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Microsoft SharePoint's Crossroads: Where Opportunities, Challenges Meet

Microsoft SharePoint's Crossroads: Where Opportunities, Challenges Meet

As consumer-based technologies, which are primarily out in the cloud, have progressed, organizations want to focus less on infrastructure and focus more on actual business systems. End users on the other side of that want their corporate solutions to match more closely to their personal habits, to their personal tools. They're doing everything in the cloud, everything via a mobile phone.

By Dana Gardner
06/13/14 5:00 AM PT

One of the most broadly deployed collaboration platforms, Microsoft SharePoint, is rapidly evolving from local network portal roots into the new cloud and mobile era.

Delivering information as an actionable asset in a widely collaborative and increasingly mobile environment has clearly become a top business priority. Business architects need the agility enabled by such unshackled information sharing and contextual collaboration to keep pace with distributed services and a boundaryless enterprise approach to their operations and commerce.

That is why IT leaders worldwide recognize that they must better manage knowledge, share information more safely, and yet rapidly and securely enable mobility among workers and their activities.

In this podcast, a group of recently selected top SharePoint influencers discuss how enterprise collaboration and document management are being transformed by new cloud and mobile requirements. They share their views on where Microsoft SharePoint is headed -- as well as newer services like Office 365 -- to help companies gauge how they can best exploit and extend such productivity services.

The panel consists of Christian Buckley, director and chief evangelist at Metalogix Software; Yaacov Cohen, cofounder and CEO of Harmon.i.e; Joel Oleson, director of marketing and technology Visit the VMware Tech Center evangelism at ViewDo Labs; and Laura Rogers, manager of SharePoint consultants at Rackspace Hosting. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.


Listen to the podcast (48:28 minutes).

Following are some excerpts:

Dana Gardner: SharePoint was designed quite some time ago to play a somewhat different role. Organizations need to start thinking about cloud, or even clouds -- and learn how to manage across them, to do collaboration and safely share documents. How well suited is SharePoint to take on this new role?

Laura Rogers: It's interesting, because some of the bread-and-butter of SharePoint is being able to collaborate on documents. One of the main things that people have done with SharePoint over the years is in moving from file-shares to SharePoint. So that's just getting things from file-shares to being able to collaborate with them easier.

Now, a lot of things are moving to the cloud. Everything that people do in their daily lives is based on the cloud. People are used to being able to pick up their iPhone and have a FaceTime conversation. They're used to being able to pick up their phone and check Facebook.

All these different applications are in the cloud, and it's part of people's daily life. Now, they have this expectation of being able to have all this live information and collaboration going on with what they're doing at work as well.

Microsoft is moving to Office 365 and is doing a lot with the integration between Office 365 and the Office apps, being able to take files, quickly edit them on the phone, and then quickly upload them to SharePoint. In general, people have expectations of being able to collaborate wherever they are.

That's where the pressure is coming from for enterprises to either physically move their data to the cloud and go to Office 365, or at least upgrade and keep all of their on-premises technology up-to-date, so that the end users have that seamless experience.

But that gets more and more complicated, because of all the different servers you would need to have involved -- like the latest version of SharePoint, the latest version of Exchange, the latest version of Lync. As it gets more and more involved to do those things on-premises, that's where some companies are saying, "Let's just go do it in the cloud. It might be easier."

Gardner: Christian, given the fact that we're seeing increased complexity, it's one thing to move storage to the cloud and share documents across a cloud service. It's something quite more complex to bring a process into the cloud, manage the process, and have it extended across the boundaries of the organization. Are companies yet progressing to that point?

Christian Buckley: You've hit on the complexity of what actually moves across. Look historically at intranets. I started getting involved in the intranet knowledge management space in the mid '90s, and organizations approached building out those intranets and building the complexity of their work processes into digital form. That's why automation, whether it's your dashboarding, workflows, and all those capabilities, fit into how SharePoint has been built out.

What's changed is that as all of these consumer-based technologies, which are primarily out in the cloud, have progressed, organizations want to focus less on infrastructure and focus more on actual business systems. End users on the other side of that want their corporate solutions to match more closely to their personal habits, to their personal tools. They're doing everything in the cloud, everything via a mobile phone.

As you look at those changes to the traditional intranet model, how you approach and develop those solutions, build and maintain an infrastructure, and all the complexity, the difficulty is that end users are ahead of the curve. They want to have everything in the cloud flexible, dynamic, and real time via their phone or their tablet. They're out on the road. No matter how they're accessing the information, they just want access to it.

The difficulty is that not all of the technology is yet at parity with what you have on-prem, and that's where SharePoint is at this crossroads. That's what we're starting to experience. The consumer is driving what's happening within the corporation, rather than corporate IT driving what end users have access to. That's a huge change.


Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, which tracks trends, delivers forecasts and interprets the competitive landscape of enterprise applications and software infrastructure markets for clients. He also produces BriefingsDirect sponsored podcasts. Follow Dana Gardner on Twitter. You can also connect with him on Google+. Disclosure: This podcast is sponsored by Harmon.ie.


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