Ask SharePoint developers to create a wish list for the next year — and brace for the answer. According to recent research from Munich, Germany-based Rencore, most of them would be happy with training on new and existing features.

Rencore’s 2016 State of SharePoint and Office 365 Development report aims to provide IT decision makers an understanding of trends in the SharePoint community.

Rencore’s Research

What is striking about this year’s edition is the finding that developers are overwhelmed by the amount of change with both the on-premises and online editions of SharePoint.

“The old hand SharePoint developer that has been doing [SharePoint] for many years is not accustomed to all the new technologies that are being added and is a little bit overwhelmed by the rate of change that Microsoft is demonstrating at the moment and will be adding in the future,” Matthias Einig, CEO and co-founder of Rencore told CMSWire.

The research is based on responses by 1200 to a questionnaire given to SharePoint professionals including architect (35 percent), developers (29 percent), administrators (14 percent), IT professionals (7 percent) and project managers (4 percent).

It was carried out across 32 countries with a large part of the responses coming from the US, indicating that SharePoint, at least for now, is a largely an American platform

To discover how SharePoint is being used in the enterprise, the participants were asked a number of questions about following Microsoft’s SharePoint development strategy.

The research showed, for example, that enterprises are phasing out the use of older versions of SharePoint. It also showed SharePoint 2013 is the most widely used version — significant because SharePoint 2013 supports development models that enable cloud migration and hybrid environments.

This means that even those enterprises that are unable or unwilling to move to later versions of SharePoint have created environments that will support future migration.  It also offers support for cloud migration to Office 365 and hybrid environments.

SharePoint Framework

Support for various SharePoint models is important. In the past, enterprises simply had to decide between cloud or on-premises deployments. Now, they have to decide between numerous different cloud options, hybrid options and the many different kinds of cloud possibilities.

This is despite commitments by Microsoft to make the whole SharePoint platform and environment easier to navigate.

"The question is whether it is already too late for SharePoint and whether customers are so annoyed with SharePoint that they and looking in other directions,” Einig said.

Einig noted that Microsoft has been making moves to make things easier, especially for developers through the new SharePoint Framework.

The SharePoint Framework, introduced last May, adds to the existing development opportunities with SharePoint to bring a modern client-side approach that enable developers to build portals.

“With this development model — although they are not calling Framework a model — Microsoft is opening up SharePoint to the ordinary web developer. This deals with one of the biggest problems enterprises have at the moment,” Einig said. “The Framework opens development to the average developer, without the need for any specific knowledge and experience. This it makes it easier to customize SharePoint as well as cheaper.”

Learning Opportunities

However, use of SharePoint Framework is not all that widespread. The research showed that while it is clear that many developers are moving over to client side approaches, a large number of developers are still building customizations with server side technology (48 percent).

Learning SharePoint Skills

The result is that developers and architects need to learn new skills.  

The research shows 30 percent of professionals get trained either weekly or monthly, but 30 percent receive training just once or twice a year. A large number of users train themselves to keep their skills up to date.

In this respect, it is worth noting that blogs and articles were found to be popular for information about Office 365 and SharePoint, as were conferences and forums.

In the near future issues about training and development programs are likely to become more important as enterprises start thinking about upgrading to a new edition.

The research shows upgrading SharePoint did not to figure in the short-term plans of many businesses in the past 12 months. But more companies moved to SharePoint 2013 than any other platform, perhaps due to the inherent cautiousness of larger organizations.

It also creates a problem for Microsoft. It is actively pushing Framework and envisions a SharePoint world with all kinds of dynamic new types of development. However, in a world that is just moving to SharePoint 2013 most enterprise efforts will be focused on developing for that.

At least 46 percent are planning to upgrade to either SharePoint Online or some variation of SharePoint 2016 (hybrid or on-premises).

"SharePoint on-premises is not going away as rapidly as Microsoft was hoping. But I also hear that many organizations are still only going to 13 and doing things the way they did before, “Einig said.

For both the immediate and long term, training on SharePoint for all users, developers and business users needs to a key part of enterprise strategy. The pace of technology change is relentless and training is a key element of making it all work.