Document Imaging Report – Microsoft 2012 SharePoint Conference

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ECM Not Major Focus of SharePoint 2013 Upgrades

Published in Document Imaging Report

Following Microsoft’s SharePoint Conference 2009, where SharePoint 2010 was previewed, there was quite a bit of buzz surrounding the platform’s improved document and image management capabilities. Our market was hot and Microsoft was prepared to become a major player in it [see DIR 11/6/09].

Three years later, SharePoint is certainly a major factor in our market, but, dare we way, Microsoft seems satisfied with where they sit. Or, maybe our market just isn’t as hot any more. Either way, the scuttlebutt coming out of the Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2012, held last month in Las Vegas, where SharePoint 2013 was previewed, was certainly not centered on document management.

Yes, there are some improvements in the search, viewing, and e-discovery capabilities that are certainly very relevant to our market. But, according to Martin Hardy, DocPoint Solutions’ Director of Technology, the main focus of 2013 is getting users to transition to the cloud. “The cloud capabilities of SharePoint 2013 are much more advanced than with previous versions,” said Hardy. “Microsoft is really encouraging customers to go that way to help reduce their infrastructure costs and to increase the reliability and performance of their systems.

“Along with the move towards the cloud comes the new concept of a marketplace with applications that can be deployed with SharePoint on the cloud. This should enable ISVs who develop applications around SharePoint to reach a wider audience.”

DocPoint is a SharePoint services specialist that is a subsidiary of document imaging services specialist Quality Associates. DocPoint was launched with a focus on developing document and imaging solutions on the SharePoint platform but has evolved to offer a wider array of SharePoint consulting and integration [see DIR 7/13/12]. It also resells and integrates several third-party products that bring additional functionality to SharePoint.

These include products from capture ISVs like KnowledgeLake, Psigen, and Kofax. DocPoint also offers records management from GimmalSoft, workflow from Nintex, automated meta data collection from Concept Searching, digital signature systems from ARX, and SharePoint optimization and management tools from AvePoint. In addition, Hardy said, DocPoint has often recommended Vizit’s viewing software to its customers.

One of the new features in SharePoint 2013 is a thumbnail view of documents in a list, but from what I’ve read this is only for Office documents and works only if a user is running Microsoft’s Office Web Apps server “and SharePoint is configured to use it.”

Hardy did note that Microsoft’s incorporation of its FAST search technology as a standard piece of SharePoint 2013 will certainly improve the platform’s capabilities. “There are also improvements version control, being able to drag and drop files from IE into SharePoint, and managing permissions to view documents,” said Hardy. “Microsoft also had several conference sessions explaining how the Yammer technology [a social media tool designed for businesses] it acquired this year fits with SharePoint.”

But, aside from the desire to move to the cloud, Hardy doesn’t see a ton of reasons that will compel DocPoint customers to migrate to SharePoint 2013. “I don’t think the release of SharePoint 2013 will affect us too much initially,” Hardy told DIR. “In the long-run, however, I see a lot of customers wanting to go to the cloud for infrastructure reduction and reliability factors.

“One area in which Microsoft has made improvements in SharePoint 2013 is in the security that can be implemented on the cloud, which is important to our federal customers [Like its parent Quality Associates, DocPoint, which is based in Fulton, MD, does the majority of its business with U.S. federal government entities.] The integration with Office 365 on the cloud is also important, as well as the improved cloud pricing that Microsoft has introduced.”

Hardy said that it will be important for DocPoint’s SharePoint partners to also migrate their offerings to the cloud. “When our customers make the move from SharePoint 2010 to 2013 in the cloud, they will probably want to move their entire technology stack,” he said. “I think we will end up hosting some of our customers’ instances of SharePoint ourselves, while others will subscribe directly through Microsoft and we will provide services around their deployment.”

In the meantime, DocPoint is getting itself up to speed by running its own instance of SharePoint in the cloud. “We are using it to totally revamp our process management,” he said. “We’re using Microsoft Project Server and a cloud-based CRM system to manage our sales-to-delivery process. We’re incorporating Nintex workflow to manage processes like license renewals. We hope to have our implementation complete by the end of the year.”

Hardy concluded that each DocPoint customer needs to be looked at individually when migration to the cloud is considered. He agreed with our assessment that Microsoft’s making its ECM platform more cloud-ready could prove to be a dangerous proposition for legacy ECM vendors. “That’s true, you have a double benefit,” he said. “SharePoint is still less expensive than most legacy ECM systems, and now users don’t even have to worry about hosting it themselves.”

The tricky part, of course, remains configuring SharePoint to work as an application and not a platform, and that should keep DocPoint’s business growing well into the future.