Paragon Solutions SharePoint 2013: An Overview


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The release of Microsoft SharePoint 2013 has created a lot of buzz in the industry and mostly around its powerful social collaboration features, such as an “App Store” model, a new approach to branding the user interface, and a number of other features that blend and blur the lines between the desktop and the portal. Microsoft has also made a big push for use of SharePoint in the cloud, as part of the Office 365 environment and integration with Microsoft Azure for advanced hosted solutions.

This position paper by Paragon Solutions' SharePoint epxerts will highlight some of the newer features included in Microsoft SharePoint 2013, as well as a high-level overview of the pros and cons of these features.

Download it now to gain a better indepth perspective from our SharePoint experts on the latest features SharePoint 2013 has to offer your organization.

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Paragon Solutions SharePoint 2013: An Overview

  1. 1. Microsoft SharePoint 2013: An Overview
  2. 2. Value Envisioned. Value Delivered. Introduction SharePoint 2013, as well as a high-level overview of the pros and cons of these features. Microsoft SharePoint has come a long way since its introduction in 2001. In typical Microsoft fashion, the product has slowly gained capabilities and its functionality has matured over time. New Features in SharePoint 2013 In 2007, Microsoft introduced Calendars additional Documents Surveys & Voting SharePoint capabilities such as item-level Commitees & Collaboration Chapters permissioning and improved search, and Tasks & Projects Intranet/Extranet made it more of an enterprise tool to function both as a portal and a document management system. Then in 2010 Microsoft introduced records management functions and deeper integration with the desktop, sandbox solutions (for developers), and concepts such as community templates. As a result, SharePoint is now recognized as a true player in the portal world, achieving leader and visionary status in Gartner’s . 2012 Magic Quadrant for Horizontal Portals1 Microsoft has now introduced SharePoint 2013. This most recent release features more powerful social collaboration features, such as an “App Store” model, a new approach to branding the user interface, and a number of other features that blend and blur the lines between the desktop and the portal. While there are many new and exciting features in SharePoint 2013, the basic architectural footprint has not changed dramatically. These new features have been widely publicized in publications such as CIO Magazine2, Information Week3, and by Microsoft4. This paper will not attempt to summarize those articles, but rather serve as a compilation of comments and observations gathered from Paragon team members and affiliates. Social Collaboration Paragon Solutions has significant experience using the features of SharePoint 2010, as well as with the integration of products, such as NewsGator, with SharePoint. Microsoft has made great strides in this area. However, we have found that while people tend to like shiny, new things, they sometimes struggle to identify the usefulness in them. Some of the more valued features that SharePoint 2013 supports include microblogs, hashtag features, and a more advanced newsfeed feature to tracks tags and the activities of people you are following. SharePoint 2013 does well in its capability that allows people to follow documents, tags and even sites in SharePoint. SharePoint 2013 includes community sites, and a “reputation management” feature that we actually find somewhat troubling based on earlier social experiments in portals regarding self-proclamation of expertise in topic areas. Microsoft has also made a big push for use of SharePoint in the cloud, as part of the Office 365 environment and integration with Microsoft Azure for advanced hosted solutions. We have seen social features, such as colleague tracking and newsfeeds, used effectively when there is an effort to encourage participation and alter behaviors of users rather than simply providing a template and hoping they use it effectively. This Paragon Solutions position paper will highlight some of the newer features included in Microsoft 1 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Horizontal Portals, September 20, 2012 CIO Magazine: 7 Things About SharePoint 2013 All IT Pros Should Know 2 3 1.800.462.5582  ■ 2 Information Week: 8 Key Features in SharePoint 2013 4 Microsoft: IT Professionals Guide to Reviewing SharePoint 2013
  3. 3. Our Take: SkyDrive Pro has great potential in the workplace. Organizations, however, will need to determine how SkyDrive Pro will be used and create best practices, examples and models that support end-users to prevent it from being an interesting capability that sits in SharePoint and no one really understands how to use it. Finally, Microsoft envisions Yammer being used to capture meetings, meeting minutes and agendas (sounds like it will replace the deprecated meeting template that was popular in SharePoint 2010), however it is not yet fully integrated in SharePoint 2013. There are also plans to have a cloud version of Yammer for private groups. It will be interesting to see how this integration is applied to prevent people from being confused between existing SharePoint 2013 news feeds, microblogs and Yammer. Rich Media in SharePoint Silverlight is gone! Microsoft has promoted SharePoint as supporting rich media like training and marketing videos. This capability is designed to include features such as thumbnails, and document sets for videos (an interesting concept – access the video as well as training documents or other materials as part of the document set). Site owners can define standard sizes (i.e., renditions) for how rich media is accessed and presented. Content authors can resize and crop images without other applications. Our Take: When businesses truly want to adopt social features in the workplace, Microsoft has made a strong case for using SharePoint beyond Jive, IBM Connections or similar products. It is feature rich, and there is some control over features offered. However, if an organization adopts SharePoint 2013, they really adopt these features and it will be hard to not include them as part of what is offered to business teams. Consequently, organizations will need to be prepared with policies for the use of social tools, best practice tips, training, and communication. Additionally, care should be taken by international organizations to ensure that European privacy guidelines are understood and respected. Another interesting feature is the ability to drag and drop videos onto sites and set the frame image that will be presented to the user as the thumbnail. Multiple stream rates can be set up as well. SkyDrive Pro Integration SkyDrive Pro is part of SharePoint 2013, essentially replacing SharePoint Workspace. SharePoint Workspace was an attempt to provide off-line synchronization with SharePoint. It also replaces the document storage in SharePoint 2007 My Site, which did not receive wide acceptance. SkyDrive Pro is accessed from the toolbar area. It provides the ability for people to store documents that are either private, or accessible and/or editable by others. A key concept is the ability to follow documents in SharePoint via SkyDrive, and be notified of changes. Users can get feedback from others via ratings. The synchronization capability is a local machine folder that is a mapped drive of a SharePoint library. 3 Our Take: While these powerful features are easy to utilize, it is clear that to be truly effective in an enterprise environment, providing rich media in SharePoint 2013 should be treated as a service offered by IT. This service will likely include considerable customization of master pages and other pages to support the presentation layer and optimize usability. An example is providing “channels” for users to access large amounts of videos and rich media. These are actually publishing pages. IT organizations will absolutely need to develop a strategy, a service, templates, and training to truly use these new features effectively. The App Model SharePoint 2013 now presents what were called “web parts” in previous versions of SharePoint
  4. 4. Value Envisioned. Value Delivered. as “applications.” When SharePoint 2013 is installed, users add lists and libraries by accessing applications (apps) and selecting the app to place onto a site. Not only is the app model a new approach for putting functionality on a site, it is a change in the development approach that replaces the sandboxed solutions model in SharePoint 2007. Microsoft has also gone a step further by including both SharePoint hosted apps and cloud hosted apps. From a user perspective, apps can be accessed via the “edit site” feature, but also (if used by the organization) via an internal “app store” much like iTunes. Theoretically, IT could build apps for specific uses, and could also make apps available as part of an app store for use by any site owners. For developers, there is a new model for developing and installing apps. Previously, development was loosely termed as developing “farm solutions.” The argument for apps is that they are now isolated, which makes them safer. They are also easier to deploy and maintain, and they are cloud ready. Furthermore, apps don’t run on the SharePoint Server, they are stored on an app server and accessed by SharePoint. Theoretically, this reduces the load on the SharePoint server. Developers can now have the ability to use Javascript, CSS and HTML to support app development. Our Take: At face value, the app store approach is an intriguing capability. It represents yet another way to develop, release, and consume applications within SharePoint. There are some critics who feel that this approach is not necessary, and essentially “trivializes” the effort needed to build, implement and ultimately consume applications in SharePoint. Additionally, as this is release 1.0, there is the potential for “warts” to quickly arise, much like the shortcomings of sandboxed solutions in SharePoint 2010 that were quickly found by developers. Eventually, the development community will clear up much of the angst by uncovering the pain points 1.800.462.5582  ■ 4 relative to app development (e.g., modal dialogs) and presentation within SharePoint 2013, so this is really just a maturity issue common with initial releases. The new app model does, however, have some inherent benefits like loose coupling between the applications and the SharePoint infrastructure since the integration is entirely based on iFrames. While at the onset it looks like a step in the right direction by Microsoft, it does bring along a different set of challenges. The question is—does your organization have the willingness to take on the challenge of being an early adopter? Branding, UI, Look and Feel SharePoint 2013 introduces a centralized hub called “Design Manager” for managing all aspects of branding a SharePoint site. The Design Manager generates HTML snippets that can be used by any web design tool. The site design can be created using the existing expertise in HTML, CSS, and Javascript and once it is ready, it can be uploaded to Design Manager to convert the HTML file to an ASP. net master page which can then be applied to the SharePoint site. Two new branding features from SharePoint 2013 that stand out are “Composed Looks” and “Device Channels.” Composed Looks is a simple way to create a theme using master page, a color set, a font and an image. The Composed Looks feature gives the user the ability to select the font or color palette regardless of the master page that is created for them. You can also create multiple Composed Looks for multiple regions (e.g. Portal, Collaboration site etc.) Device Channels are a way to apply a certain look to a certain device. A device can belong to multiple channels. Publishing sites in SharePoint 2013 are optimized for mobile development, and the Device Channels feature can be used to fine-tune how mobile users experience the site. Device Channels also leverage the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) capability.
  5. 5. Both of these features can be leveraged by users for designing either Intranet or Internet web sites. They ensure that Internet sites will also cater to the growing mobile audience using smartphones and tablets. charts and graphs that can help make the data they represent more meaningful. Our Take: There is some controversy among SharePoint pundits around the new Design Manager feature, and how mature and easy it is to use. The new branding model is not proven, and early reviews still call branding activities cumbersome. However, there are some solid benefits that will become more evident as use of Design Manager matures. Designers can still use master pages if they choose to, so Microsoft has not deprecated that functionality. We are seeing designers use a combination of old and new design features. The out-of-box rendering, particularly for mobile views, is still somewhat weak and requires custom development. “Office Web Apps” provides end users with the capability to view and edit Office documents using a browser interface. The new avatar of the Office Web Apps Server product available with SharePoint 2013 is more loosely coupled with SharePoint as compared to the earlier model of Office Web Apps, which had a much tighter integration with SharePoint 2010. Office Web Apps has now been made a standalone product. The new deployment model of Office Web Apps Server achieves isolation levels that aid in simplifying the deployment/ maintenance of SharePoint 2013 since updates/ patches can be applied to SharePoint 2013 or Office Web Apps independently. Scalability requirements can also be addressed individually now that Office Web Apps servers are deployed separately. Office Web Apps Power View “Power View” is an enhancement of power pivot. You can base a Power View file in SharePoint 2013 with the SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services add-in on an Excel 2013 data model or on a SQL Server 2012 SP 1 Analysis Services tabular model, and vice versa. However, some features, such as hierarchies and KPIs, are only available if you base a Power View report in SharePoint Server with the SQL Server 2012 SP 1 Reporting Services add-in on an Excel 2013 data model or on a SQL Server 2012 SP 1 Analysis Services tabular model. Improved touch support and general support exists across a broader array of device platforms (i.e., Windows, iOS, Android, etc.) in the new Office Web Apps server product. Document editing capabilities, however, are still limited for the most part to the Windows-based devices. Our Take: Our perspective on using Power View comes in two parts; the first being the obvious: by using the feature, you could simply solve business problems while harmonizing and exposing the relative data easily through Power View in SharePoint. Secondly, the relationships and their meaningful relationships can be more easily achieved, allowing drill-through properties on varying charts and graphs. Microsoft has also added a nice customization piece that allows you to add unique images to your 5 Our Take: While it is certainly advantageous to have a fine-grained isolation model between SharePoint 2013 and Office Web Apps, the downside is that more hardware is required overall to deploy Office Web Apps, as Microsoft does not recommend co-hosting Office Web Apps Server on the same server as SharePoint 2013. So overall, it does look like the hardware footprint could potentially increase with the new deployment model of SharePoint 2013. There are new features added to Office Web Apps that are quite useful, such as change tracking and comments, which were not present in the earlier version.
  6. 6. Value Envisioned. Value Delivered. Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Records Management The support for multiple browser platforms and mobile devices is definitely better than before, but for the fullest/best user experience one still needs a windows based device and an IE browser. The MS documentation of the devices and supported feature matrix is also not fully complete at this point and will hopefully be updated in the near future. Access Services The Access client is still used to create and design tables, views, macros, and more. End-users will use a browser when interacting with the Access AppSQL rendered as .net app in SP. Apps are saved as a package and published in the app store. An Access web app is a new type of database that you build in Access, then use and share with others as a SharePoint app in a web browser. To build an app, you just select the type of data you want to track (e.g., contacts, tasks, projects, etc.). Access creates the database structure (SQL) complete with views that let you add and edit data. Navigation and basic commands are built-in, so you can start using your app right away. Our Take: Our experience with large lists in SharePoint typically leads to creating custom databases that house these large lists and a developmental structure to support them. This is primarily because a SharePoint content database can’t handle heavy loads on large lists. For this reason, Microsoft created a resource throttling view for large lists starting at just 5k records for regular users. For admins, the number of records is much higher. In SharePoint, the ever increasing demand of large list creation and use would require Microsoft to come up with a solution to assist this demand— and that would either increase resource limits or require another approach. The Access Services solution provides both the scale and flexibility you would expect from utilizing SharePoint to function in this manner. 1.800.462.5582  ■ 6 A big new feature that is included in SharePoint 2013 is the ability to perform eDiscovery queries across multiple SharePoint farms and Exchange servers and preserve the items that are discovered. Not having this capability severely limited the ability to do holds on content in SharePoint 2010, as the hold could only apply to a single site collection. A new “eDiscovery” site template supports the new functionality, and eDsicovery can take place not only on SharePoint sites but on Exchange mailboxes and file shares. In-place hold features are also expanded so that documents, list items, pages and even Exchange mailboxes (2013) can be put on hold as well. There are some other ECM features in SharePoint 2013 worth looking at. Users can now cut and paste from Microsoft Word into the rich editor with greater fidelity than before. There is a cross-site publishing model (supported by search) that may address some earlier needs to duplicate content in support of business use cases. Our Take: eDiscovery and legal hold requirements can be particularly critical in Life Sciences. Time will tell if the new features in SharePoint 2013 will prove to be viable tools when compared to the very mature products already on the market that can integrate with SharePoint to provide these capabilities. SharePoint’s ECM functionality was already fairly strong (notwithstanding its records management features). The advances in records management, along with some of the new ECM capabilities, help to add to the fairly good ECM features already in place. Search There are no longer two search products, SharePoint and FAST for SharePoint. Full integration of capabilities now exists in SharePoint 2013. Although we have not witnessed it, we have heard
  7. 7. that search can actually be used to render content to pages, almost like a content management solution. The old “content query” function in earlier versions of SharePoint is no longer needed. There is now a web view of content, and reports are that there is a continuous crawl feature rather than a timed crawl. SharePoint 2013 search also contains a stronger ability to federate results from multiple sources, such as other SharePoint farms, websites, exchange and content sources. there could be challenges with compliance issues (e.g., Where does data reside?; What about regulated data?) and potentially with performance. Most likely, large organizations may need an approach that dedicates infrastructure, rather than joining a multi-tenancy environment. Microsoft is addressing this in a number of ways, including infrastructure as a service in Azure. The models are not well tested yet, and will require additional examination. Our Take: Search is greatly improved in SharePoint 2013, though capabilities could be better refined to take advantage of the inherent power provided by the FAST search functionality. Summary-Observations Microsoft SharePoint 2013 continues the trend Microsoft has established: add functionality to compete in key areas (ECM, UI, etc.) and blend more and more with the desktop. The social collaboration features are greatly enhanced. The app store model is new enough that it will be interesting to see how it matures. Organizations that have the patience to adopt release 1.0 before the user community has shaken out the new features will be trend-setters and will need to move methodically in implementation, taking great care to include strong change management and communication practices. Time should be included for additional testing and for the learning curve required to understand how to implement what features to whom. With that said, the 2013 incarnation of SharePoint does address several business issues around social collaboration, the UI element, and to some extent ECM in terms of additional support for compliance that were not accounted for by its predecessor. The app store model is intriguing, as technical teams could create solutions for a business team, and then put the new app in the internal app store for use by other teams. Regarding SharePoint in Office 365, there is a need for maturity there as well. For large organizations, 7 About Paragon Solutions Paragon Solutions is an advisory consulting and systems integration firm that specializes in enterprise information management to help clients leverage information assets for better business results. The company does this through its industry practices, solution accelerators and specialized technology competencies that help clients achieve operational efficiency, business scalability, and regulatory compliance. Paragon works with businesses that are focused in a few key industries—communications, financial services, healthcare, insurance, and life sciences. The industry-focused practices work with Paragon’s competency groups to address today’s client concerns in Process Optimization, Information Management, and Information Insight. For more information, please visit the Paragon website at, or call 1.800.462.5582. Corporate Headquarters – Cranford, NJ Boston • New York • Philadelphia • London Bangalore, India Copyright ©2013 Paragon Solutions is a registered trademark of Paragon Solutions, Inc.