Last week we attended the SharePoint 2012 conference. There was much new to see: SharePoint 2013, Office 365, Yammer, cloudy stuff, a bunch of new ISV tools, and hybrid and client-side development. All of this is cool, maybe fun, and, as a technologist dripping in SharePointism, I find it great. However, when you get to talking to customers, you get brought back to reality. In fact, in many of my conversations, there appeared to be a backlash. This was summed up best by a senior IT manager relating what he told his Microsoft rep “We are not a social enterprise; we are a business.” Or, another person said, “Really, in the new world an Announcement list is an application; give me a break.” What you are seeing, hearing, and feeling is the reflection of the two views of SharePoint: one is SharePoint as an application for collaboration, the other looks at SharePoint as an Application Plaform.
It is time for my “Emperor’s New Clothes” article…
Microsoft would love everyone to adopt Office 365/Yammer and subscribe and pay monthly for everything Microsoft. They would love code developers to build lots of little apps to be more Apple-esque. It feels both hot and cool, and it means a new, recurring revenue stream for Microsoft along with a defense against pirating.
However, for most enterprises it is just a distraction. Those that are deeply committed to SharePoint, are committed because they see it as an application platform and they have invested to leverage it as such. They see SP as an environment that they can leverage to build out their business applications that are inter-connected. One that supports incremental improvements as they learn how to get their people to work better together. One that they can control – which today and in the future means On Premise or a Private Cloud. They want reduced complexity. They want business groups to leverage it to be more productive with real business applications. They want to use it to consolidate applications (Saas, Point solutions, other platforms) and thus save money, reduce complexity and risk, establish standards and best practices, and, create operational leverage.
Still, probably 50% of the SharePoint customer base is only at the base level of the SharePoint value continuum. They see SharePoint as a collaborative application – team sites, portals, Intranets, and, documents. This segment is at the greatest risk of defecting to Zimbra (email) and Alfresco and Jive and DropBox. Oddly, what Microsoft is doing is introducing a discontinuous innovation that will force this segment to choose. There are lots of choices when you are at that level with SharePoint. It is a commoditized part of the market.
Over the last 10 years CorasWorks has evolved from a focus on the base level (SP for collaboration) to leveraging SP as an application platform. We are committed to the enterprise customer and most of our customers are firmly in the On Premise/Private Cloud camp. We of course are driving the business value hard for our customers. For instance, during the SharePoint conference, over at the CorasWorks booth we were showing a broad range of hard-hitting business solutions. We had at our fingertips demos of about 30 Work Management solutions and 20 custom solutions that we have build for specific Industries and Business Functions. All of these run on our one CorasWorks v11 Solution Platform and all are done with no coding so our customers can do powerful things without managing rogue code. Thus, our conversations were focused on the busines challenges and solutions.
Let the Bifurcation Occur
There has always been a split between the camps of SharePoint as a collaborative app and SharePoint as an application platform. I think that SharePoint as an app platform on premise is a winner and the momentum is growing as it gets more standardized vs. relying on custom development. I believe that because of the SP2013 offerings, the bifurcation is just clearer, and that, you will see a clarification of strategy within the enterprise. Most committed enterprises will deepen their commitment to SharePoint for its use as an application platform – it is clearly the best choice for this path at this time. My bet is that over the next few years the average enterprise will simply become capable of becoming their own Enterprise Shared Application Services (ESAS) provider, in their own Private Cloud. The enterprise will drive its own path because the technology curve has enabled it to do so and the business value far outweighs any incremental costs.
In fact, I believe that we are only at the beginning of a new curve of value, when enterprises start to figure out how to truly get their people to work better together. If you spend your time talking to business managers like I do, you realize that they just don’t have practical applications at their fingertips to get the work done. There is alot more to do…
So for those that are committed to SharePoint as an application platform, just don’t be distracted by these new offerings and keep on adding business applications on premise and adding value to your organization. By doing this, you continue to accelerate your business value today and you will be building a foundation for great innovation of your enterprise in the future.