Thursday, May 27, 2010

Spotlight on 2010: It's 'Go' Time

As the great General George S. Patton once said, “Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.” Now how best can one interpret this as we are handed a CD or download a copy off MSDN of one of the most powerful and versatile pieces of software released to date?

OK, maybe it’s not quite that dramatic, but SharePoint 2010 is here and organizations are piloting it and beginning to implement it. My firm, EPC Group, is currently engaged in several SharePoint 2010 implementations, and it really is an amazing piece of software. There are several truths that still apply, though, when implementing this juggernaut in your organization. At EPC Group, we make sure we stress these, regardless of a 2010 or 2007 implementation.

So, what makes for a successful SharePoint initiative?

•Proper upfront planning (The System & Information Architecture)
•Looking at the big picture and developing a SharePoint Roadmap for your organization (A Roadmap for six months, 12 months and 18 months)
•Executive Sponsorship/Executive Buy-in
•Enterprise SharePoint Governance: planning and enforcement
•Development of a rock-solid environment with a corresponding disaster recovery plan so you do not ever lose your users’ confidence or their content
•Developing a core set of Metadata/Content Type standards in the initial stages of your initiatives
•Finding and achieving quick wins to “wow” your users
I started implementing SharePoint almost 10 years ago (wow, how fast time flies), and I find these seven bullet points still stand true. But with SharePoint 2010 (either SharePoint Foundation 2010 or SharePoint Server 2010), there are whole lists of new bullet points and implementation methodologies that must be followed.

With SharePoint 2010, just a few new items we must contend with (i.e. govern) are:

• The Ribbon: It offers new functionality in the SharePoint 2010 user interface. The Ribbon serves as the primary command surface that you can use to interact with objects inside of SharePoint Foundation. In earlier product versions, commands were accessed across multiple surfaces and located in varying menus.

• User Interface (UI) Improvements:

•Master Pages: In SharePoint 2010, application pages now reference the site master page. Content and application pages now contain the same content placeholders in SharePoint 2010.
•Cascading Style Sheets: The cascading style sheets in SharePoint 2010 have been revamped. The CSS has been divided into multiple files to enable more targeted customization scenarios and to improve page-loading performance.
• Windows PowerShell for SharePoint: A new command-line tool and supporting scripting language from Microsoft complements Cmd.exe in the Windows administration context.

• Silverlight Integration and the Fluid Application Model: A built-in, extensible, Silverlight Web Part specifically designed to host Silverlight applications. Closely related to the new Web Part is the Fluid Application Model (FAM) that enables secure, cross-domain integration between external applications and SharePoint Foundation deployments.

• Workflow Improvements

•New Workflow Activities
•Pluggable Workflow Services
•Workflow Events
• Alerts Enhancements: SharePoint 2010 takes advantage of the new mobile messaging framework to enhance its Alerts feature. The mobile messaging framework is itself extensible, so you can create your SharePoint Foundation solutions that incorporate SMS messages that are sent to mobile telephones.

• ECM Improvements: Managing millions of documents, eDiscovery capabilities, and the whole kitchen sink.

• Business Connectivity Services (formerly the Business Data Catalog): Provides read/write access to external data from line-of-business systems, Web services, databases, and other external systems within SharePoint 2010.

So with all of this new functionality, it is absolutely critical to address your organization’s governance strategy, your global content types, your power users, and your long-term document management strategy, because SharePoint 2010 really can do just about anything other than take out the trash and wash the car.

To finish off with one more quote, Jerry Seinfeld once said, “Why do they call it a 'building'? It looks like they're finished. Why isn't it a 'built'?"

Just implementing SharePoint 2010 out of the box and letting your users start to utilize it without these proper strategies and methodologies is not advised.

SharePoint 2010 is here, it’s powerful, it offers massive ROI to your organization, and many CIOs, IT Directors, and business leaders are going to have to start making tough decisions around things like:

• How do we migrate away from our older existing ECM platform (like Documentum, LiveLink, eRoom, etc.) and into SharePoint 2010?
• Where do we draw the line on My Site Collaboration and social networking?
• What really is our organization’s retention schedule?
• How are we going to finally get off file shares?
• Our e-mail .pst’s need to go, how can SharePoint and the Office 2010 suite help me here to lower the litigation and risk of .pst's, etc.?
• How do we finally get all of our different SharePoint implementations under one centralized umbrella instead of several dispersed implementations?

It’s an exciting time and SharePoint 2010’s ROI is huge—it’s just a matter of doing it right the first time. So ask the tough questions of yourself and your organization around some of the topics mentioned above if you're thinking about either upgrading or pursuing a new SharePoint 2010 implementation.

Errin O’Connor is the principal at The EPC Group, a Houston-based SharePoint consulting firm specializing in large-scale and government deployments.