What's new in SharePoint Server 2010

Project management and process optimisation consultants Campana & Schott describe their experience

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“SharePoint 2010” was presented to the general public by Steve Ballmer at the SharePoint Conference last year, and its market launch announced for the first six months of 2010. SharePoint 2010 represents more an evolution than a revolution.

Whilst the release upgrade from SharePoint Portal Server 2003 to Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (in brief, to avoid tongue-twisters: MOSS) still involved numerous fundamentally new functional areas and areas of application, such as Business Intelligence and Workflows, this does not apply to the latest release upgrade.

SharePoint 2010—like the forerunner version—provides companies with an IT platform to:

  • implement Internet and Intranet presences,
  • enable collaboration focused on documentation and information and
  • automate business processes.

Based upon the initial experience that Campana & Schott has gained with the different release statuses of SharePoint 2010 available since spring 2009, the following can be said in advance: The right homework has been done at the right time. The real surprise lies in the harmonious interaction of so many improvements.

Important SharePoint capabilities:

  • Sites: sharing information securely with co-workers, partners and customers
  • Communities: enabling modern forms of collaboration
  • Content: administering contents across their entire life cycle
  • Search: simple searching and finding of information and persons
  • Insights: making decisions on the basis of relevant information
  • Composites: making dynamic business applications available in a simple way

Surprisingly systematic development

Whilst Bill Gates sketched out the idea of SharePoint being in the centre of collaboration among the so called information workers as early as 2005, the 2007 version still lacked the level of maturity requisite in practice in various areas—less in relation to the solution’s stability, more in terms of numerous functional details. There existed, for example, a powerful full text search for all intents and purposes—yet adjustment of search parameters like document type, as well as processing of the search results, became feasible only through programmed extensions.

These weaknesses have been acted on now. A look at the acquisitions made over the past few years—whose products have been fully integrated, for the first time, into a harmonious whole in SharePoint 2010—reveals just how systematically Microsoft has been implementing existing ideas. In doing so, the strongest components of the acquired technologies were first dismantled and then re-integrated in the SharePoint platform. Here are a few examples:

  • Groove: The takeover was partially greeted with surprise in 2005, since now another collaboration platform was coming into the portfolio alongside SharePoint. Groove as a “SharePoint Workspace” is an elementary component today and assumes functions it has always been best doing: to make web-based data available offline.
  • ProClarity: Acquired in 2006, this technology constituted Microsoft’s entry in the high end range of Business Intelligence. The “Performance Point Services” that have derived from it form the basis today for professional data processing and interactive data analysis with SharePoint 2010.
  • FAST: Microsoft secured for itself a state-of-the-art search technology with this acquisition in 2008. Today, it provides functions that have been urgently missing up to now, like wildcard search and the interactive, step-by-step refinement of search results.

Ease of use and compliance with standards

At first glance, the most visible innovation of SharePoint 2010 is the new user interface. The “Ribbon UI” interface, first seen in Office 2007, has also moved onto the web. Functions and program commands will always be displayed dependent on context. Its huge impact becomes apparent when you think outside the SharePoint box: the experience will be uniform for the end user. Differences between client and web applications are hardly noticeable anymore. This will be particularly interesting for user acceptance, as data from SAP and Siebels software can be processed in the new SharePoint 2010 without the user having to abandon his familiar Office look-and-feel. The use of Ajax and Silverlight technologies throughout facilitate more fluent working. The integration of audio and video elements is an easy option.

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