full functionality of SharePoint.
I have been spending a lot of time recently looking into some of the new features of SharePoint 2013 and trying to really rip them apart to see how they work. One of the most impactful additions has to be the new app model. This has implications for developers, administrators and end users by offering a completely new platform for delivering custom content.
SharePoint 2013 has taken much of the technical language off of the sites for end users. In the previous editions of SharePoint there were options for lists, libraries and web parts, but now everything that can be added to a site is called an app. While the app store has really done a lot to make SharePoint easier for end users, very little has changed for the admin. If anything, there are now even more responsibilities and intricacies to manage. My goal with this blog post is to touch on some of the larger topics and then follow up with some deep dives and how-to’s in the future.
What is an app in SharePoint 2013?
First, it might be helpful to explain what apps are and how they fit in with SharePoint 2013. Apps are essentially the replacement for the now deprecated sandboxed solutions. You can still use sandboxed solutions you already have but all new development should be focused on the 2013 app model. Though this might be a bit painful for some, there are some really good reasons for this change. There were (and are still) many people experiencing issues with sandboxed solutions. Namely, they are very resource intensive, difficult to maintain, break frequently and end users can’t customize them very easily. Despite this, they are still useful for those who want to utilize custom code within a particular area of their farm without the risk of exposing the whole environment.
In 2013, apps have filled many of the gaps that were left by sandboxed solutions. They are able to act outside of the site collection in which they are hosted and don’t have the performance implications that sandboxed solutions do. Sandboxed solutions also require a good amount of resources to be used so I believe that there will be less of a performance hit to sites. The use of Farm Solutions is still fully supported, but if there is a need to have custom code run in a restricted portion of the environment then apps are the way to go.
So where do these apps come from? One new source for apps in 2013 is the online SharePoint Store. This store is very similar to the Play Store or Apple’s App Store where users can see a catalog of apps and then request to have them on their site. Within the farm there will be an app catalog, here you can publish apps that you get from the online SharePoint Store or anything built in-house. If the admin allows it, the site owners can add apps from the catalog or on their own from the online SharePoint store. The deployment is completely customizable to however the administrator wants apps to operate within their environment.
Permissions and governance of apps
Governance of apps will also need to be a subject to address for each environment. The first option for an administrator is to prevent apps from being available within the farm completely. This might be a bit restrictive for most so there is also a system that allows the site owners to request for administrator approval of apps before they are able to be placed on a site. I imagine that many administrators would like to have a good idea about all of the apps that exist within their farm. This can be achieved be allowing owners to only install apps from the catalog and not the online SharePoint Store.
An interesting feature of apps in 2013 is that they can have their own permissions model, standalone. Apps take full advantage of claims in 2013 which allows the apps to act based on their own permissions as well based upon a claim made by the user. The scope of app permissions is either set to the site collection, web site, list or tenancy and can request read-only, write, manage or full control to the content.
In an upcoming post, I will go over what it takes to set up an on premise app catalog. One thing that I would like to point out is so far, my App Store setup adventures have been painstaking and arduous to say the least. Hopefully banging my head against the wall trying to get this thing to work out well prevent you guys from having to do it.
With Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer last year, the ever-evolving social collaboration space is changing once again. While SharePoint had social features natively built in, the addition of Yammer into Microsoft’s portfolio and the subsequent integration has ramped up SharePoint’s social capabilities. Here is an introduction to a few of the features that involve both SharePoint and Yammer integration.
Send to Yammer
Send to Yammer allows SharePoint users to send documents, announcements and tasks to Yammer. This allows users to collaborate real time on projects. Once in Yammer, users can monitor who has viewed or downloaded these files by using the recent activity stream. Furthermore, Yammer’s integration with Office Web Apps will allow users to view and edit these documents directly from the Yammer activity feed.
Primary Yammer Web Part
The Yammer web part allows users to monitor Yammer streams and notifications directly from any SharePoint site. For example, a user might want to place their “My Feed” as a web part on their My Site to consolidate that information. Or a business unit might want to place their Group Feed onto their department site. The Yammer web part also allows a user to send private messages and track those conversations through a separate tab. Placing this web part on their My Site just gives the user another way to track their collaboration from one central location. Of course, the ability to utilize Yammer features like metadata tags, mentions of other users, etc., within SharePoint will ultimately help increase collaboration, search and ultimately, productivity.
Admins can also configure this web part using native SharePoint web part controls. They can also make Yammer activity streams available as read-only, so those folks who don’t have Yammer access will still be able to access the streams in SharePoint.
Office Web Apps/SkyDrive Pro
Microsoft also announced their plans to integrate Yammer with Office Web Apps and SkyDrive Pro by summer 2013. The integration with Office Web Apps, as mentioned above, will allow users to view and edit content directly within a Yammer activity stream. This will enable users to monitor changes and collaborate real time.
SkyDrive Pro is online storage where a user can upload and access files within a personal library that can also be shared with others, both within and outside of the organization. Yammer will be utilizing SkyDrive Pro as its underlying platform for file storage. Just another way Yammer will tie into SharePoint, by allowing users to download content from SkyDrive Pro that was uploaded using Yammer.