Filling in the business side of the puzzle

SharePoint 2010 - Decks, Highs and Videotape

November 03, 2009 by Ruven Gotz

It’s been a couple of weeks since the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas wrapped up and I’ve had some time to recover from the #ShareFlu and think a bit about what I saw and heard.

Four-lane escallator highway
Four-lane escallator highway

Microsoft used SPC09 to take the wraps off of SharePoint 2010, the next version that will be released in the first half of next year. The embargo on information before the conference coupled with the incredible growth of SharePoint over the past couple of years made this a highly desirable ticket, and the show sold-out with over 7,000 attendees. It was great to see a lot of people that I’ve met at conferences where I have spoken before, and to meet a lot of my twitter friends in-person .

For the most part, SharePoint 2010 offered more than I was expecting. Many pain points from 2007 were so well addressed that I was thoroughly impressed. But I am not going to recap all the new features of SharePoint 2010; there are tons of sites and blogs out there that cover that. I will just tell you about about a couple of high-points for me, and a few lows as well, and give you my take on what remains important (but not discussed at the conference).

I am very excited about Access Services for SharePoint 2010. In my ancient past, I developed a lot of MS-Access applications for clients large and small. Access was a great platform for delivering powerful solutions very quickly. It had a great forms editor, report writer, query engine and development language. It was easy to prototype quickly and then customize with code where required. There were some major downsides: The database used a file-share which was susceptible to corruption. In the corporate world, the IT department hated Access because the projects were usually done outside the control of IT and mission critical data was sitting on someone’s desktop with no backups or disaster recovery plan.

SharePoint 2007 has been an ‘almost but not quite good enough’ platform for developing simple apps. It lacks validation, referential integrity, table joins and other elements that would make it a great tool for building quick solutions. A number of these issues have been addressed in SP2010, so very simple applications are now easier to build with out-of-the-box SharePoint. But, there is still a gap between very simple apps and custom applications that require a developer. If it works, Access Services will fill that gap, allowing power-users/developers to quickly develop applications with reporting, querying and custom forms and reports that can be stored in and shared from SharePoint. These apps will be developed in Access but available to users from the browser. The best part is that IT will love it too because now, mission critical data will live inside of a corporate system that is professionally managed and backed up. (Data storage will still be an issue, and teams may have to justify their use of a custom app from within SharePoint, but these are political, not technical issues.)

I was also very impressed with the new taxonomy management features. Along with improving records management features in SP2010, we are getting much closer to an enterprise platform.

The items that disappointed me were mobile access to SharePoint (the demo was a real dud) and multi-lingual capabilities (with the exception of multi-lingual capabilities with taxonomy elements). For our clients, we rely on third party tools for multi-lingual solutions and it looks like we will have to continue to do so with SP2010.

Finally, after seeing all the whiz-bang new features, I thought about the impact on my job as an information architect. I help clients figure out what their pain-points are, what they want SharePoint to do (if SharePoint is even the right solution), and how they will structure their sites, their navigation, their documents and their pages. I didn’t see much that would change what I do  and how I do it. All the great new features and technology means that actually building SharePoint solutions will be faster and simpler, and we’ll be able to come closer to the ideal that the client is looking for. However, jumping into the new version of SharePoint without understanding “what do we need and why” will lead to just as many messes and outright failures as with previous versions.

It was great seeing everyone in Las Vegas, I’m looking forward to seeing some of you again at SharePoint Saturday in Virginia Beach on January 9th. I’ll be speaking there about my techniques and tools and how to use them to deliver successful SharePoint projects.

Written by Ruven Gotz

Ruven Gotz is a Director with Avanade, Microsoft’s Global Partner. As a Microsoft SharePoint MVP with over 20 years of IT industry experience, Ruven has spent the past nine years delivering award-winning SharePoint solutions for a wide range of clients. Working as a Business Analyst and Information Architect, Ruven is able to apply his eclectic education and varied experience in Psychology, Computer Science, Economics, Software Development and Training to get to the heart of complex problems. Ruven is a great communicator who is able to discuss technology concepts in language that is relevant to his audience, whether they are from IT or business. He has become a leader in the use of visual tools to help his clients and team members achieve shared understanding of problems and goals and shared commitment towards implementing a successful solution.

Ruven recently authored “Practical SharePoint 2010 Information Architecture” (Apress).

Ruven lives in Toronto, Canada. On Tuesday nights in the summer, you’ll find him racing his 24’ sailboat ‘In the Groove’.

(NOTE: Ideas and opinions on this blog are my own: I am not representing my employer.)

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