If the Enterprise Won't Go to Office 365, Office 365 Experiences Will Come to It
It’s almost as if the world breathed a sigh of relief when Julia White, general manager for Microsoft’s Office Product Management wrote a blog post acknowledging that there would be another release of Sharepoint on prem, namely Sharepoint 2016.
“We know that the move to cloud doesn’t happen all at once,” she said. “While we’ve seen growing demand for SharePoint Online, we recognize that our customers have a range of requirements that make maintaining existing SharePoint Server deployments the right decision for some. We remain committed to meeting those needs.”
In other words, if the cloud is a no-go at your company (at this point in time), Microsoft will meet you on premises.
But that’s not the only good news. They’ll do it in a way that looks more like Office 365 than you might expect.
This is a good thing.
“With SharePoint Server 2016, in addition to delivering rich on-premises capabilities, we’re focused on robust hybrid enablement in order to bring more of the Office 365 experiences to our on-premises customers,” said White.
What this most likely means is that the end user experiences on Sharepoint 2016 will be (ideally) as indistinguishable as possible from those realized on Office 365.
This is something that the team at Microsoft needs to present, otherwise it risks losing business users who may be difficult to recapture. In fact, to one extent or another, this may already be the case. Need proof? Take a good, hard look around— you’re likely to find a proliferation of Dropbox, Google Drive, YouTube in your workplace, authorized, or not.
What does this suggest? That the Enterprise is already hybrid whether IT managers have sanctioned it, or not.
So Microsoft’s challenge is to reign in (and to help reign in) these vigilantes in by offering experiences with OneDrive for Business, Office 365 Video, and Office 365 that are not only as good as anything found on the consumer front, but better. Otherwise why would anyone switch? IT mandates or blocking non-approved sites doesn’t work in a personal device-filled world.
Sharepoint 2016, therefore, will need to bring the best of what Office 365 has to offer and deliver it in a way that it can be consumed in an on-premises world.
The good news is that Microsoft understands this. It’s why they’re building on Office 365 and Sharepoint Online first and then delivering as many of the same experiences possible via Sharepoint 2016. Retro-fitting mobile-cloud experiences, if it can be done successfully, is a smart move.
While we won’t know precisely what’s hidden under Sharepoint 2016’s covers until May, we’ll go out on a limb and predict that Delve, a personal search and discovery tool which leverages Office Graph to suggest content to users, will be there.
Ditto for NextGen Portals, which are intelligent, collaborative, mobile and ready to go. White also said that there would be knowledge management portals in Office 365, we’ll likely see them in Sharepoint 2016 as well.
Finally, Microsoft has said that Office 365 gives them the opportunity to expand the concept of team sites and that they would leverage it to bring together team content traditionally kept in SharePoint, along with the broader set of information across Office 365 including email, instant messaging, tasks, contacts, personal files, social feeds and more. This is a capability the will likely want to bring on premises if they can figure out how to do so without being disruptive.
In writing about the aforementioned, White said “a holistic team experience across Office 365 offers simplified permissions for the user and holistic management, governance and extensibility models, making it a win for IT and for users”.
Building that experience into Sharepoint 2016 would represent a big win.
So while you can’t do everything on premises that you can do in the Cloud, Microsoft will likely try to provide cloud-like experiences for on-prem users. It’s really the only way to keep Sharepoint end users from checking out consumer-grade, cloud solutions from other vendors.