Top SharePoint trends to watch in 2012

At the beginning of a new year it is common to make assumptions and plans, so what can companies that are using SharePoint expect this year? At the end of 2011 the hottest topics were social networking, cloud and governance, and all seem to present various challenges over the next year, along with the way we prepare for the next generation of SharePoint.
Here’s the way these trends could develop:

Social communications
Social communications will become more prevalent on premises, but will not be universally used. Pilot adoptions, rather than enterprise adoptions, are likely to be the norm; however, many of these tests will lack the numbers of initial users to achieve the “network effect” of self-sustaining social collaboration.
Although SharePoint 2010 has improved social networking, it lacks the maturity of Twitter and Facebook. Some organizations will accept SharePoint social tools as an ingredient of enterprise collaboration, but they’re likely to avoid jumping in with both feet, in part due to the lack of governance-aware tools. Third party ISVs will play a crucial role in extending social functions and governance.
More sophisticated social techniques will not be well adopted in the cloud. As users participate in an increasing number of venues like Twitter, Facebook, on-premises SharePoint and multiple cloud-based document stores, the challenge of following too many social streams will tax interface integration, individual patience, or both.

SharePoint provides tremendous capability for each individual to add content to a broad range of sites and channels. As this trend continues, the demand for users to adopt Personal Content to aggregate and classify their own information will only increase. Extremely large SharePoint sites can start to feel anonymous, and a personal voice is needed to avoid feeling lost.

Cloud adoption
Cloud adoption will accelerate due to the escalated discussion about cloud-based solutions generated by Microsoft’s reintroduction of SharePoint Online as core element of Office 365. We’ll see more cloud adoption in both Office 365 and such third party hosting providers as Rackspace and FPWeb. However, wholesale migrations of mature SharePoint 2010 environments will not be the principal use case, partly due to restrictions on custom coded solutions and functions.

Instead, Office 365 implementations will be greatly used in Microsoft-oriented organizations with little on-premises SharePoint history, most likely for content migration from non-SharePoint sources (legacy ECM or file system); proofs-of-concept and pilots. Office 365 also will find favor as a platform for document collaboration with external partners, clients and third parties.

Security and authentication skills will become more important for SharePoint technical resources. The rise in client extranets and hybrid cloud deployments will require them to support parallel or federated authentication beyond the traditional “Active Directory with LDAP for outside users” model found in on-premises datacenter deployments, and the ability to integrate security systems outside of one’s immediate control will be a valuable commodity.

Governance is a hot topic in SharePoint these days. New adopters may wonder what all the fuss is about. But as SharePoint continues to see double digit growth year after year, all those new users surging onto the platform will require care, channeling, guidance and oversight.

Governance can take many different forms; but at its most elemental level, governance is really guidance. It not only keeps things on track, but is an essential response to widespread adoption, and a necessary component for fostering sustained growth and usage. Governance is not management–it’s the answer to the questions about how and why SharePoint is managed.

Over the next year, we’ll see forward-thinking end customers requiring application developers to create applications that integrate prebuilt solutions to improve manageability, governance and portability, all of which can pose challenges with custom solutions. We’ll see the greatest challenges for governance coming from the newest functions in SharePoint: business intelligence, social networking and taxonomies.

The next wave of SharePoint
As we prepare for the next SharePoint upgrade, expect more organizations to consider SharePoint consolidation. SharePoint 2010 has proven it can handle extremely large content pools. So, beyond the first wave of SharePoint 2010 rollouts, enterprises will look to aggregate legacy ECM platforms and divisional SharePoint “islands” into a unified application. Terabytes of data can be handled by SharePoint now, and users continue to want to move away from both big iron ECM platforms with high support costs, and “open” platforms like Jive with limited scalability and compliance capabilities. SharePoint provides a better cost of ownership, as well as a clear roadmap for scalable capacity.

SQL Server 2012 (“Denali”) will only be important for enterprises that already have used SharePoint business intelligence tools; most will likely wait until SharePoint “15” to take advantage of the enhancements to data and report-based alerts, self-service business intelligence and Power Pivot.

As organizations develop SharePoint’s “second wave” functions (project management, workflow, business intelligence, etc.), SharePoint practitioners will need the skills to translate user requirements beyond IT. Most current SharePoint implementations are IT-centric. But SharePoint’s “second wave” functions will tap into more business-driven projects, which means success will require the ability to translate the needs of CFOs, CMOs and PMOs.

Finally, as Microsoft slowly leaks information over the course of the year, we will begin learning what vNext really has in store, although we’ll probably have to wait until the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas next November for full details.

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