Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Next Version of SharePoint

I’ve heard little bits and pieces about what to expect in the next version of SharePoint and ‘Office 14’ (touted as a 2009 release) which I’m hoping we’ll see some early signs unveiled at the SharePoint conference in Seattle next March. Hopefully there is something official but here’s a few areas I’m expecting some major changes.

The User Experience

Rich Internet Applications (RIA) with the emergence of Ajax and Silverlight will definitely impact the user experience. There is some ajax work in the current release (like the site settings and groupings on lists) which has been ‘nice’ editions although you can expect Silverlight to be really rolled in now that its at a full release. The impact on the UI and the user experience can potentially be huge if used correctly. For those of you who don’t know, Silverlight is basically microsoft’s answer to Flash and to get a feel for how this could work in with SharePoint – check out this beta search MS built on Silverlight http://www.tafiti.com/. You can see how this kind of user experience could really improve aspects of Sharepoint like say search, BI, forms server, document management… hmmm

Social Networking

Unfortunately, the Knowledge Network capabilities were pulled from the 2007 release. It was early days and the right decision was made to hold off until the next version – although the taste had some people in my company very interested.
To explain where its heading its best to start on the web and look at the boom with MySpace & Facebook. The social community on the web a great testing ground to see how that could be adopted in the workplace - remember MSN messenger and how Office Communicator is being taken up, people already get it.
Back to facebook and myspace; being able to connect to people and see their friend circle and almost be replaced in a corporate world with business relationships and networks. Imagine searching for someone outside your company who you want to talk with and you find out there is someone within your company who has a relationship with them. I think this will bring a huge (somewhat intangible) benefit to businesses and it could grow considerably (like facebook and myspace have). One scenario I could explain it with is: That guy in your office who just ‘knows’. They have that innate ability to know who’s who in the company and who to hook you up with. Usually that guy is as old as the hills and has been at the company for sometime. I think social networking managed in SharePoint will help take that knowledge out of ‘that guys head’ and into something you can find out yourself.

BI

Microsoft have a big task ahead of them bringing in a number of different BI technologies together and making them present in harmony in SharePoint. The landscape has changed dramatically for BI and SharePoint in the past few years with the 2007 release being the first time MS got serious moving from some average excel and KPI webparts to exciting offerings like Excel Services & KPI lists. Later this year we’re promised Performance Point Server, which will be the uber offering once they roll in what was business scorecard manager and the acquisition of Proclarity. Now roll that tightly into Sharepoint as well as continuing on with Excel & Reporting Services and you have an elephant of an offering.
Im sure it will present well – graphs and traffic lights always do :) but hopefully its not too clunky to use – oh and licensed well (we can only hope).

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