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Are Dark Clouds Forming Over SharePoint?

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Nearly a year since Microsoft disclosed that SharePoint is a $2 billion business, the collaboration platform has become the latest punching bag in the IT community.

SharePoint took its latest hits yesterday at the annual Gartner Inc. ITxpo in Orlando Florida where research vice president Jeffrey Mann led a session called "Should Microsoft Kill SharePoint," as reported by Kurt Mackie yesterday. The answer is no but Mann pointed out the dissatisfaction with Microsoft's latest release of SharePoint 2013 and the SharePoint Online service offered with Office 365.

"Many organizations using SharePoint cannot go to the cloud because they have regulatory restrictions or complex, customized implementations that prevent adopting SharePoint Online," Mann said in a prepared Q&A. "Some third-party add-ons they depend on are not available for the cloud version. Others do not trust the cloud or see no reason to change, so they won't make the move."

The second big issue, according to Mann, is IT's frustration with SharePoint. "We regularly hear end users and administrators complain about features or user-experience improvements that they would like to see in SharePoint," Mann noted. "Although they want new functionality, they are less keen to have more upgrades, which are seen as expensive, disruptive and time-consuming. It is difficult to see how users can expect to get changes without implementing new versions. If upgrades were easier, they might be less reticent to install new versions. This is a move Microsoft is trying to address with the app model introduced in SharePoint 2013."

Gartner isn't the only one sounding the alarm on SharePoint. A report released last month by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) found that only 6 percent feel they have achieved success with their SharePoint implementations, while 26 percent say they have struggled to meet expectations and 28 percent report that while it's doing the job, progress has stalled to some extent. Seven percent said their SharePoint implementations were not successful. The findings are based on a survey AIIM conducted in July, consisting of a sample of 620 respondents who are among the trade association's 80,000 members.

As Evidence that there's still trepidation about the cloud, the AIIM survey also found that only 9 percent of small organizations plan to move all of their SharePoint content to Office 365, while 2 percent of mid-sized  shops and 3 pecent of large shops plan to do so. Customers, analysts, consultants, integrators and key vendors including Microsoft agree enterprises will widely deploy hybrid cloud models. The AIIM report found that only 20 percent are looking at hybrid clouds, though half will use third-party cloud providers, not Microsoft's Office 365. It bears noting that the AIIM study wasn't aimed exclusively at SharePoint and/or Microsoft shops but at its audience of IT managers and decision makers.

The survey also found that 62 percent are using at least one cloud-based product but only 8 percent said it was SharePoint and 7 percent are using Office 365 as a complete software-as-a-service application. Twenty percent said they're using Exchange Online and 39 percent are using the cloud version of Lync.

When I asked Microsoft for its take on the AIIM study, a spokeswoman noted SharePoint is a leader in Gartner's Magic Quadrant --  two out of three information workers in the enterprise have SharePoint and more than 700,000 developers are building applications for Office 365.  "Microsoft remains very committed to SharePoint for the long term, as the product plays a critical role in the future of collaboration and productivity and is a core pillar of the Office 365 suite," the spokeswoman said in an e-mailed statement. "Office 365 is Microsoft's fastest-growing commercial product ever. In fact, the Office 365 business is now on a $1.5 billion annual revenue run rate."

The statement also defended the security of Microsoft's cloud service. "Office 365 offers the most robust set of certifications and standards options of any major cloud based productivity service. In fact, each year, we undergo third-party audits by internationally recognized auditors to validate that we have independent attestation of compliance with our policies and procedures for security, privacy, continuity and data handling."

Another survey by SharePoint tools provider Metalogix Software Corp. earlier this year showed 55 percent intend to continue running SharePoint entirely in-house and only 10 percent plan to run it purely in the cloud. The remaining 35 percent are planning hybrid SharePoint implementations.

While naturally findings are going to vary depending on the audience that's surveyed, another alarming stat piqued my attention back in August: Overall salaries for SharePoint administrators -- though still six figures -- declined by 7 percent this year, according to Redmond magazine's Annual Salary Survey. That especially raised a red flag because our survey showed overall IT salaries increased 3 percent this year. It's not clear what has led to that decline, whether it's a glut of SharePoint experts or the fact that some SharePoint is now running in the cloud.

Yet many SharePoint consultants are seeing more movement to the cloud than these surveys suggest. "We're probably seeing 80 percent of our customers go towards a hybrid cloud in some way, maybe, for example by moving My Sites and some of their extranets to the cloud, and keeping their line of business applications on-premise for now," said SharePoint MVP Ben Curry, managing partner of Summit 7 Systems, a Huntsville, Ala., consultancy and systems integrator.

Curry knows all the pitfalls of SharePoint 2013 and Office 365 and will be among numerous experts talking about the future of SharePoint design and architecture at the SharePoint Live! track of the Live 360 conference in Orlando next month. Like Redmond magazine, the conference is produced by 1105 Media Inc.

In an interview last week, Curry told me he'll discuss the deployment of business-critical applications using SharePoint and how to maximize the performance of server farms, as hybrid environments emerge. Curry was once a skeptic of using SharePoint in the cloud but he now believes in it. "That's where a lot stuff's going – online. I'd say the rare client is going all SharePoint 2013 on premise. It really is upgrading pieces of it to 2013 on premise and pieces of it to the cloud, which makes performance a little bit more challenging because you have to first decide what workflows are on premise to know what to architect for."

What's your take on the future of SharePoint? Drop me a line at [email protected].


Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 10/14/2013 at 11:04 AM


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