39 hours until we know more of SharePoint 2010

If you work with Microsoft technology, chances are your paths have crossed with SharePoint. Perhaps you have used an intranet built on it, or perhaps you’ve been lured to even work with it. If you have missed it, your chances of staying in the dark are getting slimmer. Version 2010 is coming, and the real rumbling starts tomorrow.

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (colloquially known as MOSS) was, in a sense, an odd bastard child. It was born as a merge of a CMS product and a workspace solution (SharePoint Portal Server). This mixture, done perhaps a few years too quickly, left it in a state where it had features that made it look both like a platform and an end-user product. Confusingly enough, it was tagged with the Office label, grouping it together with well-understood labels such as Word, Excel and Outlook.

Some say SharePoint doesn’t work properly in either role. Correct to an extent – designing SharePoint installations is a risky business with lots of pitfalls. And then again incorrect – once you know what it does, its role becomes so much more clear, and there is certainly lot of greatness in it. At any rate, the current version suffers from an unproductive developer experience, quite a few design issues and a reasonably steep under-the-hood learning curve.

The wonders of the new version

Will 2010 make the difference, then? Of course, that depends on whether your needs and the new feature set will match. The sold-out SharePoint Conference starts tomorrow, and if you’re the least bit interested, you should be watching the keynote that will be streamed live at 9 am PST (and also available on-demand, later). The keynote probably won’t expose all the goodness, but it’ll provide a plenty more to think about.

With the actual info flowing out this soon, there’s no need to flirt on the border of breaking one’s NDA, so I’ll skip discussing the few new features that have actually been announced. Instead, let me persuade you to care about the impending 2010 launch.

  1. Microsoft has made it clear that the platform role will grow. In the future, some of current ASP.NET applications will instead be written as SharePoint applications. This won’t take the bread from ASP.NET developers’ plates – SharePoint will still be a minority product compared to all the web projects in the world.

    But in the realm of business applications, the ability to integrate into the SharePoint environment will be a benefit both from a usability standpoint (users can access all their business apps in the same portal structure) and a deployment one (no more convincing the IT department that your application infrastructure should get installed – they likely already have a SharePoint installed).

  2. You don’t stop Office. While I have utmost respect towards OpenOffice, in business use the Office juggernaut is nigh-unstoppable. The basic experience of word processing and spreadsheets is pretty much feature-saturated by now, but the general office workflow (reviews, co-operative editing, communications, rights management, …) still needs a lot of improvement, and catching Microsoft is hard.

    The modern versions of Office are clearly and visibly designed to be used in tandem with their server-side counterparts, of which SharePoint is the most central. If your application’s users happen to use Office when interacting with your problem domain, chances are that Office/SharePoint integration may give you a competitive edge.

  3. Data. With all the business intelligence hubbub, Microsoft is pushing Office as the premier client for browsing BI data stores. Reports and charts from analysis cubes will be rendered not just on Excel, but also on SharePoint portals. Given that reporting is a part of almost every business app, almost every business app ends up duplicating some of the reporting functionality that could, at least in theory, be now centralized onto SharePoint.

    So at the very least, you should understand some of the reporting, data entry and connectivity infrastructure to identify where integration with SharePoint might make sense.

October 18, 2009 · Jouni Heikniemi · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Information Worker

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