I’m comfortably ensconced in my home office, space heater going, ears ringing with Vegas din, and sipping an AlkaSeltzer laden water to relieve my cold symptoms picked up from too many hours in too many packed conference rooms.
Wow, what a show.
Looking back over all my other previous postings, you may develop an impression of me as an unrestrained fan of SharePoint and its related, integrated technologies. You’d be right. I love the product and especially what I’ve seen in this new release. But, to be objective, let me run through the major items as I see them:
The Yammer acquisition is “terrifically exciting” (could that phrase become any more overused by MS staff?) but is a bit awkward right now. SP 2013 already had a bunch of great activity, newsfeed and micro-blog social components that look very nice. On the surface, Yammer doesn’t add much to that and, in fact, muddies the water a bit since no one at MS is completely certain exactly how they are going to fit in. In the long run, I think it will become the social messaging bus for all the business products (SP, Dynamics) and this will be a good thing. As a Yammer Enterprise user, I see the value of social and am a big believer in what this can do when used right.
If it wasn’t social being talked about, it was search. Combining Enterprise and FAST in this release is a good thing – the two products were unnecessary. Also, as anyone dealing with corporate content governance can tell you, creating stuff is easy – finding stuff is hard. What MS has done is create a search-driven system from structured meta-data and user managed tags that allows users to favorite, like, and share documents and see document previews in the search results. I think this goes a long way to making SharePoint ever MORE useable for content storage and, I believe, will kill file shares in the mid-term.
As with many things in this release, MS didn’t go for hot, new sexy features. They just vastly improved what was already there. PPS, Excel Services, Power Pivot and PowerView all basically function the same but have significant improvements in security model and usability that will make them much more useful to end users. That’s a hard pitch to make to your corporate masters driven by earning releases, splashy news press and units moved but they pulled on their big-boy pants and did it – and they did it across everything, not just BI. By doing so, they are showing a commitment to making this a real integrated platform not just a platform that can be demo’d but doesn’t really work.
Clearly, MS is staking EVERYTING on cloud. From O365 to ERP to CRM to AZURE, you are seeing MS move its entire business model out of your data center and into its own. But, while doing that, they are being realistic in understanding that no-one is going for a full cloud IT model. The ability to federate to Azure ADS and O365 for single-sign-on was very nice, as were the cross-platform development tools to bind all this stuff together and the cross-browser support message that was consistently and repeatedly delivered in every session. With that said, I still think MS is missing the boat on its Azure costing model. All hosting partners charge for a machine of a specific size and for blocks of storage; Azure, instead, charges by proc, storage AND bandwidth making cost management for app deployment in Azure a bit tough to manage costs. I will write more on this in a separate post. They addressed this a bit by allowing SP apps to be hosted in O365 at no charge, so that’s a big plus, but I still think more changes will have to come.
Yeah, I’m a fan-boy of Sharepoint but I’m not an idiot. I’ve seen MS screw up too many times with me being on the receiving end of it to unreservedly admire what they’ve done. The next two or three months, as the product is released and we start using it, will tell the real truth. But, IF they just do what they said they will AND IF they just keeping hitting the flywheel like they did with this release they WILL have a great product for us to use.
Great presentation Kevin Donovan (Program Manager Office BI)!
The BI team at IBIS has been preaching the benefits of SQL, Excel, Sharepoint and PPS for years. Kevin started out his presentation with a simple statement: BI is SQL, Excel and Sharepoint.
Damn, are we good or what?
In 2013, Office and Sharepoint get some really nice enhancements without truly breaking any new ground. That’s good for a lot of reasons. The primary one is that what was working before is TONS better and they haven’t wasted a lot of time on new flash but, instead, really hit hard on good things.
Here’s my top list of what I liked:
- Effective Username in PPS and Excel Services: Kerberos is dead! You can now pass through the user name from the client WITHOUT having to deploy kerberos provide you only need access the SSAS cube.
- Server Side Migration for PPS: You can now migrated ANY part or all of a PPS dashboard server side without using Dashboard Designer. It automatically detects dependencies AND, on the new server, allows mapping to new datasources before you migrate in the new objects. Very slick.
- BI Server: In SP2013, you can designate a BI Target Server for BISM model calculations rather than having them done in the SP instance of Excel Services. Much faster response time.
- Named Object View: In Excel Services, you could always import just a named object (like a chart) rather than a whole workbook. The object appeared in a sparse looking drop down list. Now you get a cool visual graphic nav panel on the right side of the page.
- Field Well and List Exposed in Excel Services: By doing so, you can add and remove fields and columns from pivot tables allowing almost full interaction inside the embedded object rather than opening it from the client.
There’s tons of stuff more, like cooler PowerView functionality (including embedded maps) and better user experience in the interface. The only shortcoming, as noted in a previous post, is lack of true mobile. However, that’s why ISVs exist.
Jen Underwood from MS did an AWESOME job going through what mobility options exist for BI in Sharepoint 2013. Despite partially functional wireless and an alarm system glitch that drove screaming sirens, flashing lights and robotic, loud instructions, Jen was composed and cheerful.
The mobile BI capabilities were a bit light however.
Essentially, the near term strategy is to make certain SP 2010 and SP2013 are completely cross browser compatible. With SP2010 CU December 2011, iOS is fully supported. Android, iOS and almost everything else is supported out of the box in 2013. SSRS SQL 2012 SP1 (which I think releases this week) is fully supported in iOS (although it works well today even in older versions).
Here’s what you can do with mobile:
- Performance Point Services: In 2013, almost everything works completely cross-browser except for the Decomp Tree (its Silverlight so it doesn’t work on anything but IE).
- Excel Services: Everything works just fine.
- SSRS: Everything works with some limitations on calendar controls.
- PowerPivot: Works fine, but you can display the Gallery (that’s silverlight). Use a list view instead.
- So, that covers browser compatibility for larger scale screen dimensions (like a large tablet or desktop).
- For true mobile, you start running into problems. First, you have to do some CSS and Master Page work on SP to get it to respond reactively to screen size differences. Second, most mobile phone screens are too small to take standard Excel Services, PPS, and SSRS dashboard data and scale it down or use it. Therefore, for true mobile, you’ll need to go with a trusted ISV like Mobile Entrée, Infragistics, Extended Results, etc. RoamBI is also very good, but is only iOS focused so it limits you to single device platform.
- In essence, not much for Windows 8 native Metro out of the box for Mobile BI but much promise for the future.
Coming up on a full day with no internet access at a cloud technology conference. Oh, MS, do you not see the irony?
Dr. Ian Goodman conducted this session. Ian is brilliant but he somehow took the most exciting subject and made it intensely boring.
Sharepoint 2013 is a perfect extranet tool. It’s a mature collaboration tool, it has a powerful social engine with Yammer, does great LOB application integration via Business Connectivity Services, allows integrated BI/Reporting it a ton of different ways AND, on top of all that, you can federate to your customer’s domain so you get single sign-on.
What more can you ask for? How about native mobile support via HTML5 and audience targeting for personalization?
I think the one thing I like best, though, is the idea of deploying an extranet on Office365 to simplify the security model. In O365 you can have External Users (called Partner Access Licenses). P level licensees get 500 licenses and E level get 10,000. Pretty much enough to cover most folks.
Okay, I spoke too soon. The wireless is down –again- forcing Reuben Krippner and David Pennington from MS to depend on Powerpoint slides rather than being able to do a live demo.
(As an aside, the folks at Mandalay Bay or whoever was in charge of getting the wireless operational should apologize then issue a massive refund to MS which they should then pass through to the attendees)
As you can take from the post title, this session was an overall discussion on integrating social data into CRM. Although Reuben had tons of great discussion points about the benefits of integrating social to CRM (including some hilariously acerbic side comments about Ashton Kuecher), I’ll stick with product oriented information:
- Reuben hammered away at how important Yammer was. To quote: “Yammer has a huge future. It’s a big bet.”
- Yammer is going to be a social “messaging” bus integrated to CRM (coming in December), all the Dynamics products (no timeline specified), Office365, and Sharepoint (no time line specified but the products already have great integration) as an eventual replacement of the Newsfeed.
- The Yammer inclusion in CRM should bear some interesting fruit. For instance, most companies put out Win-Wire emails to advertise sale success. Imagine instead a closed opportunity generating a Yammer activity notice that automatically builds the winwire from the opportunity data.
- In Q2 Calendar 2013 they will release the Business Hub for CRM, a native Windows 8 metro application, that exposes and allows the user to interact with all CRM data including pipeline reports, activities, opportunities, etc.
- One last comment: Reuben used the word “incentivize”. For this, he must die.
Finally, the wireless connectivity got fixed so Christophe Fiessinger and Pradeep GanapathyRaj had a chance for a good demo.
I’ll be honest – I’ve never liked Project and care even less for Project Server with PPM. For most of the projects I’ve done, I always found it easier to manage a task list in daily meetings than manage a MPP file with Project. I’ll admit I’m old school in this. I’ll also admit much of my dislike for Project is based on intimidation – it just always struck me as vastly complex and really bad at reporting.
It seems some of these problems are fixed in the newest release and I am forced to admit that the integration with Sharepoint is…wait for it…great. The basic approach seems to be to allow you to start with basic task lists in Sharepoint supplemented with the new timeline control. Then, when the workstream becomes more complex, you can easily create a full blown project plan manageable via Project by clicking a single button. You don’t have to store the MPP file anywhere – all the data is stored automatically back in Sharepoint.
Once this project is created, it’s now exposed to the entire organizational project portfolio so you can examine resource load across all projects, report across all projects and make investment decisions on what projects to do.
The last part is critical to the point of the session. By using PPM, you can set up complex scoring systems that allow you to rank projects so you can look at an entire set of proposed and existing projects and make decisions to start them or kill them. Combined with the extraordinarily improved reporting engine in the Project client (and the server based reporting that has gotten very nice), this really gives you some interesting and methodical insight to your level of commitment and resource capability.
For a consulting company, PPM has no obvious (at least to me, yet) place. We don’t make decisions about what projects to take on – we take them on as fast as we can provided our team can, in any way, service them well. So, the consolidated view is great but we’d never use PPM functionality.
As a last comment, I was really impressed – again – with both the sophistication of the PowerView reporting tool in Project AND the commitment MS has made to integrate all this stuff with Sharepoint (including providing much better collaboration facilities into Project).