I have been working for many years in the IT industry. I got interested in SharePoint when version 2003 was launched onto the market. I got addicted and have been working with each new version of SharePoint ever since. SharePoint was and is still one of the fastest growing products of Microsoft. The SharePoint platform allows you to extend in different ways very easily. I do not have to explain that, as a developer, it will give you a lot of opportunities to build solutions on top of SharePoint. At a functional level we have been struggling around user adoption. You just love the product or hate it. In my case I love it! All these years working with SharePoint, allowed me to grow in expertise and knowledge.
But what happened last year? Suddenly rumors about how SharePoint is going to disappear. Many great community influencers posted articles and blog posts about this change which would be inevitable. Fear came into the SharePoint community. Even the yearly SharePoint Conference was joined together with other Microsoft products into one large event. But is that bad? No, actually it isn’t.
Microsoft has always made a strong case for the directions they are going. For the coming years they see the future in mobility and cloud. And they are clear about it! Mobility-first, cloud-first! A harsh but strong statement which sets a new Microsoft vision and strategy.
And they are right!
If you look at the world and in particular to mobility, things have changed. I can remember that the first time I bought a 5 inch phone, a lot of jokes were made. Hey Alex, you have a tablet next to your ear? And now? Just 2 years later all my colleagues and friends have bigger phones. Even sometimes bigger than the one I have. It got even a fancy name “phablet”. Making calls with your phone is not the number one function anymore. Phones became part of your social live by using applications like Facebook, WhatsApp or Yammer. Even controlling other devices and streaming data with a mobile device, is nowadays part of our lives. Look at the possibilities which IoT, Internet Of Things, brings to us.
In my line of business, companies have implemented Microsoft technology. They work on desktops with Office products, collaborate with each other using SharePoint and have identity management via a number of different systems. But in most cases they are running it all on premise. Large IT infrastructures are present and need to be maintained. And now there is cloud. Cloud is not new, and for me, it is more a buzz word. Cloud makes it possible to have the same infrastructure, stored in datacenters at Microsoft. And yes, I know, there are more cloud suppliers than Microsoft. But I can’t help being a Microsoft fan. Instead of having expensive systems, which are even more expensive to maintain, I’m able to put it all in online environments, where it allows me to define things like availability, size, security and more. Do I need to have more performance? No problem, I just scale up. Do I need to think of replacing the hardware after 3 years? Hell no! That is maintained by Microsoft. Suddenly I can reduce costs and have a highly scalable environment.
Vision and strategy is causing changes
Microsoft’s vision and strategy is causing a lot of changes. Office 365 became more important and got improved a lot. As seen in Office 365, the online Microsoft platform, a lot of services are made available to support their mobility-first and cloud-first strategy. SharePoint is not going to disappear. It is just moving to the background and becomes one of the many products which support the services Microsoft offers to its customers. If you look carefully you will notice that a lot of the services in Office 365 are built and/or make use of SharePoint.
The Office 365 platform evolves a lot. New functionality is always released first in Office 365 before it comes available in on premise environments. And some functionality will not even become available anymore in on premise environments. Microsoft is clearly steering to a cloud only future!
We need to think differently. Just developing and connecting systems on own designed infrastructure is not always possible anymore. Within a cloud strategy, there are boundaries and limits we need to think of. Underlying infrastructure and systems are in some cases shared and allow to be configured only at specific levels.
The mobility-first strategy causes to be different when building solutions. It becomes more and more important that solutions are made available on a large range of devices. It must work on a small phone, tablet, laptop, computer or even a big screen like the Surface Hub. And do not forget cross platform. Microsoft is not the only one, IOS and Android are big in the market.
Does it mean that from now on every organization embraces this strategy? No, I don’t think so. It will take some time before organizations are ready. There will be organizations that are going to put all their systems and services into the cloud, but a large part will need to go through a phase. A phase in which they will start using hybrid scenarios where systems and services are partly running on premise and partly in the cloud. Transformation will take place. Causing to think differently and transform their systems into smaller and more maintainable services and Apps. But don’t get fooled. It could take a few years before an organization is ready to move to the cloud.
How do we change?
And what does this mean for me and for all you other SharePoint enthusiasts? Our line of work is going to change. And to be honest, it is already happening. Developing the so called “old fashion” way is out of the question. We will need to think differently when creating functionality and business solutions. Building Apps which can be used across different products like SharePoint, Office 365, Office and Windows 10. In some cases even build cross platform, as for iOS and Android, using development tools like Xamarin. Exposing data or connecting systems by creating Azure web services. Using the Internet Of Things to connect the virtual world to the real world.
One of the things I love about my line of work is being part of a technical world which continuously evolves. I will still be doing SharePoint. But I’m going to do a lot more.