Back in the office, with a day to let the news settle in from Microsoft’s SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas this week, I have this overarching thought: Microsoft is not doing a good job in its messaging around SharePoint.
We get that the company wants everyone to go the cloud, and it showed slick demos—not actual working software, but slick demos—about how easy it will be to have social capabilities across the Office 365 suite, to integrate e-mails and other communications to documents, with a new user experience that delivers information to you based on its currency and importance. It will indeed be a transformation of how we work, the mantra we heard over and over. And I personally do believe the cloud is the future for small businesses like the one I work for, to level the playing field against larger companies with big IT budgets by using the same services they have at a fraction of the cost.
But things are moving awful fast, perhaps too fast, for many clients, as I heard time and again from users and partners over the past three days. For instance, there have been three different application development models introduced in the last three-plus years. BI and reporting solutions have changed. Records management is not supported in the cloud.
Folks who invested millions in SharePoint 2010, for instance, may just now be getting around to using Sandbox Solutions, only to find out it’s at a dead end. They’re using InfoPath to create forms and workflows, only to learn there’s no place to go with that. They’ve created customizations to their applications and platforms that deliver tremendous business value, but won’t have much of a future in Microsoft’s master plan.
If I could suggest one thing to Microsoft, it would be this: The one-sentence announcement that there will be an update to SharePoint Server in 2015 did not even come close to going far enough to reassure those organizations that have spent all that money and all those resources on the platform that there will be an on-premise future for them. I would say, do not abandon those companies that, either due to regulation or policy or risk aversion, will not go to the cloud. Continue to keep on-premise as a long-term option.
Now, that might in fact be your intention, as an optimist might see the sentence as enough of a warranty. If it is, make that crystal clear, and provide the same kind of road map for the future of on-premise as you did with the vision of the future with Office 365 and the cloud.
I realize that complicates the issue, as standalone SharePoint goes away in the cloud future, absorbed into Office 365. But it doesn’t have to. Microsoft has always been about giving people choice. In fact, I’ve criticized them in the past for that very thing, which I have seen as a lack of leadership and a source of confusion.
But this kind of disruption is bigger than the Silverlight-HTML5 issue, or live tiles vs. the start button. Businesses have bet their lives on SharePoint. Give them the option to stay where they are.