What is the Future of SharePoint?

Mobile Man / Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Stephen Fishman has a...colorful way of describing Microsoft’s SharePoint offering. In his words, “SharePoint is crack and Microsoft is the pusher”. Fishman’s rather stark analogy stems from Redmond firm’s long history of getting organizations and individuals with any kind of IT inclination hooked on products; offering a unique combination of power and functionality at a cheap price or even for free. We can’t comment on the validity of his analogy, but we do know we like SharePoint.

SharePoint was unveiled in 2001 as an enterprise solution for document sharing and is now currently over 125 million users strong. The tool is one of Microsoft’s fastest growing products, generating revenues worth billions of dollars. Characteristically, the ‘Softies have followed their unique approach to product pricing, offering a combination of freemium and paid products consistent with the release of incrementally improved product features, irresistible to the enterprise.

In this post, we’ll be looking at the recent history and roadmap of what is probably Microsoft’s most successful enterprise product. SharePoint has grown into a mature and dynamic enterprise tool and its future looks bright.

Cloud & Enterprise Social

As SharePoint evolved from a glorified file-share, Microsoft set out to help organizations leverage the power of networking to create a more intelligent, innovative and productive workforce. SharePoint 2010 started introducing unique and improved features around collaboration through team sites, and social through personal sites. These features offered new experiences like basic search, content management, business intelligence, business solutions and mobile.

More recently, Microsoft has leveraged the cloud to rapidly innovate and deliver new experiences, providing greater value to customers and partners. Investments in hybrid saw SharePoint evolve in the cloud with Office 365, delivering new targeted experiences around collaboration, mobility, intelligence and cross-suite capabilities. Since 2013 we started to see some really exciting enhancements to the 2010 version, such as improvements in scalability and reliability. Some of these innovative experiences that have helped make SharePoint ever more attractive include:

  • Search – with experiences from Office Delve, offering a new way to help people connect with the right information at the right time.
  • Portals – building on customer insight, NextGen Portals were designed to be ready to go, mobile collaborative and intelligent.
  • Files – with OneDrive, users can easily store, sync and share personal files across the organization with amazing multi-device, security and manageability features.
  • Business Intelligence – Power BI uses the familiar Excel interface to connect users to important information, it sits on top of Office 365 and provides an integrated analytical platform.

SharePoint’s Future

While looking to greater heights with the cloud, SharePoint hasn’t forgotten the On-Premises faithful. While Microsoft have pushed the cloud, they have recognized that there will always be a demand for the On-Premises version. 2016 promises to unveil the On-Premises equivalent of SharePoint Online, with a lot of investment in security and compliance, reinforcing the platform and expanding the admin options toolset. With a history of technological evolution, Microsoft are once again on the critical path to a new collaboration paradigm that sees a merging of business and consumer experiences, expectations and the power to choose between On-Premises and Cloud.

A rather interesting intranet-in-a-box approach to extending the SharePoint platform signifies a shift to a managed service delivery model, empowering partners to evolve through the creation of intellectual property on top of SharePoint. Microsoft recently announced their strategic approach to the future of SharePoint covering the following three key areas:

  • User Experiences – multi device access, familiarity, intuition, personalization and manageability to enable both the end-user and the IT professional enjoy the experience of working with SharePoint in the future.
  • Hybrid – cloud-inspired infrastructure enabling streamlined administrative tasks that allow IT to focus more on innovation and core competencies while easily provisioning new services, through simple and efficient processes.
  • Security and Compliance – improvements in managing access to information and mitigating data loss, using tools for managing document retention and an improved control surface using concepts like permission levels, groups and inheritance.
  • SharePoint Server 2016 offers new capabilities by adopting compelling ways of blending the cloud into existing on-premises scenarios with some On-Premises features. Taking advantage of the cloud accelerated experiences through a hybrid configuration that is more reliant on the cloud.

Microsoft’s Message

Some interesting upcoming developments include a hybrid deployment that would allow an On-Premises SharePoint server to provide predictive and personalized content for users by searching through Office Delve. Delivering a consistent cross-screen experience and ensuring users can use software on their preferred devices on the go has driven Microsoft to invest in HTML5, enabling device-specific targeting of content through the latest mobile push, information synchronization and touch technologies.

The true message from Microsoft is that while maintaining a cloud-first strategy, both users with a preference for cloud or On-Premises deployments can equally enjoy the power of the Cloud; SharePoint 2016 ushers in the beginning of the journey for the next generation of SharePoint – the Hybrid Cloud.

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