a vision paper written by Rick Hilferink – SharePoint Consultant @ Portiva.
This vision paper will be written in a series of three blogs. In each of these series I hope to provide you with more insight in my understanding of today’s Microsoft SharePoint technology and how governance can be applied best.
Table of contents
Blog 1 – A new Era
Blog 2 – The rising
Blog 3 – The future
Blog 3 – The future
Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated
Microsoft has come a long way with the Microsoft Office Product Suite. This also applies for SharePoint as a product which was first born and launched back in 2001 and is still very much alive 14 years later, in 2015.
Microsoft has stated that mainstream support for the latest current SharePoint version, currently SharePoint 2013, will last at least until 2018. This means that when 2018 is reached, customers either need to move on to the new world of SaaS/PaaS in combination with Office 365, or upgrade to the new on-premisess version of SharePoint, the 2016 edition. After that one, most likely one last new version on-premisess version will be released.
To create the movement towards the cloud, Microsoft is not using their typical strategy to of brutally forcing the enterprises from a technology perspective. Instead they use the old, “carrot on a stick”, trick!
The idea is simple, computing power in the cloud is humongous and extreme flexible. This allows not only Microsoft but everyone with a subscription to create very powerful, user friendly solutions that can use the vast computing power that Microsoft possesses. And the subscriptions are rather cheap.
The main strategy is and will be, cloud first, mobile first. This means that the new versions of Microsoft Products such as SharePoint and Exchange will be more powerful and will have more functionality within the cloud, than it will have on-premises.
To stimulate the move towards Office 365 for existing customer, and influence greenfield companies to choose for Office 365, they currently offer an extravagant set of solutions:
- One drive for business (Large amount of storage, enabled document management functionality for the masses, away are the personal file shares)
- Yammer integration
- Video portal
- Clutter (Outlook online)
- Office for iPad/iPhone
Even better, Microsoft has not released all these functionalities at a random pace or in a random order. They make use of continuous delivery. Every month you get new features. Additionally they have chosen to be transparent in the development process, to be open in what companies can expect from Microsoft and what will be the next functionality that will be released. An extra carrot on the stick, so to say. This is called the Office 365 roadmap. Which can be found here: http://roadmap.office.com/en-us
Positioned as a leader
According to the magic quadrant of Gartner, Microsoft has pushed through as top leader with the most complete vision on Social Software in the Workplace. This is the cloud first strategy that paid off for Microsoft and for sticking to it. With buying Yammer and dropping the native SharePoint social features.
The report of Gartner in September of 2014 stated that one of the major strengths is the integration of components such as Exchange, SharePoint, Yammer, Lync and Office. The publically available roadmap adds to the vision factor that enhances the leadership position as seen in the quadrant in the top right corner above.
The major interest in the product and wide adoption of Office 365 and related Microsoft products make Microsoft a reliable company with billions of dollars in revenue. It is very unlikely that Microsoft will lose this leadership position in the near future.
Microsoft has also stepped up to the plate with helping companies getting familiar with new products and the cloud movement. For Office 365 a free trial can be set up within minutes and companies can take part in so called, customer emersion sessions. In such a session the customer will be emerged with the functionality and benefits of moving towards Office 365.
Once the customer is convinced of the product suite and online scenario, they can take part in the FastTrack program. This is the Office 365 onboarding service that Microsoft provides to help the customer to setup the basics and to start using the online product suite. User adoption is one of the key buzz words that is being used to promote the online suite.
These are all extra carrots on the stick. The trick is the same and consistent throughout the vision and strategy of Microsoft: not using force but attracting companies to take part in the cloud first strategy.
The other part of the carrot is marketing and the promotion of all of these products, features and assistance options.
Hybrid SharePoint scenarios?
When business asks for functionality that cannot be met with the ootb Office 365 platform an alternative solution needs to be offered. This often means using an on-premises environment for these specific business requirements. This is what we call a hybrid SharePoint environment.
A hybrid SharePoint environment means that SharePoint Online and SharePoint On-premises are connected in some ways, mostly architectural.
- A search architecture that combines search results from online and on-premises resources.
- Combined service application usage.
- Choose to store high sensitive content on-premises and not in the cloud. For example the creation of project sites with high sensitive data inside.
These hybrid scenarios have the advantage that for end users it does not matter where content is stored. However these scenarios can also have some disadvantages.
- Customizations not suitable for SharePoint Online.
- Unique features only available in Office 365 such as, Delve, Yammer, Video Portal etc.
- No global navigation experience
- Deployment of functionality towards multiple (hybrid) platforms
Some of the advantages
- A combined enterprise social network
- A combined search experience
- Gradually move old content from on-premises towards SharePoint Online
- Flexible architecture to provide for business requirements
Social Software in the Workplace?
The current SharePoint 2013 on-premises version still has the native social features inside such as the newsfeed with liking abilities and discussion boards. Follow people and follow sites from your MySite/Profile environment in order to fill your personal newsfeed with updates from these items. And last but not least, the communities sites feature that allows to create communities around specific topic related content and discussions.
Since Microsoft bought Yammer it started to adjust their vision and strategy statements concerning social networking. First, all social activities needed to be facilitated by the SharePoint on-premises platform. Now, a few years later the Yammer platform is the far most successful enterprise social networking tool ever, which now can be integrated within SharePoint.
If you are now at the point in time to start with enterprise social networking, this is the time to look at Yammer and how to integrate that within your SharePoint environment. The strategy and advice at this moment is, if you do anything social or start to facilitate discussions in the SharePoint platform, use Yammer and not the native social features if possible. The native social features will not be improved or extended in new versions of SharePoint on-premises, these will remain as they are within SharePoint 2013.
This will all be much more obvious in the month of May, after the Microsoft Ignite Conference were the new and latest SharePoint on-premises version will be released. That version will probably not have any ‘new’ native social features. Instead, the Yammer integration will be there, finally J This is what enterprises have been waiting for.
Another thing to expect is that more social features will be available only within SharePoint online, in order to promote and leverage the enterprises to start using SharePoint online.
The hyped buzz word Governance will have a lot of attention again the next few years. SharePoint online brings new guidelines and new policies. The same applies to the use of Yammer as the social enterprise networking platform. Think of the moderation of posts within the all company feed, specific groups, open / closed groups for SharePoint sites etc. SharePoint online brings updates every month, that cycle of release management has a great impact on Governance guidelines. Perhaps your steering committee was used to plan a quarterly meeting to adjust the governance guidelines, that rate will probably go up, to a monthly meeting. Changes happen quicker, guidelines have to adjust accordingly. Microsoft keeps on moving, and so do you.
These next few years will be very exciting but it will take a lot of effort for companies to keep up with all these new technologies. Microsoft is in the strategic leader position because of their innovation and future proof solutions, but the most important challenge will be not to distance themselves too much and evolve too quick for companies to keep up with.
Microsoft uses this very appropriate quote in their promotion of “Work like a network”.
“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”
– Jack Welch
For companies struggling with on-premises and online scenario’s the message can only be:
Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated … Soon everything will come from the cloud, start preparing now, so you don’t have to regret it later. In May, at the Microsoft Ignite Conference, the evolution of the Office 365 and the SharePoint on-premises product suites will be announced, keep an eye out on mine and Portiva’s blog for a lot of content coming your way about these topics.