Microsoft has announced general availability of SharePoint Server 2016 for organizations running its on-premise software. The company also updated customers on its "cloud-first, mobile-first" roadmap for SharePoint Online within the context of its Office 365 service. For Microsoft customers, moving from on-premise SharePoint servers to Office 365 and SharePoint Online is akin to moving from a house in the suburbs to an apartment complex in the city: It's a home and place where you keep your stuff, but the layout of the rooms, the garage parking, and the local amenities are somewhat alien to you. Moreover, this new style of living requires you to adapt to it, rather than the other way around.
Progress and promises: SharePoint, Office 365 Groups, and OneDrive
SharePoint has been Microsoft's strategic platform for intranets, content management, and collaboration for well over a decade. But a shift in employee work styles and device usage has focused attention on file sync and share products and team-based collaboration offerings, which in Microsoft parlance equates to OneDrive for Business and Office 365 Groups (also referred to as Outlook Groups by Microsoft).
SharePoint is a multibillion-dollar business for Microsoft, supporting a $10bn+ solutions ecosystem comprised of 50K+ partners, consultancies, and independent software vendors. There are many enterprises invested in SharePoint (200K+ organizations and 190 million+ paid seats according to Microsoft), and these often have large teams of developers, administrators, and information managers dedicated to its upkeep. All in all, this means that there is significant vested interest in maintaining the viability and momentum of SharePoint in the move from on-premise to the cloud. Indeed, Microsoft reports that more than 40% of all seats, and more than 60% of new seats, are SharePoint Online.
Microsoft's domination of the corporate intranet market is reflected in the statistic that nine out the 10 "best intranets of 2016," as named by consulting firm Nielsen Norman Group, are built on SharePoint. However, it's hard to see how Microsoft's mishmash collaboration/intranet strategy, based on SharePoint, Outlook Groups, and OneDrive, makes it easy for the typical enterprise employee to get work done when there are so many different options, choices, and combinations to consider when it comes to finding, sharing, and collaborating on content.
Microsoft's OneDrive and SharePoint teams now report to the same executives, but the product roadmaps and release cycles of these offerings are still far from converged. For example, Microsoft wants to put the corporate intranet in the pockets of employees, but the iOS, Android, and Windows SharePoint apps being built have completely different release dates, thereby making enterprise rollouts almost impossible to plan today.
CIOs and IT professionals saw clear signs of progress at Microsoft's Future of SharePoint event this week, but there were plenty of promises and "futures" too. Existing on-premise SharePoint customers should consult their gurus to better understand the implications of Microsoft's announcements, whereas organizations not invested in the platform should approach with caution.
Nielsen Norman Group 2016 Intranet Design Annual Winners. Available from https://www.nngroup.com/articles/intranet-design/ [Accessed May 6, 2016]
"Breaking free of the inbox: Groups, Slack, or Spark?" IT0021-000158 (March 2016)
2016 Trends to Watch: Employee Engagement, Productivity, and Collaboration, IT0021-000145 (February 2016)
"Re-platform the knowledge worker or they will do it themselves," IT0021-000141 (January 2016)
Collective energy – making the most of an engaged, collaborative workforce, IT0021-000129 (November 2015)
Ovum Decision Matrix: Selecting an Enterprise File Sync and Share Product, IT0021-000018 (August 2014)
SWOT Assessment: Microsoft OneDrive for Business, EI0024-000019 (August 2014)
Richard Edwards, Principal Research Analyst, Enterprise Productivity & Mobility