SharePoint in the Sky Takeaways from SPTechCon Austin

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With apologies to Norman Greenbaum, greetings from sunny Austin! This year, the SPTechCon conference came for the first time to the Lone Star State. It was a great place to soak up the latest on SharePoint, as well as some sun. (Full disclosure: I live in Boston, where annual snowfall already totals over 100 inches.)

SPTechCon was billed as “SharePoint at the Crossroads” -- but from the presentations and keynotes, “SharePoint in the Sky” seems more appropriate. Microsoft and Amazon focused almost exclusively on the cloud in the keynotes, and interest in learning about cloud optimization seemed greater than ever before.

Cloud Interest, On Premises Realities

There were a lot of first time attendees at this year's event, which logged its highest attendance in the past seven years. The level of commitment to the technology, and technical skill level in general, were high. A nonscientific sampling showed many in attendance still supported SharePoint 2010 on premises -- and were evaluating a move to Office 365 or 2013 in the next six to 12 months. Interest in on-premises solutions was equal to interest in the cloud.

I presented two sessions at the conference -- one on business intelligence engineering for Office 365 and on-premises, and one on Access Apps in the cloud with Power BI. Of note: on several occasions, when attendees asked if I would be presenting only on premises solutions (no) they remained when they learned it would also cover the cloud. In prior years, a notable contingent would leave if they knew Office 365 was being discussed. (And thanks to everyone who came!)

Highlights and Surprises

A few key takeaways:

  • Enterprise video provider Ramp shared that it has seen accelerating interest in integration around Microsoft’s newer cloud app model -- instead of legacy full trust solutions. In discussion with Brian Prigge from Ramp, he highlighted increased customer deployment and adoption of cloud apps.
  • Amazon AWS made a huge splash -- and not just with its giant expo floor cornhole competition. Amazon entered the heart of its principal rival for enterprise cloud -- Microsoft -- but only to show its love. In partnership with Slalom Consulting, Amazon led a keynote showcasing its ability to shape customer performance workloads and achieve great user satisfaction when hosting SharePoint farms on AWS.
  • Arpan Shah delivered Microsoft’s keynote, highlighting the ongoing commitment to seamless deployment of hybrid solutions. In particular, Microsoft has been augmenting its core document collaboration features to add fully finished, point solutions for video delivery, knowledge management and people. This comes on the heels of its already delivered extensions for board-based content discovery (Delve), visualization (Power BI) and personal clouds (OneDrive.) Arpan highlighted a key evolution -- instead of bringing customers to the cloud, Microsoft will focus on bringing the cloud to you -- on any platform, any OS.
  • ISVs are continuing to find success investing in forward-looking interfaces. Discussions with KnowledgeLake’s head of sales and marketing revealed its investment in cross-browser HTML5 interfaces (replacing legacy code) is winning in the market.
  • InfoPath, dead and buried at last year’s SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas, gained new life when Microsoft announced it was canceling its replacement (“FoSL -- Forms on Sharepoint Lists”). Instead, InfoPath is being restored as a full component of SharePoint 2016 (likely until 2026) and Office 365 (indefinitely). This was a huge topic at the Austin SharePoint User Group and in other conference breakouts (including Access Apps).

The event was in many ways a tune-up for more announcements from Microsoft as we approach the Ignite Conference, in Chicago this May. SPTechCon will follow up with more events this year in San Francisco in June and Boston in August (if the snow melts). Stay tuned.

Title Image by Chris McNulty. All rights reserved.