I had a thought this evening, as I was sitting on a call listening to someone from Microsoft talk about something new for Office 365: what are organizations doing about their line of business (LoB) application integrations to SharePoint?
In case you haven't noticed, SharePoint has also gone through some major revisions. Historically, one of the most compelling stories for SharePoint, in my mind, was its ability to integrate multiple line of business apps through a single platform. And not just to achieve the vision of a single sign-on platform, which we successfully (and painfully) built years ago -- but to truly integrate those disparate systems through a single, user-friendly system. SharePoint has a tremendous number of features out-of-the-box, but part of what has made it so successful over the years, arguably, is its ability to allow customers to make it the central UI for all critical business systems. And you just don't hear about that any more. Well, at least the customers I am talking with. Where SharePoint was once the Swiss army knife of the enterprise, the strategy seems to be to move people away from that concept.
SharePoint, as well as other collaboration platforms, is evolving -- with the cloud changing the way we look at these integrations, or whether they need to be integrated at all. If we can access their databases, perform the same activities in a lightweight, neutral mobile application that points to and accesses the rich features and heavy lifting done on the native application, why integrate? But that begs the question: if the LoB apps themselves are evolving, and quickly running toward the cloud, is this even an issue for SharePoint customers anymore?
Back in 2011, venture capital and entrepreneur Marc Andreessen stated "Cloud is the architectural shift that we’ve been awaiting for IT and enterprise software. Nothing that has come before compares to what is happening now,” and argued that the new companies being built today are different kinds of companies — many of which might have not have had a chance before against giants like SharePoint.
We are seeing SharePoint pivot. I suspect the platform will continue in its current path of being able to integrate and support the changing LoB apps, sharing data and augmenting functionality the same as its competitors -- as long as there are paying customers who require this capability, whether on prem or in the cloud. But as we move toward the cloud, we'll see many of those requirements evolve or disappear, much like data migration or upgrades. Once you're connected into the cloud (i.e. the Matrix), integration will become irrelevant.