Onus on Microsoft as SharePoint and OneDrive roadmaps reach crossroads

“This is a watershed moment in Microsoft’s software development history…”

Julia White - General Manager of Office, Microsoft.

Julia White - General Manager of Office, Microsoft.

Microsoft has recently revealed some interesting statistics about enterprise adoption of Office 365 at its annual IT professionals conference.

In doing so, Redmond also shared its roadmap for the next version of its popular business collaboration platform, SharePoint, and its struggling file sync and share offering, OneDrive for Business.

To be short, Microsoft recognises that it has a lot more work to do.

“Microsoft’s new management regime is focusing its energies on a few key initiatives, and reinventing productivity is one of them,” explains Richard Edwards, research analyst, Ovum.

According to Edwards, in the last 12 months, 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies have purchased Office 365, helping the product to become Microsoft’s fastest growing commercial offering ever, with a US$6.3 billion annual revenue run rate.

“Progressive organisations are in the process of modernising the workplace: re-platforming the workforce with tablets and smartphones running powerful, intuitive, cloud-first/mobile-first apps,” Edwards adds.

“Mobile productivity and cross-device application usage are now starting to drive the uptake of Office 365, taking over from cloud-based email adoption.

“But despite this shift in technology, the actual document collaboration activities of business professionals have changed relatively little, even though the location of those documents may have changed considerably.”

As explained by Edwards, Microsoft has introduced enhancements in the client and server components of its content collaboration tools.

But perhaps crucially, its most recent updates - Office 2013 and SharePoint 2013 - have not been universally adopted, and few knowledge workers have grasped the opportunities afforded by Office 365 and the accompanying Office Web Apps.

“One reason for this,” observes Edwards, “is the user experience. Microsoft’s offerings lack the “joy-of-use” factor that startups and some competitors have.”

For Edwards, user experiences, along with management and extensibility, are now top of the agenda for Office 365 product managers.

“For example, Microsoft now openly acknowledges that while SharePoint is fine for general-purpose document libraries, it wasn’t designed with file sync and share in mind,” Edwards adds.

“Also that specific improvements (mobile, web user interface, and sync capabilities) are required to bring OneDrive for Business up to scratch.

“Indeed, Microsoft is making this a number-one priority for the SharePoint engineering team.”

With the advent of SharePoint Server 2016 (public beta expected 4Q 2015, with general availability 2Q 2016), Edwards believes Microsoft is placing renewed focus on file management, content management, sites, and portals.

Going forward, Redmond claims it will also continue to develop the hybrid capabilities of SharePoint, recognising that hybrid deployments are a steady state for many large organisations, and not just a temporary position to enable migration to the cloud.

“On-premise updates to SharePoint Server will continue to arrive on a two- to three-year cycle, with interim service packs as appropriate,” Edwards adds.

After 14 years of evolution, SharePoint 2016 will be the first major product release where the cloud offering defines the way Microsoft thinks about on-premise software delivery.

“This is a watershed moment in Microsoft’s software development history, and one that CIOs and IT professionals need to be cognisant of, as this is likely to be the future of on-premise enterprise IT,” Edwards concludes.

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