SPTechCon 2013: To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade – The Ultimate SharePoint Smackdown with Mark Miller & Joel Oleson

So who reigned victorious in the battle for SharePoint upgrade supremacy?  Oh silly reader, of course, you have to wait until the END of this article to find out who won the war of “To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade” waged by SharePoint experts Joel Oleson and Mark Miller.

To begin, let’s introduce the teams.  In Joel’s corner was a venerable list of industry experts in favor of upgrading to SharePoint 2013 whose names you’re
sure to recognize: Naomi Moneypenny, CTO at Synxi; Jason Himmelstein, Senior Technology Director for SharePoint at Atrion; and Benjamin Niaulin, SharePoint MVP and SharePoint Specialist for GSoft. Not to be outdone, Mark likewise compiled a collection of heavy-hitters to argue the case for sticking to your current platform including Chris Beckett, a Microsoft Certified Master and Virgil Carroll, Owner and CEO of High Monkey Consulting.

With the teams established and the strong scent of competition in the air, both sides took turns commanding the stage with their diametrically opposed opinions on whether or not your organization should upgrade to SharePoint 2013.  For Jason, the argument for upgrading was simple and straightforward; just because you have something that works, doesn’t necessarily make it the best.  For example, do you think that this blogger got to SPTechCon by riding her bike with her Sony Walkman jamming out tunes and a 10-pound “portable” phone in tow?  Of course not!  I hopped on a plane with my 2.38-pound MacBook Air, Bluetooth headphones, and iPhone and cruised on up from D.C. to Boston.  Clearly, technology has changed in the last so many years and it’s up to us to rethink the way we get business done to meet the needs of new technologies and devices.  As Jason noted, whether we like it or not,
people are using different browsers and mobile devices.  It’s up to us as IT professionals to make sure that we are adapting to meet the needs of our business users and ensuring that business is getting done better, faster, and cheaper.

So sure, we may be bulking up on new, shiny gadgets with all the bells and whistles, but what about all the investments we’ve already made?  As Chris noted, given how much SharePoint improved from 2007 to 2010, many organizations have already made deep investments in our SharePoint 2010 environments.  So why on earth would we shelve everything we’ve already invested in and lose all of our ROI? The true goal of an organization, as Chris
pointed out, should be to recognize a value and positive ROI when you have it. With all the valuable SharePoint maturity and business productivity we’ve gained from upgrading to SharePoint 2010, what would we REALLY be gaining from flipping the script and switching to 2013?  In Chris’s opinion, not much, unfortunately.

Cost. Investment.  Money, money, money. To counter Chris, Ben examined what the REAL financial costs are to upgrade to SharePoint 2013.  Surprisingly, contrary to popular belief, the investment is nowhere near as explosive as one may think.  In fact, when looking at the cost sheet, you may notice something you never realized… SharePoint 2013 OOTB actually costs LESS than 2010.  Not only that, but when you do a side-by-side comparison of SharePoint 2010 to 2013, with all the added features you gain from 2013, such as improved search, mobile, and social, you really are getting more for less.

While Team Joel may have touted all the new and improved features available for SharePoint 2013, Virgil from Team Mark had a differing view of what more features really means. As great as having all these new features may seem, without the resources on hand to see that these new features are implemented and adapted by the end-users is pretty much worthless. When it comes to most businesses, unfortunately, we don’t tend to have
the training available to introduce these features to the masses.  Newsfeed, blogs, communities?  Sure, these things are great and all, but just how practical are they if no one is using them?  The fact of the matter, according to Virgil, is that for the most part, we simply don’t have the SharePoint staff available to support all these new changes.

So what about our end users? That’s what Naomi wanted to know. When it comes to 2013, all these features that Virgil poo-pooed, Naomi
Had a definite opposing viewpoint to argue. Sure, social isn’t going to be adopted overnight, but just look at all the user-friendly options that have been implemented for SharePoint 2013.  With the ability to follow people, documents, and even sites, social collaboration and business productivity has never been easier to achieve. Once we’ve made it easier for users to get the information they need, when they need it, the benefits are countless and include increased employee engagement as well as reduced strain on our IT departments.

You say that we’ve increased productivity, but “can you QUANTIFY that?” wondered Chris.  While we keep talking about impacted productivity, Chris noticed that there is a real lack of business proof that demonstrates that productivity has really increased dramatically with all these new improvements to 2013.  As great as 2013 may seem to Team Joel, many are finding that users are getting the same ROI from 2010 as they are from 2013.

Not to be outdone, Joel reminded the audience that by sticking to SharePoint 2010 and avoiding upgrading, all we are doing is sticking to a stalled attitude of “I GUESS this is good enough.”  One of the inherent problems to SharePoint 2010 is that there’s no excitement surrounding it.  So how then do we get our business users excited?  The answer is simple: STOP pushing what’s old and start using what’s new and has been improved to give users a positive business experience.

As you can probably tell by now, the arguments for both sides are commendable.  So how do you choose a side?  In their closing remarks, representatives from both teams summed up their key points and fought to earn the audience’s vote.  So why upgrade to SharePoint 2013?  According to Team Joel,
the answer should be clear:

  • 2013 isn’t just about adding features; it’s about adding value and capabilities as well as increasing productivity and functionality.
  • When we supply our end users with increased features and functionality, we are improving their ability to get work done, thereby providing them with the tools they need to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
  • While SharePoint 2010 provides a commendable platform, it just doesn’t provide the opportunities that 2013 does. By not upgrading, you are choosing to miss out on a lot of business value and positive ROI.
  • At the end of the day, our business decisions should be based on our users. When it comes to upgrading to SharePoint 2013, we are successfully allowing our users to learn, perform, and accomplish more in less time.

All great arguments, but what says, Team Mark?  When it comes to opting to not upgrade to SharePoint 2013, the list of arguments is equally compelling and includes:

  • What are you REALLY gaining by upgrading? SharePoint 2010 is a powerful platform on its own and provides a wealth of features and capabilities. So why spend valuable time and money changing something that already performs great within an organization?
  • With Microsoft’s focus on Office365 and online, SharePoint 2013 doesn’t really provide all the bells and whistles that it may seem to. With the introduction of Yammer, the “cloud” and more, what does SharePoint 2013 provide? It seems that everything that is “new” has been moved OUTSIDE of SharePoint.
  • Upgrading to SharePoint 2013 shouldn’t be about doing what’s new and cool and trendy, it should be about what’s right for YOUR business. Before you jump on the bandwagon, think about the investment and what goes into upgrading. You may find that when you weigh out the pros
    and cons, that the business justification for upgrading simply isn’t there.

So who do YOU think won the argument?  After hearing both sides, this blogger has to admit that I think the battle ended in a draw. Before you accuse me of copping out, hear me out… SharePoint, regardless if you have 2013, 2010, or heck, even 2003 or 2007, is a powerful platform.  There is a lot that it can and cannot accomplish from knowledge management, to document management, to social collaboration, and more. When it comes to deciding which version you should be using and whether or not to upgrade, the most important thing you should be looking at is your business and what’s right for
YOU.  Every organization is different and therefore has different needs, requirements, and objectives.  For some small companies, for example, newsfeeds
and community message boards may be completely useless – if your company only has 10 employees and they are all in the same office on a daily basis, you probably don’t require all the fancy social outreach tools included in SharePoint 2013.  On the other hand, if you have a global organization with offices scattered across the world, discussion boards and communities can be the ticket to getting the answers you need from a variety of qualified sources.

Though just one example, clearly there are many instances where an organization may or may not need to upgrade their SharePoint environment.  At the end of the day, it’s up to you to look from the inside out and to decide what YOUR organization needs in order to perform the best it can.

Check out our complete coverage of SPTechCon 2013 from Boston:

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