With Service Pack 1 for SharePoint 2013 just released from Microsoft, what does this mean for businesses who currently use SharePoint or are thinking about an upgrade?

As part of Microsoft’s model of deploying updates to SharePoint Online (Office 365) on a regular basis, new functionality is more of an evolutionary process for SharePoint 2013 if you are online.

For those on premises users, the situation is very different. A service pack is a key milestone which combines a large number of both bug fixes, functional enhancements, and brand new functionality.

What makes this service pack special is that it’s the first for SharePoint 2013. This for many organisations is a catalyst to taking a new product version seriously as a service pack tends to imply a reasonable level of maturity where the initial batch of bugs have been resolved.

With this in mind, there are two key target opportunities we can deduce from the launch of Service Pack 1 for SharePoint 2013:

  • Existing SharePoint 2013 On Premises customers can upgrade and take advantage of bug fixes, performance improvements, and new functionality
  • New or those customers with previous versions of SharePoint may see this milestone as an opportune time to consider moving to SharePoint 2013.

What now?

Existing SharePoint 2013 deployment

First let’s take a look at existing customers who have already deployed SharePoint 2013 On Premises.

Resolution of issues

There are a number of bug fixes within Service Pack 1. Before you eagerly deploy this update you really should be doing this on a non-production environment. Whilst you will likely benefit from some of the bug fixes, you need to not only make sure there are no regressive or new issues introduced, but that any fixes do not break any previous work arounds you have implemented.

This should not be underestimated, your consultants/developers may have implemented some customisations to work around an issue or exploit a method of accessing information that is subsequently closed/secured in a “bug” fix.

Process to upgrade

This is well documented by Microsoft, remember to do this in a non production environment first as your configuration database will be upgraded as part of the upgrade – this is a one way process unless you have backups in place.

New functionality

If any of the new features add value to you or your business then it’s definitely worth taking advantage of them. Remember that just upgrading the platform won’t necessarily expose all new features to you. By activating features within the SharePoint farm you are potentially modifying customisations so be careful!

New SharePoint 2013 deployment

If you have been holding off deploying SharePoint 2013 On Premises until the release of Service Pack 1, now is your chance to take advantage of a platform that is much richer than previous versions.

Strategic direction

Recognition that On Premises and Online both have a place, although the end game is on closing the functional gap back from Online to On Premises this time vs. On Premises traditionally leading the charge with new functionality.

Looking at what has happened with the decoupling of Office Web Apps and the social model through Yammer remaining separate to SharePoint, we are definitely seeing a trend of modularity on some of the big hitting aspects of SharePoint. Whilst this should not alarm as it in fact enhances the overall platform experience there is an obvious synergistic motivation here where product overlap within Microsoft’s enterprise suite appears to be going through an isolation exercise.

Whilst this may shift the virtual boundary points between enterprise systems, I think this is ultimately a good thing as it enables core concepts to be focused upon and refined for mutual benefit across the Microsoft stack.

As more functionality is likely to be segregated from the core of SharePoint, it’s important to recognise that this is overall a good thing. A solution within an organisation should not be technology led, rather technology even if that is a combination of related products should be applied in the most appropriate fashion to meet business requirements. In other words, even if functionality is removed from SharePoint in favour of separate products – the sum of the parts remains the same and business solutions can have more flexibility whilst maintaining scalability across other parts of the Microsoft stack as growth necessitates such as the introduction of Lync.

This is ultimately a compliment to the SharePoint platform that it is generating the core components that are relevant across.

What’s next for decoupling if anything? To look forward we need to look backwards first. The obvious elements that have been split include social and office web apps, but behind the scenes this has been happening in other areas such as workflow management already where this can scale outside of your core SharePoint environment independently.

My money is on Enterprise Search. As an appliance model, Enterprise Search could be a prime candidate to be split from SharePoint and run independently with a view to servicing other key applications such as Lync and Exchange.

I’ll be monitoring the future direction with interest, regardless of the actual road traveled – we will continue to see a push from Microsoft to break down barriers and enable more people to work in the way they need to. This trend is crossing business and personal (ref. Lync and Skype convergence) and even operating systems (touch versions of office on the way for your iPad!).

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