SharePoint 2013 improvements: Predictions for R2

SharePoint 2013 offers solid functionality, but some features need improvement. Here's a SharePoint 2013 R2 wish list.

It's a new year, and among the Microsoft shops in my corner of the world, there's a lot going on with SharePoint

deployments and migrations. There's much to be enthusiastic about: unprecedented social media utility, cloud deployment, stronger mobile interface and better search functionality. But most project teams will eventually trip over something they need from SharePoint 2013 that either isn't present or isn't up to scratch.

Scott RobinsonScott Robinson

Despite a bafflingly thin roadmap for the product, Redmond may be listening. What will Microsoft deliver in SharePoint enhancements and feature additions in 2014?

Easy tweaks

SharePoint mobile presents an area where we've been distracted. Geeky new features like device channels indicate progress, but in the end, the mobile versions of SharePoint sites aren't world-beaters. This is going to be increasingly problematic for companies using SharePoint for public access and field utility, as employees and customers are left with substandard site display.

The thing is, there can be a kill-two-birds-with-one-stone fix here. SharePoint navigation is in need of an overhaul anyway; the new metadata-driven navigation option shows that Microsoft has taken the lid off, and a stronger intuitive navigation scheme for template-based sites will offer options that will accrue to the mobile deployment. Redmond can deliver significant progress here quickly, if it chooses to.

The SharePoint 2010 experience was straight out of the 1990s.

Another big plus would be full site deployment from the cloud platform. That's tough on paper, but outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has said repeatedly that the company is working on it. It's no easy task, because cloud deployment of such a complex platform makes the accommodation of custom code a serious challenge (custom code can undermine scalability, and scalability is everything in the cloud).

Not-so-easy tweaks

Tougher still would be a new forms technology that accommodates SharePoint's on-premises and mobile strengths. The decade-long strategy of leveraging Windows desktop products in favor of its server-based technologies allowed Microsoft to move more swiftly and efficiently than its competitors, but now that strategy is tired. InfoPath, the desktop forms product that SharePoint has swallowed whole, is 10 years old and aging poorly.

A fresh new forms technology, designed with SharePoint in mind, would benefit the platform immeasurably, as it would solve the mobile deployment shortcomings and enhance user-based development at the same time. We don't know how far Redmond has gotten on this, but we know they know we want it.

Microsoft needs to incorporate responsive design into the next version of SharePoint.

More Yammer

The acquisition of Yammer, the enterprise social network, was a leap forward for Microsoft, strategically sensible and timely. But today, what we have is only halfway there; with Yammer on the front end and the SharePoint content management system on the back end, we get an ungainly hybrid search result.

One of the huge advantages of SharePoint 2013 over its predecessors is the option to include Exchange servers in enterprise search. We want that when the search is initiated through Yammer, and we want it via direct access of Exchange from Yammer. Deepening that integration would be a win on several levels, encouraging greater use of Yammer, improving the quality of enterprise search and delivering a friendlier mobile experience.

Breaking up is hard to do

Finally, one wish that seems unlikely, but might bear out anyway: SharePoint should follow in BizTalk's footsteps and be broken up into several products that play well together.

For more on
SharePoint 2013

SharePoint 2013 features: Predictions for 2014

The trouble with SharePoint 2013 migration

Yammer vs. Jive: You can't always get what you want

SharePoint 2013 features: New Year's resolutions

SharePoint, as an all-in-one platform, with collaboration, content management and app hosting, made Microsoft a leader in the market. But now that SharePoint is ubiquitous, all that functionality jammed into a single product is counterproductive. It makes sense to deploy only the services in SharePoint that an enterprise really needs.

Breaking up SharePoint seems daunting. But Microsoft is already moving in that direction with BizTalk, so it's a possibility. Moreover, cloud deployment has necessitated the architectural breakup of SharePoint and SharePoint Online to enable scalable, interactive, functionally independent services. So, we can presume that a good part of the work is already done.

Perhaps it's too much to predict that we'll see SharePoint as an Office-like suite of products in only a year, but at least, we can hope to see discussion of it under way.

This was first published in January 2014

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