Just a Friday musings post, nothing too technical, but I did want to give some kudos to Microsoft for how well they’ve succeeded in the collaboration space over the last year and sort of pontificate on where SharePoint is going to fit in to the future of digital transformation. Its no secret that I’m an off and on SharePoint fan, I’ve been dealing with this platform for a good chunk of my professional career and I’ve seen it evolve over the last decade, for better and for worse. It’s been really interesting to see how they’ve shifted with their cloud initiave and completely changed the way that companies are running their business.
What’s been great about this evolution is that we’re now seeing a true shift towards a collaboration suite that is capable of supporting both large and small businesses. Even better is that Microsoft seems to have really put some effort into removing a lot of the complexity of SharePoint and more emphasis on real document and peer collaboration features. Meaning you get more out of the box features and apps that enable the average end user to immediately start reaping the rewards of owning the system and that you can foster some real citizen developer cultures within your organization, no matter the size.
I think one of the major tipping points for the collaboration space was when Slack was launched, creating a de facto standard of the features and capabilities that the average end user is looking for in an enterprise social/networking tool.
Microsoft really took that to heart, and you can see that with their release of Teams over a year ago with how they enabled a lot of deep integration with their entire suite of tools. Teams ended up being the glue that Microsoft was looking for. This was really highlighted last summer when Satya Nadella announced the Microsoft 365 initiative at the Microsoft Inspire conference. They envisioned a product family of Office 365, Windows 10, enterprise mobility, cloud storage and security all wrapped up with a nice bow on it.
Now we’re seeing these great features in both the Teams app as well as the Microsoft 365 packages and a it feels like they are pulling back from their previous swiss army knife approach to the collaboration space that was the SharePoint wheel. Instead of getting complex and highly customizable software platforms that do “everything” but not always in the best or most intuitive way, we’re getting more purpose driven features delivered in holistic cloud-based tool that lower the entry point into the collaboration space for the end user whether they are a small business or a large enterprise.
So where does this leave SharePoint? I think we’re going to see a fundamental shift this year where much of the concepts that have surrounded the old “team site” and community templates of SharePoint will be moved into the Teams platform for real-time peer-to-peer collaboration scenarios. Honestly, I see a lot of features in the Teams product that I’ve always wanted in the SharePoint collaboration team sites, or the Team Foundation Server chat rooms, or clunky Exchange calendars & meetings, OneNote notebooks, etc.
I think that SharePoint as a platform and as the backbone to a lot of these technologies will still remain strong, but I think a lot of the front-end, user facing GUI features native to the SharePoint product are going to fall victim to digital transformation ideas, that your data will sit on a back end SharePoint system “somewhere” and that your end-users will use a bevy of apps to access that SharePoint backbone, with some of them never experiencing the native SharePoint UI. But I think that can be a good thing and I’m looking forward to what 2018 is going to hold in store for us SharePoint geeks.