Michelle Caldwell, Director-Solution Development and Ruven Gotz, Director-Solution Development, Avanade
Over the past 2-3 years, you may have read opinions from various sources that SharePoint was dead or dying and that Microsoft had lost interest in it as a core product. This left many executives and SharePoint enthusiasts asking, “What do I do now with my SharePoint investment?” We've also heard many of those in IT leadership say, “Isn't SharePoint being deprecated?” We are happy to report that SharePoint is alive and well and in fact, SharePoint remains at the heart of Microsoft's mission to transform the way organizations are getting work done. Many organizations are embarking on digital transformation initiatives for both their customers and employees. SharePoint and Office 365 are positioned better than ever before to enable organizations to realize their transformational vision. We believe that SharePoint is an important component for transforming your current intranet and legacy applications into the Digital Workplace you aspire to.
While it seemed in the early days of Office 365, that Microsoft was abandoning the on-prem product to focus exclusively on the cloud, they have adjusted their messaging to reflect the reality that they really embrace both. They are committed to providing a market-leading experience whether their clients are on-prem, in the cloud or a blend of the two. It is clear that even for clients who see the value of cloud services; there are workloads or classes of data that cannot go to the cloud at least in the foreseeable future. With flagship products like SharePoint and OneDrive, Microsoft will remain a critical piece in many organizations that are on their digital workplace transformation journey. According to The Digital Workplace Group, 70 percent of corporate intranets are developed on the Microsoft SharePoint platform.
Microsoft has done a huge amount of work to make SharePoint in the cloud and on-prem a solution that appeals to more and more organizations. However, it has not been an easy path. Many companies did not realize SharePoint's promised benefits due to lack of investment in planning, change management, information architecture and governance. In addition, many felt like they had spent too much money customizing SharePoint without getting a strong enough ROI, while adding on the worry of compatibility with future upgrades. Microsoft was listening and they are building tools that are “ready to go.” Organizations can now get a very high proportion of the functionality required without a lot of customization. By reducing the need for SharePoint to be customized by their clients, Microsoft can make SharePoint responsive and mobile-ready without costly further investment. Microsoft research predicts that by 2020, 60 percent of all business processes will be optimized for mobile and they are laser focused on providing platforms like SharePoint that help organizations accomplish a mobile first agenda.
Another key capability of SharePoint as part of Office 365 is being able to provide a proactive and contextual search experience. This aids in solving the findability problem that has been the holy grail of search for most enterprises. Microsoft's solution is the development of the Office Graph. The Office Graph maps the relationships between people and objects: managers, colleagues, files, appointments, emails, social posts, etc. As people within an organization work together, the graph gets signals from the applications that people use and the actions that people take. These signals are processed using machine learning to build and modify the graph. The result is a system that can help you find documents that you didn’t even know you needed to look for. The first product that makes use of the Office Graph is called Delve. In our own experience, as we add documents to SharePoint Online or OneDrive for Business, we have been finding it incredibly useful in our day-to-day work. We are applying our experiences and helping our clients find new ways to apply it to their most painful productivity issues.
Another productivity enhancer is the development of groups, a powerful, yet lightweight approach to giving teams a workplace that they can set up and manage quickly and easily. Typically, in SharePoint, when a team wants a team site to work on a project, they have to request the team site and follow a process that may take hours or days. By the time they get their site, the need may have passed. A group is a secure structure based on Exchange that includes a calendar, a shared mailbox, and a SharePoint document library. Groups can also tie in other Office components as needed. The ability to instantly create a space for discussion, scheduling and light-weight document management, all managed from the Outlook client, provides a great way for teams to become instantly productive without the overhead of team site management
An additional capability is the Office 365 video portal and the new and improved video capability that Azure media services bring to the table. Many owners of intranets based on SharePoint have long struggled with attaining a seamless and responsive video streaming capability. With Azure media services, you get a simple management interface that allows you to select various formats and see the technology and protection level behind each of them. It provides support for a variety of formats, so if you have been dreaming of a great way to integrate video streaming into your current intranet, look no further.
A trend we are seeing more than ever is a demand for quick, easy and secure ways to collaborate with outside partners. In the past, this would have been time and resource intensive. Many of our clients are embracing cloud or hybrid models to meet this demand. Using Office 365 capabilities like OneDrive for Business, Yammer External Networks and SharePoint Online, IT has more options than ever before and this is often one of the first use cases that we see implemented in a Hybrid SharePoint environment.
SharePoint has been an essential building block for collaboration in a huge number of enterprises. The creation of a hybrid cloud and on-prem solution coupled with powerful new collaboration tools and concepts like the Office Graph and Groups is gaining huge traction with our largest clients. We see SharePoint and its surrounding, enabling tools contained within Office 365 as an unstoppable force in the enterprise. Long live SharePoint.