PREFACE: This article first appeared on IT Unity as a 5 part series. It's a somewhat objective yet optimistic look at the state of SharePoint and where SharePoint is headed. There is a lot of pessimism and negativity around the future of SharePoint right now. This series is an effort to shed some light on some of this negativity as well as look at the bright spots. Things are changing. Some of the changes are painful, some of the changes may not make sense to us, but Microsoft has made it clear they are pursuing a “Mobile-First, Cloud-First” strategy and all the changes we are seeing to SharePoint and some of the changes we are seeing within Microsoft reflect this clearly. Right now is a great time to let our voices be heard, provide constructive criticism about our pain points, and do what we can to help SharePoint evolve in a way that benefits its users while at the same time supports Microsoft’s goals.
What’s going on with SharePoint these days? Is SharePoint dying? Is it already dead? Do you need to look at another technology? Career? What’s going on???
If you listened to some folks, you’d seem to think Microsoft is dumping SharePoint and you should run for the hills and figure out your Plan B. Indeed with the promotion of the “father of SharePoint” Jeff Teper recently, it definitely sounds like there is something in the air. Add to that the griping and moaning around the development community about the change in direction in SharePoint 2013, and you can understand why people are getting frightened and frustrated. The SharePoint they had a love-hate relationship with changed dramatically and not all for perceived good reasons. What’s left to do but argue and complain and pontificate on SharePoint’s demise?
Which brings us to this series of articles. I debated writing them at all. Do I fan the flames and stir the pot (which we know I love to do), or just let the truth win out in the end? As I pondered, I decided that I had to say something. I would hate for someone to stumble on one of the “Death of SharePoint” articles out there and decide to forgo a really great technology without a full understanding of these other people’s fears and frustrations. Yes, things have changed. No, it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, there are even a few very bright spots.
In this first article in the series, I’ll give a quick overview of the issues as I've seen them and as I’ve heard them from other people in the community. We’ll delve into each topic in more detail in the subsequent articles.
Why the “Sky is Falling” mentality?
I get it. Change is here. SharePoint is evolving. Many people with years invested in SharePoint are scared and frustrated. If you listen to some people you should change careers and stop using SharePoint altogether. But should you abandon your SharePoint career and submit that resume to McDonalds? What’s the deal? Why is there so much fear? The reasons vary, which is why I decided to write this series in the first place.
Major changes for developers
First, we are going to look at how Microsoft has changed the development landscape of SharePoint. Microsoft really shook the foundations of SharePoint developers with the release of SharePoint 2013 and the new App Model. Yesterday’s “best practices” are now considered shunned and antiquated and not in alignment with Microsoft’s current vision. What’s more, Microsoft’s huge cloud push is leaving developers feeling crippled in many ways. In SharePoint Online, gone are the beloved Farm Solutions, and even Sandbox Solutions are now deprecated. Indeed, the very definition of a SharePoint developer has dramatically changed (or has it??).
Microsoft wants you in the cloud. I don’t think that’s a secret to anyone. But there are some hurdles getting many organizations there. How do you migrate from On-Premises SharePoint? What about those farm solutions and third party-tools that just won’t work in the cloud? Is it safe to put your data out there? How can you effectively integrate “the cloud” with your business systems? Making the jump to the cloud can be a daunting and scary decision, many believe this “all-in” cloud push could be the death knell of SharePoint, is it?? Hold your horses, we’ll talk more about this later.
Changes within Microsoft
As the outsider looking in, some of the changes Microsoft is making may seem alarming. What does it mean that the main person responsible for SharePoint, Jeff Teper, has been promoted within Microsoft? Meanwhile, it seems as though something going on with the SharePoint brand. Is it fading before our eyes? Do these changes mean that Microsoft is abandoning SharePoint and moving on to the next big thing? If you are still around for my fourth article, you’ll get to hear my thoughts on this as well, and learn who else has the same thoughts. Right Dan?
What’s really going on?
Should your company continue to use SharePoint? If you are not currently using SharePoint, should you make the jump? If you are a SharePoint professional should you just look for a new job?? In the next few articles on this topic we’ll explore some of the reasons why some believe SharePoint is quickly approaching its expiration date. More importantly, we’ll also discuss why I believe many of these views are unfounded and do little more than promote fear and cause un-needed anxiety.
Major changes for SharePoint developers may not be so bad
In the first article in this series I gave you an overview of why some people believe SharePoint may be on its last legs. In this post in the series I’ll talk about one of the biggest contributors to that mindset: the App Model. Being a SharePoint developer myself, this is the topic I have the strongest opinion about. One of the biggest (and loudest) reasons some people are proselytizing the dismal future of SharePoint is the drastic change to the developer landscape in SharePoint 2013.
Let’s start the discussion in the past. Do you know why I love development in SharePoint? Because it’s my box of Legos. I can create and configure a site for a client in minutes. This site can take advantage of all of the out of the box functionality SharePoint has to offer and give the client 80 to 85 percent of what they need. I can then open up Visual Studio (or write some client-side script) and totally transform the site to meet the client’s exacting standards and requirements. I can create custom web parts and event receivers and give them exactly what they need. What’s more, as I’ve gotten really good at using SharePoint and developing in SharePoint, I can get a lot done very quickly. There was a lot of frustration while learning to get here. But now that I’m here, it’s great. Customers are happy, and I can provide maximum value.
That being said, if you did not understand SharePoint and tried to develop in it, you were going to cause some damage. A lot of developers out there do not know how to properly develop in SharePoint. These developers have created really bad solutions that were (are) creating performance nightmares and memory leaks and crashing farms. Let’s face it, one of the reasons I have a job is because of these bad developers (so thank you).
And that’s how things were. We adjusted, we learned, and life was pretty good. Rates were really good.
Along came Office 365 and SharePoint Online
Microsoft has a clear vision. They want you in the cloud. They want you in the cloud for many reasons. Many (all?) of those reasons are financial for Microsoft. Hey, they aren’t in business to lose money. So, they introduced Office 365 and SharePoint Online. Now, everyone has access to SharePoint for little money and no investment in hardware. In addition, there is a less critical need for expensive SharePoint administrators in Office 365.
Sounds great? Right? But wait a second. If you put SharePoint in the cloud, what do you do with all that custom code sitting on your existing SharePoint farms? There is no way in the world Microsoft could allow some random developer to put custom code on Microsoft’s cloud-based servers. Can you imagine the chaos if some “SharePoint expert” deployed a solution in the cloud that affected your tenant on Office 365?
How do you keep developers from trashing countless servers? Simple: You don’t let developers deploy any solutions to the servers in the cloud. Problem solved.
But, Office 365 customers still have development needs. How can you give companies the ability to develop powerful applications for SharePoint but at the same time keep them from installing any custom solutions on SharePoint in the cloud?
Enter Microsoft’s new App Model.
And there was not much rejoicing.
On the surface, the App Model may sound appealing. The App Model allows developers to integrate with SharePoint through a set of REST APIs and the Client Object Model. What’s more, you can now write SharePoint “Apps” in different languages (Java, PHP, .NET--you name it).
The way SharePoint development now works is that when you use the App Model, you are either deploying client-side code (SharePoint Hosted App), or custom code of your choosing and hosting it on your own web server (Provider Hosted App).
See what Microsoft did? They got the developers off Microsoft’s server in the cloud. Exactly what Microsoft needed. If you write a SharePoint Hosted App, you don’t have any direct access to the server, and if you write a Provider Hosted App, the only thing you might crash is your web server. Sounds perfect. Right? Problem solved. What’s wrong with this approach?
SharePoint is no longer a development platform
What’s frustrating is that taking the App Model to its logical conclusion, you are no longer using SharePoint as a development platform. For example, you lose the ability to customize a Site Collection, which a customer may have been using for months (or years), by quickly adding a Full Trust Web Part or some other Server Side solution to handle some simple piece of functionality.
The moment you need to create full trust code to interact with an external business system or elevate permissions in the App Model you’ll need to create a Provider Hosted App. If you create a Provider Hosted App you no longer have access to default forms for your application, or site settings, or list settings, or any of the SharePoint functionality that you had grown accustomed to in the UI. You have to develop it all from scratch! In this scenario, SharePoint has become a set of APIs. It’s become a place for data storage, authentication, and security. It is not the rich development experience it used to be.
Yes, I know that on-premises SharePoint 2013 can still deploy your custom solutions, but I’ve been chastised multiple times now about that type of development not being the future. And if you have any conceivable future plans to move to Office 365 you need to change the way you are developing for SharePoint today.
It’s almost like SharePoint is now two different products: The out-of-the-box SharePoint that allows you to create (but keep those customizations to a minimum) sites for collaboration; and an API that allows you to create “Apps” that piggy back off of SharePoint security and are exposed as iframes (yes, iframes) in your SharePoint environment. Again, if you are using SharePoint on-premises, you still get the legacy development options. But Microsoft has made it very clear that Apps are the future! They want you using the App Model.
In one sense, a big problem I have with the App Model is I feel that it actually can be an argument against making an investment in SharePoint if you don’t already have it. Why make the investment in SharePoint if it’s a now constrained collaboration platform and a set of APIs? You mean I have to set up a separate web server, write a web application (okay, I do that today), but now I have to do extra work just to display that same web application in an iframe in SharePoint? You seem to lose one of the most compelling reasons to jump over to SharePoint with this fundamental change in the way development is accomplished and with the loss of ease of integration with your other business systems.
And that Full Trust Web Part that I used to develop in a couple of hours? Well, now it’s going to take me two or three times longer to get the same functionality in Office 365. It’s going to cost my customers more money, and they aren’t going to be happy. Plus, if I have to write a Provider Hosted App for a customer who is on Office 365, they have to stand up a web server somewhere just for that little piece of functionality. Many small and medium business are going to be upset when they learn they made this investment to get rid of a bunch of servers and now they have to set another one up and administer it. That can be a deal breaker for a mom and pop shop. And that sandbox solution that I could do in half an hour? Nope, need to find another way of doing the same thing.
Life for SharePoint developers got harder.
A real-world example
Let’s take a look at a recent post by a brilliant SharePoint guru by the name of Waldek Mastykarz: Deploying Custom Actions using the App Model.
In his post, Waldek explains how to use the new App Model to create a Custom Action to deploy a script. Before you read his post, here are the steps to do the same process as a legacy Sandbox Solution using Visual Studio.
Open Visual Studio
Create an empty Sandbox Solution
Add an element to the project
Enter something similar to the XML below in your element
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
Save. Compile.Viola. You are done.
How easy is that? Now go read Waldek’s post, and take a look at all the effort you have to go through now to do the same functionality using the App Model. How can all this change be worth it in the end?
Let me be clear. You can still customize SharePoint. You can still throw a Content Editor Web Part on a page and link it to a script. You can deploy artifacts with Sandbox Solutions. If you have on-premises SharePoint, you can still create your farm solutions and easily integrate with your business systems. However, I am reminded often that the App Model is the future.
“All future investments will go to making the new SharePoint app model richer and more powerful. Accordingly, we recommend that all new development should use the new app model whenever possible. In scenarios where you have to develop a farm solution or coded sandboxed solution, we recommend that you design it so that it can easily evolve toward a more loosely coupled development model.” - Apps for SharePoint compared with SharePoint solutions.
Bottom line: You must start looking past the way you are doing development currently.
Is the App Model all bad?
Are you beginning to see why those entrenched in SharePoint for years are a more than a little frustrated? But is the App Model really that bad?? Is the future of SharePoint development really so bleak?
First and foremost, it is important to remember that those of us who have been doing SharePoint development for years have invested many years into learning the ins and outs of SharePoint development. We take pride in that. There was a lot of blood, sweat, tears, cursing, and alcohol to get here, but we got here–doggone it. Not just anyone can be a SharePoint developer. We have our pride and our biases.
However, if we open our eyes and look at the situation for what it really is, we can see that things really aren't that bad. (Don't get me wrong; they are still really frustrating, but not all doom and gloom.)
It's not a bad idea
Here’s the thing. The App Model is a necessary construct for a successful deployment of SharePoint. By creating the App Model, Microsoft has removed one of the biggest problem factors from the SharePoint end user experience: us developers.
Have you previously had a bad experience using SharePoint? Has it been too slow? Too flaky? Not working right? There’s a good chance that your issues had nothing to do with SharePoint and everything to do with an uneducated developer. By creating the App Model, Microsoft is allowing SharePoint to run unfettered. You will see a more stable and consistent user experience moving forward.
Yes, we have to learn new skills and discard some old ones. Change isn’t fun, but it can be necessary.
Growing client-side API
For more information and to get started using REST for SharePoint 2013 check out:
Get started with the SharePoint 2013 REST service
To learn more about the Client Side Object Model (CSOM) look at:
How to: Complete basic operations using SharePoint 2013 client library code
It's not just about SharePoint!
The App Model is not just about SharePoint development. It’s about Office 365 development. If you learn the new Office 365 APIs and the App Model, you are now equipped to develop apps not just for SharePoint, but for Exchange, Office, OneDrive, and, in the future, all applications on the platform (Yammer, Office Graph, etc.).
It's really time to come out of our holes as SharePoint developers and take a look at the big picture here. There is a plan. There is a reason. It's a pretty exciting time if you think about it.
Not everyone hates the App Model
If you just did a search online, you might think the entire development community is against the App Model. Newsflash. That’s just not true.
In the past month I’ve sat down with two different groups of Java developers and explained the App Model to them. Do you know what their response was? Did they turn up their collective noses and say it was a bad idea? Did they swear to never use SharePoint? Did they stomp around like spoiled brats?
NO!! They thought it was a great idea! These Java developers who were grumpy about having to do SharePoint development now felt relief and excitement to know that their current skills still mattered. They were happy that they didn’t have to learn .NET or some weird Server Object Model.
As much as I personally hate to admit it, the App Model does open up a world to non-SharePoint developers and many are actually excited about it.
Now of course, they are excited about the idea. Let’s see how they feel after 3 months of developing in it. J
What do we make of this? What should we as developers do?
Get over yourselves. It’s time to learn new skills (or in some cases dust off old ones). Time to work on a new set of templates we can copy and paste for our solutions. In fact, you can go get some App Model samples right now on codeplex at Office App Model Samples.
SharePoint is not going anywhere. In fact, it now has a much broader audience.
We can either whine and moan about the good ol’ days, or we can suck it up and learn the way things are done now. Yes, we might be more replaceable now. So, let’s get our hands dirty and show these youngsters how to take our knowledge of SharePoint to create the best SharePoint Apps.
It's time to grow. Time to give up the mantle of "SharePoint Developer" and work on becoming an "Office 365 Developer." (Yes, it hurt a little bit typing that.)
Now’s the time to jump in. Learn the App Model from the ground up without the biases of us old crotchety SharePoint developers who yearn to deploy directly to the GAC. The skills you have right now can be immediately put to use in SharePoint. A lot of the pain and grief the rest of us had to go through are simply not there for you. You Java developers will not miss the way things used to be because it was never a reality for you. Don’t let the naysayers detract you from learning a valuable and marketable skill.
If only there were some way to get started!
Hey! Lucky for you, Microsoft’s newly minted Technical Product Manager Jeremy Thake (@jthake) will be presenting a session at SharePointalooza in September: “Preparing for the Shift to the App Model.”
You can also get started with the App Model online at: Overview of apps for SharePoint.
My personal plea to Microsoft as a SharePoint developer
I’ll make you a deal Microsoft. I’ll make the effort to learn to do the things the way you want me to. I’ll use the App Model. I’ll try things your way (when I have time). But I have one thing to ask of you. As a developer and consultant affected by these changes, I have a plea. Don’t frown upon non-SharePoint apps.
People in the real world are using SharePoint every day to get their job done. Multitudes of “That Guy” in many organizations are responsible for all of SharePoint. In many instances, they are not strong developers, but they have a job they have to do! Don’t make their job harder! Allow them to continue to link to a script in a Content Editor Web Part without being shamed. Let them deploy a Sandbox solution with code so they can just get back to the thousand other things on their list. Find some way of making Timer Job functionality easy to replicate in this new world.
We understand you want us using apps, Microsoft. We get it, but we have jobs to do. Don’t tie our hands and force us to jump through hoops to do something that used to take 15 minutes. If you don’t want to enhance certain features going forward, fine! Leave them as they are and let us use them without scorn.
Far more real-world SharePoint developers are out there than there are academic developers who get to think of ideas but don’t have to live with the consequences day in and day out. The App Model is an essential part of the SharePoint online development experience, but it should not be the only accepted development tool now or in the future.
Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Let’s build out the App Model and Client-Side API’s while still allowing the developers to get their jobs done quickly and easily and move on to their next task.
Obviously, I could go on and on about this topic. It affects me and my clients the most. The truth is, the more I examine the future and the purpose of the App Model, the more I soften up to it. Or maybe I’ve just been beaten into submission. Regardless, I hope you now understand where most of the negativity is coming from and realize that while things may be more difficult to develop at times. SharePoint is maturing platform. More examples will be created, processes will get streamlined. (Remember manually creating your .DDF and Manifest.xml files for SharePoint 2007?) Give the new model some time.
In many ways, this blog post is my own personal pep-talk. I’ve been fighting the use of the App Model. I’ve been one of the ones to pitch a fit. However, when you take a step back and realize there is a reason and a plan, it does make the changes easier to accept. There is just so much more to learn now.
SharePoint is definitely not dying because of the changes to development. If anything it's finally growing up.
Cloud “Complications” with SharePoint
Now that you’ve heard me ramble about the development “opportunities” in SharePoint 2013 and Office 365, let’s talk about the next reason some may think that SharePoint is more washed up than Vanilla Ice--and I promise not to say, “Stop, collaborate, and listen.”
Many people are discovering there are complications with moving to the cloud. Some just don’t want to be in the cloud out of ignorance; other people have valid concerns. In the end, the cloud is where Microsoft wants you, but with many organizations vowing to never enter the cloud, some have pontificated that cloud complications may doom SharePoint.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the complications and see what’s really going on.
The first cloud complication is migration, and this complication has many facets.
If you currently have an on-premises installation of SharePoint and want to migrate to Office 365, you will quickly learn that if you have any custom-developed solutions, getting them on Office 365 can be costly (or impossible, in some cases).
That Visual Studio solution you wrote most likely will not work in Office 365--unless it’s a sandbox solution, but even then those are frowned upon now. That third-party tool you paid for? Yeah, mostly likely it won’t be there either.
What do you do? Many companies are finding a hybrid scenario is a great way to get their feet wet with Office 365 and take advantage of a lot of the Office 365 features like Exchange Online, Lync, Yammer, and OneDrive.
Hybrid for SharePoint? You mean you don’t know what that is? Well, stop me and ask, please. I’m not a mind-reader.
A hybrid SharePoint scenario is where an organization has both an on-premises version of SharePoint and SharePoint online. These two services are integrated as a unified experience. It’s a great way to get your feet wet with SharePoint Online and also migrate to the cloud in a staged approach.
You can find out more about hybrid SharePoint at: Hybrid for SharePoint Server 2013.
The hybrid approach can be a great scenario for your organization, because it lets you take advantage of both on-premises and cloud features. But my question is: How long will hybrid really be supported? How much longer will on-premises SharePoint truly be around? Also, how much longer will it really be advantageous to even have an on-premises SharePoint farm with more and more features being rolled out that are cloud-only?
You cannot just deploy a hybrid model, and stick your head in the sand. If you deploy a hybrid model, you also need to start to plan your all-in cloud strategy (if you intend to keep using SharePoint).
Many people are just not ready to migrate right now. Should you? The hybrid approach is a great place to start for many organizations. Start looking at your third-party and custom applications that won’t migrate to the cloud and determine what your next steps are. Get started. Baby steps are okay here, but do something.
Ahh… The cloud… Many enterprise organizations simply do not want their data in the cloud. Period. They don’t want to discuss it further. One of the big reasons is the fear that their data is not "safe" in the cloud. I think we have all learned by now that no matter where your data sits, if it's on a network, someone can get to it if they really want to. So is your data less secure in Office 365? .
What I do like about storing my data in Office 365 is the awesomeness that is Ft. Knox Encrypted Storage. In a nutshell, imagine uploading a file to SharePoint and SharePoint tearing the file into chunks, encrypting each chunk, and storing it in multiple geographic locations. If someone were to hack into one of these data centers, all they would have is an encoded chunk of your document without knowing where the rest is. That sounds a lot more secure than what I would have on premises.
And what happens if you suffer a catastrophic data loss? How good is your disaster recovery? How many data centers do you have? What would it take to recover? Microsoft has heavily invested in multiple data centers (the exact number is a closely guarded secret), but what are the chances of you competing with Microsoft’s ability to protect your data? What are the chances of you losing your critical data now?
For more information about the security of your data in Office 365, check out The Office 365 Trust Center. And check out the Top 10 security and privacy features of Office 365:
- We restrict physical data center access to authorized personnel and have implemented multiple layers of physical security, such as biometric readers, motion sensors, 24-hour secured access, video camera surveillance, and security breach alarms.
- We enable encryption of data both at rest and via the network as it is transmitted between a data center and a user.
- We don't mine or access your data for advertising purposes.
- We use customer data only to provide the service; we don't otherwise look in your mailbox without your permission.
- We regularly back up your data.
- We won't delete all the data in your account at the end of your service term until you have had time to take advantage of the data portability that we offer.
- We host your customer data in-region.
- We enforce "hard" passwords to increase security of your data.
- We allow you to turn off and on privacy impacting features to meet your needs.
- We contractually commit to the promises made here with the data processing agreement (DPA). For more information about the DPA, visit the Data Processing Agreement section of the independently verified page.
I think as companies become more educated about the cloud, this security fear will slowly dissipate. Indeed the fear is mostly unfounded, but this is definitely a hurdle for Office 365 adoption for some organizations.
Connectivity with business systems
As a developer, my biggest headache with moving to Office 365 and SharePoint Online is the loss of those full trust solutions we have in our on-premises farms. If you’re not in the cloud, you can easily create solutions that connect to your external business systems and surface that data in SharePoint to quickly and easily create powerful dashboards for the business users. Once you get in the cloud, however, you lose a lot of easy integration with your external business systems (at least the way you currently integrate with them).
The fundamental ways we communicate with our business systems are gone in the cloud. Those web parts and dashboards that were developed as farm solutions? Useless. SQL Server Reporting services (SSRS)? Nope. That timer Job you have that syncs data between SharePoint and your critical business system? Not going to work. Solutions will have to be rewritten. New skills will have to be learned. In some ways, we are starting over from scratch with all those critical dashboards and reports.
Should we abandon SharePoint, though? Absolutely not.
Yes, we’ll have to invest some time and effort, but many options are available to us to help us integrate with our business systems. In some cases, things are even better in the cloud.
Better? Yes! Better. We may have lost some of our integration points in Office 365, but Microsoft is working on making up for that in a huge way. Just look at some of the BI functionality they have out there. By far my favorite is Power BI which is only available in Office 365. With Power BI, you create Excel workbooks with data connections to your data to create truly amazing reports. I can’t imagine a business user wanting to go back to SSRS after getting their hands on it.
You can also use the aforementioned Provider Hosted Apps to create dashboards that present your business data. Another option would be to create your own Web Services that you call from within SharePoint to display the information you care about.
As you can see, although you lose some of your connectivity with your business systems, you do have several options for connecting to your business systems if you put some effort into it. It’s definitely something you should take a hard look at. And this hurdle is one of the biggest reasons to consider a hybrid approach. But it should not prevent you from taking the leap and going to the cloud.
Don’t make mountains out of mole hills
Yes, there are some possible hurdles with transitioning to the cloud. Tough decisions have to be made. Should you go all in? Should you go hybrid? Should you just hold tight and wait for a couple of years?
Well, lucky for you, the answer is “It Depends.” It depends on your current needs. It depends on your future needs. Probably the biggest factor in your decision to move to the cloud is the culture of your organization. It is a culture shift. Many are hesitant because they hate change. Take this opportunity to educate those people on the benefits from moving to Office 365 (which I’ll cover in an upcoming article).
All of these obstacles are surmountable if you can remove your biases and get reliable help from people who know what they are talking about. Don’t be scared to move forward. Yoda said it best: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
Don’t fear the cloud.
Changes within Microsoft do Not Mean SharePoint’s Demise
Wow, you are still here? If my Development rant didn’t dissuade you reading further and my thoughts on complications with moving to the cloud didn’t prevent you from viewing this article, then you must really find this topic fascinating. Either that, or my writing style is exactly what you need to cure insomnia. Regardless! In this post, we’ll discuss some of the changes going on within Microsoft which may lead some to believe that SharePoint has about as much of a future as Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.
The Potential Loss of the “SharePoint” Brand
I’ve heard the rumors, I’m sure you have too. “The brand ‘SharePoint’ is going away.” “There will not be another ‘SharePoint’ conference.” Although I’ve not heard anything official, trends lead me to believe this is true.
When I attended TechEd in Houston a few weeks ago, the SharePoint people were firmly entrenched in the “Office” area on the exhibit hall floor. I would not be surprised at all if there were not another ‘SharePoint Conference’ and instead there was an ‘Office Conference’.
In fact! Just today (7/21), Microsoft announced that indeed there would not be another “SharePoint Conference”: Microsoft’s unified technology event for enterprises
Still not convinced the SharePoint brand is fading? Just take a look at Microsoft’s new CEO Satya Nadella’s recent email to employees of Microsoft:
Satya Nadella's email to employees
Go ahead and read it. Now do a search for the word “SharePoint”. See it in there? Let’s take a closer look at the following statement from his email:
“…This transformation is well underway as we moved Office from the desktop to a service with Office 365 and our solutions from individual productivity to group productivity tools – both to the delight of our customers. We'll push forward and evolve the world-class productivity, collaboration and business process tools people know and love today, including Skype, OneDrive, OneNote, Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Bing and Dynamics.” – Satya Nadella
Look again… “Skype, OneDrive, OneNote, Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Bing and Dynamics.”
Notice something missing? SharePoint is not even mentioned!
Does this mean SharePoint is dying?? Not at all, it just means it is evolving, but I can understand some peoples’ fears. Again, this is ALL conjecture and rumor. I have seen nothing official, however Dan Holme has written and excellent post on the subject: Time to Break Up the SharePoint Brand
The Promotion of Jeff Teper
As I stated at the beginning of this series, Jeff Teper was promoted within Microsoft to the Head of Corporate Strategy and some people are speculating that the promotion may have ominous undertones for SharePoint.
Maybe I’m just ignorant (and I have zero special insight here), but this does not sound bad to me. To me it just symbolizes SharePoint’s evolution and becoming more entwined under the “Office” umbrella. Not sure this would be bad?
What Do These Changes Really Mean?
Change is happening, but change is not necessarily bad. Allow me to dust off my crystal ball and tell you what all these changes really mean for SharePoint and SharePoint’s future.
SharePoint is CLEARLY not dying. If anything it’s growing and expanding and becoming more critical to Microsoft’s long term vision.
Just take look at two huge initiatives from Microsoft. Oslo and Office Apps. Now I won’t go into great detail about these initiatives here (my fingers are tired from typing and I hyperlinked to them, so stop whining), but it’s important to note that both of these products integrate with SharePoint. If SharePoint were dying why would two of their biggest recent technology announcements use this “dying” product?? Simple… It’s not dying! It’s becoming more cemented into Office and will be there for a LONG time. It’s evolving into an essential glue for holding pieces of the expanding Office platform together.
So, yes, the ‘SharePoint’ brand is obviously fading and the promotion of Jeff Teper does point to SharePoint evolving in a different direction. But obviously SharePoint is not going anywhere. Why would Microsoft abandon a technology that is so critical to their success and future plans? Why should you? You shouldn’t.
SharePoint is Alive and Well
Can we all agree that SharePoint is doing just fine? I think it’s pretty clear at this point that the sky is not falling. There is definitely a LOT of changing happening right now and companies need to make decisions about their move to the cloud. Developers need to learn new skills, and admins need to understand their roles in this brave new world.
What exactly do all these changes mean for your career in SharePoint?? Well, I’m glad you asked. It just so happens that Steve Smith SharePoint MVP and owner of Combined Knowledge is presenting his Keynote “SharePoint, You need to reapply for your Job” at SharePointalooza in Branson, MO on September 13th. I can’t think of a person with better knowledge or insight into the subject. So, register today and come hear what Steve has to say!
No… this entire blog series was not an advertisement for SharePointalooza… I wish I were that clever.
Now that we have firmly established that SharePoint is not going anywhere, my final article in these series will answer the big question. “Should my company go to Office 365”.
Should my Company go to Office 365?
In my previous articles in this series, we discussed some of the fears and anxiety out there over the future of SharePoint and some of the hurdles of going to SharePoint Online / Office 365. We have established that this two billion dollar juggernaut SharePoint might be fading as a brand, but its deep entrenchment and expanding functionality ensures that SharePoint has the staying power of a bad reality star. Let’s end this series by answering one final question.
Should my Company use SharePoint Online / Office 365?
Before I answer this question. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons you may want to consider going to Office 365 whether you currently have SharePoint On-Premises or not currently using SharePoint at all. Also keep in mind here that for practical purposes I’m not suggesting most people consider SharePoint Online only. For the price and features it just usually makes more sense to get Office 365 which includes SharePoint Online.
All the “stuff” you get
People like stuff. When I come home from a conference, do you know what my kids’ first reaction is? “We love you dad!” “We missed you dad!”? Nope… it’s “What did you get me!”. They love all the stuff I bring home from conferences. The bouncy balls, the key chains, the doo dads and gadgets. People like stuff. I like stuff, and you get a LOT of stuff with Office 365 that make it worth the expense even without SharePoint.
Just look at all the stuff you get with Office 365: SharePoint, Lync, Exchange Online, Yammer, Office, OneDrive, and more. My current organization is undergoing a transition to Office 365 as we speak and it’s going to end up saving several hundred dollars a month!
Connecting with external people
Is it just me or is this feature not advertised as much as it should be? Remember the hassles, headaches, and licensing costs of adding external users to your On-Premises SharePoint environment? It could be an absolute nightmare! Well, with Office 365 you can add any user with a Live ID to both SharePoint and Yammer. How cool is that? How many doors does that open up? If you have customers who need access, it’s a game changer! This feature alone should have Small and Medium businesses clamoring to use Office 365.
Let me state that again, you can allow external users access to your SharePoint Sites and take full advantage of SharePoint Security without having to pay for additional licenses or do any complicated configuration (in fact, it’s a simple check box).
I know!! Right??
Growing Number of Features
Microsoft is actively expanding the features of Office 365. Some of these features like Power BI and Yammer are only available in Office 365. The new products Oslo (now called Delve) and Office Apps open up new worlds to your organization and the REST and Client Side Object Model libraries are expanding allowing you to create powerful applications for your organization.
Microsoft IS listening. In fact they created a community forum called UserVoice for the sole purpose of listening to what we have to say so they can actually do something about it. This may be the first time I remember Microsoft saying “Yes, we hear you and actually want your feedback”. Check out Jeremy Thake’s post on the subject: BE HEARD! SHAREPOINT & OFFICE DEVELOPMENT MODEL FEEDBACK VIA USERVOICE
Will they actually listen?? With the amount of discussions… cough... arguments… I’ve had with Jeremy, I can tell you they are. There is reason to be hopeful.
Well?? Should my company go to Office 365?
In my personal opinion, if you are a small to medium business you should absolutely jump on the Office 365 bandwagon. The features you get for the price is just pretty astounding, and you DO get a lot of benefit from SharePoint out of the box. All of the features coupled with data security, cost savings, and removal of hardware needs really make it enticing to organizations of any size.
The development hurdles should not necessarily be an excuse not make the leap. Also, you no longer need an expensive or over-burdened administrator to keep your SharePoint farms up and running which again may more than pay for the expense. If you are an enterprise customer with an On-Premises deployment of SharePoint and frustrated with the current state? Be patient. Microsoft is listening, and believe me they don’t want to lose your business. Things are getting better.
When I first started writing this series it was more to speak to the naysayers and give another opinion about the future of SharePoint. After doing the research, arguing with Jeremy some more, and taking a look the bigger picture I do have to admit I’m more optimistic than I was before and even energized to learn more and get my hands dirty.
SharePoint… errrr… Office 365 is the future. It’s a bright future. Resistance is futile. As the great Arnold Schwarzenegger said “Take my hand!!!” We’ll figure this out together.