SharePoint 2013 was released back in October 2012, but it's only recently that it has really started to make waves across enterprise IT. The question is, are you ready to take the jump? SharePoint has been around for a long time and is a leader in document management, work flows, search and, in many cases, company intranets, but one of the areas where SharePoint has been lacking is enabling social collaboration. SharePoint has made some radical changes in its most recent release. This article will touch on several of the most impactful changes and examine whether the newest version has what it takes to help your enterprise thrive.

Social

Microsoft has finally jumped on the social networking bandwagon. Prior to the release of SharePoint 2013 and SkyDrive Pro, Microsoft would tout its ability to break down barriers through document management and bringing people together, but the usability just wasn’t there. From SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010, Microsoft made very minor adjustments to its enterprise social feature set. Then they noticed the rise in other social tools like Google Plus, NewsGator, Yammer (which was purchased by Microsoft in July 2012) and LinkedIn, among other industry social tools. In SharePoint 2013, the social experience is brand new, clean and much more robust than previous versions.

Microsoft previously connected its social experience to the SharePoint My Site. Now their social experience begins with SkyDrive Pro, continues to the news feed and expands further into communities and eventually Yammer. SkyDrive Pro is a document management tool very similar to other products like Google Drive and Dropbox. Files can be managed, shared and collaborated on in this space in a very fluid, easy-to-use way. The news feed is a lightweight version of something that you would see on Facebook. The idea is that the SharePoint news feed will eventually be replaced by Yammer, which can already be integrated into SharePoint. It isn’t completely clear precisely what capabilities Yammer will bring to SharePoint, but some of its capabilities include a more robust news feed, liking, sharing, file management and polls, as well as clearer visibility into which members are involved with the conversations. All in all, the social experience with SharePoint 2013 is leaps and bounds better than previous versions of SharePoint.

Search

The best improvement to search in SharePoint 2013 is the user experience and how results appear. In SharePoint 2010, search results were very bland without any advanced functionality. In 2013, FAST search is embedded and adds a new interface with rankings, categories and the ability to mouse over presentations and see the slides. This may seem like a small addition, but think of all the times you are looking for a presentation and have to go through a few slides to simply find out you need to keep looking. Another great new feature is for all of the legal and HR folks out there. It's called eDiscovery, and it allows administrators to scan the entire SharePoint farm for any files the legal team may be looking for. This gives good reason to institute a proper records retention policy, but gives the functionality to find missing documents easily.

Portal and Web Management

SharePoint serves as one of the most reliable sources for company intranets in the enterprise and it gets better with the 2013 version. Previously, developers had to do all sorts of work to create new master pages and designs, as well as make sure the templates and CSS worked well and didn’t negate functionality. In SharePoint 2013, Microsoft made several changes that can be of real benefit to budget-conscious enterprises. Consumer-facing sites can now have a very clean look with simple content management and publishing capabilities. There are also new features for cross-site publishing, image renditions and managed navigation.

User Experience and Design

Usability may be the most underappreciated change in SharePoint 2013. Aside from the lack of social functionality, the lack of ease of use was one of the most frustrating things about SharePoint 2010. It took far too many clicks to create anything or add a simple file. In SharePoint 2013, files can be added with a simple click and drag of files into a folder. This might seem obvious because it exists in so many other Web-based applications like Dropbox, but it had been missing in SharePoint. Also, to add a column to a SharePoint list, it takes a matter of seconds to type in the header rather than minutes of configuring a new column, like in previous versions.

SharePoint 2013 is the true upgrade that should have been in SharePoint 2010. I touched base on the social elements, search, content management and user experience, but those are just a few of the many enhancements of SharePoint 2013. I will go into further depth in future articles on some of the other benefits, such as mobile, work flows, business intelligence and easier security. The only reason you shouldn’t move to SharePoint 2013 is if you do not have the personnel to push for user adoption of the new tools and functionality. The social networking functionality needs a catalyst to get off the ground and will have a rough start getting going from just letting it grow grass-roots style. So start putting your plans together and move to SharePoint 2013 … it’s worth it.