Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Top 18 Enhancements Our Students Are Hoping For in SharePoint 2013

by Jeff Cate
We’ve been teaching SharePoint 2010 training classes each month around the U.S. for about two and a half years now. Our instructors have become pretty used to hearing from students the same “ugh, why doesn’t SharePoint do that?” or “If it just did this one thing it would open the door to solve so many more business problems!” We hear this list over and over again, class after class – probably from over a 1,000 people total.

Since Microsoft released the SharePoint 2013 Preview software to the marketplace last week, right now seems like a great time to surface our students' wish list. (Note: we weren’t invited to participate in any of the private betas of SharePoint 2013, so if anyone from Microsoft reads this list, it will be for the first time.)

So, here are the top 18 enhancements our students are hoping for in SharePoint 2013 - straight from their own mouths:

  1. SharePoint Designer Workflow enhancement #1 - the ability in the workflow conditions and actions to use List data that exists in sites other than the current site. Many organizations store various “master” Lists in a centralized SharePoint site but need to use values from those Lists in a workflow that runs in another site. This is not currently possible to do with SharePoint Designer workflows, but if added, it could make a huge difference in the solutions that could be developed by power users.
  2. SharePoint Designer Workflow enhancement #2 - provide a permissions mechanism so that end users can use SharePoint Designer to create custom workflows, but not use it for anything else. This would hopefully encourage IT departments to allow end users to install and use SharePoint Designer. If this can’t be done, then provide something like the SharePoint Designer Workflow Design Wizard directly within the out-of-the-box SharePoint application pages.
  3. SharePoint Designer Workflow enhancement #3 – a Loop Activity
  4. SharePoint Designer Workflow enhancement #4 – the ability to schedule workflows to run at a certain time.
  5. Access Services enhancement - the ability to use Linked Tables with databases that are published to SharePoint using Access Services. The number of departmental Access database applications in corporations around the world is staggering when I listen to students. They would love to be able to migrate those applications to Access Services, but the big stumbling block is that the vast majority of those applications use the Linked Tables feature of Access to pull in business data from various corporate databases. Usually, this is master type of data that is pulled in. Typically, the Access application does not write back to the corporate master data – it just needs the latest values from the corporate master data, for instance the customer list.
  6. InfoPath and Forms Services enhancement - the ability to use the Managed Metadata field type on a form.
  7. Forms Services enhancement - include Forms Services in SharePoint Server Standard licenses instead of only in SharePoint Server Enterprise. See the blog post I recently wrote about why I feel this is important.
  8. SharePoint Designer Business Connectivity Services enhancement - provide more out-of-the box connection types than just SQL Server, WCF, and .NET Assembly. How about Oracle and Access connections, for example? We are used to longer lists of possibilities when we use technologies like ODBC and OLEDB to connect to data sources. Why can’t the list be longer in the SharePoint Designer BCS wizard?
  9. SharePoint Lists enhancement #1 - the ability to enable Social Tagging for Enterprise Keywords just like you can for a Document Library.
  10. SharePoint Lists enhancement #2 - the ability to edit the Managed Metadata column data using Datasheet view – including the fill down and fill up feature.
  11. My Newsfeed enhancement #1 - the ability to have in-line replies to news items.
  12. My Newsfeed enhancement #2 - the ability for SharePoint Administrators to specify RSS feeds (either from SharePoint Lists\Libraries or external RSS feeds) that will be aggregated in the activity stream that users see. Also, the ability for individual users to aggregate other RSS feeds to their own activity stream.
  13. Content rollup enhancement - A content rollup type of web part whose columns can be easily specified by an end user and also can easily be filtered, sorted and styled by end-users. This would replace the existing Content by Query web part that is so difficult to configure by anyone other than a web developer.
  14. Managed Metadata Service enhancement - the ability to configure synchronization of selected Term Sets and Terms with values that come from other systems via Business Connectivity Services. Most companies have the vast majority of their “master” data in line-of-business systems such as CRM or ERP. The BCS is a great tool for bringing that data into SharePoint so that it can be used in Lists, but in the 2010 version it cannot be used as a source for Managed Metadata Terms. This means that the data has to be duplicated by hand if you want to use it as Managed Metadata.
  15. Records Management enhancement - allow a farm-level setting that specifies whether a declaration of an official record can be undeclared or not. My experience is that many professional records managers cringe at the thought of the capability to undeclare a document that has previously been declared as an official record. So, why not allow it to be turned on or off globally at the farm level per a company’s overall records management policy?
  16. Windows and SharePoint integration enhancement - the ability to redirect (or automatically synchronize) My Documents on the local computer with a document library in the person’s My Site. It has been possible for a long time to redirect the location of My Documents on a computer to a share on a network drive. Many organizations set their Group Policy up this way. It would accomplish the same thing and be much more convenient for the end user if this was done with SharePoint rather than a network file share.
  17. SharePoint Workspace enhancement - a document library browse pane that is much more functional. The SharePoint Workspace 2010 browse pane does not allow sorting or filtering by column header controls or many of the other ease-of-use features that users have become used to in Windows Explorer and SharePoint Library Views.
  18. Office Web Apps enhancement – allow users to author new documents using the Office Web Apps.

I wonder how many of these frequently requested enhancements have been baked into SharePoint 2013? If you have links to blog posts or Microsoft documentation that answers any of these questions, I would love to have you point us to them using the comments section below.

Also, if there are some key features on YOUR list that I don’t have on ours, feel free to put those in the comments below. I would love to know about them for my own education if for nothing else!