Top Business Benefits and Reasons For SharePoint 2013 Upgrades

by Richard Harbridge on October 1, 2012


SharePoint 2013 preview has been out for some time now and we are starting to see it come up in planning, envisioning, road mapping and other strategic discussions with clients on a more regular basis. I have been discussing this with people on an almost daily basis. Everyone upgrades eventually (or they move away from the platform) so I think it’s always good to talk about why businesses are accelerating their upgrades or where (in terms of workload) they are considering an ‘early’ upgrade to SharePoint 2013.

Authors Note: When I say upgrade in this article I do not mean a full upgrade of all existing sites/content. While some organizations are planning this many organizations may only upgrade certain farms, or collections of content versus everything and use a phased approach that can take years before ‘everything’ has been upgraded. (As an example some organizations may not upgrade all 2010 content based on the loss of SharePoint Designer’s Design view and other changes in 2013.)

So why do people upgrade? First it’s worth noting that there are internal and external pressures on IT to upgrade their technology.

Internal Pressure:

  • Internally we are always in a cycle of doing more with less. Often upgrades provide many ways to do things in an optimized or more efficient way which supports the increasing demand placed on IT.
  • Maintaining old versions of a technology like SharePoint can be challenging. Finding people who have experience or knowledge of SharePoint 2003 (and want to work with it) is extremely difficult now (not only because there were less SharePoint experts back then, but mainly because experienced professionals want to work with the latest versions).
  • Often upgrades (especially SharePoint ones) provide increased support for standards or newer technologies. In the case of SharePoint the improved browser support, device support, and windows/office integration can support related upgrades or the growing needs that result from new technologies in the workplace.

External Pressure:

  • In the consumer marketplace we have a plethora of options and increasing expectations for technology user experience and ease of use. This is putting considerable pressure on IT to be more responsive and to accelerate upgrade cycles internally (to ensure they have competitive offerings and usability). This is especially made evident when leaders within organizations go around IT and buy into SaaS or alternative technologies that may or may not be initially sanctioned by enterprise IT.
  • Mobile, tablet, and the pressure for remote device support are all primarily driven by the increased comfort and reliance of these tools in the consumer world. In BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) environments there is increased pressure for IT to provide support and options for devices that may have not historically been supported or considered.

Why are people planning on upgrading to SharePoint 2013?

No one is going to upgrade to SharePoint 2013 for the new Geo-location field or a minor feature change. But there are some benefits that businesses believe they will realize by upgrading sooner, rather than later. The top reasons I hear (regularly) for why businesses are really considering upgrading to SharePoint 2013 (and are planning for it now) follow:

  1. End User Improvements That Lead To Increased Productivity & Adoption
    The most significant improvements in SharePoint 2013 are those that don’t require deep technical understanding to admire or see the value of. These are the little things that begin building up very quickly. For some organizations the potential increase in adoption and productivity due to easier drag and drop, simpler sharing of content and general UI improvements may be a strong driver for encouraging a partial upgrade of generalized team sites or content.

    Beyond these basic end user improvements like drag and drop when you combine the following it also can add up to a strong motivation for an enterprise upgrade or 2013 farm.

    • Simpler sharing and permissions management for sites (this is a huge potential benefit and is something you should really look into).
    • Embedded and intuitive social capabilities (for personal recall, and social sharing).
    • Improved task management and automatic (configurable) task rollup and aggregation (across SharePoint, Exchange, Project Server etc).
    • Themes and a more accessible design experience for many developers or end users. (Example: HTML vs XSL based).
    • Office Web Application integration/improvements such as hover over previews (not really SharePoint anymore – since it’s a separate product, but worth noting)
    • Cross site collection roll ups and less site collection boundaries (for some organizations using Office 365 this may be a huge boon – as there are no effective ways beyond search to do this now).
    • Video and iframe embedding/support improvements. (There are a plethora of interesting changes that support the editing, and content management experience. The social ability to tag media content could also be considered here if media is a big part of your organization’s need.)
    • Better mobile support and browser support (especially for those building mobile solutions and options due to the increased demand/expectation of businesses).
  2. Social Improvements Can Be A Significant Driver
    Comparable to many social enterprise tools (and much easier to extend). For many organizations that are evaluating enterprise 2.0 platforms this may be a primary or at least significant driver, especially if they have already invested heavily in SharePoint but not in enterprise social. We have worked with Newsgator extensively and there will still be a need for third party improvements on top of the improved SharePoint 2013 model, but even without these tools it supplies a fairly complete social experience OOTB.When you add up the new improvements I believe this richer feature set and improved capability can stand on its own as a reason to upgrade for some organizations and in fact has been a motivator for a few I have spoken with. (As an example this post lists 72 social features in SharePoint 2013 – Some are a bit of a stretch to consider as a feature ‘on its own’ but it shows a bit of an idea for just how much is available).

  3. The New Search Experience & Engine Can Transform Your Organization’s View On Search
    At a personal level I am extremely (unbelievably) happy and excited about all the work Microsoft has done incorporating FAST and BING capabilities in a way that makes sense. This new search core makes it so much easier to use the OOTB search experience from an end user perspective.Here are a few spotlights (by no means a complete list) of why the new Search is just so much better, and a truly exciting enhanced capability set.

    • The feature that allows you to see (as you type your search – or after you search and are reviewing the results) what you have searched for and selected previously is such a simple but impactful feature. For recall scenarios it will have a significant positive impact.
    • Content by search allows a user (still a technical one) very easily build the query they want and see the results as they build it. If you haven’t taken a good and long look at this web part in 2013, make certain that you do.
    • Continuous crawl and general performance enhancements enable a potentially much faster crawl of new/changed content ensuring the results are up to date and relevant.
    • Many minor enhancements to the experience such as File Type identifiers on the left of search results (for quick recognition), native PDF support on indexing, and a much more developer accessible HTML/JavaScript model of changing how search results display.
  4. Technical Benefits
    This is typically not a significant a driver for many implementations to upgrade. That is not always the case though and sometimes it can be enough of a driver for an organization that appreciates or understands the technical benefits they will realize by upgrading.Authors Note: At SPC 2009 several attendees were excitedly discussing how SharePoint 2010 was going to make their jobs so much easier in IT. Virgil Carroll replied “When was the last time the business made an investment (like an upgrade) to make your jobs easier?” So it is important to note that technical benefits typically motivate upgrades only when there is a clear cost benefit. For SharePoint there is typically an additional cost on hardware for the new environment that actually results in increased costs up front, not to mention potentially related licensing costs, and the migration/upgrade cost itself. So these cost benefits can be very difficult to illustrate if they aren’t providing increased business value.

    As an example an organization may be able to predict considerable storage savings and performance improvements based on shredded storage, improved caching, and improved control/flexibility at a site collection level (for organizations that have distribution model based on site collection access rights/controls). Based on technical changes or factors like this the organization may be able to provide reasoning and benefits for upgrading that reduce technical limitations, or provide IT cost savings.

  5. Solution Benefits
    Depending on the solutions you have built and offer in your SharePoint implementation certain capabilities may be extremely important to you. Here are a few minor examples that may be important based on how you are using SharePoint.
    • New Document Set features may be important if you are heavily leveraging this feature.
    • If your organization believes that their eDiscovery needs can be met for exchange, file share content and SharePoint and is considering alternatives this might be a strong motivator for evaluating an upgrade.
    • Organizations that support multiple languages may find the improvements to variations and automatic translation to be a driver for upgrading.
    • Metadata navigation, image renditions, clean URLs, and other WCM improvements may be extremely important for your public facing website or publishing based intranet.

Example risks when you don’t upgrade…

There are also risks around cost when you don’t upgrade. While these aren’t often the primary drivers they can still motivate upgrades. A few examples of these potential costs are:

  • It costs more to upgrade from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2013 than it does from SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2013. (Richard statement [opinion based on experience - I firmly believe this.])
  • Integration scenarios and third party product availability may be very different based on the versions of your SharePoint implementation (Microsoft officially only supports certain versions as well).
  • Moving from SharePoint 2013 to Office 365 will absolutely be easier then moving from other versions of SharePoint to Office 365.
  • Storage improvements! The amount of content in our organizations is always growing and storage becomes more challenging to coordinate, control, and manage over time. However with new versions of the product and the underlying storage technologies (like SQL) new features enable better scale, performance, and flexibility (shredded storage is a great example).
  • Some web based systems require certain browsers or browser compatibility that can be costly or challenging to maintain over time when they are not upgraded (IE 6 examples abound).
  • When you skip a version or two it results in even more significant changes for the end user experience and can be more challenging to train (at all levels) and deal with the change management involved.

Example issues when you do decide to upgrade…

SharePoint 2013 is visually very different than previous versions. Quite a bit of functionality has changed and the way a user performs actions they may be familiar with has changed. Here are a few changes in 2013 that the user will notice (and that require some communication planning):

  • No Design View in SharePoint Designer 2013
  • No Breadcrumb (By Default)
  • Create Sub Site Has Moved
  • No Sign In As a Different User
  • App Naming & Organization (For Those Who Are Used To Previous Methods For Creating New Lists/Libraries The App Naming Can Be Confusing)
  • Share Instead Of Manage Permissions (Better Than Previous Model, But Requires Explanation)

Longer explanations of a few of these changes can be found in my “SharePoint 2013: A Few Changes That Might Surprise Users” article.

What about you? Do you have specific reasons you are considering an upgrade to SharePoint 2013?

Hope this helps,
Richard

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