Microsoft SharePoint 2013 – Benefits for Developers

Microsoft SharePoint 2013 is a useful development platform for building apps and solutions for varied requirements. It offers a new flexible development model that can be used to create apps for Microsoft SharePoint using standard web technologies, such as JavaScript, OAuth, and OData. With the new app for SharePoint development model, we can build apps that take advantage of SharePoint capabilities and run in the cloud instead of SharePoint farm implemented on-premise. Below are the different benefits that SharePoint 2013 offers to the developers.

Benefits for Developers

  • New & useful Cloud App Model: It enables the developers to create a variety of apps (i.e. self-contained pieces of functionality that extend the capabilities of SharePoint website). While developing an app, SharePoint objects such as lists, workflows, and site pages can be used. Also, it can be used to surface a remote web application and remote data in SharePoint.These Apps (all custom code) once developed, can be moved “up” to the cloud or “down” to client computers. Moreover, SharePoint 2013 introduces an advanced delivery model for apps for SharePoint that includes SharePoint Store and App Catalog.
  • Programming using web standards: Even non-Microsoft platform developers would be able to create SharePoint solutions as SharePoint 2013 is based on common web standards like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Moreover, implementation relies on established protocols like the Open Data protocol (OData), and OAuth.
  • Better Development tools: The good news for SharePoint developers is that existing development tools like Visual Studio and SharePoint Designer has been augmented significantly. Also, the newly developed web-based tool “Napa” (i.e. Office 365 Development Tools) can be used by SharePoint developers in developing apps.In Visual Studio, developers can develop apps for SharePoint, apps for Office, apps for SharePoint that include apps for Office or apps for Office that are hosted by SharePoint. In addition to the SharePoint project templates, Visual Studio 2012 now includes a new app project template in the Apps folder named Apps for SharePoint 2013. Other improvements include full support for development against the Cloud App Model, including OData and OAuth support, and full support for development against the Workflow Manager Client 1.0 platform.
  • Principal EnhancementsSharePoint 2013 has been improved and enhanced to support the new cloud-based architecture and app-driven development framework. SharePoint 2013 is designed and executed to support a rich application development experience.o Mobile Applications: In SharePoint 2013, you can combine Windows Phone 7 applications with on-premise SharePoint services and applications or with remote SharePoint services and applications that run in the cloud (such as SharePoint Online). It helps in creating potent applications that extend functionality beyond the traditional desktop or laptop. Also, developers can create SharePoint-powered mobile applications for Windows Phone using the new SharePoint phone application wizard template in Visual Studio.

    o Improved Workflows: A new set of Visual Studio 2012 workflow project templates let developers access more sophisticated features like custom actions. Workflow Manager Client 1.0 is fully integrated with the model for apps for SharePoint. In addition, workflows execute in the cloud, not in SharePoint, which provides enormous flexibility in designing workflow-based apps for SharePoint.

    o Customized ECM: In SharePoint 2013, developers can use .NET client, Silverlight, Windows Phone, and JavaScript APIs, in addition to the newly expanded set of .NET server managed APIs, to customize Enterprise Content Management (ECM) experiences and behavior.

    o Enhanced BCS: BCS in SharePoint 2013 has been improved and enhanced including OData connectivity, external events, external data in apps, filtering and sorting, support for REST etc.

    o Application services: In Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013, Machine Translation Service (which translates sites, documents, and streams for multilingual support) has been introduced. SharePoint Server 2013 also includes Access Services and a new data access model. SharePoint Server 2013 has Word Automation Services and PowerPoint Automation Services (a new feature for SharePoint) for converting files and streams to other formats. Microsoft SharePoint also provides data analysis tools, like PerformancePoint Services and Visio Services that enable business intelligence, and powerful new features in Excel Services.

Top Business Benefits and Reasons Behind Upgrading to Microsoft SharePoint 2013

As Microsoft SharePoint websites are used to store vital information and processes, it’s extremely important that upgrades to your sites and service are swift and effortless yet preserving the original content and structure of your site. We’ll all agree that everyone either upgrades or move away from the platform.

Hence let’s talk about why businesses are accelerating their upgrades or where (in terms of workload) they are considering an ‘early’ upgrade to Microsoft SharePoint 2013 (from Microsoft SharePoint 2007 / SharePoint 2010). It’s pretty important to understand that why do people upgrade and, it’s worth noting why the IT team have to think about upgrading their technology.

  • Upgrades provide multiple ways to do things in a more efficient way supporting the increasing demand on IT.
  • It’s difficult to maintain old versions of a technology like Microsoft SharePoint. There is a scarcity of resources who have experience or knowledge of Microsoft SharePoint 2003 as
       there were less Microsoft SharePoint experts back then and
       Experienced professionals wanted to work with the latest versions.
  • Often Microsoft SharePoint upgrades provide increased support for standards or newer technologies like 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.
  • Due to excess of options and increasing expectations for technology user experience and ease of use, IT needs to be more responsive and should speed up upgrade cycles internally to indicate they have competitive offerings and usability. This is also needed as leaders within organizations do tend to buy into SAAS.
  • In multi-device environments, there is increased pressure for IT to provide support and options which was not supported or considered earlier in the past.

To understand why people are planning to upgrade to Microsoft SharePoint 2013, here are some of the Business Benefits and Reasons for Microsoft SharePoint 2013 upgrades are listed as under:

  • End User enhancements – better Productivity & User Adoption
    The substantial enhancements done in Microsoft SharePoint 2013 are those that don’t require profound technical understanding to see the value of it. In case of some organizations enhancements like easier drag and drop, simpler sharing of content and general UI improvements may be a strong driver (due to increase in user adoption and productivity) for encouraging a partial upgrade of generalized team sites or content.Beyond these basic end-user enhancements, below is a list of points which can be a strong motivation to upgrade to Microsoft SharePoint 2013 farm.

       Easier sharing and permissions management for websites.

       Cross site collection roll ups and less site collection boundaries.

       Enhanced Task management and instinctive (yet configurable) task rollup and aggregation (across Microsoft SharePoint, Exchange etc.).

       Themes and a more accessible design experience for many developers or end users.

       Embedded and intuitive social capabilities.

  • Improved Search Experience & Engine
    It’s good to see the effort Microsoft has done incorporating FAST and BING capabilities in a way that makes sense. This new search fundamental makes it so much easier to use the out of the box search experience from an end-user perspective. Below is a couple of points (not a complete list) WRT why the new Search is better and 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 yet impactful feature. For recall scenarios, it will have a significant positive impact. Content by search allows a user very easily build the query they want and see the results as they build it.

       Much faster crawl of new or changed content (due to continuous crawling and general performance enhancements) makes sure that results are up to date and relevant.

       Many minor enhancements to the experience such as File Type identifiers on the left of search results, native PDF support on indexing, and a much more developer accessible HTML/JavaScript model of changing how search results display.

  • Other Enhancements & Benefits   Technical benefits typically motivate upgrades only when there is a clear cost benefit. 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.

       It’s much easier to extend comparable to many social enterprise tools. Though there will still be a need for third-party improvements on top of the improved Microsoft SharePoint 2013 model, even without these tools it supplies a fairly complete social experience out of the box. When you add up the new enhancements, the richer feature set and improved capability can stand on its own as a reason to upgrade for some organizations.

       New Document Set features may be important if you are heavily leveraging this feature.

       Organizations looking out for multilingual support 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 site.

  • Enhanced mobile browser experience For some companies this may be a deciding factor to upgrade. For smartphone mobile devices, Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013 Preview provides a lightweight, contemporary view browsing experience for users to navigate and access document libraries, lists, wikis, and Web Parts.   Classic View: This view renders in HTML format, or similar markup languages (CHTML, WML, and so on), and provides backward compatibility for mobile browsers that cannot render in the new contemporary view

       Contemporary view: This view offers an optimized mobile browser experience to users and renders in HTML5. This view is available to Mobile Internet Explorer version 9.0 or later versions for Windows Phone 7.5, Safari version 4.0 or later versions for iPhone 4.0, and the Android browser for Android 4.0.

About risks, well it’s true that there are risks involved 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 Microsoft SharePoint 2007 to Microsoft SharePoint 2013 than it does from Microsoft SharePoint 2010 to Microsoft SharePoint 2013.
  • Integration scenarios and third-party product availability may vary based on the versions of your Microsoft SharePoint implementation.
  • Moving from Microsoft SharePoint 2013 to Office 365 will be pretty easier than moving from other versions of Microsoft SharePoint to Office 365.
  • The amount of content in your organizations is always growing and storage becomes more challenging to coordinate, control, and manage over time. With the new versions of the product and the underlying storage technologies (like SQL), new features enable scalability, performance, and flexibility (thanks to shredded storage).
  • 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.
  • 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.

Microsoft SharePoint 2013 Deployment Strategy

“How to keep our Microsoft SharePoint Development, Test, UAT and Production environments in sync, especially our Microsoft SharePoint Production and UAT as we really need to verify everything is working?” This question can be answered by good SharePoint Governance and a few basic things stated as under:

There are the host of tools to help people out in this regard. One of the options can be Content Deployment paths which are useful at publishing new features and promoting up. It’s important to remember though that content Deployment paths are one way however, they don’t sync backward and forwards. They also don’t do anything about what lies outside of the Site Collection (features to be installed at the Web Application Level, Server changes etc.). You will need to closely manage content deployment and have a sharp eye for setting things up.

Ideally, this is how a corporate SharePoint environment is managed:

  • SharePoint developers, designers, authors, etc. set up their work on their own development servers to perform the assigned work on the same.
  • Once a new feature which they have built is ready for quality control after passing all its unit tests, the person in charge of the feature creates a content deployment job and then deploys the same to the test environment.
  • A test is a kind of “merging” environment where all developers gather from their development SharePoint environments and see how their features work once integrated with each other, and get an idea of how production is going to handle the new feature.
  • At this level, all unit tests must pass now to promote to test environment now and other tests such as load testing and full integration testing are done here.
  • If the quality control team gives it a go ahead, there is a need to double-check whether production and UAT are in sync.
  • It’s a good practice to run a deployment path down from production to UAT before uploading the new code via content deployment path from a test environment. The idea here is to get the UAT environment looking precisely like of production and continue testing the feature on the same.
  • Once “QC OK” on UAT, the feature is then deployed on the production environment. Again, one test cycle is performed on production environment by the Quality Control team (but if all goes well this should be a formality).

This works well at the SharePoint Site Collection level and below, but for features that exist at the farm, web application or whole server levels you will need to think about below procedure of,

  • Develop the code and perform unit tests
  • Quality Control performing rounds of Testing.
  • Refresh the pilot environment from the Production environment
  • Quality Control performing Test on pilot or UAT environment
  • Deployment of code from UAT environment to production environment.

The approach is to standardize the deployment procedure. In order to do the needful, people can have a few options:

  • SharePoint “.WSP” files are portable from an environment to environment and can be deployed in a similar process as a content deployment path. They can also deploy more things such as Farm and Web Application scoped features, Assemblies, etc.
  • In case of installation of a third-party tool (Microsoft SharePoint or otherwise), people will need to consider the use of an automated installer (if possible). At a minimum, people will have to make sure the installation on each environment is thoroughly documented (must!!)
  • In the case of Manual Server Change on the SharePoint servers, again it needs to be documented, especially in the production environment. What is helpful at the production level is a “peer system” one person doing, and another person taking notes of what was done or attempted, then printing up the report.

Another good option to ensure consistency is the Virtual Machine snapshot (it’s a point in time version of a virtual machine) feature. As a best practice, people can take a snapshot before any server change in production.

Are You Ready for Microsoft SharePoint 2013?

Microsoft SharePoint is an incredibly powerful platform that delivers huge benefits to various facets of the business. There is much new and exciting functionality and out of those many, here are some of Microsoft SharePoint 2013 features which will help people to get there.

Business User Benefits

1. Access anywhere anytime – People can access contents through any browser or smartphone and even on iOS devices anytime provided you are connected to the internet. You can also sync content onto a device and work on the same offline and sync back again.

2. Add & Share Content with ease – People can drag and drop contents straight into any browser window and then share a document with your colleagues by simply clicking the Share link.

3. Aggregated Task Management – People can view tasks on project sites and can easily edit them in the browser window. These are then rolled up into the MySite section to show users a combined list of tasks (including personal tasks) that have been added/modified in Microsoft SharePoint and in Exchange 2013.

4. Robust Search – People can search for colleagues, content, videos, and reports, sites and get into the details both via text values and visual refiners to easily find information to reuse. In a preview pane, Users can use Documents preview including drilling down into the detail of the document. Users can also retrieve information easily based on historical search behavior.

5. Effective Content Collaboration with others – People can work on the content concurrently as their colleagues are. This is useful when you are working on meetings notes via OneNote and putting together large documents or presentations where your colleagues are also working on the part of the content they are responsible for. This makes it swifter to combine content.

6. Integration with Exchange Server – People can work with all team based communication from a Microsoft SharePoint site (i.e. from a single location). These emails will be stored in an Exchange mailbox so are also fully functional from within the mail client (i.e. MS Outlook etc.)

7. Expert Advice – People can use Community Sites to enquire their queries/doubts to the specialists and discuss items with peers. People can also search for experts based on items they have been working on as well as information they have entered.

8. The pool of Apps – With the introduction of Apps and the Marketplace in Microsoft SharePoint 2013, the apps for Microsoft SharePoint are an easy way to add functionality to a particular Microsoft SharePoint site (may include applications running outside of Microsoft SharePoint).

This makes it a lot easier to configure a site for a specific purpose without sound technical knowledge.

Portal Governance Benefits

1. Microsoft SharePoint site policies can be used to define suitable actions to occur when a site owner closes a particular site. After closure, that site/s can be archived or other necessary actions can be performed automatically.

2. An Organization can have a Controlled Application Store to control and apply security over which applications can be installed by site owners and includes an interface for requesting and managing licenses. These can be internal applications or applications that are purchased and/or run externally to the organization.

3. Microsoft Office 365 has the similar functionality (in the majority of features) as of on-premise installation. For an Intranet portal, people can choose to run the same on a cloud without loss of functionality or performance (here, the onus is on Microsoft to manage and maintain the Office 365 service). A Cross environment can also be created where Microsoft SharePoint search can be designed to be self-managing to support reporting and rights management and provide an integrated user experience across cloud and on-premise environments.

Top 10 Reasons to Opt For Microsoft SharePoint 2013

It is a fact that, any technology upgrade is always justified on the basis of ROI from a productivity perspective. Keeping that in mind, below are the top reasons jotted to justify why people should upgrade to Microsoft SharePoint 2013 sooner rather than later.

1. Improved Document Management

The new drag-and-drop functionality of SharePoint document libraries in Microsoft SharePoint 2013 is just great as uploading documents in previous versions have always meant a lot of clicking. This is a big change from using the file share where you just drag and drop off your local machine. Though there was “Open in Windows Explorer” option, it was pretty slow.

Again, in Microsoft SharePoint 2013, SkyDrive Pro is a new feature to take your content offline and replace SharePoint Workspace (used to get documents in SharePoint) which often was unpredictable and had document library scalability limitations. The experience of taking your documents offline has also been improved by simply clicking the “Sync” button. This is much more of a “drop box” experience that is being adopted for its ease of use in businesses.

2. Easy Sharing

Ease of sharing files via e-mail attachments or through Sky Drive or Dropbox was one of the critical reasons Microsoft SharePoint doesn’t get adopted as a document management system. In Microsoft SharePoint 2013, a new concept of “Share” has been introduced which really takes the effort out of security management for business users (though needs to be thoughtfully managed to avoid the possible mess), by simply nominating the user or group and what permissions with two clicks. Requesting access to a site now has a lot more traceability too, so if you go back to the site after you have requested access, it will detail who the request is with now.

3. Polished User Interface

Comparing Microsoft SharePoint 2013 with Microsoft SharePoint 2010, people will realize it is a significant change over what is now available. Less is more is the theories being applied in cleaning up certain interface options. Removing some of the options like “Site Actions” and replacing with settings component icon, having the getting started “Modern UI” tiles being front and center – but more importantly removable – getting rid of the useless photo that survived both Microsoft SharePoint 2007 and Microsoft SharePoint 2010 in team site template! It feels like a more polished, “user first” user interface.

5. Enhanced Social Features

We all know that Facebook and Twitter are the pinnacle of social and have been around for a long time, and with the release of Microsoft SharePoint 2013, some of the user experiences have been introduced. The biggest additions are the “@” symbol to look up people to reference in social activity updates, the new communities with badges, and the ability to follow not only people but also documents, sites and tags.

6. Robust Search

People spend most of the time trying to find documents and it’s known to everybody that No matter how good the information architecture is built; information doesn’t always get put in the correct place. SharePoint Search enables people to discover information quickly, and Microsoft SharePoint 2013 enables people to find things much more quickly with quick document previews in the web browser, much better search refiners on the left-hand side, and slight improvements like “view library” and “send”.

7. Improved Managed Metadata

In Microsoft SharePoint 2010, the major addition was certainly the Managed Metadata service to allow people to tag content with the taxonomy of terms. This is a huge area for helping to improve discovery of content by searching and refining by terms. Although the user interface hasn’t changed, there are a number of improvements – such as being able to follow terms from a social perspective. The other addition is the ability to have properties associated with terms, which has been introduced to have navigation driven by term sets.

8. Website Policies

The site policies allow you to send email notifications to business users if their sites were not accessed for a set period of time. This really helps business users who are accountable for sites and need to clean them up over time. This was really a “pester” email, and there was no real reflection of which sites were out of policy. In Microsoft SharePoint 2013, the site policies now trigger SharePoint workflows that can be the custom build and have various configurations for handling inactive sites.

9. Improvements in Web Content Management

Running internet facing sites on Microsoft SharePoint has been around since Microsoft SharePoint 2007, but didn’t really improve in Microsoft SharePoint 2010. Having said that, it is clear that there is a great focus on WCM for Microsoft SharePoint 2013. From a business productivity perspective, this will benefit to internet facing site authors and internal sites (where there is a need for these advanced publishing features). Improvements in embedding the video directly into pages, much shorter URLs, and the ability to have better multi-lingual and multi-device support means that your site i.e. Intranet, Extranet will work much better.

10. Superior Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence continues to evolve in Microsoft SharePoint 2013 with improvements across the board in Excel client, Excel services, PerformancePoint services and Visio services. The in-memory capabilities of Excel client now allow business users to pull data from various sources and build amazing sheets in minutes.

11. Apps and the Marketplace

Apple really opened the door for independent developers to build applications and then to efficiently market, sell, and distribute those applications to a mass market. Microsoft has certainly taken note of the sales model and, with both the release of SharePoint 2013 and the introduction of the Office Store, SharePoint developers can now edge in on the app marketplace action.

Various apps can easily be added to your SharePoint site via Microsoft Office Store to increase productivity. The new app model takes the risk out of customizations from an upgrade perspective and allows for much more flexibility than the sandboxed solution model.

Principal Changes Between Microsoft SharePoint 2010 & 2013

There is no doubt that Microsoft SharePoint 2013 is a new way to collaborate/work together. A lot of new things are introduced with Microsoft SharePoint 2013 and many of these are expected and seem an extension of existing functionality from the older version. In this post we will look at the principal changes done between Microsoft SharePoint 2010 & 2013 in a categorized manner, just to give you a gist about what is depreciated and what is introduced in the new Microsoft SharePoint 2013 version.

Changes Intended Towards Developers

In SharePoint 2013, Microsoft introduced a new Cloud App Model for designing Apps for Microsoft SharePoint. Apps for Microsoft SharePoint are independent pieces of functionality that extend the competency of a Microsoft SharePoint website. You can use HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and protocols like the Open Data protocol (OData – a web protocol that is used to query and update data), and OAuth to communicate with SharePoint using Apps.

Tools – Microsoft SharePoint 2013 has introduced new Tools for App development. Visual Studio 2012 now lets you develop apps for Microsoft SharePoint and apps for Office. In addition, a new web-based tool called “Napa” Office 365 Development Tools were introduced for developing apps.

  • Napa is a new browser-based development environment which allows a user to amend the HTML 5 and JavaScript behind an application and test it within their Microsoft SharePoint site. Although Napa is very limited, it also provides an export option so that the app can be worked on in Visual Studio 2012.
  • Meeting workspace site template has been deprecated Microsoft SharePoint 2013.
  • Web analytics feature of Microsoft SharePoint 2010 has been deprecated from Microsoft SharePoint 2013.

No more Sandbox solutions. Microsoft SharePoint 2013 sandboxed solutions are deprecated.

The visual upgrade feature in Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 is not available in Microsoft SharePoint 2013. It has been replaced with deferred site collection upgrade which is a more comprehensive upgrade process than the visual upgrade. Visual upgrade preserved only the old master pages, CSS files, and HTML files. Deferred site collection upgrade preserves much more, including SPFeature functionality. To achieve the deferred site collection upgrade, major changes in the architecture were required, including the removal of visual upgrade.

Various site templates have been removed to simplify the list of templates that are available when a user creates a new site collection. The below list of site templates will continue to operate in Microsoft SharePoint 2013. But these site templates will be removed completely from the next major release of Microsoft SharePoint and sites that were created by using below listed site templates will not be supported o Document Workspace site template o Personalization Site site template o Meeting Workspace site templates o Group Work site template and Group Work solution o Visio Process Repository site template

Social and Collaboration features

Microsoft in SharePoint 2013 Introduced new Social capabilities for better collaboration in the company. New Features added are,

• Interactive feed – In Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013interactive social feeds are designed to encourage people to share information and to stay connected with people and content. You can see many of the feed features on the Newsfeed page on My Site. Feeds contain collections of threads that represent microblog posts, conversations, status updates, and other notifications.

• Community Site – In Microsoft SharePoint Server / Foundation 2010, you could add a Discussion list to sites to facilitate discussions among members of the site. Microsoft SharePoint Server / Foundation 2013 continue to provide this Discussion list, but also expand on the discussion concept by introducing a new site template named as Community Site. Community Sites offer a forum experience to categorize and cultivate discussions with a broad group of people across organizations in a company. Community Sites promote open communication and information exchange by fostering discussions among users who share their expertise and use the expertise of others who have knowledge in specific areas of interest.

With Community Sites, you organize discussions in categories. Visitors can view the discussions and become members if they want to contribute to those discussions. Moderators manage the community by setting rules, reviewing and addressing inappropriate posts, marking interesting content as featured discussions, and so on. Moderators can also assign gifted badges to specific members to visually indicate that the member is recognized as a specific kind of contributor in the Community Site, such as an expert or a moderator. Each Community Site contains information about the member and content reputation, which members earn when they actively post in discussions, and when their content is liked, replied to, or marked as the best answer.

• Follow people/sites – It is a good feature introduced in Microsoft SharePoint 2013 to stay connected with people and content the user likes. With this feature, a user can follow people, content etc. If you follow people, then the posts and activities of the followed people show up in the user’s newsfeed. A user can also work with Client Object Model and Server Object Model to follow. Users can also follow contents.


Microsoft SharePoint 2013 includes several enhancements, custom content processing with the Content Enrichment web service, and a new framework for presenting search result types. Some of the features added are,

Consolidated Search Results – In Microsoft SharePoint 2013 the two Search Engines “SharePoint Search” and “FAST Search Server for SharePoint” is combined in one Search Engine. About 80% of FAST Search was embedded in the Microsoft SharePoint Search platform, representing the most used features of FAST Search. It also includes the new framework for search result types. It includes many of the capabilities of Microsoft SharePoint 2010 and provides numerous improvements, such as in query processing and targeting of search results. It also helps administrators to configure search in such a way that the users can find relevant information more quickly and easily.

• Rich Results Framework – Microsoft SharePoint 2013 Search includes a new results framework that makes it easy to customize the appearance (i.e. look and feel) of the search results user interface (UI). Now, instead of writing a custom XSLT to change how search results are displayed, you can customize the appearance of important types of results by using display templates and result types.

Enterprise Content Management

Microsoft SharePoint 2013 added some of the best capabilities of an ECM software. The newly added features are,

• Design Manager – If you want your Microsoft SharePoint 2013 site to represent your organization’s brand and not OOTB SharePoint look & Feel you can create a custom design and use Design Manager to achieve that goal. Design Manager is a feature in Microsoft SharePoint 2013 that makes it easier to create a fully customized, pixel-perfect design while using the web-design tools that you’re already familiar with. Design Manager is a publishing feature that is available in publishing sites in both Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013 and Office 365. You can also use Design Manager to brand the public-facing website in Office 365. With Design Manager, you can create a visual design for your website by using whatever web design tool or HTML editor you prefer, using only HTML and CSS, and then upload that design into SharePoint. Design Manager is the central hub and interfaces where you manage all aspects of a custom design.

• Managed Navigation – A well-designed navigation tells your site’s users a lot about the business, products, and services that the website offers. By updating the taxonomy behind the navigation, businesses can drive and keep up with change without having to recreate their site navigation in the process. In Microsoft SharePoint 2013, the managed navigation feature enables you to design site navigation that is driven by managed metadata and create SEO-friendly URLs that are derived from the managed navigation structure. Managed navigation provides an alternative to the traditional SharePoint navigation feature—structured navigation—that is based on the structure of Microsoft SharePoint. Because managed navigation is driven by taxonomy, you can use it to design site navigation around important business concepts without changing the structure of your sites or site components.

• Cross-site Publishing – Cross-site publishing is the tool that enables you to write content in one place and surface it in other places through search. You’ll be able to generate sites in some new and exciting ways. And for the first time, Cross-site publishing breaks down the site collection barrier—content can be shared across site collections, web apps, and farms.

• EDiscovery – eDiscovery is how records managers and litigators discover content in electronic format. Typically, eDiscovery requires searching for documents, websites, and email messages spread across laptops, email servers, file servers, and other sources, and collecting and acting on content that meets the criteria for a legal case.

eDiscovery uses search service applications (SSAs) to crawl SharePoint farms. You can configure SSAs in many ways, but the most common way is to have a central search services farm that crawls multiple SharePoint farms. You can use this one search service to crawl all SharePoint content, or you can use it to crawl specific regions—for example, all SharePoint content in Europe. To crawl a SharePoint farm, search first uses a service application proxy to connect to it. The eDiscovery Center uses the proxy connection to send preservations to SharePoint sites in other SharePoint farms.

No Licensing for SharePoint for Internet Sites

For someone estimating their SharePoint license costs for a new farm, this is a big deal. In Microsoft SharePoint 2010 companies were required to purchase an Internet-facing license if your solution would be accessible by an anonymous user (typically for a website) or by large numbers of external but authenticated users (for a portal).

How do they define an external user? For this licensing change, this is the big question. It is probably easier to define what they consider an internal user and you can induce an external user as anything outside of that definition. Internal users are a company’s employees or its affiliates and any onsite contractors or onsite agents. All other users are considered external users and do not need licensing.

No separate licensing for Enterprise and Standard

Besides making licensing simpler, this move adds some serious horsepower to your SharePoint Portal. There are three big gains with the new enterprise functionality:

• FAST Search capabilities: This is now part of a standard Microsoft SharePoint installation. So not only is it now free, it’s a lot easier to deploy and configure. Besides greatly increasing the search center capabilities, site designers can efficiently use dynamic page templates to build very large and more personalized websites and portals.

• Hosting multiple domains on one farm: In an earlier version of Microsoft SharePoint, licensing multiple websites on one farm was a big investment which alarmed away a lot of prospective users, now this capability is included with every SharePoint deployment.

Business Intelligence/Dashboard Features: This gives you the ability to add Performance Point, Excel Services, Visio Service and now Power View to your portal. We are expecting to see powerful BI dashboards to be much more common as more companies start to experiment with these capabilities.

Drag and Drop Feature Added to SharePoint 2013

One of the new features added to in SharePoint 2013 is the ability to drag and drop files directly to document libraries from the browser. This allows users to drag one or more files from their system drop it onto the browser and files will be uploaded to the document library.  This feature works not only in IE but in Firefox and Google Chrome as well.

Below are screenshots of how the drag and drop feature works in Sharepoint 2013.

Drag and Drop Sharepoint 2013

Drag and Drop Feature

Life Made Easier – SharePoint Property Promotion & Demotion

A well-known concept about SharePoint is property promotion & demotion. Quite simply put, property promotion refers to a document’s property being sent to the document library in which it resides and demotion is just the opposite.

While this may sound trivial, it has some deep founding implications. Say that you’re making a sales proposal. Most of us have proposal templates from which we start. Perhaps the first thing we do is search & replace the client name. Now suppose that the client name was automatically replaced for us – wouldn’t that be a treat? Let’s see what this looks like in action and where it becomes possible for this to work and where it won’t.

For the purpose of illustration, I have created a custom list in SharePoint called “Customers” – this will hold the customer details for me. A document library called “Proposals” has been created which has a custom field of the type “Lookup”; pointing to the “Customers” list.

The “Customers” list is shown in the picture below. This list has two columns – “Customer Name” refers to the parent company and “Contact Name” refers to a contact person within that company.


The settings screen for the proposed library is shown below. The proposals library has a lookup column called “Customer” which points to the “Customers” list. The contact name is also present here as an included column.


That is all there is to set up this procedure. At this point, let’s click the “New Document” link of the Proposals library – this will open a new word document.



Now we will insert a new document property (as shown in the screen below). As can be seen, the “Customer” property declared on the document library is now present as a document property.


Upon inserting this property in the document, a smart tag is inserted into the document, which is attached to the live data in the SharePoint customers list.


Select “IOTAP” from the list and save the document in the document library. The document appears in the library as shown below.


Now edit the document property via the SharePoint property editor and set the Customer property to “Al-Ansari Construction Division”. Then open the document in Microsoft Word.


As you can see, the property has now changed to what it was set on the server.

That, in a nutshell, is the concept of property promotion & demotion. While the functionality is great, it is not without caveats! For example, the contact name property defined on the document library didn’t make it through. Using document properties in itself is a great way to manage document meta-data but when these properties are bound to a SharePoint document library in a duplex mode, it takes the managed meta-data to a whole different level.

Collaboration Improves Sales Productivity with Sharepoint and MS CRM Integration

  • Do your sales and customer service teams have produced documents to help them answer customer questions at their fingertips?
  • Can engineering share up-to-date specifications with the sales team easily?
  • Can your proposal contributors find the account and project information they need without tracking down the sales rep?

The combined power of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 and SharePoint 2010 bridge the gap between customer interactions and company content. Through both native integration and enhanced support for customized integrations, we have a whole new set of possibilities to seamlessly link your customer-facing team with product, delivery and support teams.

A clear benefit to this enhanced integration will be significant license cost savings for employees that don’t need full access to the CRM system.  In addition to cost savings, the business benefits can be profound.

Business benefits from enhanced integration :

Over the coming weeks, we will dig deeper into the specific uses and benefits of the CRM 2011/SharePoint 2010 integration, but a short list of highlights includes:

  • Document collaboration – Out of the box, CRM 2011 allows SharePoint document libraries to be associated with CRM records. CRM and non-CRM users will be able to collaborate more efficiently with documents accessed through either application.
  • Expose CRM data in SharePoint –CRM data can now be made available through SharePoint sites, allowing portal users to access CRM information without a CRM user license.
  • Display CRM reports in Sharepoint – Complex business reports of CRM data can be created with SQL reporting services and delivered to a targeted audience through SharePoint.
  • Dashboards and KPIs – Meaningful dashboards and KPIs that provide managers with better information to base their decisions can be displayed in SharePoint reporting data from CRM.

As a Microsoft Gold Certified partner specializing in customer relationship management, portals and collaboration, we thoroughly understand how each platform can be used to maximize value to your organization.  Call IOTAP when you are looking for an innovative solution to your unique business requirements.

Top Ten Reasons for Upgrading to SharePoint 2010

Sharepoint has turned 10 years old and it has gone through an incredible evolution from a document management portal to a platform for collaboration and content management. With every new release, there has been an increase in core platform features and movement towards a solution that captures the collaboration needs for organizations of all sizes. So we compiled top 10 reasons for an upgrade and move to Sharepoint 2010.

1. Improved User Experience

User experience in Sharepoint 2010 is vastly improved from that of its predecessor. Sharepoint 2010 UI is much smoother and richer with features like

  • Multi-browser support
  • Office Ribbon
  • Popup windows
  • Ajax support
  • Silverlight support
  • Wiki Style page editing
  • Multiple item select

End users will find Sharepoint 2010 intuitive and easy to work with as it has the familiar office ribbon interface and allows performing tasks without having to visit multiple pages.

2. Improved Document Management Features

Sharepoint 2010 has several new document management features that make document storing, classification and retrieval a simpler affair. Some of the features are

  • Document ID  – Permanent link to documents
  • Document sets for grouping related documents
  • Content Organizer for routing documents
  • Enterprise-wide content types and taxonomies

The new document management features of Sharepoint 2010 will allow organizations to easily structure their content and apply consistent classification.

3. Business Connectivity Services (BCS)

BCS is much more advanced than the Business Data Catalog available in Sharepoint 2007. BCS enables easy integration of Sharepoint content with the line of business data from sources such as CRM, ERP. BCS provides support for Create, Read, Update, Delete and Query external data from within the Sharepoint interface.

With BCS Sharepoint power users, developers and administrators can easily integrate assets from several different sources and build scalable business applications around them.

4. Service Application model

In Sharepoint 2010, Service Application model replaces the complex Shared Service Providers (SSP) model.  The Service Application model a web application to be attached to more than one Service applications and each service application can have its own database.

The Service Application model significantly reduces the management burden from Sharepoint Administrators and also paves way for a scalable and flexible deployment scenario.

5. Sharepoint Designer 2010

Sharepoint Designer 2010 is an integral part of Sharepoint 2010 applications. The focus of Sharepoint designer has changed from page editor to complete application builder. Sharepoint Designer 2010 now has the familiar office ribbon interface and provides tools for working with lists, libraries, external content, and workflows.

Sharepoint Designer 2010 allows business users to rapidly build solutions on top of Sharepoint without having to write code.

6. Improved Search

Search has been one of the most used features in Sharepoint. Search functionality in Sharepoint 2010 is greatly improved with features such as

  • Phonetic Search
  • Boolean Search
  • Wildcards
  • Refinement Panel – Easily filter results
  • Suggestions
  • Federated Search – Search content from other sources

The improved search features in Sharepoint 2010 provides a mechanism for users to easily find the information they are looking for.

7. Social Features

Sharepoint 2010 now brings in the host of social features to the collaboration platform. The social features of Sharepoint 2010 cover the 3 core scenarios

Social Networking: Ability to connecting and communicating with other members

  • Activity Feeds
  • Organization Browser
  • Ask Me About

Social Content:  Ability sharing ideas and knowledge with other members

  • Improved Blog template
  • Improved Wiki template

Social feedback: Ability to provide feedback on the content

  • Tagging
  • Note board
  • Rating

The new and improved social features of Sharepoint 2010 enable users to collaborate and communicate in an open and efficient way.

8. Improved Admin capabilities

Sharepoint 2010 provides several new tools that allow monitoring and troubleshooting Sharepoint environments. These tools include

  • Health Analyzer – Monitor performance, security and configuration issues
  • Usage Report and Logging
  • Sandbox Solutions  – Deploy custom solutions without affecting the entire server
  • Request Throttling – Prioritize HTTP requests
  • Full PowerShell support – Easily create scripts for common administrative tasks

The new administrative features of Sharepoint 2010 is bound to make Sharepoint administrators life easier by providing easy to tools for managing and monitoring a Sharepoint environment.

9. Better Developer Tools

Sharepoint 2010 provides developers with full development, testing and application lifecycle support.  The new developer-focused features include

Visual Studio 2010 is tightly integrated with Sharepoint 2010 and provides full support for Sharepoint 2010 development, deployment and debugging.

Developer Dashboard feature allows developers to track the performance of pages and web parts.

The new developer features in Sharepoint 2010 will make developers more productive and help them develop Sharepoint applications in a lesser time span.

10. Improved Business Intelligence Features

Sharepoint 2010 includes new Business Intelligence tools for analyzing business data and taking effective decisions. Some of the new tools that improve the BI capabilities in Sharepoint 2010 are

  • Performance Point Services – For creating dashboards, scorecards and KPIs
  • Visio Services – Share and view Visio diagrams within Sharepoint
  • Chart Web Parts – Create rich charts out of Sharepoint or external data

The Business Intelligence tools in Sharepoint 2010 allows business decision makers to make well-informed decisions by giving them an ability to aggregate data from the variety of sources and view them in several formats.

Sharepoint 2010 definitely provides strong reasons for upgrading. Even if 5 out of the 10 reasons mentioned above makes sense to your business then you can start thinking for an upgrade to Sharepoint 2010. As the upgrade process is not straightforward and several points have to be considered before an upgrade.  Microsoft Sharepoint partners provide Upgrade services to simplify and guide you through entire upgrade process from identifying the requirement to post-upgrade support.

To know more about more about IOTAP’s Sharepoint 2010 upgrade services