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SharePoint's Reason for Success Could Also Be Reason for Its Failure

While most organizations at the very least use SharePoint for document management, once you move beyond DM the variety and abundance of use cases are staggering. That is the root cause for both the successes and failures of SharePoint implementations.

SharePoint On Premises: A Platform For All

When we first started MetaVis, our goal was to build products that meet 80% of user’s needs. Our reasoning was to keep a fine balance between simplicity and ease of use while appealing to the largest audience at a reasonable price point.

SharePoint, on the other hand, tries to appeal to the largest possible audience. From document management, to publishing, collaboration, project management and others, there are many ways to use and customize.

Until SharePoint was introduced, most organizations used File Shares or expensive document management systems that were only available to a few. When users got their hands on SharePoint they started to come up with ideas and IT implemented many of them. The result was poorly architected, highly customized and very popular (and in some cases, mission critical) systems.

SharePoint in the Cloud: Simplicity and Ease of Use

With Office 365, Microsoft has tried to reverse this trend. It is forcing customers to work with a much more limited set of features ranging from the available templates, and supported customizations, to the SharePoint version itself. The reason for this is the same as the one for our tools, “to balance simplicity and ease of use while appealing to the largest audience at a reasonable price point.”

The challenge is, for those organizations who did all the customizations and/or created custom apps, switching to Office 365 may not be an option. And Microsoft has a large customer base in this situation.

Switching is Not So Easy

A recent AIIM study showed that 38% of respondents were using multiple versions of SharePoint because they were using native features or had customizations that were not compatible with newer versions. This alone would explain why 43% had no plans to move to Office 365.

Also, for those organizations who use SharePoint to connect to other internal business systems, the idea of moving to the cloud raises both connection and security concerns. Both of these concerns can be addressed with the newest version of Office 365, but that doesn't negate the fact that many organizations see them as real issues, and major show — or migration — stoppers.

The Shoe On the Other Foot

One irony that gets lost in all these conversations is that while Microsoft is trying to simplify its offering, competitors like Dropbox, Box and Google (Drive) are evolving their products from simple cloud storage to more of an enterprise offering.

Where these solutions started simple, following the "balance simplicity and ease of use while appealing to the largest audience at a reasonable price point” (or in some cases, starting as a free service to get users more quickly), Microsoft, and many other large enterprise vendors, are attempting to simplify complicated platforms to appeal to a larger base of users.

In the AIIM study, most large enterprises have no plans to move to Office 365 (a trend that I suspect will change), but some small and mid-sized organizations do. Smaller organizations may have less customization requirements. Or it may be they have little in place today, technology-wise, and so the decision to use Office 365 is an easier one to make.

We have surpassed our original goal of meeting 80% of user needs. There are many reasons why we shot past this goal, but a lot of it goes back to the diversity of SharePoint use in the marketplace. I expect that we will see the same thing happen with Office 365, in the same way we are seeing it happen with DropBox, Box, even Google.

Editor's Note: To read more of Steven's SharePoint insights, see his A New Business Model for SharePoint 2013

About the Author

Steve Pogrebivsky is an expert in information management and content management systems with over 20 years of experience. As co-founder and CEO of MetaVis Technologies, he is responsible for overall management and product strategy for the company. Steve has worked at a number of technology companies developing software for content management systems and enterprise integration. Steve was a co-founder of Stelex Corporation, a software and services vendor to FDA regulated industries. Steve developed and managed many of the company’s product and service offerings from its launch in 1991 to its acquisition in 2002.

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