SharePoint Version Hype – Just Say No

SPTechWeb reported that 40% of companies say they are still using SharePoint versions that predate SharePoint 2010. This number, retrieved from a survey during the 2013 SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas, came from asking 125 SharePoint professionals, so it’s not just left-behind, back-alley organizations that had their say.

Are you surprised to hear that so many use older versions of SharePoint? I’m not.

Just Say No!

If, like my wife, you don’t really read my blog, you may not know that this attitude makes perfect business sense. After all, if you look at the average Twitter feed from the SharePoint community, it’s all about SharePoint 2013 now. SharePoint 2007 is barely mentioned, and I haven’t heard or seen anything about SharePoint 2003 for a very, very long time.

So why does it make business sense to stick with the older versions? Well, I’ve previously argued that with SharePoint, versions do not really matter. Your business problems do not change when Microsoft decides to push the Release button for the next SharePoint version. In fact, upgrading to a new version means you will get new problems in addition to the ones you already have. It’s not just a good idea to stick to what you already do, it’s a bad idea to try to introduce new problems, interfaces, and ways of performing tasks for employees.

For most employees, you see, SharePoint is about as interesting as the chemical composition of asphalt. It’s just something they use to get their jobs done. When you change how that tool works, it’s a burden on them because they now need to learn a new way of doing what they’ve been doing for years. That burden translates into cost for the organization and unless there are new problems that only a newer version can solve then upgrading isn’t really desirable.

But What About Recruitment?

You may be concerned that you won’t be able to find skilled people that know old versions of SharePoint to maintain and develop your business solutions.

Here’s the thing… You don’t have to and you shouldn’t. Skilled SharePoint professionals know SharePoint, regardless of version. Think about it, would you hire a driver that knew how to drive one model car only? Would you hire a baker that could only work with yeast of a certain brand? How about a carpenter that only knew how to drive nails into the wall with a specific brand hammer? On a more technical level, would you hire a programmer that knew how to work in C# 2.0 only?

Why would you hire a SharePoint professional who knew how to work with one version of SharePoint only?

These people are tool users. They don’t know their tasks without those tools to support them, and down that path lies madness. What happens if you do need to upgrade for some reason? For someone who knows one version only, their knowledge will be far less valuable. You’ll be stuck having to retrain them on a new version, only to have the same dance again in three years.

Support Expires!

True. At some point, the lifecycle of any software program or platform comes to an end when the authors decide they can no longer support the solution. You would definitely need to upgrade then, right?

Wrong. First of all, software that has been around for years is already far more stable than new versions and thus require far less support. SharePoint 2007 has had far longer to iron out any wrinkles, discover any stability issues, and have any security issues exploited than SharePoint 2010. The chance of major and critical issues decrease with age.

As for support in the form of calling Microsoft Professional Services to get them to look at your farm, well, if they won’t pick up, just call someone else. There are, according to Microsoft, hundreds of thousands of SharePoint professionals that would be glad to take your support money.

Just make sure you call those that actually know SharePoint and not just the latest or even a specific version.

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Bjørn Furuknap

I previously did SharePoint. These days, I try new things to see where I can find the passion. If you have great ideas, cool projects, or is in general an awesome person, get in touch and we might find out together.

5 thoughts on “SharePoint Version Hype – Just Say No”

  1. And that’s exactly why you can upgrade without a visual design change. So the user interface stays the same, every existing solutions stays the same, but you can build new applications with the new features. Unless you did use third party tools that break your upgrade possibility like the FAB 40 (better known as upgrade hell 40)

    For sure you don’t have to upgrade as soon as the thing is released but after some time and some testing it really makes sense for me.

    One last point, the problems with your core buisness don’t change with a new version you said, I totally agree. I guess as the problem isn’t related to a specific version the solution maybe is also independent.

    Just my 2 cents,

    Cheers,
    Thomy

  2. Pingback: SharePoint Version Hype – Just Say No | Mastering Sharepoint
  3. Thomy: Sharepoint doesn’t just seamlessly upgrade, 2010 had several breaking changes over 2007, for example this one:
    http://www.stum.de/2011/01/23/connected-web-parts-are-bugged-in-sharepoint-2010/

    Sharepoint 2013 changes from .net 2/3 to 4.5, which may introduce additional breakage (e.g., the change how closures in foreach loops is handled – while it’s an edge case, looping is so common in SharePoint I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens)

    Upgrading is a very, very expensive process especially for big or custimized environments. Getting Audiences and User Profile stuff to work in 2010 after upgrading from 2007 was a big, big issue.

    Also, not every version offers a lot. I feel that 2010 offered a lot of good stuff on top of 2007 (especially when they added all the Enterprise stuff like PerformancePoint), but 2013 over 2010 is just not a compelling upgrade, feature-wise.

    On top of the lackluster upgrade on the end-user side, stuff that was bad, broken or undocumented in the 2010 Object Model is the same in 2013.

    For reference, Sharepoint 2007 has Extended support until 10/10/2017:
    http://support.microsoft.com/lifecycle/search/default.aspx?sort=PN&alpha=SharePoint+Server+2007&Filter=FilterNO

    And even after that, it just means that you’re on your own, the product won’t suddenly stop working.

  4. Hi michael (oder besser: Servus! 🙂 )

    I agree, upgrading big and heavy customized farms can be a pain in the a**. But that’s something you know when you build and design such heavy customized solutions.

    We just upgraded a customer with 250 users, 500GB of document content, third party tools and about 25 custom wsp solutions in about ten days. Is that too expensive for you?

    For me 2013 has some really huge features: content by search, variations, design manager, standard workflow actions, wac server integration, fast search, client side rendering, social “light”, discussion template, task overview webart just to name a few we already use in our 2013 farms.

    2013 isn’t that huge in terms of architecture like 2010 was to 2007, yes. But in terms of features it’s not that clear I guess.

    Also what I took from a customer meeting, the licensing change for external users is a huge step for us in terms for extranets.

  5. Interesting thoughts.

    I agree the hype around upgrading to SharePoint 2013 is taking on an almost desperate tone. I agree the benefits are not compelling and I fear that the beta testing was not long enough – I hear about issues with shredded storage which Microsoft is not commenting on. Look at Dan Holmes blog posts for details.

    Yes I agree some parts of SharePoint are generic but also think that people need to pick up skills in the more recent releases.

    For me SharePoint 2010 is not like a version upgrade. In many respects it was almost a different product from 2007 and the changes were huge – for the better I might add.

    As a professional I think you need to have one foot firmly in the established platform – currently 2010 and one foot looking at the next release – currently 2013.

    I also agree some clients are very reluctant to invest in major changes every 3 years. Recently Microsoft seem intent on completely altering the user interface with complete disregard for the training costs for business clients. Take Windows 8 for example.

    I fear Microsoft are losing sight of their main customers needs and wants in the apparently desperate drive to gain market share in the consumer marketplace.

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