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Why Microsoft SharePoint faces a challenging future

Jonathan Hassell | Dec. 5, 2013
IT pros like it, but can SharePoint deliver the advancements it needs to grow?

SharePoint is one of the fastest-growing products in the history of Microsoft. It is a lot of things to a lot of people, and an entire industry has grown up around SharePoint because of its success. Its future, however, is less rosy. What's more, Microsoft's design decisions also make this future murky.

SharePoint's Multiple Personalities Frustrate Both IT Managers and Users

SharePoint has multiple personalities. There are, in effect, two versions of SharePoint that you, as IT management, need to be aware of. There's the online version, called SharePoint Online and Office 365, and there's traditional on-premises version called SharePoint 2013, which you have come to know and love over the past few years.

You may have a reason to be interested in both versions. You want the convenience and simplicity of paying a low monthly fee for someone else to take on the hassle and inconvenience of deploying SharePoint for your organization, while you may want to have a few document libraries and sites remain in your own data centers under your control if, say, they host sensitive files. You might also want to control search a little bit more and configure a hybrid search environment. Whatever your reasons, there's a place in your environment to plan for both versions.

Consider what this dual edition means for end users, though. Microsoft has publicly stated that its cloud services are where new features and functionality are first rolled out. These capabilities may eventually make their way down to the on-premises server versions but, traditionally, SharePoint server releases come every three to four years.

Even on Microsoft's new rapid-release cadence, the company still hasn't yet proven it can deliver high quality platform server editions any faster than it has in the past. Your users may have quite an uneven experience, with some features deployed in the Office 365 and SharePoint Online environments - and even having been there for years - before you have a chance to deploy them in your own data center.

Then there's the lack of control over new features, or even changes to the interface or to existing features, when they are made by Microsoft in the SharePoint Online environment. You basically have to accept the fact the cloud service is the testing ground. In exchange for giving up the headaches and paying that low monthly fee, you give up having the ability to say no to changes. This includes not just changing a control here, the URL of a page over there, or deprecating a little-known advanced feature without much notice.

The Yammer rollout is a prime example. Once Microsoft bought Yammer in 2011, it essentially decided that Yammer was the future of SharePoint social and, in effect, dismissed anyone's investments in the in-the-box social features that existed in SharePoint 2010.


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