On-premises SharePoint is slowly on its way out, says Gartner analyst Jeffrey Mann – and companies had better start preparing for a cloud-based future.
“28% of companies use SharePoint across their entire workforce,” says Mann, “and if you only count companies where at least half the staff are using it once a week or more, that number climbs to 70%.”
But, adds Mann, “hardly anybody likes it”. When it comes to user experience, SharePoint scores low on ease of use, the amount of ongoing management it requires, and the fact that content isn’t easy to migrate between systems.”
The problem facing Microsoft, says Mann, is that SharePoint has become a victim of its own success: “It’s become too big, too complex and too hard to manage and upgrade, especially since in many organisations it’s highly customised. It takes three to five years to develop and test a new version, and then another year or two before most businesses take the plunge and install it. As a result, many people are using versions of SharePoint that are least four years old.”
Meanwhile, more agile cloud-based rivals benefit from much shorter upgrade cycles – and users are noticing the difference.
The only solution for Microsoft, says Mann, is to take SharePoint to the cloud – and that this is exactly what is happening. “Killing on-premises SharePoint makes sense for Microsoft and ultimately for its customers as well,” he says. “It will deliver a better user experience, at potentially lower cost for the client, while also ensuring steadier revenues for Microsoft.”
One of the game-changers, says Mann, is Microsoft’s 2012 purchase of enterprise social networking platform Yammer. “Yammer and SharePoint overlap and complement each other in several ways; there are strong signs that whatever evolution SharePoint undergoes as it becomes more cloud-based will be strongly influenced by Yammer.”
The bottom line, says Mann, is that “SharePoint on-premises is slowly on its way out; it’s become an evolutionary dead end. The installed base is so large that Microsoft will of course keep supporting it; but upgrades will be slower coming, and users shouldn’t expect the newest or the greatest functionality. The main focus of development will shift to the cloud.”
Meanwhile, he says, “SharePoint Online will develop much more quickly, to the point where it’s most useful to think of them as two separate products – and the gap will continue to widen.”
CIOs should develop long-range plans for a post-SharePoint world now, advises Mann. “I would hold back on upgrades and new development and choose the cloud option whenever I need to add new functionality,” he says. “Microsoft may or may not provide an easy way forward, but for anyone who’s invested heavily in customisation it will never be painless.”