As I sat on an incredibly long flight back from Perth, Australia this week, I was looking through my OneNote research from the past year or so, and noticed a trend in the content I was reading about and collecting digitally: most problems people have with their enterprise-scale business and collaboration platforms are rooted in a sub-par user experience. Whether faulty search, inability to use a site or access content across multiple devices, poor navigation, or lack of alignment with the business tasks you perform daily – its all about the user experience.
Of course, Microsoft is focusing most of its investments in SharePoint and Office 365 on improving the user experience. The Delve capability is about improving and personalizing the search experience, the Groups functionality is about breaking down the barriers between productivity workloads, and advances in business intelligence (BI) are all about democratizing data analysis, taking it out of the hands of “experts” and making it more accessible to the information worker. All of this has the intended goal of improving the end user experience. I saw the preview announcement of Microsoft’s Sway app today, and thought it was yet another example of how Microsoft if focusing more and more on helping the end user find and share relevant content, and recommend you take a look.
But its not just Microsoft that is working to solve this problem within the SharePoint universe. Look around at the partner ecosystem and you’ll find plenty of recognized brand names and many new startups working hard to close the usability gap. Companies such as Emgage, Akumina, and Dynamic Owl are producing tools and services to automate your user interface, allowing you to easily design and configure your sites in a more consumable manner. And then there are various social and mobility providers like Colligo, GRADIENT, Beezy, and Harmon.ie that can help you improve the user experiences that extend beyond your SharePoint environment.
And what about search? Companies like BA Insight have really been trying to unlock the potential of content, while upstarts like Glyma seek to further unlock the potential of search by helping you organize your content and your core business processes into contextual maps (as in my image above).
Successful SharePoint deployments have never been about simply deploying the technology. Arguably, deployment is about the easiest part of SharePoint (which is even simpler with the advent of Office 365 and the ability to literally swipe your credit card and start using the platform). But any deployment, no matter how talented your pool of SharePoint experts on hand, will fail if you do not consider the user experience and how people capture and consume their content.