Reflections on SharePoint 2012 Conference

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Mike Ratigan (Vice President of Sales) and I recently attended the Microsoft SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas. The experience provided a wealth of knowledge about the latest SharePoint platform developments, as well as insights as to how companies are using SharePoint today.

To me, three themes dominated the keynote presentations: The User Experience, New Features of SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint 2013 Infrastructure Improvements. Here are my takeaways:

  • The User Experience:

    Delivering a better user experience as a means to drive greater SharePoint adoption was the underlying message. SharePoint now offers a better search engine that suggests documents you might be looking for and previews them via a hovering feature. Other enhancements make it easier to follow sites, documents and people. Plus, there is tighter integration with Office and added features, such as remembering how far you last read in a document and allowing you to drag and drop documents directly into SharePoint rather than use Internet Explorer. Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer, an enterprise social network, is a great addition to SharePoint’s social media capabilities. Many new Yammer-related offerings are coming in the near future, such as video hosting. Best of all: Yammer is still free.

  • New SharePoint 2013 Features:

    Many new SharePoint 2013 “features” are likewise aimed at improving the end-user experience. FAST Search, which is now the default search engine for SharePoint 2013, offers previews, suggestions, search history and the ability to span Microsoft Exchange and file shares. For marketing folks, branding a SharePoint site is now simpler, allowing the addition of a HTML design with CSS and images to the Master Page Gallery. There is a new look and feel to SharePoint with a simpler ribbon and more contextual menus. Users have more choices based on where they are with SharePoint. SharePoint 2013 even improves the mobile experience, giving three different browsing options: Contemporary, Classic and Full Screen.

  • SharePoint 2013 Infrastructure Improvements:

    When it comes to building your SharePoint farm in the future, the biggest message was “Cloud.” SharePoint 2013 uses 40% less bandwidth than SharePoint 2010. To illustrate feasibility, all keynote demos occurred in the Cloud, employing a system based in Amsterdam. Performance and solution reliability were remarkable. The upgrade process to SharePoint 2013 is user friendly, allowing administrators to upgrade on a site-by-site basis and check the health of the site prior to full transition. Major improvements addressing latency and versioning issues have been made on the SQL side of SharePoint. Now, for example, when saving a new version of a document, only the document changes are saved, minimizing storage space requirements in SQL databases.

Mike and I decided to divide and conquer when it came to attending the approximately 250 breakout sessions available. I would summarize our experiences as follows:

  • Multiple customer showcases, featuring companies such as Shell and Coca Cola, highlighted how firms are taking full advantage of the great collaborative functionality SharePoint already affords and what their
  • Vendor sessions, particularly those of Nintex and AvePoint, demonstrated just how closely these companies have been working with Microsoft to prepare for integration with SharePoint 2013. Notable efforts include improved functionality with regard to the multitude of mobile devices now available (Nintex) and how best to migrate current self-hosted content from SharePoint 2007/2010 to the Cloud, to a hybrid environment or to another on-premise instance (AvePoint).
  • Hands-on labs and technical demonstrations abounded. I attended sessions on Office 365, business intelligence, FAST Search integration, governance and the upgrade process. All were extremely well attended and well received.

Mike commented, “The conference reaffirmed my belief that DocPoint’s partners are truly the best of breed when it comes to SharePoint 2010 and the 2013 version to come. They’ve been investing in their products to improve both functionality in addressing key issues and improving the overall user experience. Their efforts to integrate with the existing and new SharePoint platforms make me excited about the future for both the DocPoint team and our partner network.”

When I recall the number of vendors exhibiting — all supporting the SharePoint platform — it affirmed for me the industry-wide confidence in the future of SharePoint as the collaboration platform. Their product offerings cover the gamut from governance to imaging to security to migration and everything in between. The future is bright for SharePoint users.

It truly was a great experience to be one of over 10,000 attendees, all sharing a belief in SharePoint and everything it has to offer.