SharePoint has been around, alive and well for more than a decade. Over that time SharePoint became more than a platform. SharePoint birthed an entire ecosystem and community. Conferences, user groups and entire careers were built on this brand and product.
And now Microsoft is deemphasizing SharePoint. The annual Microsoft hosted SharePoint conference was replaced with Ignite this year. At the conference SharePoint was mentioned but it wasn’t the focal point. Instead the focus was on Office 365, Skype for Business, and other products within the Office suite.
This huge shift has sparked a lot of debate on the future of SharePoint. What will happen to this community? Is SharePoint dead? Is this the end of SharePoint as we know it?
SharePoint is not going away in the near future. Microsoft will continue to support an on-premises version. There are still so many customers that have created customized business solutions that are just not right to move to a SharePoint Online environment. Those customers can count on continued support.
On the other hand, the SharePoint 2016 release has been positioned as a “catch-up” to the improvements already made in Office 365 with a focus on improving hybrid solutions. From this plan, we can assume that when new features do come to the on-premises environment they will not come quickly.
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A lot of the collaboration tools that Microsoft is coming out with in Office 365 are based on SharePoint’s underlying technology. For example, the new groups feature runs primarily in combination with Exchange but also leverages the document management capabilities of SharePoint.
In the Office 365 environment, SharePoint is an underlying technology that is helping to create new collaborative platforms that Microsoft is calling the NextGen portals.
The paradigm is shifting in the way that we think of SharePoint. The concept of having pages, sites, and document libraries are all being reimagined. These SharePoint features, and the barriers that came with them, are being transformed. Now other products within Office 365 present similar use cases. In addition, the NextGen portals completely reinvent how we will think about, create and build an intranet.
For the experienced SharePoint professional there will be a bit of a learning curve trying to get used to and learn the new products. While new tools will have the same underlying SharePoint technology base, they will be different. It is time to learn how to use these tools in new ways and discover ways to align them to business needs.
For those of you already on Office 365, the changes are coming in the next year. Start thinking about researching and getting to know the product as soon as you can. Then your business can start planning out how to take advantage of the new environment.
If you are still using SharePoint on-premises, there are a lot of exciting things happening in Office 365 and those advances are too exciting to ignore. There are compelling business reasons to start considering Office 365. It may (at least) be the time to start looking at options for a hybrid solution.
It is important to think about this from a change management perspective. Users are comfortable with SharePoint and used to a certain way of working but there are gains and opportunities ahead. Begin to map out what this means for your business and don’t be left behind.
For those new to SharePoint, the learning curve to entry may be attractive in bringing online collaboration and document management capabilities to your users.
Ultimately, Microsoft is trying to change the way that we think about SharePoint. Get used to not hearing the name in the industry as much as you used to. SharePoint is not dead. But now is the time to acclimate, adapt and adjust to a new reality.
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