Getting Started with SharePoint 2013

I think which each new release of the SharePoint product, I get asked the most in the first week by users about when they should jump in and when they do, what should they focus on. So in this post I want to walk through some of those concepts. And just to show you how my opinions don’t really change from release to release, here is an old school post that I wrote right after the 2010 launch. In the next few weeks much content will be published that will most likely make your brain explode with the amount of new materials available. Everyone will be itching to be the first on the market with the latest and greatest content and it will be like drinking from a fire hose. Below I have mapped out some of my tips for dealing with the overflow of information and some of the guidelines that I follow as I sort through all the information.

Know Your Role

First up, I recommend that you spend time understanding your role within SharePoint and then you start looking for information and resources specific to that information. Listed below are a few of the roles that I base my research on.

  • IT Pro : Those that install and or configure (Office365) SharePoint
  • Developer: Those that use tools such as Visual Studio to build applications to be used within SharePoint
  • Information Worker: Those that use the Out of the Box tools to configure SharePoint Solutions
  • Consumer: Those that use SharePoint and simply want to understand the newest cool features

If you are able to really start to focus first on the information that applies to you and your role you will greatly reduce the fire hose effect. Off course, this means you might need to be patient and wait for the content to become available. Like most releases with SharePoint on day 1 much of the content will be focused on the IT Pros and the Developers. But give it a few weeks, the dust will settle and then information that is more focused to the Information Worker will start to surface. This is a natural progression that I have seen over the past few releases. Besides those IT Pros need to get us the environments up and running so we Information Workers can really see what it can do!

Know Your Tools

Next, I would encourage you to spend time getting to know the tools available to you and how they play into the story of Office 2013. From the Information Worker perspective, there are a lot of avenues to explore this time around, and that’s just starting with Office! I recommend at this point that you look fresh at the tools included and look at what each of them can do. Often times we run to the new product wondering if they improved “how we do x” or if the tools from our existing methods have improved. There is a little bit of danger in this approach because it may cause us to miss out on some great new features available for us! An example of this might be looking at the concept of tasks in SharePoint. If you just look for improvements in the tasks list you may miss the new solution templates around Tasks in Access or you may miss out on some of the new Project 2013 features that integrate with SharePoint. If you instead just start with the tools available and look into what they can do and what features they provide you will get a great overview of the vision of the new product and will be able to see a more clear roadmap of how you can get the most benefit out of the new release.

Here is the list of the tools that I am going to be digging into over the next couple of months:

Know Your Source

The next warning I will give is to be careful of the source of the content you are reading. With the release just happening, your most authoritative source of content will always be Microsoft. Much of the information in the community will also be helpful, but be sure to look at the content through the lens of the officially released content. Remember this is a beta and things can still change before the final release. It is important to get out there and explore and to join the conversation! If you are new to the community, I recommend these locations to jump in:

  • Office Next Blog – review the content here and provide comments! Watch and see how the teams at MS monitor this content and provide feedback when you post questions.
  • Twitter – do a search on #officepreview and #SharePoint2013 and you will find plenty of content
  • Yammer – join the SharePoint Community on the #SPYam network. Many different MS folks have joined this network and are actively responding to the community.

And this post of course, would not be complete without a big push for you to attend the SharePoint Conference in Vegas this November. The content made available at this conference will be all you need to jump headfirst into this release. The best in the community will be coming together to network and educate you on the new tools available. This is definitely the conference of the year and one that you should work hard to convince your boss that there is value in you attending. If you are new to SharePoint, an expert SharePoint shop or someone who is just getting started with Office365, there will be great content for you at this conference.

Know Your Future Plans & Roadmap

The final thing I would encourage you to do as you start to look at the new product release is to spend some time evaluating your organization and the direction it will be going over the next 6-12 months. What is the technical roadmap and what are the key areas that technology can be used to help fill a gap or provide added value? The most successful SharePoint implementations aren’t really based on using the latest and greatest technology, but instead are the ones where SharePoint has been used to really fill a need within the organization. The need can be big or small, but the impact of your solutions can lead to change within the organization. Don’t lose sight of this in the excitement of the new products, but instead use it to drive your direction as you evaluate and look at what you will focus on. This will also help you as you work on projects during the transition stage. If you know that new methods and tools are coming soon it may impact the timeline for your upgrade or may cause you to implement a temporary solution that will be used until the newest features and tools are available. The bottom line is that there is great value in understanding the latest and greatest, but the more you can do it with a plan and a strategy the greater your returns will be.

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