Q&A

Q&A: Microsoft's Jared Spataro Talks First 10 Years of SharePoint

Microsoft's SharePoint director of product management talks with us about how the platform has evolved and what's in store for the future.

Every day for the past five years, 20,000 workers have joined the ranks of SharePoint users. One in every five knowledge workers now has access to SharePoint. If you haven't ever used SharePoint, you may find yourself doing so soon.

SharePoint was born out of a simple idea: to simplify sharing documents. A widely used collaboration and content-sharing platform has grown from that simple idea. While the capabilities of SharePoint have expanded greatly from the original 2001 version to SharePoint 2010, so too has its user base. Today, according to Microsoft market research, 78 percent of the Fortune 500 companies are SharePoint users. In 2009, SharePoint was a $1.3 billion business with more than 100 million users, and it continues to grow.

With the release of SharePoint 2010, Microsoft has been talking about the customer journey: how customers have rolled out SharePoint and worked it into their business processes. There have been numerous well-known companies streamlining their processes and boosting collaboration with SharePoint.

The Associated Press (AP) is one such company. The media giant had both a new-media problem and an old-media problem. In any given month, there are 75 to 100 million unique users who access AP-originated content. That includes its own correspondents and syndicates that have contributed content. The AP needed to keep track where it went.

Using a combination of SharePoint and PerformancePoint, the company can now track an article, determine who has seen it, how often they've seen it and how many hits there have been on that specific article. The system -- built from the ground up in 70 days -- has helped inform the AP's pricing and targeting strategies for its syndicated content.

So on this, the 10th anniversary of SharePoint, we sat down with Jared Spataro, director of SharePoint product management, to talk about collaboration, the evolution of SharePoint, and how the process of collaboration and a platform like SharePoint changed the face of work.

"If you step back, and look back across 10 years of SharePoint, it feels like where we've really gone right is to focus on simple basic use case, and making it appealing to users."

Jared Spataro, Director of SharePoint Product Management at Microsoft Corporation

What's your take on the current state of collaboration, and how does SharePoint fit into that?
The way I think of it, collaboration really started 10 years ago. It's something early adopters were experimenting with.

What I see now is that it has worked its way into the mainstream. Everyone recognizes they have collaboration problems and needs. They're really recognizing where that shows up in their business. They're picking very specific functions -- like the RFP [request for proposal] process or the way you're working with external parties -- very specific ways you're collaborating. These are very high-value relationships. And that's where we see it continuing to go in the future.

What's next for SharePoint, from a new technology perspective?
For us, the exciting thing is taking away the overhead associated with running a datacenter. So [integration with] Office 365 is the next big thing. That's really top-of-mind for us. We're focused on delivering that service.

Next is making sure we're delivering the best possible experience we can deliver. And three, we think we can do it at better cost than anyone else. We want to help them be more efficient with the economies of scale we can offer. Those are big deals for us.

If you step back, and look back across 10 years of SharePoint, it feels like where we've really gone right is to focus on simple basic use case, and making it appealing to users.

A big focus for the team is to make sure people love to use this. According to our research, 62 percent [of SharePoint users] use it daily. There are people out there using it every day. We want to make sure it's a tool people like to use.

What's next for SharePoint in terms of breaking into new markets and realizing new uses for the platform?
There are tons of new uses. The stat that really gets us motivated -- despite the success of SharePoint -- is that still only one in five information workers has SharePoint today.

There are a whole bunch of places we can go. One is down-market from the enterprise. There are medium and small businesses -- a lot of them looking to use the same capabilities today.

There are also emerging markets. If you look at a lot of our penetration stats, in the United States and Western Europe, SharePoint has done incredibly well. Its penetration is highest in the developed markets. If you look at Russia, China, India, Brazil, there's a tremendous need for the software. There's tremendous growth in these areas. There's a lot of potential.

When you think about how people adopt this, the partner ecosystem becomes more important than it has ever been. Applying SharePoint to a business problem takes someone who has done it before. A small biotech may have unique needs. They'll need a partner to help them deploy SharePoint.

Partners become more important for really developing the value, especially for small businesses. They don't have the budget or patience to roll out infrastructure for infrastructure's sake. They're focused specifically on the business.

What should IT managers keep in mind when planning for and deploying SharePoint -- from the perspective of preparing their infrastructure and preparing the organization's people, processes and policies?
We do have concepts based on research of customer journey -- looking at the typical patterns people are taking. We talk about a journey: Don't roll out all at once. At the same time, don't do it as if it's not going to continue to expand. Break up [the deployment process] to enjoy the early wins. They should think of new things they're not doing today -- things they could do with the platform.

We do workshops with customers. They realize immediately that we can apply it here, we can see over time where we might use it more. We've always been talking about this project to make customer relations much closer or easier, so we could use SharePoint for that. They see the immediate and potential value.

That simple roadmap -- making the choice between having it on-premises versus hosted, and what types of partners do they need -- it expands their minds. We've got to get them to think about this and how it can expand the value.

What do you see as the future of collaboration?
When we think about what's going to make the world a better place, we think of smart people getting together to change the world in positive ways.

We think of the technology we have: Lync, Exchange, SharePoint, certainly Office clients. These are things people use every day. There are hundreds of millions of users out there.

The future of collaboration is for a more integrated, seamless experience for people to work together. We have videos of SharePoint customers, and we do a lot of storyboarding. What it looks like is making it feel like you and I sitting here looking each other in the eye.

We want to create that experience for someone sitting in Boston and another in Hong Kong. There's still a difference today between having a teleconference and sitting down and looking someone in the eye. We want to close that gap. When we look at the assets we've got, we think we have unique opportunity. We think we as a company can close that gap. And SharePoint is how we can create that experience.

It absolutely closes gaps between tools we're using, too. There's still a bit of mix and match. That's why Office 365 is so important from that perspective. That's why we feel it's so important. We're trying to create the best experience we can.

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