Microsoft SharePoint upgrades are on the minds of at least some technology executives, as can be seen from my discussion with Hans Keller, senior director of IT operations for Erickson Living. The 11,000-employee company, which manages 19 retirement communities, uses SharePoint 2003 for its intranet, is running a few test instances of SharePoint 2007 and plans to move to SharePoint 2010 to use it as the primary interface into its business intelligence reporting engine.
The goal, Keller told me, is to make SharePoint the first place employees go at the beginning of their work day. He said:
When we roll out Exchange 2010 later this year and have the advanced features of OWA (Outlook Web Access) embedded into SharePoint, hopefully you'll be able to go to the multi-tabbed intranet where you might see Outlook and all of that related information on one tab, then all of your Web applications and Citrix-provisioned applications on another tab, and all of the reports and analytics you need in another tab. I think all of the toolsets are mature enough, and interact together enough, that it will work.
Yet many tech execs will adopt a wait-and-see attitude toward the forthcoming SharePoint 2010 release, expected in the first half of this year. A CIO.com article quotes Scott Gode, VP of product management at Azaleos, a service provider that helps companies deploy and manage SharePoint and Exchange environments, who says many CIOs will wait at least six months after the product becomes generally available or until service pack 1 is released. (Based on my experience, this time frame is pretty common for Microsoft products.) The requirement for 64-bit hardware will hold at least some CIOs back, says Gode.
In the article, Gode offers several tips for companies considering SharePoint 2010.
Tip No. 1: Monitoring matters. Because SharePoint is used frequently by multiple users, many of whom probably add data, IT must monitor the health of applications, the size of databases and how quickly search is running. IT departments using virtualization should also check the status of virtual machines. Without enough administrative attention, it can become difficult for users to find the information they need, Gode says.
Keller told me governance was a challenge with SharePoint. In a post titled "SharePoint pros and cons," I cited Gartner analyst Mark Gilbert, author of a 2008 report titled "Can the CIO Survive Microsoft SharePoint?" who recommends creating a "SharePoint site request form" to address compliance and governance questions and reduce rogue content creation and sprawl.
Tip No. 2: Test sooner rather than later. Gode encourages companies to test SharePoint applications now for compatibility rather than waiting for the product's release. (Again, this seems like generally good advice for Microsoft releases.)
Tip No. 3: To get the right configuration, know what you want. When companies consult with Azaleos, they often haven't determined exact uses for SharePoint, which can lead to overly complex implementations or functionality gaps. Though knowing why you want to implement SharePoint seems like an obvious point, at least some organizations seem to omit this step. In a post from August, I shared remarks from T4G Limited consultant Fred Yeomans, who mentions "conversations with potential clients who come to me saying, 'Help us implement SharePoint' when they cannot clearly articulate why they want to implement it."
Figuring out how they want to use SharePoint will help companies create the appropriate support architecture. Among basic questions that need to be answered, says Gode: How many application servers and how many back-end database servers are needed? Should you use virtualization with SharePoint? Do you have a backup and recovery plan? How much availability is required for SharePoint data?