The Key to Making Office365 Work in the Enterprise
SharePoint has also gone through some major revisions. When people talk about SharePoint and it’s competitors, they often talk about feature-by-feature comparisons rather than stepping back and looking at it from the platform view. They do this because, for the most part, the competition simply cannot win on the platform story — they can only go after SharePoint one feature, or one category, at a time. The haters can whine on this point, but there’s a good reason why SharePoint continues to sit atop the leadership quadrant in Gartner’s magic quadrant — it’s a powerhouse. While SharePoint may not lead in many individual feature categories, they are without a doubt a serious player in all categories, and from that position are therefore the leader in the space.
One of the most compelling stories for SharePoint, in my mind, is the potential for integrating multiple line of business (LOB) applications through a single platform. And not just to achieve the vision of a single sign-on, fully-integrated platform, which many companies successfully (but painfully) attempted to build 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 it is also flexible and extensible. (Yes, yes, its also painfully finicky and sensitive and sometimes incredibly rigid to work with, like any complex, dynamic platform) It has become a "middleware" for the power users in some ways, offering a central hub into which all tools and reports and dashboards are connected. It is truly the Swiss army knife of the enterprise.
Other vendors are moving in the same direction, trying to bolt on enterprise solutions through acquisitions and partnerships — in most cases, moving from a pure-cloud model for consumers or small to medium-sized businesses toward the enterprise customer base. Box has been doing this, for sure. Smaller niche players have learned that they just can’t convince customers to join them with "me too" generic collaboration toolsets. The road to riches, I’m afraid, is through the enterprise, and SharePoint dominates. It seems that the bigger question is: if the LOB apps themselves are evolving, and quickly running toward the cloud, how much of a competitive advantage will SharePoint retain?
"Cloud is the architectural shift that we’ve been awaiting for IT and enterprise software," asserted venture capitalist Marc Andreessen while speaking at a BoxWorks conference. “Nothing that has came before compares to what is happening now. Everything we were talking about in the 1990s is actually working now."
The question is, which is more difficult — moving from the leadership position in on premises to a more streamlined cloud-based model (and smaller customer, arguably), or to move from a pure-cloud generic collaboration platform into the enterprise world? How will 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. Office365 may not be able to do this today, but you better believe that Microsoft is working diligently to make it all possible in a pure-cloud, software-as-a-service model.