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Microsoft revealed some interesting statistics about enterprise adoption of Office 365 at its annual IT professionals conference. The company also shared its roadmap for the next version of its popular business collaboration platform, SharePoint, and its struggling file sync and share offering, OneDrive for Business.

Microsoft recognizes that it has a lot more work to do

Microsoft’s new management regime is focusing its energies on a few key initiatives, and reinventing productivity is one of them. In the last 12 months, 80% of Fortune 500 companies have purchased Office 365, helping the product to become Microsoft’s fastest growing commercial offering ever, with a $6.3bn annual revenue run rate.

Progressive organizations are in the process of modernizing the workplace: re-platforming the workforce with tablets and smartphones running powerful, intuitive, cloud-first/mobile-first apps. Mobile productivity and cross-device application usage are now starting to drive the uptake of Office 365, taking over from cloud-based email adoption. But despite this shift in technology, the actual document collaboration activities of business professionals have changed relatively little, even though the location of those documents may have changed considerably.

Microsoft has introduced enhancements in the client and server components of its content collaboration tools, but its most recent updates – Office 2013 and SharePoint 2013 – have not been universally adopted, and few knowledge workers have grasped the opportunities afforded by Office 365 and the accompanying Office Web Apps. One reason for this, in Ovum’s view, is the user experience. Microsoft’s offerings lack the “joy-of-use” factor that startups and some competitors have.

User experiences, along with management and extensibility, are now top of the agenda for Office 365 product managers. For example, Microsoft now openly acknowledges that while SharePoint is fine for general-purpose document libraries, it wasn’t designed with file sync and share in mind, and that specific improvements (mobile, web user interface, and sync capabilities) are required to bring OneDrive for Business up to scratch. Indeed, Microsoft is making this a number-one priority for the SharePoint engineering team.

With the advent of SharePoint Server 2016 (public beta expected 4Q 2015, with general availability 2Q 2016), Microsoft is placing renewed focus on file management, content management, sites, and portals. The company said it will also continue to develop the hybrid capabilities of SharePoint, recognizing that hybrid deployments are a steady state for many large organizations, and not just a temporary position to enable migration to the cloud. On-premise updates to SharePoint Server will continue to arrive on a two- to three-year cycle, with interim service packs as appropriate.

After 14 years of evolution, SharePoint 2016 will be the first major product release where the cloud offering defines the way Microsoft thinks about on-premise software delivery. This is a watershed moment in Microsoft’s software development history, and one that CIOs and IT professionals need to be cognizant of, as this is likely to be the future of on-premise enterprise IT.


Further reading

Office 365: Trust, Security, and Compliance, IT0021-000083 (May 2015)

“Microsoft wants business users to love Office 365 and its apps, even if they don’t love Windows”, IT0021-000058 (February 2015)

2015 Trends to Watch: Enterprise Collaboration and Productivity, IT0021-000042 (December 2014)

Office 365: Email Migration, Coexistence, and Adoption, IT0021-000035 (October 2014)

SWOT Assessment: Microsoft OneDrive for Business, EI0024-000019 (August 2014)


Richard Edwards, Principal Analyst, Enterprise Mobility & Productivity

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