SharePoint is once again in a state of transition.
A major factor driving the transition has been SharePoint's move to the cloud, which began with Microsoft Managed Services (MMS) and Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS), but sped up under the rebranding with the Office 365 logo.
Although critics initially considered the move to the cloud as a response to competitive pressures to release anything into the cloud, few now would question Microsoft's commitment to "re-imagining" its business for the cloud.
Migrations to SharePoint Online, as part of the Office 365 platform, were initially slow. However, as the platform has matured, Office 365 has surpassed SharePoint as the fastest-to-a-billion business for Microsoft, and is winning over some of the largest SharePoint on-premises customers across sectors. Migration continues to be a major push within Microsoft's sales and partner efforts, and the increased investment in the FastTrack program will help even more customers make the move.
But as we prepare for general availability of SharePoint 2016, and wait to hear more from Microsoft about SharePoint's future in the cloud, many customers are wondering how their SharePoint should change.
It's About Productivity
Arguably, the cloud as a delivery mechanism is secondary to a productivity-focused organization. While businesses make some gains when switching from on-premises to cloud by redirecting resources and expertise from infrastructure management, the true driver of productivity is what the new cloud-based platform enables across workloads.
Future versions of SharePoint, beyond SharePoint 2016, will move away from a focus on what we know and use today to concentrate on the cloud services at its core: identity and authentication, permissions management, groups and teams, content and social collaboration. This reflects a move away from the single tool — like SharePoint or OneDrive for Business — and a focus on what the underlying technology enables an organization to accomplish: The social interactions with peers, co-workers, and customers across common workloads.
Think about the macro-level view of your collaboration solutions: the increasing volume of content being created, and the data that is generated based on your social interactions, search queries, affiliations and other transactional activities, all of which make up your online footprint. Microsoft is rapidly evolving its collaboration and social platforms in response to your increasing collaboration footprint, combining multiple signals to provide a highly personalized experience for the end user.
With Office Graph connecting the dots between the signals and a push toward Azure for centralized identity management across the common workloads (Exchange, SharePoint, OneDrive for Business, Skype, etc.), Microsoft is making its future path very clear.
Your SharePoint Strategy
When Satya Nadella took over as Microsoft CEO, he spoke plainly about the need for the company to focus more on data-driven prioritization and analytics, stating, "I consider the job before us to be bolder and more ambitious than anything we have ever done."
One major change was the streamlining of software testing, and the addition of data analysis personnel within every product team. With the strategy change toward more social and search-centric solutions, observers expect to see additional changes within Microsoft's product and engineering team processes, which will, in return, increase the rate of change and innovation from the company.
While seeing the movement within the product teams can be unsettling, especially when familiar names or roles move or leave the company, the end result is the improvement to product vision and Microsoft's ability to execute.
Organizations looking to interpret the rate of change happening across Microsoft in light of SharePoint specifically must reflect on past investments, and how they fit into this changing model of collaboration.
More importantly — look beyond the technology, and understand the way you are collaborating as individuals, teams and as an organization. In other words, instead of worrying about the changes happening to the technology, look at the changes within your own business requirements and your end user needs, and whether the SharePoint platform as it was deployed three or five years ago still fits your employees' needs.
We all know that technology is in a state of constant change. So focus on the needs of your business and end users, rather than focusing on the technology. That focus will help you adjust to whatever changes come.
Strategy trumps technology every time.