At the SharePoint Conference 2014 last March, Metalogix conducted a survey on SharePoint and cloud-based collaboration. The company compiled the results of this survey and created an infographic (see below) to illustrate the main findings. To bring the survey and the infographic into perspective, I interviewed Dr. Steven Marsh, director of product marketing at Metalogix. Dr. Marsh’s analysis is presented below the infographic.
KF: What conclusions should SharePoint customers draw from the Metalogix survey?
Dr. Marsh: It would be interesting to know which version of both SharePoint and Office was being used within the respondents’ organizations. Microsoft started the integration between its desktop software, servers and services a few releases ago, but I think the 2013 releases (Office and SharePoint), particularly on the desktop Office applications, has made this integration usable. Rarely do I save a file locally since all my SharePoint sites are readily available within Word or PowerPoint’s Save as menu. Also the Share button allows me to easily a share a file using a link to SharePoint—even if the link is still quite often very long—via email, right from within Word. This saves me time because I don’t have to save to desktop, open Outlook, write email, and then attach the file. This keeps my colleagues on the same page and saves my Exchange server and colleagues’ Inboxes from clogging up with attachments. However, we should think about the possible root cause of that top answer [“Concerns about SharePoint perplex business users.”]. Is it a problem with the software and services, or how we use them? Or more importantly how do we train our users to use them? How many people know how to do the things I have just described? You could argue that when it comes to SharePoint, it isn’t always about the vast range of capabilities but about how well it does the core—some might say simple—collaboration actions such as making it easy to store and share files. Personally I think with 2013 MSFT has a great story. OneDrive for Business has made that even better, especially when stacking up against Box and Dropbox.
KF: What conclusions should people who are considering SharePoint draw?
Dr. Marsh: Training is massively important. Planning exactly what business problems you are trying to solve is equally so. And the two go hand in hand. Train people how to use the tools to solve their collaboration issues. Microsoft has a huge head start because of desktop Office being used to create the majority of content. Dropbox and Box have made great progress in the consumer space, which is why we are seeing people consider them for their organizations. But really do they offer anything better than SharePoint or OneDrive for Business? Is their integration with Office ever going to be as tight? They might get close for Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, but what about Outlook? It is probably the most used (rightly or wrongly) collaboration tool today.
Search. This ties into the training issue also. The improvements MSFT has made to SharePoint’s search engine are huge, but those results are only as good as the data, or more importantly metadata, within SharePoint. Teaching people how to properly tag metadata will make a huge difference (a lot of this can be done from within the Office applications). As an administrator, you can’t just set up search and then leave it alone. It needs to be monitored and tuned to get the best results. People expect Google or Bing to give them the results they need on the intranet, but do we really think that there isn’t lot of fine tuning going on in the backend of those two systems?
KF: How does Microsoft’s strategy with SharePoint relate to the data from this survey? For example, are people worried about the future of SharePoint and deciding whether to place their bets on it?
Dr. Marsh: I think Microsoft has responded. The release of OneDrive for Business as a separate offering, as well as being part of various Office 365 SKU, is its attempt to counter the potential move to Dropbox and Box. And including the web versions of Office in the revised lineup of the SharePoint Online license options shows that this tight integration between the content creation package and the backend (either cloud or on-premises) is key to winning in this space. All Microsoft has to do now is repair its tarnished reputation that SharePoint has for some users due to their previous experience. OneDrive for Business is a possible the way to do that.
It used to be that SP was good for document collaboration, but users looked elsewhere for other functionality, such as Web Content Management (WCM) or BI. Now it could be argued that if you need the range of capabilities, use SharePoint. But for document collaboration, users were looking elsewhere.
Making OneDrive for Business a separate file sync and store offering for simple/core document collaboration—SharePoint’s traditional sweet spot—Is a smart move and may help to drive adoption of SharePoint for other functionality, which it is now a lot stronger than it was in previous releases.
KF: What does Metalogix suggest people do with this information to address the concerns raised?
Dr. Marsh: Ask users what they want to be able to do to make sure that this isn’t a training issue. Then address it, if it is. It will be far cheaper to address a training issue than to purchase a new platform/service and write off the company’s existing investment in SharePoint. The reality is that SharePoint is a very capable platform. Document collaboration was its core strength. Perhaps Microsoft forgot that and started to address other areas such as WCM, BI, Social, etc., and overlooked one of SharePoint successful features.
I could probably do my job without SharePoint, but I’d waste time looking for files on my local machine and spend a lot of time looking through email attachments. I recently worked on a project with a colleague who was a little scared of SharePoint and wanted to send everything via email. It only took a couple of days with people working from different versions of a file, and it became a very frustrating experience for everyone (particularly, for myself since I warned that not using SharePoint would risk this happening in the first place).
KF: What are the key takeaways from the survey?
Dr. Marsh: Ask users what they are struggling with, what they want to do, and make sure that you don’t have a people issue rather than a technology one. How do you know the same thing won’t happen again if you roll out Dropbox or Box?
Also, people expect the Google/Bing experience when searching internally, and that isn’t going to happen on its own. Proper metadata use, information architecture, as well as maintenance on the Search elements of SharePoint are key to getting this to work. Search in SharePoint is fantastic when deployed properly. I would argue that the metadata filters and other new features in SharePoint 2013 potentially make it even easier to find something that the internet experience.