SharePoint for the Business Decision-Makers

About a year ago, we began to see a clear shift in content being written for the SharePoint community, moving from IT Pro and Developer-centric blog posts and "official" documentation on TechNet to more Business User-centric content. Given where we are in the platform lifecycle, it’s not surprising. SharePoint 2010 went RTM in May of 2010, with 2013 released October 2012, and SP1 of 2013 on prem slated for a spring 2014 release.

imageNow that things are a bit more mature, and with options for SharePoint Online via Office365 — or even SharePoint hosted via Azure (or Rackspace, Fpweb, and others), there is a natural shift happening in the content and dialog around the platform toward productivity and business value, i.e. we have this thing in-house, we’ve spent the money, we’re looking at how the latest version and/or the cloud version can help us reduce our spend — how do we get the most value out of our investment? I would argue that much of the dialogue

While this line of dialog has always been there, it has clearly intensified these past year. Even with all of the talk of a softening market, SharePoint continues to be a juggernaut of a product/platform, with most of the Fortune 1000 either on the platform, and strong growth still projected in EMEA and APAC. But with that momentum — and here’s my opinion of where the shift is happening in the content — many IT Managers are starting to understand what we’ve been trying to tell them for a couple years now, that SharePoint is not (necessarily) just plug and play, that you need to do the proper planning to get the most value out of it, and that the business and the end users should drive the direction of the platform, not the IT team.

Microsoft has done a brilliant job at marketing SharePoint. They give it away for free (WSS, then Foundation) and hooked us all on a quick and easy collaboration platform. We built little productivity solutions for our teams on top of simple lists, libraries, workflows and InfoPath forms. We wanted more and more, and then found that getting things to scale was not so out-of-the-box. The tendency is to turn to IT to solve these problems, to make the system "performant" (which is not a real word, btw, but one attributed to Microsoft). While it makes sense for IT to think about scale and performance and centralized services and all of the other back-end wheels and knobs and trinkets to keep the system running, but SharePoint truly is an end use platform in which The Business should be driving how it is being used, what features are to be deployed, and how fast the system should scale. Because at the end of the day, SharePoint is just a tool in the tool belt, a way to get more work done, faster, and in a better way.

Is there a shift happening in the content and dialog around the SharePoint community? Are IT business decision-makers (BDMs) finally taking ownership of the platform, and requiring their teams of developers, analysts, and other traditional IT Pro personnel to better align their SharePoint activities with corporate governance standards? I think so, and it is a much needed change. As SharePoint practitioners begin moving workloads into the cloud, BDMs should keep an even closer eye on the real value being delivered, and not leave decisions completely in the hands of the technical teams.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.