The Wave15 SharePoint Adoption Lifecycle

There are tremors being felt across Redmond, Washington.

As we prepare this year for major releases from the Microsoft Windows, Office, and SharePoint teams, waves of partners, customers, and employees from the various regions are beginning to converge on Redmond to learn more on what is coming. It’s a fairly exciting time to be on campus, even as a non-employee.

Sorry, nothing to share as far as deep product insights about vNext here. As a perennial "marketing guy surrounded by engineers" who works for a Gold ISV partner and is now a SharePoint Server MVP, you’d expect some details on what is coming. Unfortunately, I am tightly bound by NDA to keep my mouth shut on what I do know. What I offer here is some perspective on how to approach this upcoming version.

My advice is fairly high-level: Keep a cool head, and focus on what you need to manage and grow your business. There is so much wrapped up into that one statement, and yet it is the best advice I can give. Everyone wants to be on the cutting edge of new technology. It’s where all the hip kids play. But from a practical standpoint, the costs of being on the edge are high — both in financial impact to your bottom line, and in potential productivity hits to your employees. Many companies run towards the new, shiny features with glee, only to quickly find themselves bogged down in the reality of upgrades, migrations, and re-mapping of architecture to fit the "new model." This is not a SharePoint thing – it’s true for all enterprise applications.

When is it the right time to begin thinking about vNext, you ask? Good question. Depends largely on your business need (is the current platform just not providing the capabilities you require?), resource availability (do you even have the people to make the move?), and a clear picture of what needs to happen (what are you actually trying to accomplish?).

So, in my post that doesn’t shed any light on new features, and which is in no way a reflection on what is coming, I thought I’d share some sound planning advice on when to consider moving to vNext. In all cases, do your homework. I am a HUGE advocate for building out your business case and understanding the business value of the bleeding edge.

  1. You’re on MOSS2007 and looking to leapfrog versions, build for the long-term.
    In all likelihood, its going to be a major shift between these versions. Honestly, the SharePoint maturity of an organization that has remained on the 2007 platform for so long may find it difficult to make the shift to 2015 (not sure that’s what it’ll be called, but referring to the Wave15 releases of Windows, Office, and SharePoint). It’s not just technology you’re swapping out, but fundamental differences in how people interact with the platform. Your organization may benefit from a graduated plan, moving to 2010 first and considering a later entrance into 2015. Then again, this leap could be a differentiator, and a rapid way to plug your organization into new tools and processes. Just be sure to have a plan, as mainstream support ends October 9th, 2012 for MOSS and April 10th, 2012 for WSS 3.0.
  2. You’re still on SPS2003 (or 2001, gasp!) and looking to catch up….with a vengeance.
    If you’re still holding onto 2003, my advice above applies even more. I think you need to baby step it, and consider moving from 2003 to 2010 before even considering 2015. Thankfully there are tools that can help you do this with minimal risk. Oh, by the way, mainstream support ended January 13th, 2009, and extended support ends January 14th 2014.
  3. You are stretching the boundaries of what SP2010 can do.
    Be careful with this one — don’t get sold on the marketing buzz of the next new thing until you fully understand the impacts of moving. While Microsoft does a fairly good job of mapping out the good, better, best between versions and doing some mapping between platforms (in fact, they have a doc called Good, Better, Best that maps key features between versions), you may be trading in your old problems (and platform limitations) for a whole new set of problems (and platform limitations).

Wow. Reading this back, I sound like such a downer. I’m basically telling people "don’t upgrade." But not really. Just be smart about it. I run into far too many folks — even so-called SharePoint experts — who learned the hard way that SharePoint is much better consumed after going through a detailed planning and analysis phase. The more you can front-load your effort, the better, since the longer it takes to solve a problem, the higher the costs.

Now, completely ignore all of this and go crazy. Some of us want to learn from your mistakes 🙂

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.