Ten years ago, I was working as a Systems Engineer in an IT services company. Back then a lot of the work involved implementing physical server hardware (HP ProLiant servers), installing and configuring Windows Server, network infrastructure and implementing Exchange and SQL Server.
An opportunity came up to work on a project implementing Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS 2007) for a client. My only exposure to SharePoint had been the ‘CompanyWeb’ on Small Business Server.
The client had straight forward requirements and a basic out of the box install with a few document libraries was the initial deliverable. The next couple of years would see the site grow in a way we would later describe as “organic”, with subsites, more libraries, more subsites, lists, calendars, nonsensical navigation and the obligatory security mess. Despite this the users were (mostly) happy, possibility because anyone who asked was given Full Control without a second thought.
Roll forward a few years a decision was made to upgrade to the newly released SharePoint 2010 Server. The detach / attach content database method was chosen and while the upgrade itself was painless it didn’t address the structural issues. A steering group was formed and tasked with resolving issues and implementing more functionality. The navigation was improved, branding was added, custom SharePoint solutions were developed and deployed into the farm, the User Profile Service was implemented, InfoPath and SharePoint Designer workflows started to appear.
SharePoint started to get momentum in a few areas of the clients’ business, but others complained that “they couldn’t find things in search” and issues with permissions continued to generate support tickets on a regular basis. More customisations were made, some better than others. We learnt more about the GAC and manually editing Web.Config that we should have.
When Microsoft announced SharePoint 2013 the steering committee was convinced it would solve a myriad of problems from oversized Content Databases to Search issues and almost everything else. We tried a test upgrade and it failed. Customisations didn’t migrate well, the branding looked awful and it didn’t solve the legacy issues from more than 5 years of organic development.
A project team set about redesigning SharePoint from the ground up. A decision was made to focus on configuration rather than development so that future upgrades would be easier. Permissions were simplified and standardised on Contribute and Read rather than Full Control or nothing. The branding was refreshed and finally got the tick of approval from the comms team. Navigation was standardised across the entire site. Time was spent improving Search.
There were still some issues with SharePoint but user adoption had improved and some areas of the clients business we asking for sites to meet specific business needs such as policy development, forms and workflows for business processes, project areas etc. It was around this time that the client started asking for external users access for collaborating with partners and to give users access to forms and documents outside the office. IT weren’t keen on this and decided to implement a VPN solution which really didn’t make it easy to get to the things users needed.
Roll forward to 2018, ten years after I did the initial install and I’m in a meeting discussing migration to Office 365 including SharePoint Online. Collaboration both internally and externally were high on the priority list. They decided to go with Modern Team and Communication sites, document libraries will be migrated with the SharePoint Migration Tool. Related sites will be connected using Hub Sites, with shared site branding and navigation. We have a lot of work to do with forms and workflows, we’ll evaluate each one and decided if they come across as is or we rebuild with PowerApps and Flow.
This site in many ways has helped shape my career, it has taught me many lessons, kept me awake at night, given me moments of happiness and anxiety! In the beginning 99% of my work was around implementing the infrastructure and configuring SharePoint, these days infrastructure accounts for perhaps 5% of my work with SharePoint, the rest is spent working with business teams to get the most out of SharePoint and how to move to the cloud.
I never imagined where the MOSS site would end up after ten years and right now I’m wondering where it will go in the next ten.