Thursday, May 29, 2014

Should I Prepare for a Hybrid SharePoint Platform?


In previous posts, EPC Group has discussed the differences around SharePoint 2013 on-premises (private cloud) vs. the hosted (public cloud) as well as a hybrid SharePoint 2013 deployment which allows for a middle ground for you to tailor based on specific requirements, concerns, security requirements, as well as custom development strategies. There is an inherent tradeoff between complete control of your SharePoint environment and customization strategy vs. a managed service or “service level agreement” (SLA) that you will adhere to for your environment.
There are major considerations that must be vetted by both the business and technology sides of the company and the review of content or intellectual properly and even governing laws at a state, province, or even country level. There are also considerations around business intelligence and the organization’s requirements to connect to other line of business (LOB) systems and how the cloud or hybrid may affect or work with this “other” data and related permission strategies.
EPC Group Hybrid Cloud Advisory SharePoint Practice Office 365
There are eight key architectural areas to consider within a SharePoint 2013 deployment which are as follows:
  1.    Deployment Architecture
  2.    Network Architecture
  3.    Enterprise | Infrastructure architecture
  4.    Permission architecture
  5.    Cloud architecture
  6.    Software Architecture
  7.    Business architecture
  8.    Data | Information architecture
A hybrid SharePoint 2013 environment, as described by EPC Group’s Hybrid Cloud Advisory Practice, allows your organization to be much more flexible and provides for the ability to store sensitive and highly confidential content, as described in some of the initial, within your own data center while also providing an “external” cloud around areas such as Office 365, Microsoft Azure or AWS (Amazon Web Services).
A SharePoint 2013 \ Office 365 hybrid deployment provides an organization to implement robust business intelligence (BI) initiatives as the “private’ side of the hybrid cloud will more than likely already exist on the company’s network in their Active Directory forest which will allow BI initiatives to securely access other line-of-business systems within the organization.
Some of these capabilities also exist in some very recent releases of Office 365 Enterprise but the time you will spend on the configuration and setup to accomplish the same results will be immensely lower in the ‘private cloud” side of the hybrid SharePoint development.
One major concern of organization’s in past releases of SharePoint were how some “Test” or “Development” environments that were not properly implemented, not backed-up or under the organization’s disaster recovery (DR) strategy, or those that duplicated the effort of the organization’s central “SharePoint” deployment quickly became a “Production” like environment.
In SharePoint 2010, 2007, or 2003 implementations there is a concern around the risk that these types of environments (i.e. Development environments that quickly became a SharePoint Production environment with a great deal of content) can bring when they are not following the company’s overall IT strategy, SharePoint roadmap and governance policies and causing additional effort, risk, and concern around document security.
At the very beginning of your organization’s SharePoint 2013 initiative, a company-wide SharePoint Governance and Communication strategy message must be established and communicated to all team members, both non-IT as well as IT, as an employee or team member who would like a place to store and access content without going through the proper channels can establish an unapproved SharePoint site by sending an email or placing a phone call to very long list of hosting providers.
This user who may not know or understand the organization’s SharePoint roadmap and/or governance strategy, could unknowingly be putting the organization at great risk in a number of areas. This team member may not understand the implications of storing data in an environment for which they know little or nothing about.
This is a key reason that preparing this strategy and a SharePoint “hybrid capable” type corporate communication message can be extremely valuable without ruling out possible “hybrid” needs of future projects, vendors, etc.
This is the second in a series of blog posts by EPC Group on SharePoint 2013, Office 365 and considerations regarding a SharePoint “Hybrid Cloud” architecture.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

SharePoint Decision Guide – A Best Practices Roadmap and Organizational Strategy by EPC Group - Part 3

SharePoint Decision Guide – A Best Practices Roadmap and Organizational Strategy by EPC Group - Part 3 -



This is the 3nd  in a 3 part “SharePoint Decision Guide – A Best Practices Roadmap and Organizational Strategy” white paper developed by EPC Group to provide you with key information and in-depth analysis that will assist your organization in developing a best practices 24-36 month SharePoint \ Office 365 Roadmap and related implementation strategy. Part 1 of this white paper can be accessed here and Part 2 can be access by clicking here.

Business Intelligence Considerations in SharePoint 2013

Business Intelligence (BI) capabilities in SharePoint 2013 are vast and in many cases are achieved with a combination of SharePoint and Microsoft Office or SharePoint and SQL Server’s capabilities. I have worked with a variety of organizations in presenting SharePoint 2013’s BI capabilities and have found that it is best done by showing examples rather than speaking in abstract so I have included a larger number of screen shots in this section with brief summaries as I believe this is the best way to get a complete grasp of SharePoint 2013 and BI.
The following image details SharePoint’s different tiers of BI which include SharePoint, Office and in many cases Excel, as well as SQL Server:




Business Intelligence Center

SharePoint 2013 provides a Business Intelligence Center site that enables your organization to centrally store and manage data connections, reports, scorecards, dashboards, and Web Part pages as shown below:

Microsoft Excel 2013

Excel has more capabilities and more relevance in BI and SharePoint than any other Microsoft Office program. The following details the wide range of powerful reports, scorecards, and dashboards that can be accomplished with a combination of Excel and SharePoint 2013:

Excel Services

Excel Services allows for manual emailing or sharing of spreadsheets that causes manual errors to stop and the ability to share workbooks with others.
The following is an overview of Excel Services 2013 and SharePoint 2013:
•       Excel Services 2013 is a SharePoint service application that enables the loading, calculation, and browser-based rendering of Excel workbooks (Enterprise Edition only)
•       Designed to be a scalable, robust, enterprise-class service that provides feature and calculation fidelity with Excel
•       Delivers rich analysis capabilities that are supported in a zero-footprint web client with a familiar interface
•       Live connections to data sources are queried to deliver up-to-date data throughout analysis
The following is a graphical example of the moving pieces of SharePoint 2013 and how they come together at a very high level:

PowerPivot

PowerPivot is an add-in for Excel User that provides the ability to create powerful data models that can include calculated fields, reports and scorecards.
The following is a summary of PowerPivot and SharePoint 2013:
•       PowerPivot for SharePoint extends SharePoint 2013 and Excel Services to add server-side processing, collaboration, and document management support for the PowerPivot workbooks published to SharePoint
•       The PowerPivot Gallery, a special type of document library, is provided to browse published PowerPivot workbooks and to configure automatic data refresh
•       The PowerPivot Service deploys the embedded data model to an Analysis Service instance within the SharePoint farm, and Excel Services is used to query the deployed data model
•       Data connections can be defined to query the PowerPivot data model by using the document URL
The following screen shot details a PowerPivot Report that I have scheduled to be emailed to me every evening at 6PM Central Standard Time which is also been designed in a way for which I am able to view this on my iPhone:

PerformancePoint Services

PerformancePoint is one of the most used BI components within SharePoint 2013 and it primarily used to create and share centrally managed dashboards. In many cases PerformancePoint reports are design in a manner to be updated at any time and modified to be viewed in a variety of manners such as reports or even KPIs and scorecards.
The following image shows a PerformancePoint report as well as the web part \ features available to filter the data to provide a specific report or to drill-down to find specific and more granular data and underlying metrics:
PerformancePoint 2013 and the related site and capabilities comes with Dashboard Designer natively within the site’s ribbon. This integration has been a welcomed new feature to many users I have spoken with as they feel it’s more user friendly and easer to user. The following is a screen shot of a SharePoint 2013 site with the Dashboard Designer shown in the ribbon:

Visio Services

Visio Services in 2013 comes with a list of new capabilities in this latest release and is a SharePoint service application that enables the loading and browser-based rendering of Visio diagrams. The following are the major list of features and capabilities of Visio Services in SharePoint 2013:
•       Designed to be a scalable, robust, enterprise-class service that provides feature and rendering fidelity with Visio
•       Delivers rich browsing and navigation capabilities that are supported in a zero-footprint Web client
•       Live connections to data sources are queried to deliver up-to-date data
•       Renders diagrams in the browser
•       High quality PNG(s) for full fidelity
•       No dependence on Silverlight
•       Native support for Visio file format
•       Diagram consumers do not need a Visio client
•       Available across devices using desktop browsers and mobile browsers
•       Users interact with content
•       Pan, Zoom, Hyperlinks, View Shape Data
•       Accessible only via SharePoint
•       On-premises & in cloud using Office 365
The following graphic was created by Visio Services to be stored within a SharePoint page that users can view and is updated on a weekly bases:

Self-Service Business Intelligence (BI) Architectural Overview

Microsoft has introduce a huge push toward “self-service” BI (SSBI) and providing the user with tools that allow them to run reports and perform BI actions as needed at any time without the need for IT’s intervention. The goal of SSBI is to empower analysts so that they can design, customize and maintain their own BI solutions but it is important to note that SSBI is not meant to be a complete solution or a replacement for corporate BI initiatives and standardized reports offered by the organization.

The following is a diagram of the entire “technology stack” around SSBI:

Excel PowerView

Power View sheets can be added to the workbook to enable an interactive data exploration, visualization, and presentation experience. They allow for a highly visual design experience as well as for rich meta-driven interaction. These are also “presentation-ready” at all times.
Power View reports can be based on an embedded PowerPivot data model, or an external tabular data model that can be optimized to fully exploit the capabilities of the Power View experience.

Lync Server 2013

Lync Server 2013’s new features are very visual and in able to get a full grasp of the technology, similar to the BI section above, I am going to include a greater number of screen shots to display these features rather than writing in abstract about Lync 2013’s capabilities. Lync Server 2013’s integration capabilities with SharePoint 2013 open up an entirely new outlet and set of capabilities for organizations to have a centralized platform, SharePoint 2013, to access nearly ever system in the organization to now include web conferencing, video conferencing, as well as phone (VOIP), and even your current investment in technologies, for example, your current Cisco hardware that drives your VOIP technology.
Lync 2013 also replaces all existing instant messaging tools (including Skype) to allow for a more manageable and centralized IM platform. I have seen some push-back by users who feel that they are being “overly governed” but Lync 2013 is something that is not going to take away from existing capabilities but also add a layer of corporate governance and compliance.
The following image shows users participating in as well as monitor group conversations:
Lync Server 2013 offers centralized web conference features and is going to be a huge competitor for WebEx, GoToMeeting, as well as Skype on a corporate level. The following images shows users participating in real-time web conferencing:
Lync 2013 has been designed around extensive mobile compatibility (responsive design) and I have personally tested this solution on 4 or 5 different devices by different manufactures without any major differences or feature loss. The following screen shot shows Lync 2013’s desktop application as well as it running on 4 mobile \ edge devices:

Understanding “Social’ Capabilities and Ignoring White Noise

SharePoint’s last three releases (2007, 2010, and now 2013) have had some level of social capabilities and this has been a topic that is viewed in much different manner from one organization to another. SharePoint 2013 provides for a new native communities features that is very similar to the knowledge management concept of “Communities of Practice” (COPs) or “Networks of Excellence” that are prevalent in the knowledge management community.
SharePoint 2013’s new social features include the following:
•       Community
•       Social tagging
•       Easily share content and activities
•       Follow documents, people, sites, tags, and activities
•       Improved activity streams
•       Improved My Sites
•       Save locally
The Community Sites, as shown in the image below, is created from a template similar to a team site but tailored with specific “social” features and add for a competitive feel to award users “badges” as well as “likes” to their posts and other Facebook or twitter like components:

Tools for Community Owners to Enforce Social SharePoint 2013 Governance

One of the most common “issues” or areas of concern that organizations have around not implementing the “social” capabilities of SharePoint in previous versions was the last of native administration tools and a way to enforce the organization’s social related governance policies. The following image shows the tools that are provided natively in SharePoint 2013 to assist in enforcing policies and governance around these features:
SharePoint 2013’s Community features can also be easily tailored and modified, as shown in the image below, based on the specific requirements of your organization. In 5 or 6 recent EPC Group SharePoint 2013 deployments, we have experienced our clients modifying and “tweaking” these features to meet their exact needs and have received some great feedback in regards to their feelings on the scalability of this solution:

Newsfeeds in SharePoint Community Sites

Newsfeeds are very prevalent in SharePoint 2013’s Community sites and every site has the option to contain a social stream (newsfeed). Newsfeeds are also pervasive to a user’s My Site to My Site and allows for a post from My Site feed to member community site.

Microblogging in SharePoint Nearly Identical to that of Twitter

Microblogging in SharePoint 2013 is a new features that allows for “tags” and “targets” updates similar to that of Twitter. Each microblog update can include:
•        #tags (dynamically pulled from or added to the Managed Metadata Services [MMS])
•       @targets (default pulls from social colleagues but you can post the updates to any SharePoint user)

The following image shows the Community Newsfeeds as well as the Microblogging features in SharePoint 2013 being utilized:

Over the past few years, EPC Group has seen a variety of SharePoint “social initiatives” thrive and some become stale and rarely used. It is very important to provide some “care and feeding” to your SharePoint social initiatives and to develop a set of questions or metrics for you or the responsible team member to use to monitor its success. This is also helpful to provide you with some insight into when you need to put some more “marketing” and effort behind SharePoint’s social initiatives and its usage to reward participation or even introduce a “wall of shame” in a type of joking but completive manner to show which departments Have and Have Not been using or responding to social feeds, questions, or activities.
There has been an issues within SharePoint My Site around users not completing their profile which is one of the quickest ways for other users to lose interest in these features. Identifying the most active contributors as well as the most followed individuals is a great start to understanding usage patterns and then expanding on that by tracking the amount of time it takes for a typical question to get answered or the features that are most being used and those that are hardly used at all will help you “trim the fat” and assist in your companies social momentum going forward.

Two Additional White Papers Adding to This Roadmap and Organizational Strategy

EPC Group has developed two additional white papers as part of this three part white paper to help organization’s answer questions around implementing technologies based upon all of the findings of EPC Group in this publication.
EPC Group will pushing these white papers with AIIM around Enterprise Content Management as well as implementing a best practices branding and customization strategy within SharePoint 2013 \ Office 365 as well as for your mobile devices.

Finally Getting a Hold of Your Organization’s ECM Strategy (White Paper Preview)

SharePoint 2013’s enterprise content management (ECM) and/or records management (RM) capabilities, as they are both referenced in many cases in a very similar manner, have been much improved and have moved SharePoint up in the most powerful ECM/RM platform that is available to organizations today.
ECM efforts are also one of the biggest initial pushes for SharePoint 2013 initiatives and organizations are understanding more than ever the need to get a true handle on their content from not only a regulatory and compliance standpoint but also from an intellectual property perspective as lost knowledge in terms of records does have a very costly impact to an organizations bottom line over time.
In EPC Group’s first 50 SharePoint 2013 implementations to our clients, the first 33 were ECM initiatives and driven by the realization of the value proposition for records management within the organization. These efforts can be difficult in the sense that the hard questions do have to be asked about not only identifying what is a record but who owns the record and how should it be categorized. There is a method and repeatable best practice to a successful SharePoint 2013 ECM\RM implementation and the metadata and core content types are at the very center of achieving this success.
SharePoint 2013 provides for the ability to meet regulatory drivers and also helps provide a friendly push to some organizations that have not taken a corporate legal position on content in regards to what to destroy or delete as well as email management strategies and what does constitute a “Record” within their organization.
SharePoint 2013 does provide the ability for complete disposition and to expunge “ALL” copies or records as well as to ensure privacy and record security policies are met during normal day-to-day SharePoint usage or those cases that may involve discovery by a court order or preparation for trial by the organization’s legal counsel.
The following image details a high level overview of SharePoint 2013’s ECM approach to the features and how users can best utilize them for these specific activities:
The following image is of the new SharePoint 2013 Record Center which allows for a centralized “hub” for records management and the related activities:
SharePoint 2013 provides the ability to implement specific rules around content not only stored in document libraries but also in specific folders with folder based retention schedules. The folder concept in SharePoint is a love \ hate affair with Microsoft over the years and from a user perceptive is sometimes viewed as the “other” bucket where they can drag content into without having to actually “tag” it but these new features, as shown in the image below, are meant to resolve these issues.
There are new capabilities around Unified Discovery across Exchange, SharePoint and Lync which allows organizations to go to one central location, a unified console, to access all of this information. There is the added feature of in-place discovery as well around all of these platforms in their integration with SharePoint and I feel the best feature introduced here is that it can all be done without impacting the user. The legal discovery team can perform these activities without the massive interruption and panic that can be sometimes caused by a legal discovery exercise.
I attended an ECM conference last year and the speaker made a very good point around how improved ECM and eDiscovery tools can actually save the organization a great deal in legal fees. His point was that we live in a very litigious world where people like to sue companies and corporations over just about anything in hopes they can get something to either “stick” or make the company feels it is just cheaper to settle and not worry about the hassle but if the organization had tools that would provide minimal or zero impact to the user base in able to drive down not only cost but the stigma that some feel if their company is being sued, many frivolous lawsuits would start to go away.




SharePoint Decision Guide - Part 2 - A Best Practices Roadmap and Organizational Strategy -

SharePoint Decision Guide - Part 2 - A Best Practices Roadmap and Organizational Strategy -



Part 2 - “SharePoint Decision Guide – A Best Practices Roadmap and Organizational Strategy”

This is the 2nd of a 3 part “SharePoint Decision Guide – A Best Practices Roadmap and Organizational Strategy” white paper was developed by EPC Group to provide you with key information and in-depth analysis that will assist your organization in developing a best practices 24-36 month SharePoint Roadmap and related implementation strategy. Part 1 of this white paper can be accessed by here.

Should I Prepare for a Hybrid SharePoint Platform

In Part 1 of this white paper, we discussed some of the core differences around SharePoint 2013 on-premises (private cloud) vs. the hosted (“public cloud) as well as a hybrid SharePoint 2013 deployment which allows for a middle ground for you to tailor based on specific requirements, concerns, security requirements, as well as custom development strategies. There is an inherent tradeoff between complete control of your SharePoint environment and customization strategy vs. a managed service or “service level agreement” (SLA) that you will adhere to for your environment.
As detailed in the first installation of this white paper, there are major considerations that must be vetted by both the business and technology sides of the company and the review of content or intellectual properly and even governing laws at a state, province, or even country level. There are also considerations around business intelligence and the organization’s requirements to connect to other line of business (LOB) systems and how the cloud or hybrid may affect or work with this “other” data and related permission strategies.



A hybrid SharePoint 2013 environment allows your organization to be much more flexible and provides for the ability to store sensitive and highly confidential content, as described in some of the initial, within your own data center while also providing an “external” cloud around areas such as Office 365. A SharePoint 2013 \ Office 365 hybrid deployment provides an organization to implement robust business intelligence (BI) initiatives as the “private’ side of the hybrid cloud will more than likely already exist on the company’s network in their Active Directory forest which will allow BI initiatives to securely access other line-of-business systems within the organization. Some of these capabilities also exist in some very recent releases of Office 365 Enterprise but the time you will spend on the configuration and setup to accomplish the same results will be immensely lower in the ‘private cloud” side of the hybrid SharePoint development.
One major concern of organization’s in past releases of SharePoint were how some “Test” or “Development” environments that were not properly implemented, not backed-up or under the organization’s disaster recovery (DR) strategy, or those that duplicated the effort of the organization’s central “SharePoint” deployment quickly became a “Production” like environment. In SharePoint 2010, 2007, or 2003 implementations there is a concern around the risk that these types of environments (i.e. Development environments that quickly became a SharePoint Production environment with a great deal of content) can bring when they are not following the company’s overall IT strategy, SharePoint roadmap and governance policies and causing additional effort, risk, and concern around document security.
At the very beginning of your organization’s SharePoint 2013 initiative, a company-wide SharePoint Governance and Communication strategy message must be established and communicated to all team members, both non-IT as well as IT, as an employee or team member who would like a place to store and access content without going through the proper channels can establish an unapproved SharePoint site by sending an email or placing a phone call to very long list of hosting providers. This user who may not know or understand the organization’s SharePoint roadmap and/or governance strategy, could unknowingly be putting the organization at great risk in a number of areas. This team member may not understand the implications of storing data in an environment for which they know little or nothing about.

This is a key reason that preparing this strategy and a SharePoint “hybrid capable” type corporate communication message can be extremely valuable without ruling out possible “hybrid” needs of future projects, vendors, etc.
Note: For SharePoint 2013 development, try to develop with an “Office 365 SharePoint 2013 solution” mindset regardless of whether your company has a completely on-premises SharePoint 2013 roadmap as you will be able to “reuse” this solution and ensure its compatibility for the future to keep your options open and to not have to open a completely new development project should you ever have a “one off” that has this need.

SharePoint’s System Architecture

SharePoint implementations can be best approached by categorizing the underlying servers and “hardware” regardless of virtual vs. physical by categorizing the “System Architecture” to cover these underlying components. The SharePoint System Architecture roadmap components must be developed by the business and functional requirements of the information architecture which contains the planning for sites, document libraries, and ultimately the content. SharePoint 2013 introduces “shredded storage” which enables organizations to have additional flexibility in their underlying System Architecture but reviewing the needs of the organization in terms of metrics such as:
·         Number of SharePoint Users as well as any possible future estimates if expansion is on the horizon
·         Amount of Content to be stored by individual departments, business units, and users
·         The size of that content and considerations for large files such as CAD drawings or media files such as large videos
·         Performance requirements of these users as well as their location
·         Number of data centers and their locations
·         Onsite deployment, Cloud Deployment, of Hybrid (mixture of both onsite and cloud)
·         Immediate requirements of the business (i.e. company intranet) as well as longer term requirements (i.e. business intelligence (BI) and analytical SharePoint service) that may require security around federation or other access needs
·         Disaster Recovery (DR) strategies
·         Network security (Active Directory (AD), performance, acceleration needs, etc.)
·         Development environment and related Visual Studio \ Team Foundation Server (TFS) strategy






Key Areas to Consider Around Scalability in Your SharePoint 2013 Architectural Roadmap

It is important to implement a highly available as well as scalable SharePoint 2013 platform and avoid some of the known pitfalls that degrade its performance such as:
  • Having all SharePoint services are in the “default” service group
  • Having redundant and JavaScript that has not been optimized or deployed in a best practices manner
  • Procuring or having Inadequate hardware
  • Not paying enough time and attention to SQL Server’s configuration and its optimization
  • Not providing the proper tools to allow for monitoring and reviewing the underlying server logs
If you are experiencing performance issues, it is key to first attempt to perform exercises such as load testing in a similar or replicated environment as well as reviewing the IIS logs, the server’s performance and latency for both web, service, and SQL servers. There are some obvious metrics that are sometimes overlooked such as memory, RPS, and the CPU’s statistics.
Note: Don’t laugh as more than a few of us have not been able to troubleshoot an issue only to find that there was no free space remaining in storage, myself included and probably more than once.
There are some major updates or architectural considerations around SharePoint 2013 such as discouraging dedicated service farms that end up increasing server count as well as overall maintenance requirements. It is also important to use as few application pools as possible in SharePoint 2013 as each application pool takes up memory and resources and it is better to share these resources to avoid some of the caching errors that have come up in many enterprise-wide farms.
There is also a recommendation for one web application as well as one corresponding zone as well as using host named site collections what allow for reduced resource consumption and much better scalability. You are always able to have multiple host names in regards to secure site access (SSA).

SharePoint 2013’s Search and Scalability Recommendations

SharePoint 2013’s search, which now includes fast search, has very different metrics involved in the scalability of search.
For example, for every 10 million items there is a recommendation for scaling around adding an index partition.  With 20 million items the scaling recommendation is to add a new crawl database and with 30 million items it is recommended to go with a dedicated search farm. It have also seen some great results when providing a dedicated host for crawling on the crawling target server.
Your search will always function at a higher level when it is originally architected with best practices in mind with defined targets and proper logical and physical architecture. There is also a last of testing and validation that has happened in previous SharePoint releases but should be done for SharePoint 2013 as well as taking advantage of the native monitoring and logging capabilities.

SharePoint 2013’s SQL Server 2012 Scalability Recommendations

There are a lot of similarities in recommendations from past versions of SharePoint. It is key to ensure you always user SQL Aliases whenever possible as it makes later migrations or database moves much easier and can save 100+ hours or rework should you ever need to do so. There are several candidates for aliases and if you begin with one SQL Server instance and three aliases you will have the option to scale and later move any highly used databases into a dedicated SQL node.
SQL Server 2012 R2 comes with new AlwaysOn for redundancy capabilities which will also be native in the future SQL Server 2014 release.  This does require Windows Server Failover Clustering (WFCF).

Minimal Download Strategy (MDS)

SharePoint 2013 comes with a minimal download strategy (MDS) which goes around the typical browser effort of evaluating scripts or parsing CSS and rendering HTML. The MDS feature in SharePoint 2013 allows the reuse of the outer chrome of a SharePoint page and the updates to be in replacing the inner content portion of the page.

List of Key New SharePoint 2013 Features

SharePoint 2013 does come with a number of new Web Content Management (WCM) features as well as features that are much improved. The cross-site publishing feature in SharePoint 2013 has been extremely helpful on a number of EPC Group’s recent SharePoint 2013 implementations and the ability to present powerful video to users as well as the embedding capabilities are great for users and content owners.
There is also new technology around image renditions, clean URLs, and a much more powerful metadata navigation capability that has more than a few smiling and released to not be forced to build a massive “global browser” type solution. 2013’s WCM features and improvements also include variation and improved content translation as well as extremely powerful search engine optimization with FAST Search now being fully integrated.
The following image details the graphic features of SharePoint 2013’s WCM features:

Understanding SharePoint Server 2013 Search Architecture

One of the big ticket areas Microsoft rolled into SharePoint 2013 is the integration of FAST Search as a native capability as well as providing a new rich user interface through to a completely revamped back-end architecture.
Some of the previous SharePoint version search features still exist such as full document and content searches, people and profile searches, and connecting Search to external systems with the BCS but you will see a major search improvement with this new release.
The following image shows SharePoint 2001, 2003, 2007, and 2010’s previous search pages:
EPC Group has taken a survey of the last 20 deployments this year from our client’s SharePoint 2013 deployments after the actual go-live and users being live within the new platform and the following were the top “liked” or “much improved” features that users responded to around search in this survey:
1.     The full content previous for office documents with the search hover panel
2.     Improved search time to find the desired content that was actually being specifically searched for
3.     Ability to search for skills of other employees which they found to not be useful in previous version and eventually “gave up” that type of search
4.     The new Search web parts
5.     The custom or tailored search results page made searching “more comfortable” and “not as clunky”
6.     Seeing what others have searched for and the ability to go back to “previous searches” where they were able to find what they were looking for but forgot what they had previously searched for
The SharePoint 2013 Search interface includes elements such as search refiners that allow users to take a subset of Search results and “refine” them based on metadata associated with the content. There are updated or new refiners in SharePoint 2013 as follows:
  • Entity Extraction which introduces the ability for entities such as people’s names or company names to be extracted from the contents of documents and made available as a metadata selection in the refiners.
  • Deep refiners to ensure the entire Search index is used to calculate the refiner information.
  • Visual Refiners provide a way of visually seeing the information driving the refiner, complete with an interactive slider to do the actual “refining”.
SharePoint 2013’s Search also has new Query Rules that allow for additional defined areas such as promoted results and other features as listed below:
  • Promoted Results (you might recall being referred to as “best bets) allow users to define a link to be shown for specific Search terms e.g. ‘developers’ shows a link to the SP2013 training on MSDN.
  • Result Blocks are an inline set of results that effectively provide “results-within-results” based on the query. This could be rich media content previews for the current search, content from external systems or any other useful type of a screenshot or snapshot  of content from the Search index.


The following is a list of the underlying core elements in SharePoint 2013’s search:
•       Content Source
•       Search Schema
•       Query Rule
·         Customization of returned results
·         Captures Intent, composed of
•       Query Condition
•       Query Action
•       Publishing Options
•       Query Transforms
·         Web Parts
·         Query Rule
·         Result Source
•       Result Source
The following images show SharePoint 2013’s ability to Scope a Search Source:


The following image show as example of a tailored display templates in SharePoint 2013’s Search:

SharePoint 2013’s New Auditing, Logging, and Monitoring Capabilities

SharePoint 2013 now comes with native event logs as well as trace and usage logs. This has been a welcomed set of new features by SharePoint administrators as well as companies that did not want to go out and invest in a 3rd party solution but rather use 2013’s native capabilities.
There are also some very powerful web analytics and health reports that will allow you too much closely monitor what users are experiencing in search and ensure they are getting the results they are searching for. There are also new administrative reports as well as a developer dashboard which I have to mention the new Timer Job Status reports that would have been so nice in previous versions when troubleshooting complex workflows but are now available.
These new capabilities also include SQL Server monitoring as well as the ability to review memory counters, disk counters and performance counters. You can enable these features on specific sites or on specific site collections or even at the farm level. It is very helpful in providing you with tools to enforce your SharePoint governance strategy as well as permissions and possible scalability issues and red flags you would be ready to react to and resolve.
SharePoint administration reporting can be separated into five different categories:
·         Permissions
o    Troubleshooting why users cannot see the content they should
o    Reporting for different types of compliance
o    Auditing who has access to sensitive content
·         Usage/Activity
o    Finding what content is, or is not, being used
o    Planning for future growth
o    Understanding hardware requirements
·         Storage
o    Monitoring growth for performance reasons
o    Understanding hardware requirements
o    Reorganizing taxonomy based on Storage needs
·         Audit
o    Needing to show who accessed what and when, to adhere to internal or external compliance requirements
·         Performance
o    Monitoring page load times to uncover problems 
o    Planning for increased usage
The following screen shot shows the Usage and Activity Reporting in SharePoint 2013:


SharePoint’s Information Architecture

The “SharePoint Information Architecture” should contain the planning and roadmap for areas such as the sites, communities, navigational strategy, search strategy, and permissions. The permissions tie into the Active Directory (AD) requirements and planning within the “System Architecture” and related network so it’s equally important for the Information Architecture of SharePoint to communicate and plan the deployment with the “System Architecture” project team so that there is a cohesive strategy and understanding of the requirements both short-term and longer-term. The underlying Information Architecture needs of the organization should contain metrics such as:
·         Overall Site hierarchy strategy
·         SharePoint Site requirements
·         Related information management policies “IMP” of the organization (i.e. AD Groups, SharePoint Security Groups, etc.)
·         Search Requirements of the organization
·         Communities and “Social” strategies
·         Metadata \ Content Type requirements
·         Records Retention \ Records Management Policies
·         Retention Schedule enforcement in relation to the Records Retention \ Records Management Policies
·         Workflow or business process requirements
·         Power User strategies, etc.
·         Branding Applied to Sites | Navigational Affects
·         HTML based Master Pages & Page Layouts
•       Both Master Pages and Page Layouts can now be edited in HTML
•       Design Manager can create a new minimal master page or page layout
•       Design Manager can also convert existing HTML designs to functioning master pages



In the development of SharePoint 2013’s information architecture, it is key to take 3 key areas into consideration which are the users, the content in SharePoint or that may be in SharePoint, as well as the context for which both the users and content will be considered, monitored, or enforced under. The information architecture design in SharePoint 2013 is 100+ page document or chapter in itself, and the following are some excerpts and examples of the methodologies and strategies I have developed and implemented in recent SharePoint 2013 implementations. This extremely large subject can be reviewed in detailed in my upcoming book “SharePoint 2013 Field Guide: Advice from the Consulting Trenches” as I reference many real world and “from the trenches” experiences I have encored in developing some of the more complex SharePoint information architectures I have been involved in.

Information Architecture Design and Your User Base

The following image details all of the moving pieces that are required to be taken into consideration when identifying and working with your organization’s user base in a SharePoint 2013 best practices implementation:

Information Architecture Design and Your Organizations Content

The following image details all of the moving pieces that are required to be taken into consideration when identifying the content that will be stored and managed within SharePoint as well as external content that should be taken into considerations:

Depending on the type of SharePoint 2013 initiative you are wanting to accomplish in the specific phase you are currently in, the identification of the content as well as the required security and permissions model is absolutely critical to the success of SharePoint over the long-term. If users start to questions SharePoint’s security capabilities it can very much cause an internal pushback by the users and cause a great deal of harm to your overall success and ROI.

Note: The metadata and core content types should be identified as soon as possible as the sooner you implement at least a baseline information architecture strategy the easier it will be to not only find content but secure it and manage its proper storage location and related future retention schedule.

Information Architecture Design and Context – (Governance, Compliance, Risk, BYOD, Phases)

The following image details the major policy, governance, compliance, and strategy components that are required to be taken into consideration when identifying the context of your overall SharePoint 2013 deployment.
This includes areas such as the spelling out the more granular goals of SharePoint’s phases and what exactly the business is trying to accomplish as well as identifying the related requirements to meet those phased goals. For example, if your organization’s goal in phase 2 of your SharePoint roadmap was to implement a powerful business intelligence (BI) solution then there are a list of questions that must be answered such as what options you would like to provide the users to access this content as well as whether the report, graph, or related BI information you want the user to consume resides within SharePoint or possible outside of SharePoint. If it resides outside of SharePoint, there are requirements around using the BCS or other method to access and do you want to make this report available to update anytime, on specific intervals, or simply a daily report that is updated every morning.
It is extremely important to take in these real-world and “in the trenches” type use cases or experiences as seeing both sides of the fence and the implications and requirements will “demystify” SharePoint and help you achieve huge success within your organization with SharePoint 2013.