What is the current state of SharePoint?

Ahead of tomorrow’s year-end #CollabTalk tweetjam, I’ve been doing some reflecting on the state of all things SharePoint. Well, that’s partially true — I’ve also been iterating on my 2016 budget and plans, with some big content projects already underway that will go live in Q1, and a huge initiative kicking off in a couple weeks. So, to be more accurate, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ll discuss in the community event tomorrow about the current state of SharePoint today – as a brand and as a platform.

Let’s be honest — the SharePoint brand lost some of its luster over the last couple years, not because of the value it brings to businesses, but because Microsoft turned its attention to the broader Office 365 story and forgot that SharePoint was what made that platform possible in the first place (well, and that Exchange thing, I suppose, which is, technically, the driving force behind most customer moves). In my view, Microsoft lost sight of the SharePoint story and value proposition, and has only recently started to turn the corner in repairing SharePoint’s positioning.

imagePart of the problem, even still, is that Microsoft has not been entirely successful is helping customers understand SharePoint’s value within the Office 365 cloud story — especially with the development of Office 365 Groups. The messaging has been unclear, at best. And then they trot out that tired diagram to illustrate that SharePoint, along with Exchange and Yammer, OneDrive for Business, and other workloads plug into Office 365 as some kind of service bus — but without a scrape of reality on how these various pieces come together in the real world. (I suppose there’s a partner opportunity in there somewhere)

Now, without sounding too much like a downer (because I’m actually really optimistic), with Microsoft’s renewed commitment to on prem and hybrid, and Jeff Teper’s return to SharePoint leadership, my sense is that people are once again excited about the future of SharePoint. And more importantly, customers are feeling more optimistic that investments made today will still have value a few years down the road, which was a HUGE issue for those firms who had sunk serious dollars into SharePoint on prem, only to feel as if the rug was being pulled out from under them. While hybrid is no panacea, the story around moving to the cloud while leveraging existing investments on prem has been getting stronger all year — and SharePoint Server 2016 will improve on it.

SP2016 will be a foundational release — the first on prem release since Microsoft moved primary development to the cloud, and the first to seriously consider hybrid options as a primary strategy — not just a bolt-on strategy to quiet whiny customers. SP2016 was architected for hybrid. The focus is still very much on the cloud, and what we’ll see on prem has largely already been delivered for the cloud. So my expectation is to see a trickle of features and capabilities already available in the cloud to find their way to on prem, allowing organizations who cannot or will not move to the cloud to transition via hybrid capabilities.

In some ways, Microsoft’s continued support for on-prem may curtail some movement to the cloud. I think it’s a necessary cost for Microsoft to support existing customers. Let’s face it — improving the capability of on prem does impact customers who might otherwise consider moving to the cloud. However, this is where Microsoft can be smart about their strategy and increasingly offer features that bridge the gap between on prem and the cloud. So instead of pushing people to the cloud ("We’re all in! Are you all in!?") it’s more of a pull strategy, enticing them with expanded hybrid capability.

Underneath it all, moving to the cloud is a transition, not a flip of a switch. I do run into organizations that stand very firm on their belief that the cloud is not secure enough, that the value is not there for them to move — or that compliance and regulatory requirements limit their ability to move. I do believe that, eventually, all of our systems and data will be in the cloud – regardless of industry or requirements. I’m just not going to put a projected date on that. It might take some organizations 10 years or longer to make that move. Look at how long organizations stayed on Windows XP. SharePoint 2010, in my mind, is the XP of SharePoint. It’s going to be around for a long, long time.

With customers I work with, there are three primary reasons for not moving all production systems to the cloud:

  • lack of control over the user experience
  • lack of governance/administration parity between online and on prem
  • Performance

Microsoft will be able to handle the first two more readily than the third, but they are all issues that organizations must address as part of their planning efforts. Factors that could increase the speed of movement to 2016 include Microsoft’s plans for future on prem releases and increased support for hybrid solutions. But as I mentioned, these same hybrid features could slow migrations and upgrades as organizations with large on prem environments and heavy customizations could remain right where they are — while also taking advantage of some of the latest cloud features through connectors and other hybrid scenarios.
In short, I think SharePoint is getting its second wind. While more needs to be done around messaging — especially about SharePoint’s place within the magic service bus, continued investments in hybrid, and more connectivity between SharePoint and competing technologies (Slack, anyone?). Ultimately, I believe these strategies will make SharePoint an even stronger central platform for intranet and extranet strategies.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and M365 Apps & Services MVP, and an award-winning product marketer and technology evangelist, based in Silicon Slopes (Lehi), Utah. He is the Director of North American Partner Management for leading ISV Rencore (https://rencore.com/), leads content strategy for TekkiGurus, and is an advisor for both revealit.TV and WellnessWits. He hosts the monthly #CollabTalk TweetJam, the weekly #CollabTalk Podcast, and the Microsoft 365 Ask-Me-Anything (#M365AMA) series.

5 Responses

  1. Any increase in SharePoint adoption and maintenance of skills will be wiped out because the product team, in its infinite wisdom, decided to kill SharePoint Foundation, which consisted of, without actually having any real numbers to back this up, a whole friggin lot of the current SharePoint install base. 
    They may be stupid, but killing off SharePoint Foundation is _not_ a sign of the good health of the product, the platform, or the community. 
    Heres the thing, though. SharePoint and the way it is managed goes against everything that happens in Redmond these days. Microsoft is heading towards more openness, with a real reinvestment in open platforms, .NET, and developers again. SharePoint is not. SharePoint is getting even more closed, and the developer story is a bigger and bigger disaster every version. This has been going on since 2009 with Sandbox solutions and it continues to this day with whatever the model-du-jour is this week.
    This pisses developers off. Developers are what drives Microsoft. Not business analysts or whatever they call themselves these days. Alienate developers, like the SharePoint team has managed so incredibly well, and you effectively kill off a product.
    And Jeff being back? Cmon, will you at least venture a guess as to whether he was promoted out of SharePoint and demoted back or vice versa? Regardless, it isnt a good thing when old bosses who were let go or promoted or whatever have to return.
    Look at where we were just five years ago. SharePoint was the only IT-product in the history of humankind that had, or was months from having, a bona fide, degree-granting university. Now, the community has shrunk to a few die-hard MVPs and fans who produce articles that were outdated in 2008, struggling with problems we had solved in 2010, trying to harness functionality that everyone knew was doomed in 2013. At least those who dont need to suck up to Microsoft to keep our MVP titles knew, and were able to say this loud, to the unison ridicule of your fellow groupies.
    See a pattern here? This isnt progress and without progress, SharePoint will continue to die. 2016 was its last hope. Theres nothing there but bad news and new numbers, but hey, Im sure that site collection sizes increased by 50% or whatever is what will really bring SharePoint back to its glory days.

  2. Bjorn, your feelings about the death knell of SharePoint is well-documented…however the data does not support your conclusion. In the last 3 years, the number of net-new SharePoint installs on prem have actually increased. And Office 365, driven largely by Exchange Online, has seen an increased rate of adoption and positive press.
    I’m not going to argue with you about the app model, because you’re absolutely right. But stepping into the gap created by this app model hot mess have been partner solutions, from both ISVs and SIs, and a reluctance from many customers to move into the cloud and maintain their full trust code customizations — which helped course-correct Microsoft toward what is now SP2016 and more robust hybrid scenarios.
    Guess we’ll just have to once again agree to disagree.

  3. No. SharePoint doesn’t have a second wind. It died three years ago with SP2013. It’s still dead, as much as people are trying to put bolts of electricity up its ass to make it jerk around.
    If you want to know why, it is first of all because there’s no technical reason to do Office364.75. It’s nowhere near competitive with what’s out there already and coming out every day, and by the time Microsoft catches up, the rest of the world are several generations ahead. Microsoft is still trying to catch up with Google apps and despite being far behind, Google apps are now too old and are being replaced with other things. This is a losing fight for Microsoft.
    The single most important reason for all this, however, is the app-in model or whatever it’s called today. I said this then and I’m thrilled to have been proven right; there’s zero value there because it solves problems nobody has. Microsoft is desperately trying to make it relevant by saying how everyone can now build apps for SharePoint or that it’s really easy to use or whatever, but nobody is buying the story. That’s why it was recently rebranded; not because it succeeded but because it failed, exactly like I predicted and for exactly the reasons I said.
    The thing that remains in SharePoint, particularly as an online service, is as a datastore. It may have had some minor role to play there, but it’s already been left in the dust even by Microsoft’s own competing Azure services. There’s no technical reason why anyone would want to use SharePoint as a data store.
    As an application platform, it got its death warrant with the app model and Microsoft’s refusal to focus on on-prem (no, that’s not what they’re doing by saying, like I also reported three years ago, that there will be another on-prem version).
    SharePoint’s time has come and passed, largely because of how that product group completely dropped the ball and was so afraid of listening to people like me that they killed their own product rather than try to adapt. Instead, a choir of MVPs chanted the tune of destruction and perpetuated the doom. “No, no, this ship is unsinkable. We cannot possibly be going down. Just look, there’s still a speck of dry deck over there, so obviously everything is just fine.”
    I’m doing a SharePoint project now. The task is to avoid any dependency on SharePoint so that it can be completely removed when the heart rate monitor finally gives a solid sound.

  4. Fred, thanks for the additional items.
    On cost, this is a point I often make about organizations still needing to get value out of past investments before jumping to something new, which is part of the comment you make. But the bigger issue around cost is whether the cloud truly reduces the cost if the fundamental value you receive is through your highly customized platform. In other words, you may reduce some costs (headcount, hardware) but increase others (opportunity costs, reduction in automation, reduction in innovation).
    On the security front, in my mind it’s pretty simple: you need to understand your constraints, your requirements, and not accept a solution that does not meet those constraints. Office 365 either meets your requirements, or it doesn’t. Don’t move on promises of future fixes: wait until they are confirmed. Plain and simple.
    No comment on InfoPath. Don’t know what to tell you other than I feel your pain.

  5. Fred Baer says:

    Hi Christian, I think there are a few more factors for not moving to the cloud.
    Cost. Not just from a dollar amount (overall yearly costs for licensing versus on-prem costs) but the entire way that organizations budget Capital expenditures versus Expenses (which O365 licenses fall into) Capital expenditures are amortized down over several years, and in many organizations Capital dollars are much easier to obtain than expense dollars, which O365 seat licenses fall into. This is an ongoing monthly / yearly expense.
    Security. Even though Microsoft has opened its Cloud for Government, there are still large security concerns. With all of the ‘State-Sponsored’ hacking, high profile companies (Banking, Hi-Tech, etc) are prime targets.
    I also believe that Microsoft has not made good decisions lately regarding the platform, for example the way that they dealt with InfoPath is a prime example. Removing a heavily used feature without any sort of plan for a replacement erodes confidence very quickly. However, the recent return of Jeff Teper to the SharePoint program, and the announcement of continued support for On-Premise should alleviate those fears.