I recently read an article by Dan Holme on IT Unity, in response to Microsoft’s blog post outlining the strategy for SharePoint and O365. Sometimes when I read or hear a particularly good line, I get that amazing feeling of something ‘slotting into place’; that feeling you get when something that’s been in your subconscious for a long time (but you have never quite been able to articulate or form some coherent thinking about) suddenly reaches clarity. This is the line:
“After a decade, I still struggle to answer the question, “What is SharePoint?” because I have to start by asking questions like, “It depends… what are you trying to do as a business?” SharePoint has always been too big of a story to tell. Ask me what OneDrive for Business is, or what PowerBI is, or what Yammer is… I can tell you. The granularity helps a lot.”
Nobody can succinctly explain what SharePoint is, what it does, and the benefits it brings to a business because it is just too big. When a friend or family member asks me, “So, what is SharePoint?”, I usually roll out some analogy about a box of LEGO bricks, or start using buzzwords from the SharePoint Pie of Despair. The person usually ends the conversation more confused than they were at the start. I don’t think this is a particular reflection on my ability to articulate concepts either (well, I hope not), because I have never heard anybody give a good explanation or definition of SharePoint. It’s just too intangible as a concept; too hard to envision for people who have never seen or used the platform.
Microsoft’s approach to break down the services and capabilities provided and supported by SharePoint into smaller, bite-sized “experiences” makes perfect sense, and makes my life a lot easier to boot. It’s much simpler to explain and articulate the business value of an individual use case than it is to do the same with SharePoint as a whole. As a consultant, it means I can focus on guiding customers towards the experiences and portals that provide the most benefit to their users without having to explain, “We’re giving you SharePoint, but we’re only doing 20% of what it’s theoretically capable of at this stage of the programme”. It means that we can look at Office365 in a more holistic way, rather than SharePoint requiring a completely different project approach to the rest of the products in the suite. Strategic roadmaps are easier to define, explain, and obtain executive buy in for. It means organisations can better identify their requirements and aspirations when going out to tender. It helps to stop the blurring of the lines between different concepts in SharePoint (such as publishing portals versus team sites/collaboration spaces), increasing our ability to govern the solution and aiding user adoption. And it may, at some point in the future, allow Microsoft to give their customers more granular licensing for individual areas of functionality or features that currently come under the SharePoint umbrella.
So is SharePoint dead? Well, no, but as a concept and a brand, it is probably terminally ill. The functionality it provides will carry on and continue to evolve, and the skills/people needed to implement and support it will be in just as high demand as ever. I’m really excited to see what the next 12-24 months holds for SharePoint, and I am fully behind Microsoft’s “experiences” vision.