SharePoint 2013 Content Catalogs I heart you

Catalog content is crawled and added to the search index and can then be displayed on one or many site collections using the new Content Search Web Part.

When I attended the SharePoint Conference in November I sat in on several different sessions around the new functionality for Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Web Content Management (WCM) in SharePoint 2013. Microsoft has really invested in these areas and made some huge improvements to the SharePoint content management story. Search is at the center of it all with robust capability driving richer experiences around storing, accessing, and consuming information.

One of the new concepts introduced in SharePoint 2013 is catalog-enabled lists and libraries or more simply, content catalogs. Catalogs are a type of list/library used for storing information that you would like to publish across multiple site collections. Catalog content is crawled and added to the search index and can then be displayed on one or many site collections using the new Content Search Web Part. Content that is stored on an employee portal can easily be displayed in many different environments, across employee, customer and member portal sites.

This is pretty fantastic. Are you excited? I hope so! The idea of store in one place, display in many is definitely not a new requirement for WCM and it is valuable in so many scenarios. I've worked on many portals with a strong need for this functionality and it wasn't something that was addressed well (or at all, really) in previous versions of SharePoint. Instead, we had to piece together a solution using lists/libraries, Content Query Web Parts, XSLT and custom page layouts. In SharePoint 2013, portal managers can answer this requirement with out-of-the-box components and configuration.

Despite my initial excitement around this functionality, I was a little disappointed at how it was featured and demo'd throughout the conference. The content catalog and cross-site publishing story was told through a "product catalog" scenario, using a library containing information on tech products –– laptops, cameras, monitors, etc. I can understand that this example clearly illustrates the catalog concept (think Sears Wishbook) but in the world of employee portals and collaboration, this isn't the most relevant or relatable scenario.

So when would you use content catalogs on your portal sites? Here are just a few scenarios that spring to my mind:

  • Knowledge base articles
  • Training course catalog
  • Job postings
  • News articles
  • Success stories
  • Profiles or spotlights
  • Document templates

I'm very excited to start working with this functionality in SharePoint 2013. Can you think of other scenarios where this capability will be beneficial to your organization? How do you envision content catalogs will be used on your portal sites? Really, the possibilities are endless but I'd love to hear your thoughts on it!

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