My 2015 Predictions, #CollabTalk Summary, and Whatever Else Comes to Mind

CollabShow Collage

As prescribed by the official bylaws of the SharePoint blogger community, I hereby submit my final post and 2015 predictions for SharePoint, Office 365, and all associated technologies.

While I have had my top 5 predictions scribbled out on a sticky note on my desk for over a week, I was keeping an eye open during yesterday’s #CollabTalk tweetjam for validation on some of the points I had hoped to make, and was not let down. And if you somehow missed on of my ba-zillion tweets and Instagrams today, I published a summary of yesterday’s MASSIVE tweetjam over on Storify, and will be posting some stats and takeaway over on the ITUnity site later today (you can find the panel details and questions covered here).

And as for the next #CollabTalk event, yes, that’s right – we’re launching a new show on January 20th. This is not a replacement of the tweetjam format. I think everyone who has participated in one of these events understands how powerful a platform it can be, where anyone and everyone can jump in and share their ideas and expertise. I definitely want to continue what has been an almost 2-year #CollabTalk tweetjam run. The new webcast, video blog, panel vlog…or whatever you want to call it…is an extension of the #CollabTalk brand, but something new and different and fun.

What is #CollabTalk, The Show? The idea for an end user and business user-focused “talk show” of sorts came up through many conversations at trade shows around the world, but really came together after conversations with Dan Holme and Jackie Baillie from ITUnity while keynoting the SharePoint Connect 2014 conference in Amsterdam in November. The idea was to pull together a small panel of business-centric experts who also have some technology depth, and who bring to the table strong personality and humor. My good friend Benjamin Niaulin (@bniaulin) from Sharegate was the first to agree to participate, followed by Naomi Moneypenny (@nmoneypenny), and finally Marc Anderson (@sympmarc). We have a great cast, and these broadcasts should be informative AND entertaining. This is not your grandfather’s podcast, kids.

The format is simple enough: an hour-long panel conversation during which we’ll discuss 3 or 4 pre-defined topics, with a few minutes at the end to cover any breaking news or updates. Each episode will follow a set format, and the recordings will be made available (and SEO consumable) after broadcast. You can register to watch the event live on January 20th at 10am Pacific, or follow me (@buckleyplanet) or @ITUnity for updates when the recordings become available. Each recorded episode will be viewable in its entirety, or searchable and consumable by topic. There will also be multiple sponsorship opportunities, if you’re interested (learn more on the ITUnity website). We will sometimes invite guests to participate, and if one of us is traveling and unable to participate, guest hosts. You can be sure that there will be plenty of self-promotion, blatant and unnecessary product placements, and flagrant mockery. It is not to be missed.

In this inaugural show, we will be tackling the topics of public sites in Office 365, the future of hybrid SharePoint environments, the new Office 365 Groups capability, and new offerings such as OfficeMix and Sway. I sure hope you can all join us for this event. You can register here.

Now, as for my 2015 predictions, I’ll keep it short and sweet, and offer these up in no particular order of importance:

  • Forget building SharePoint apps, or even Office apps – Microsoft is in pursuit of universal apps that can be built once and utilized across any device, and any platform. But what this also does is confuse and slow down the move toward the cloud for many organizations who have been looking at ways to replicate what they were able to accomplish on prem. Since day 1 of the SharePoint app model, developers have complained about the lack of maturity of the model, and the meager APIs available. Microsoft understands that it needs to do a better job at communicating its strategy – and to develop a strategy that last for more than 12 to 18 months if they are to convince enterprises to make the move to the cloud. Look for a major app model realignment in 2015.
  • We will see an increased focus on the hybrid cloud, with many organizations starting their transition toward the cloud by moving key workloads off of their on prem SharePoint environments and into Office 365, SharePoint environments hosted in Azure, or within other multi-tenant (AWS) and dedicated (Rackspace, et al) environments. I mentioned in the tweetjam yesterday that 12 to 18 months ago, I literally had senior product team members rolling their eyes at me for continually pushing on the need for more hybrid support – and feel completely validated by how Microsoft has turned this around, and is now promoting hybrid as a key component of their cloud strategy. Its no longer about upgrade or migration: moving to the cloud is a transition, and hybrid will have a long shelf-life….and with it, I predict at least a couple more on prem releases. but that’s for another blog post.
  • Social planning will give way to conversation of an expanded contextual web via the Office Graph, with more usage of predictive analysis in both pure cloud and hybrid cloud models. This is not a “social will be bigger in 2015” comment but a more intentional, specific use of social and analytical capabilities to drive business value, including more usage of gesture and location-based capabilities and data. We’ll continue to hear the “machine learning is good!” mantra, but the reality will be more ISV and SI partner solutions that will help customers acquire, decipher, and take advantage of this data to develop intellectual property and competitive advantage.
  • There will be a further decoupling of SharePoint services, following on the footsteps of Workflow Manager Server Management and Office Web Apps Server. Look for more options in OneDrive for Business, for example, and even Yammer in the form of inline social capabilities that can be attached to workloads outside of the Microsoft stack. Along with these distinct services, I foresee Microsoft allowing more control over the front-end of your solutions (i.e. branding) so that organizations can continue to build seamless solutions that look and feel like every other internal system, while benefitting from the advantages of Microsoft’s cloud services, like SharePoint Online.
  • Finally, we will see a major push of content toward the cloud, using tools such as OfficeMix and Sway, and through third-party solution that take advantage of the APIs for Office Graph and cloud connectors through Azure to access data on prem and in the cloud in a single, federated view. Microsoft wants to make it easier for you to access your content and your team no matter where you are in the world, and which device you’re using. Providing more tools to help us move our content and IP into the cloud is a key part of that strategy.

It has been a transformative year, with a lot of change for me professionally, but also a lot of change to SharePoint as a brand and to the underlying technologies within the Office and Windows spaces. And I don’t think we’re done with the transformation. I do believe that the ways in which we’ve been building knowledge and team collaboration platforms is being turned on its head, and that’s not a bad thing. Across the board, the era of infrastructure management is being turned over to managed services. We still have trust and performance issues with the cloud – but I do believe we are rapidly getting to that point where the cloud becomes more reliable and cost-effective than what we can do for ourselves.

I also believe that the question of feature parity will quickly become a moot point: as the cloud matures, our requirements will also mature, and in many ways, will simplify, allowing us to more readily adopt and deploy solutions within the cloud. I know, that’s a loaded statement right there, and many who make their living on the IT Pro or infrastructure side of things may not agree, but that is the shift that I see happening, and 2015 is going to be a turning point for most organizations toward that future vision.

Happy New Year everyone! See you in 2015

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.