The SharePoint Landscape from 30000 Feet

If SharePoint were a character in a movie, it would be Rocky Balboa, or maybe Mark Twain (“The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated”). With the end of the year around the corner, it's a good time to take a 30,000-foot view of the lay of the SharePoint land and see what's in store for 2015. While SharePoint may not be perfect, the technology is something many enterprises count on. We've seen great growth and energy in SharePoint over the past year and there are some events and developments that will be driving the technology next year.

Delve and Office Graph

Julia White, general manager of Microsoft Office 365 Technical Product Management, described Delve in a blog earlier this year,

Office Delve is a new way to discover relevant information and connections from across your work life. Delve displays information that is most relevant for each person based on the work they are doing and the people with whom they are engaging. With Delve, information finds you versus you having to find information. All of this is presented in a beautiful, card-based design that is easy to understand and use.”

It’s not going to change the world, but from what I’ve seen, Delve will make life easier for many. On the surface, Delve, powered by Office Graph, will make all configuration and customization of the interface unnecessary because it’s smart enough to know what you need. That sounds too good to be true -- do you remember what your mother told you about things that appear to be too good to be true? Delve will become another (valuable) tool in the arsenal of today’s digital workplace, but that alone won’t make for an employee-centric solution, so don’t stop working everyone!

Get Social

The social enterprise is here. Even The Original Social Network -- Facebook -- is getting involved, with what’s now being called [email protected]. Christian Buckley made some great points on the future of [email protected] in “7 Reasons Why Facebook at Work Will Fail.” Facebook is not a company, brand or technology that was made for the digital workplace.

Privacy will have a huge resurgence in the coming 18 months. Enterprises don’t like their “stuff” being indexed and searched for BI! Gartner made a good point about this at its IT Expo in October. A lot of this activity falls under the creepy category -- I don’t need ads appearing on Google or Facebook referencing things I did at work. That’s creepy.

Yammer is going strong, and we’ve seen some great advances in the thinking around social in the enterprise. It's no longer seen as a “Just Add Content” kind of enterprise social solution. Companies are now being more strategic about how they implement Yammer, understanding users’ needs prior to launching the solution, so it is contextually relevant in the digital workplace. We’ll see more of this next year and beyond.

Cloud vs. On-Premises

It’s well documented that Microsoft is herding the enterprise (in many cases, against their will) towards the cloud. But day-to-day in the trenches with clients, I still see a lot of companies that just aren’t ready -- either from a technology standpoint or simply their state of mind. Clients who are already implementing mobile are more advanced in their cloud strategy than those who aren’t. And in the case of SharePoint, it’s understandable that many would prefer the plethora of features and options available on-prem that still aren’t available in SharePoint Online. Several clients have had great success with hybrid solutions, which address security issues and help companies get comfortable with the cloud as a long-term strategy.

Microsoft’s SharePoint Online feature set is going to get more robust. It has to, because the company is betting on it. As the features approach parity with on-prem, it will be exciting to see what more they do with it. I’m hoping for some great announcements at Microsoft Ignite in May 2015.

Where It’s App

Several leading industry analysts have said that they're looking forward to the app model for SharePoint. They feel that’s the future. The app model offers greater flexibility and the chance for enterprises to get more of the SharePoint solution they need, without costly and time consuming customizations that need to maintained.

The SharePoint app model should help address the tension between users wanting the newest features, and IT being reluctant to dedicate the time and energy needed for a stable upgrade. This should create a healthy future for SharePoint, even during this somewhat tumultuous multi-year transition to the cloud.

Candy for the Cloud

Microsoft is making the cloud attractive by luring users with features and integrations like OneDrive, Yammer and Office Graph. Ultimately enterprises may need to be lured with the candy -- the comfort of on-prem is great, and from an enterprise standpoint, we’re still early in the shift to the cloud. 2015 should be a great year for planning and starting to shift towards SharePoint Online, looking at the tools and technologies to make it right for your company. Microsoft has committed to supporting SharePoint 2013 on-prem for at least another year plus -- which is likely reassuring for many -- and there's one more version of SharePoint to look forward to in 2015.

Microsoft knows it has its work cut out. Jeff Teper, Vice President of Corporate Strategy at Microsoft, said "… I think we can do a better job in the cloud," he said, adding later, "The cloud is the key."

Now is a good time to start thinking about where you are going with SharePoint. The energy spent planning early will help you deploy the best possible solution in the cloud, whenever you’re ready. From 30,000 feet, it appears that the SharePoint ecosystem is ready to help you drive greater success with your intranet in 2015.

Title image Anton Petrus / Shutterstock