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SharePoint 2013: Does it finally crack the code of WCM?

This article appears in the issue June 2014 [Volume 23, Issue 6]
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With respect to asset management, SharePoint has long had the ability to store digital assets. However, once you got past uploading a FLV or PNG file, there was scant recourse to leverage it. Redmond has worked to improve that; for example, SP 2013 brings a new video content type, with automatic and manual thumbnailing.

Microsoft has also caught up to several peers by creating “image renditions” capability, which allows you to contribute a full-fidelity image to a library, and then render a derivative of that image when served through a Web page. It builds off some older code in SharePoint, but is much cleaner and more integrated into the content contribution experience in SP 2013. In theory, it should better support mobile delivery as well, but like many of the newest parts of SharePoint, the service is not fully baked. Since image renditions are hard-coded into the image URL, it’s difficult to have your images swap out automatically in a responsive design framework.

Visitor engagement

On the whole, SharePoint remains light here. Some third-party partners have tried to fill in the gaps, but they are not well-known companies, and the solutions remain very nichey.

Specifically, SharePoint 2013 still lacks many of the tools and features that marketers desire:

  • advanced previews and testing for personalization services,
  • site testing and optimization services,
  • bi-directional integration with CRM and marketing automation platforms,
  • promotional campaigns,
  • social media site management, and
  • online forms creation and management within the editorial interface.

Conclusion

In general, the product still feels like a Web publishing tool shoehorned uncomfortably into a document management system—but redeemed in part by its potentially very powerful development facilities. A talented integration team or Microsoft partner with deep .NET skills can redress many if not most of the shortcomings mentioned. However, there’s a serious disconnect with Redmond’s marketing, which pushes the product as a very out-of-the-box solution.

The good news is that for Web publishing, SharePoint 2013 is an improvement over previous versions—but an improvement more in degree than in kind. Microsoft has addressed some longstanding customer complaints by adding features like image renditions, better mobile detection/mobile site development and an improved editing experience. At a time when “digital marketing” is driving investment in public sites, Redmond seems to have a tin ear for the concept.

To that extent, the real test comes when comparing SharePoint against its peers. Compared with more agile competitors (see Real Story Group's CMS report), SharePoint 2013 still shows Microsoft’s lack of focus on WCM—particularly for public-facing sites. Today, the platform remains more developer-focused than marketer-oriented.

 

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