SharePoint has been deployed enterprise-wide as more than just a portal where teams share documents and collaborate; it is a key competency for business, and a platform from which companies can build their long-term road map and strategy.

With SharePoint 2010 now well established in corporations worldwide, and Office 365 gaining momentum, the obvious question for businesses focuses on what the next version of SharePoint will look like. How will the product continue its innovation, and what changes will be made to the product to enhance the enterprise, social media and corporate adoption?

While these questions are batted around during water-cooler conversations, there is wide speculation that details about the next version of SharePoint will be discussed at SPC11 in October.

With BPOS now a distant memory, Microsoft’s latest cloud offering—Office 365—offers standard versions of the Office platform as Web applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) as well as Lync, and also enhanced versions of Exchange and SharePoint Online. The good news for SharePoint aficionados is that the product offers the tightly knit integration known in the out-of-the-box server version, making the case for widespread corporate adoption simpler.

However, there are some limitations from the standard and enterprise versions, such as records-center functionality, the ability to connect to outside data sources through BCS (Business Connectivity Services), and advanced search. Notwithstanding the limitations, SharePoint Online is a great way for businesses to get up and running on the product with little time or financial investment. Depending on your environment and intended use in your organization, these factors may be nonexistent or small hurdles to overcome. With SharePoint’s market penetration and presence, there is no question that companies will continue to adopt the platform in all available forms.

One of the questions I am frequently asked is how social media can work with SharePoint. Social media is more than just a method to tell the world what’s new in your business or personal life; it has transcended into a place where business gets done, and it is changing the way SharePoint gets deployed. As individuals and businesses embrace social media to communicate both internally and externally, the onus is on Microsoft to bring a comprehensive solution to the next-generation product. I have seen more and more SharePoint sites being released with some form of external third-party integration, such as displaying a simple feed or larger stream to keep employees current, but the future of integration methods is still a mystery.

As an example of how social media is changing the landscape, I was recently in a strategy session with a technically savvy client discussing the merits of requirements sessions. My job was to explore and suggest methods by which to engage users and technical representatives in a way that was different from just filling out a spreadsheet.

As the conversation evolved, I suggested that participants send direct messages to the facilitator ahead of the meeting with their initial requirements. Having previously seen this work well in a conference setting, my thought was that the facilitator could sort the data ahead of the meeting, and the group can hit the ground running when they enter the session, reviewing the initial requirements set rather than starting anew.

While the suggestion was embraced and worked very well (caution: don’t even suggest this if you think your group isn’t ready for it), it got me thinking about how SharePoint can evolve to embrace this type of collaboration. Team collaboration sites can be set up to pull data from social feeds customized for your project or team member, where it can then be assigned a content type and sorted in lists based on their subject or suggestion.
What features are you hoping will be included or embraced in the next version of SharePoint? E-mail me at with your thoughts, and watch my Twitter feed (@weconcatenate) for the results.

Eric Riz is the executive vice president of Concatenate, a software firm focused on maximizing SharePoint through product innovation and systems integration. He has worked with many Fortune 500 companies on their business productivity architecture and deployment plans to ensure they maximize the benefits of Microsoft technologies and successfully deploy their SharePoint-based solutions. Eric is a frequent contributor to SPTechReport.