Two things really caught my eye of the many announcements that came out of Ignite: the rebirth of SharePoint on premises and the end of the line for Yammer.

SharePoint is Back

I’ve worked with SharePoint for a very long time. I can remember explaining the differences between sites and areas in SharePoint 2003 to generally confused customers. From the 2003 release, through to 2007 and then 2010, SharePoint was an on premises intranet / document management tool. Many brave souls fudged it into serving their website, but for most it was a big traditional enterprise platform serving up files, lists of data and daily lunch menus. 

Around the time of SharePoint 2013, BPOS and then Office 365 arrived on the scene. Microsoft had seemingly looked up and discovered the cloud, and during the last few years all mentions of SharePoint have been replaced with Office 365. 

The intranet itself also changed. It is now commonly an enterprise social network, or some sort of mashup social, mobile, document tool. SharePoint lives on in Office 365, acting as the powerhouse behind much of the product -- OneDrive for Business is SharePoint MySites of old, all of the Site features in Office 365 are pure play SharePoint. Heck, even Delve has its roots in SharePoint (in terms of ethos, if not technology). 

But these last few years, Microsoft seemingly didn’t want to talk about SharePoint. It wanted to talk about Office 365, the cloud, collaboration, social, mobile devices and perpetual monthly licensing models. 

Yet no one appears to have told many of the big traditional SharePoint customers of these shifts. These people are still running SharePoint 2007, 2010 and 2013 happily in-house and have no plans to change that for many years. They saw the Office 365 roadmap website appear, Yammer integration pass them by and Office Web Apps come of age online. They didn’t particularly want the Cloud, but it did start to feel like they were being left behind.

Microsoft was ambiguous for the last few years about a possible new version of SharePoint on premises. But post Ignite, we now know -- SharePoint is back! Microsoft appears to be admitting that, yes while Office 365 is the future for many, it is much further in the future than first thought.

This is especially true of large enterprises with data privacy/protection concerns. While it is easy to get caught up in the exciting world of the cloud, many companies simply want a secure document management system in house that they can rely on. 

So soon we shall have SharePoint 2016. Microsoft posted a pretty in-depth blog just before Ignite on what to expect in terms of features. It is focusing on three areas: improved UX, cloud-inspired infrastructure and better compliance and reporting. There is a lot of good stuff from Office 365 being included, and much better support for the Hybrid deployment model. The beta will drop in Q4 this year, with the full release in 2016. This is later than most hoped for, but actually the fact we are seeing it at all is a pretty big step for Microsoft. And one I welcome.

The End of the Road for Yammer? 

Yammer also caught my eye at Ignite, though in this case it felt more like a product or brand running out of steam. Many felt a bit deflated with the Yammer roadmap at Ignite and I feel the product is facing a crossroads.

Learning Opportunities

There were plenty of new features to welcome. Access for external non-company users was welcome, and the various UX improvements are a big plus. But compared to Office 365 as a whole, everything seemed a bit low key. Tellingly, Office 365 Groups are getting a lot of coverage, including the Yammer team's announcement of its improved integration in this area. But I think there's something bigger going on.

As Yammer integrates more with Office 365 there seems little point, and little desire from Microsoft, to keep it as a separate product. This isn’t to put Yammer down -- it’s a good tool, has many thankful customers and fulfills a real need for many. But it's clear that Microsoft sees Yammer features (or features inspired and powered by Yammer technology) as parts of Office 365. Nothing more.

Social is rapidly being sprinkled all over Office 365 -- from OneDrive for Business, via Delve, through Sites. Does that leave a need for a separate Yammer tab? I’m not so sure.

I’m going to predict that by this time next year Yammer won’t exist as a standalone product or as a brand in its own right. Instead Yammer will be embedded into the very DNA of Office 365. And I think this, along with SharePoint 2016, is actually a good thing for the future of Microsoft collaboration tools. 

Editor's Note: How did Chris do with his pre-Ignite predictions? In his own words, he's taking a partial pat on the back for #1, a half-win for #2 and a "kind of thought" he'd get it wrong on #3.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  Paleontour