Last week, I was in San Francisco and found myself sitting in a keynote to launch Microsoft’s next major collaborative product, SharePoint 2016. While I have used SharePoint in a large corporate environment and am familiar with the product, I largely consider myself an outsider to the peers who were in the room with me; most were Microsoft MVPs or IT pros with significant SharePoint experience in both using and deploying the platform.
During the past few years, Dropbox and Box grew quickly in popularity when it came to group collaboration and online document storage. These startups from the center of Silicon Valley were once labeled as the future of sharing, collaborating and how we will eventually move our entire lives and operations to the digital hard drives in the sky. Fast forward to today, and the future is a bit less clear for these companies, as Microsoft and the underlying dynamics of collaboration have changed faster than most companies have been able to react.
For every company involved, collaboration, document retrieval, intranet access and the like have been defined by being able to access these sensitive locations from outside the corporate firewall. Having the best tools that only work inside the office is a huge barrier to where employees prefer to be, which is outside the cubicle.
It’s not uncommon to see everyday users give an eye roll when they hear the word “SharePoint.” This is especially true with younger employees who perceive the platform as more of a burden because of its former limitations rather than as an enhancer of productivity. When I entered the venue for San Francisco event to see a Mac on the keynote podium alongside several PCs, Microsoft’s refreshed vision of being where the user is, no matter the platform, has manifested itself inside the SharePoint team.
During the keynote, it was readily apparent that Microsoft showed off a significant number of demos not only on a PC or a Mac, but also on iOS and Android platforms. Crucially, Microsoft showed how you can now bring intranet access to an app and do so in way that is not a pain in the butt to use. SharePoint is finally going mobile in a big way, and the company is unlocking new capabilities with Office, SharePoint, and OneDrive that unify the company’s services to create unique value propositions that Dropbox and Box will struggle to compete with.
From an outsider’s perspective, what Microsoft is doing with SharePoint is giving it a future, and with over 190 million active users and 1 million developers, there is a significant ecosystem in this space that will allow SharePoint 2016 grow organically. What this means is that while SharePoint may not be the name a new generation of employees instantly recognize, when deployed correctly and utilized to its fullest capabilities, SharePoint 2016 will be the enabler that makes productivity happen in the collaboration space inside of the enterprise.
At the end of the event in San Francisco, while having drinks with a few Microsoft MVPs, we talked about what Microsoft can do to make SharePoint ‘cool’ again. The candid responses ranged from improved marketing efforts to rebranding, but what stuck with me the most is that for SharePoint to be cool, it simply needs to get out of the way; SharePoint is a product best left to the IT pros who can make seamless experiences happen. When you can access a file quickly that is nested in several layers of security directly from your smartphone while riding in the back of an Uber without any hiccups or even thinking about how complex that task is, that’s how Microsoft makes SharePoint cool again.
Check out Brad’s video podcast, The Sams Report, on Thurrott.com. For a deep dive into many of the new SharePoint 2016 and OneDrive announcements, sign up for the free Unity Connect Online conference, June 20-23. Sign up today!