SharePoint: Today & Tomorrow

Since the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) ended up in my backyard this year, I decided to drop by for a couple of sessions. There’s a lot here that’s not all that interesting to me – more for the partners’ sales teams on how to sell more Microsoft stuff – but it’s a good opportunity for me to catch up on a few product announcements and also see some of my vendor contacts who are also Microsoft partners.

You can watch the keynotes and some other interviews online and follow the Twitter stream; this morning, we heard about how Windows 8 is going to be the biggest thing since Windows 95, and saw some of the new hardware that’s being developed to take advantage of the new features.

This afternoon in a breakout, Jared Spataro from SharePoint product management gave an update on trends and the product direction, although they are not yet ready to talk about SharePoint/Office 15 so I have the sense that there will be some more interesting stuff coming out later in the summer that we didn’t hear today. He did outline what they see as key industry trends:

  • Social. Well, duh, they just spend over $1B on Yammer. The next session is on enterprise social, and it’s not surprising that they’re looking at social in a business context.
  • Consumers, and the consumerization of IT.
  • Devices, and allowing their customers to work on whatever device they have. He claims that they no longer have a protectionist policy of supporting only Microsoft platforms, but maybe they should talk to their conference organizers about having something other than a Windows Phone app for the conference.
  • Cloud to reduce the time to value as well as support a broader audience. They intend to develop for the cloud first for SharePoint as well as all of Microsoft Office, and see cloud as a strategic platform for enterprises of all sizes in the future. They don’t necessarily see that organizations are going to move existing on-premise systems to the cloud, but that it will become the platform of choice (and completely seamless to the end user due to single sign-on) for new deployments, and they’re developing more tools for hybrid (cloud/on-premise) solutions.
  • Cross-organization support for collaboration outside a single enterprise, which is obviously supported by the cloud platform.

Over 65% of companies with SharePoint have deployed to their entire employee population, which is a good indication of the viral nature (which you can consider to be good or bad) adoption of SharePoint. About half of their base has updated to SharePoint 2010, although I see a lot of my clients with much older versions, and Microsoft needs to think about how to move them off those old versions so that they can start to leverage the collaboration capabilities rather than just a place to dump documents.

Their focus now is to transition from being a document-centric system to a people-centric system: making it a more personalized experience for each user, so that SharePoint provides the context, content and platform for doing their work. They’re starting to see more companies managing projects using SharePoint, not just storing documents, so are trying to better support conversations about documents rather than just the documents themselves. Bringing together search, content, workflow and social into a single platform has a lot of potential, especially considering the market penetration of SharePoint.

With just that whiff of what’s coming in SharePoint 15, he moved on to their FY2013 field sales priorities (which is what all these partners are crowded into the room to hear):

  • Win “enterprise social”, so that every new social experience in a customer is a Microsoft experience. They’ll be doing some social roadshows to back this up and keep the momentum going, so that they start winning a lot of the social deals.
  • Launch SharePoint 15, which pushes the social message broader and deeper into the enterprise.
  • Drive new seats with Office365, especially in the mid-market in the cloud.

They want to use social as a conversation-starter, but continue to move in with SharePoint and Office core functionality, pushing upgrades and cloud migration. They also see Yammer as something that business can do without a lot (or even any) IT support, so that they can start using social enterprise software without deploying internally. Then, as Microsoft develops stronger ties between Yammer and SharePoint (as they must), Yammer will leverage users into a social-enabled SharePoint.

We were left with quite a number of large gaps in upcoming product information, since they are not quite ready to spill on the features of the next version. Frustrating, but I understand that public companies just can’t do too much in the way of pre-announcements.

Spataro left half of the hour-long session for questions, and the first one was about the perceived weaknesses of the platform for BPM and workflow. He admitted that they have not spent a lot of energy making SharePoint a premier BPM platform, and that they’re really focused on capturing the market share while leaving some of the functionality to partners. There are a number of BPM-related ISV partners here at WPC this week, including AgilePoint, K2, Kofax, Laserfiche and OpenText, plus services partners who build process-centric solutions; Microsoft has to tread carefully so as not to provide functionality that undercuts their partners’ business, and partners are always at risk that Microsoft will decide that their business is just a bit too strategic to leave to partners. I find it hard to believe that there’s not some sort of BPM work going on within the core SharePoint platform, since process is becoming a key competency in many organizations and Microsoft is unlikely to walk away from that opportunity to develop deeper ties into their customers’ business operations and IT infrastructure. That risk, of course, is the nature of being a partner with a huge software company such as Microsoft (or IBM, SAP and many others): like sleeping with an elephant, it’s toasty-warm most of the time, but watch out when it rolls in your direction.

10 thoughts on “SharePoint: Today & Tomorrow

  1. What interest me is the fact that in the last 2 months during the roadshow i asked over more then 500 companies in Uk, Nl, Be, Fr, De, Sw, Se, Dk and in Asia Singapoe, Taiwan, Hongkong, Taiwan, China.if Theo used Sharepoint and if so for doping business not inkt for the project and department websites. I got just 1 positive response and they did not use it for business and the 2nd positive one just stopped their project after 6 months as it was not showing any results.

    So who can give me the true story, even Gartner being at our show in Singapore seemed to be surprised but where still defending their analysis, seems to me more wishfully thinking and good marketing.

    Anyone with real business sharepoint apps?

  2. Freddie, I think you have a valid point. Most of the instances of SharePoint that I still see in my customers (which are fairly conservative financial services and insurance companies) is the old 2003 version, and they’re using it purely as a document repository. I don’t see a lot of them using it for transacting business, more of a repository. Whether the new features in SharePoint 2010 (if they ever move to it) and version 15 (when it comes out) will make a difference is really a challenge for Microsoft and their partners.

  3. Hello Freddie. If you are searching the company which is using SharePoint for the real business processes, you have just found. My company, Medical University in Łódź is using SharePoint 2010 Foundation for more than 500 users (during this year we increase it up to 1500). We have developed, with Microsft’s Partner, app for Asset Management and Incident Management. We just started the new project which is integration SharePoint 2010 with BPM.

  4. Hi Piotr,
    This is very interesting. Could you elaborate a bit more on those applications?
    Questions i have:
    Are these applications integrated with other systems and in what way?
    Is there content (documents) being created (document composition) containing information from those other systems?
    And what about content being captured (scanning) with data extraction which is fed back into those systems (e.g. invoice data)?
    Is the information being used to steer the processflow, assuming you have a BPM setup and not only check-out/check-in with versioning.
    Is Sharepoint used for long-term archiving and records management or do you rely on another system for this?

    I am sure others too would love to gain also more insight in this real world scenario.

    Best regards
    Freddie van Rijswijk

  5. Nice update, Sandy. It has always been amazing to me that Microsoft hasn’t taken advantage of its unique catbird seat just waiting for it in BPM. With a true BPMS offering and a document management platform that manages imaged documents effectively (neither of which they have, last I checked), SharePoint/Microsoft would be a BPM (and ACM) game changer, no doubt about it. I’d bet it would shoot them right up to the BPM leader quadrant. It would seem that a smart, well-integrated, effectively executed acquisition would get them there the fastest and it certainly seems like there are efforts amongst their BPM partners to be the “belle of the ball”. I know there have been rumors of this in the past as well. Did you hear any rumblings of this at the conference?

  6. Hi Alana,

    I’m equally amazed, but they don’t seem to see BPM as a core capability for them. I didn’t hear any rumors, in fact, Microsoft when asked about BPM in this session seemed to say that they were not providing that, but counting on partners for it. Not that they would necessarily give away any secrets…

  7. A difficult challenge for MS is cross team initiatives, I would say.

    I’ve seen some work over the years within different parts of MCS where they have put together service offerings targeting cross-product solutions for things like Process Management, Document Management and SOA. But for some reason they never last and the people involved gets scattered away and some times even leaves the company.

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