Office365 -- SharePoint Deployment Accelerator -- or Enterprise Disruption?

By Marc Solomon posted 07-20-2014 18:53


I've measured years in SharePoint releases the way accountants measure the books they close. Wasn't it great that we merged the Atlantic and the Pacific offices on 2007? Couldn't we just taste the pre-acquisition leap forward of 2010? Doesn't 2013 just strike the right note for capturing project experience normally reserved for case team victory laps but rarely chronicled in any formal retrospective?

What I've discovered across organizations, cultures, and acquired whiffs for change management scentors, is that SharePoint upgrades are lightning rods for taking in new thinking and taking out your enterprise trash. They provide not only the platform to the current state of unstructured company assets but a call to arms (part aspiration, part excuse) to become a more collaborative and cohesive enterprise.

In 2007 the world was still very much driven by a hard drive mindset -- I'll work off my hard drive and email and show up at the appointed upload event as my performance review requires. But as the world has become more entwined so to an employee's box has blended into the shared drives of project teams and the task flows of workgroups. We might be a little less territorial, a bit more community-minded because the interdependencies and leverage points have become so indistinct, so blurred by the disappearing boundaries between the once proud and standalone PC.

Upgrades as Welcome Disruptors

Upgrades create the momentum to do the right thing, to gut failing programs, distance a promising future from a forgettable past, or provide an important forcing function to steady wavering routines and discipline dormant or scattershot initiatives. SharePoint does this by showcasing commendable efforts -- the gold standards, the peer-reviewed, and the premium content. The enforcing effect forms around the unfavorable comparisons to everything else -- those less-than-stellar projects that carry no documentation can make the case for change better than the most delicately-crafted formed case study. 

One new wrinkle in the upgrade calculation is the option to ride the Office 365 fast track to deployment success. By success Microsoft is defining your next implementation to mean that customers are no longer doing the deploying. Everyone gets the latest office. Internal teams don’t need to configure this or tweak that. No one gets their hands dirty.

Is this the music your organization longs to hear? Apparently the margins delivered by software as a service are precisely what Microsoft shareholders want delivered, no matter what your motives are for trading up to the next version.

The good crisis Microsoft doesn't want to waste is the gulf created from the nearly decade gap between the birth of Facebook and its enterprise Windows equivalent. Oslo is Microsoft's post Yammer mobile app for consuming SharePoint in places where enterprise content rarely surfaces. The fine print unveiled at a recent SharePointFest in New York suggested that the Office 365 tail was wagging the ECM dog. That upgrade to Oslo requires a wholesale surrender of your collective SharePoint development portfolio.

You heard right. Every internal workaround or customization undertaken to unburden your users or rationalize your business environment requires a major coding review (if not a full rewrite) in order to keep its 'on-prem' identity in the Office 365 cloud. 

Makeover or Do Over?

What's wrong with this picture? It's one thing to reboot your enterprise level ecosystem according to a SaaS business model ( anyone?) It's another to entice your base with phone apps geared towards consuming content -- especially enterprise social media. It's quite another to bet the farm on Office 365, knowing: (a) your on-prem investments are at risk; and (b) unlike your MS desktop, SharePoint-enabled environments are anything but generic bundles of apps designed to make your content more cohesive and teams more productive.

Does Microsoft honestly believe in a world where their SharePoint is the same product designed to service my teams? Do they honestly think that service pack TBD for XX business routines will address these shortfalls as quickly as they can sign up new subscribers?

Anyone busy in the throes of building or upgrading an intranet or KM system is not an information administrator but a platform designer. We don't succeed based on numbers of documents, tags, or searches but based on the number of content producers our designs enable. And content production is a process best planned and executed in the system itself -- not through the tin ear emails of some remotely appointed cloud rep.

Maybe that’s the ultimate of the unintended effects. SharePoint was a rally cry for purpose-driven business applications that were conceived and developed by the folks they were designed for. Microsoft’s move to Office 365 leaves those vested power users in a SharePoint cloud of dust.

Call me backwards facing but I'll take the most buggy and tentative on-prem deployment over expecting that an off-prem service provider can run my content shop any upcoming release from now.

#deployment #on-premises #changemanagement #SharePoint #officeculture #on-prem #implementation #EnterpriseContentManagement