Gartner analyst Jeffrey Mann spoke at the 2013 Gartner Symposium on SharePoint and declared its inevitable demise. But, his assessment shows a distinct lack of understanding of what SharePoint is, what enterprise collaboration is and the fact that many companies will not go to the cloud for their content management needs.
Mann’s presentation was confusing and misleading. By instructing CIOs to look to a post-SharePoint future, Mann displayed a distinct lack of foresight when it comes to collaborative solutions, SharePoint and business.
Misunderstanding Enterprise Collaboration
Companies are increasingly using SharePoint to manage their content in a secure way. They’re able to build workflows on top of their content that are highly customized to their unique needs, improving their business processes.
Mann acknowledges that a high percentage of companies use SharePoint, with 28 percent using it across their entire workforce and 70 percent having at least half of the company use it once a week. Yet he cites its inevitable demise, due to difficulty administering it and poor user experience. While many of these criticisms are valid, none are life-threatening.
Yammering on SharePoint
Mann also asserts that the evolution of SharePoint in the cloud will be defined by better integration with Yammer. Wrong.
SharePoint is not a social network like Yammer, nor do the huge number of companies who have adopted SharePoint use it for social networking. Its main value proposition is separate and different from social networks in more ways than any reasonable blog post could cover. To be succinct, it is a secure and regulated environment that provides portals with content management, collaboration, and publishing. Although social in SharePoint may be a growing value point for the technology, it is not the principle driver of demand.
“Yammer and SharePoint overlap and complement each other in several ways; there are strong signs that whatever evolution SharePoint undergoes as it becomes more cloud-based will be strongly influenced by Yammer,” Mann states. This statement seems to imply that social is key to what SharePoint should become. This trend, to assume that social will always be pivotal and essential, is not accurate. There are business needs for, and against, social. His assessment seems too focused on trends, not substance.
Social cannot replace the key functions of SharePoint, it can only augment them. Social is a new area for SharePoint, one which will bring a broader selling point and more value to users, but it is not critical to SharePoint’s success. To stay relevant, Microsoft will need principally to evolve SharePoint along core lines of content management, collaboration, and publishing.
The Cloud Juggernaut
Mann goes on to declare the demise of on-premise SharePoint. Speaking of cloud solutions he says, “SharePoint on-premises is slowly on its way out; it’s become an evolutionary dead end.” He seems to believe that the cloud is a juggernaut, and nothing can stop it. Again, this line of thinking is too focused on trends, not on the substance or value proposition of enterprise tools.
Where companies can and do transition to the cloud, this may be the right course, though not always. However, many companies simply do not have this option. The regulatory and legal considerations of storing company information on the Web are huge. Many large companies cannot and will not do this. The cloud is not secure, as we all know. We understand this now more than ever with the recent NSA revelations, which proved that online encryption can be cracked. Additionally, the cloud is not reliable; regular outages of cloud-services keep businesses wary of moving their business-critical operations there. Even a short outage has a significant impact on a company’s revenue and reputation. Just this year, Microsoft’s world-wide Azure services went down because they failed to perform a routine activity.
The assumption that a better user-experience is inevitable in the cloud is unfounded. The idea that the cloud will lead to lower costs for companies is too simplified, and not always accurate. The idea that going to the cloud is always better is simply wrong. The concept that it is even an option for many businesses is naïve. SharePoint on-premise is not going anywhere, and if Microsoft drinks the Kool-Aid that it should go, then it’s making a huge mistake.
Edited 2/10 to correct analyst’s name.