Office 365 is a comprehensive platform that delivers main pillars like email, calendar, collaboration (including search, document management, etc.), unified communications and social. Microsoft keeps adding features to this platform including Project Online and Power BI.
Office 365 is not an isolated platform; it works in tandem with Microsoft Azure to extend its services through Azure websites, Active Directory, and more to come. The platform is fully managed by Microsoft and supported Microsoft SLA.
Having that said, how will this effect the existing SharePoint ecosystem and Microsoft partners specifically? I would categorise existing Microsoft partners into:
Boutique services: They deliver software services in the shape of custom developed solutions on top of SharePoint and consultancy services.
Products companies: They develop ready-made products that utilise or serve SharePoint as a platform. For example workflow products, governance management, administration, backup and restore, custom Web Parts, custom HR solution, ideas management, etc. You can see a lot of these products on Sharepointreviews.com.
Hosting and platform management companies: They provide managed services to clients who want to outsource the hosting of their own SharePoint platform.
If we analyse how each category will be affected:
Boutique services are the least affected by Microsoft's push of Office 365. However, they should adapt and understand the change and the vision. Microsoft is pushing all the custom development to be outside SharePoint in the form of apps hosted on Azure websites or develop custom applications (websites, windows apps, mobile apps, etc.) that utilise SharePoint as the back end; the applications will connect to SharePoint (or Office 365) using the new Office 365 APIs.
Products companies will need to reassess their strategy, review their market segments and how their clients are flexible to the new changes. They may have clients who are slower to change who may reject the cloud concept.
In my opinion, the companies focusing on platform management like upgrade and migration, backup and restore, and administration are hurt by the new move. In Office 365, there is no new versions that need upgrade or new farm that requires content migration. These companies needs to repurpose their products, move up in the technology stack (rather than focusing on the platform they should move up to the application).
The companies building ready Web Parts or solutions on top of SharePoint will need to rearchitect their solutions and keep a close relation with Microsoft to stay on top of any upcoming platform changes.
Hosting companies are the most affected category. They are going to lose the clients who are going to move to the cloud. It is not only about SharePoint; most of the clients move the email and unified communication workloads first then SharePoint follows.
Cloud strategy is an important item on all the CIOs agenda; either in the short term or long term. That's why all IT professional service firms need to re-innovate their offerings, focus on maximising the business value for their clients and divert the focus from IT-only solutions.
Please offer your views and comments.