It’s (getting) complicated

??????????????????????Sam Marshall shared my recent post in the SharePoint for Internal Communicators group on LinkedIn and asked some very good questions with it.

I have turned my reply into a blog post, because these questions had been swirling around in my head as well for some time. And because it is quite long. 🙂

These are his questions:
“Is anyone still getting by with SharePoint 2003 out there? Or is SharePoint 2007 still good enough for your needs? Should we feel compelled to keep upgrading?”

This is my answer to his first 2 questions:
Yes, SP2007 was good enough for the majority of end users.  Even stronger, I think SP2003 already had sufficient functionality for most users. Most of my Business Examples have been created with SP2003, to the full satisfaction of all involved. They have saved the company I worked for millions of dollars, so it was not that bad.

Of course, very useful new functionality has been introduced in the mean time, such as

  • The Recycle Bin. Frankly, I can not imagine how we have ever done without it. It has saved a back-up and restore so many times!
  • Alerts for items in a filtered view. This allows you to have more fine-grained Alerts without having to create a separate document library.
  • The more user-friendly ways to add pictures and text to a page. Uploading from PC onto page while the picture is added to a library at the same time is so much more intuitive than resizing, uploading, grabbing link and pasting that into a box and hoping that it will turn our right.
  • Content Types, especially the “Link to Document” in a Document Library.
  • The ability to add an extra column from your picklist when using a Lookup column.
From SP2010, you can show a second column of your lookup list. I like this because it can just give you that extra bit of information. In thsi example, I could pick "Customer number" and add "City".
From SP2010, you can show a second column of your lookup list. I like this because it can just give you that extra bit of information. In this example, I could pick “Location code” and add “City”.

There has also been some “progress” I do not like as well, but that may be another post.  🙂

PowerBI, Search-driven Navigation, and seamless integration with other business systems are great for the 10% of “intranet managers”, global and functional top management and some specific power users. But I find that many of my of  end users struggle with the overwhelming amount of functionality and I wonder if they need more. The average product manager, buyer, technologist or office manager would be able to work pretty well with only SP2003 + Recycle Bin.

To be honest, I am really afraid to show my users SP2013. I think this will confuse them no end, and not only because “ View site content”  is now called “Site Contents” and is on the bottom of the menu, or because the Recycle Bin is now top right of your Site Contents page. It is starting to get really complex, and it feels as if SharePoint is turning into a developers tool to keep the Gold Partners in work, more than an end-user tool. Please, Microsoft, remember that my end users have their own talent and expertise, and they are not and will never be SharePoint Experts. They should not need to be SharePoint experts to work efficiently with the platform.

Site Contents and Recycle Bin changes.
Changes to Site Contents and Recycle Bin may look small, but are a major change for inexperienced users.

Now this is functionality that I would like to have: 
What if every collaboration site would be created in a “basic” version? Only when the users need specific functionality and they feel comfortable with that, you switch to the “advanced” mode, with options for content types, document sets, information life cycle management, fine-grained permissions and all those other cool things that most people do not use every day. That way users can focus on learning the basics first.
Counting the frequency of both modes in your SharePoint landscape would give you an idea of how SharePoint-savvy your organization is. Hmmm…let me work on that before I present it to Microsoft. 🙂

This is my answer to Sam’s 3rd question:
I can only answer that with another question. Why do we migrate to a new version? Is it because

  • the business needs the new functionality
  • the platform gets old and starts behaving unpredictable
  • the company has an “always latest version” policy
  • the technology becomes outdated in connection to other systems
  • the SharePoint version runs out of support

I suspect it is one of the latter reasons rather than the first. And that means the new functionality is a by-product. Sad, huh?

Do you agree? Do you have evidence? Please let me know!
I have also posted this question in a few LinkedIn groups.

Image courtesy of Rigi on Morguefile.


4 thoughts on “It’s (getting) complicated

  1. SamMarshall September 10, 2014 / 7:25 pm

    Hi Ellen,
    How nice to have a whole blog post in reply 🙂 I’m inclined to agree with your analysis (well, you could take me back to SharePoint 2007, not so sure about 2003!) when it comes to ‘new features people actually use’.

    I’d add a few more compelling reasons though:
    * My Sites/Profiles, became much more functional in 2010 and were on their way to becoming good in 2013 until the Yammer acquisition nixed development of Newsfeeds
    * video support
    * Search and metadata management – very powerful in 2013 and they do actually enhance life for all users (managed properly).

    On top if this there are 101 little tweaks, like better pasting from Word into the text editor, that make SharePoint easier to live with.

    That said, I’m not convinced any of the these actually trigger upgrades. It feels to me more like they contribute to an overall ‘case for upgrading’ that usually has a strong IT-requirement element.

    I’d probably argue the same about Word 2003 vs 2013!

    • Ellen van Aken September 17, 2014 / 9:58 am

      Thanks, Sam! I had forgotten Search improvements. Having a small Office365 setup for myself means I do not search very often – I remember the few things I have. 🙂 But indeed Search in 2013 is miles better and could warrant a migration by itself. Of course each new version brings new and improved functionalities, but my point was that SP2003 could do many things and was relatively easy for the average end user. SharePoint 2013 does more things and better, but will be less easy for the average user. The average office worker learns SharePoint skills at a much slower rate than you and me, who do this for a living, or than our IT-management, who will recognize the benefits when they see the new specs. And the Microsoft developers are miles ahead of us all. I sometimes think they have forgotten that “non-techies” have to work with their products.

  2. Christophe September 12, 2014 / 10:51 pm

    A big chunk that is missing in your assessment is external connectivity and compatibility with desktop applications.
    If I could get back to my old SP2003 sites, I would definitely want to assess:
    – the behavior in modern browsers like IE10 (I wouldn’t even bother to try Chrome)
    – synchronization with desktop applications, in particular Outlook 2010 or 2013

    Connectivity with external data sources is also much easier in 2010/2013, bye bye inconsistencies due to data duplication.


    • Ellen van Aken September 17, 2014 / 10:07 am

      Thank you, Christophe! I would like to have the simple SP2003 end user functionality combined with the platform improvements of SP2013. With every new version, there are many improvements, but these improvements are often improvements for IT (security, connectivity) and some highly skilled people (PowerBI) – not always necessary for the average end user. My point was that migration to a new version always means changes to end user functionalities, whether they are welcome or needed or not.
      Of course there is no way that I would want to go back to the “real” SP2003 with all its browser incompatibility and lack of mobile access etc.
      By the way, we had good external collaboration in SP2003 teamsites, but of course nothing compared to what you can have now.

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