Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Where Is SharePoint Heading?

By David Rubinstein

Cloud-oriented services. Consumerization of information technology. Increased productivity.

These are the long-term trend views that are “really top of mind” at Microsoft as its engineers look for ways to extend both the capabilities and the accessibility of SharePoint going forward, according to Jared Spataro, SharePoint Product Management Team lead.

Before discussing where SharePoint’s going, though, it’s important to first see where it is. Spataro said in an exclusive interview with SPTechReport that Microsoft is seeing a phased adoption approach, a journey, if you will.

First, he said, organizations are licensing SharePoint to fill an immediate need. Most often, that’s creating an internal social network for collaboration, or document management.

The second phase shows a consistent pattern, he said. “Users say, ‘OK, we’ve got a quick win. Now we want to standardize on the platform. What else can we do?’ ” This usually takes the form of creating content management systems and asset libraries – things organizations are doing now but can do more effectively on SharePoint, Spataro said.

The third phase occurs when organizations are comfortable with SharePoint as a platform, and they begin to consider new things they can do with the software, Spataro said. He mentioned such efforts as creating a SharePoint community for all the company’s technical engineers, or creating new processes and workflows that can add business value.

While research shows adoption of SharePoint 2010 has not been widespread, Spataro attributed that to people being “thoughtful and doing planning before adoption, so they’re looking at it in a real intelligent way.”

He said for the 2010 release, the company did a much better job with having support materials and training available at release time than it did with the 2007 release. That version enjoyed a large, rapid uptake due primarily to the re-architecting of the software and the myriad new capabilities that were added.

“At that time, during the 2007 launch wave, we spent most of our time explaining what SharePoint is,” Spataro said. “Maybe even up to two years after the software was released, people were asking ‘What is SharePoint?’ ”

That has not been the case with the 2010 release, he pointed out. “Now, it’s a big change. People get it. Now they want to know what more can I do with SharePoint?”

With additional tools for developer, designers, architects and administrators, SharePoint 2010 offers greater depth than its predecessors, and organizations are taking SharePoint in exciting new directions as far as workflows, processes and branding are concerned.

So, where is SharePoint heading now? Spataro would not delve into specifics, but he did offer what he called a “trend view” of the future of SharePoint.

It’s moving into the cloud. “That’s a win-win economically for Microsoft and our customers,” Spataro said. “It’s a new way to abstract away the complexity of keeping SharePoint up and running. We want to lead the drive into the cloud.”

As such, users will expect the same kind of experiences with SharePoint that they get with their personal applications. “People want to same experience with their enterprise applications. They want to use consumer applications to work with a partner in Singapore as they can with a friend down the street.”

Microsoft will also assist with innovation and productivity in future releases. “Organizations want to build new applications that do new things. We find that our customers’ minds are jelling around productivity applications.”

No timeframes have been set for the next release, though Spataro did say Microsoft will try to continue to sync the release of SharePoint with other products in the business productivity suite, such as Office and project management solutions.

“We don’t put a hard time to drop something,” he explained. “We ask, ‘Where are we going with it?’ That said, it has been a two-three year release cycle, and we want to make it shorter. Moving to cloud services will help us achieve that.”


Christian Buckley said...

"users will expect the same kind of experiences with SharePoint that they get with their personal applications"

That's the defining statement of this article. People want the power of on-premise, but the ease-of-use of their favortire consumer-based social media apps. What they don't understand is the enormous gap between what they want in an enterprise solution and what any single vendor (Microsoft included) can deliver.

What does the future look like for SharePoint? My money is on a blended on-premise/cloud solution, not a pure cloud play.

decatec said...

It would be nice if MS could speed up on social networking (e.g. better blogs, wiki, forums) and records management, possibly with out of band releases ....