SharePoint Conference 2014 Trip Report

By Mike Alsup posted 03-07-2014 20:45

The SharePoint Conference (SPC 2014) this week was somewhat overwhelming.  The SharePoint marketing messaging was in full display, clarifying that which was in scope and that which was not.  The key concepts and takeaways from SPC for me were:
Office is everything – Yammer and Outlook and People/Presence and Search and SharePoint and the traditional productivity tools for people in their everyday work.  The vision from the conference was to enable users to quickly be able to wrap all of these into a unified experience, wherever and whenever on whatever device.  It reminded me of how Word and Excel and PowerPoint disappeared one day (~1994) and Office appeared as if it had been planned all along.  
Windows is not so central to the messaging – The keynote showed off as much iOS and Android as it did Windows.  Unified user experience across relevant devices.  With hooks and Open Source and API’s and help with frameworks to enable more App’s to be useful against Microsoft services.  There was conjecture during the week in the financial press that Windows was about to be made free of charge.  
Hybrid was acknowledged as a need.  Not just as a transition strategy but as a reality that their customers are demanding.  There will be another release of SharePoint on-premise in 2015, but it will be a catch up release of the 365 features that are needed on-premises.  More importantly, Hybrid was acknowledged as a strategy to distribute some functionality to the cloud and to enable some to remain on-premises.
Browsers are not so important.  There’s an App for that.  
Scale is everything.  “1TB in a site and infinite scalability in SharePoint”.  My perception was that this was about CSOM/Azure SharePoint, whether on-premise or in Office 365, but that Microsoft is going to find a way to prove it because it is really tired of hearing “it doesn’t scale”.  
OneDrive is a big deal.  All of the Google Drive and Box and Dropbox talk in the press has irritated Microsoft and they are going to come at this with real marketing spend.  The challenge isn’t whether Microsoft can do this, it will be how straightforward it will be for difference classes of use cases and customers from the perspective of scale, IT maturity, SharePoint maturity, and patience.  
Compliance was somewhat of an afterthought.  There will probably be ways to enable formal records management and certified records management, but the initial screenshots of Compliance Center did not include “Records”.  My impression was that compliance and records management were not top of mind for the near-term roadmap.  
There will clearly be winners and losers in the drive to the cloud for Microsoft and its partners.  The more a SharePoint ecosystem partner is providing infrastructure that does not require subject matter expertise (SME) to deploy (such as user enablement, admin enablement, console enablement, dashboard enablement, storage enablement, email enablement, network enablement, mobile enablement, encryption and rights enablement, retention enablement) the more that partner’s capabilities will be at risk of being assimilated into the platform.  The more the partner is providing vertical or horizontal solutions that require business expertise (broadly defined) that “embrace and extend” the platform, the more they will be welcomed and supported.  
In talking to customers, it all comes down to use cases.  Everyone loves productivity, but no one wants to pay for it except with hard dollar savings.  They want to have a life and solve their business problems.  I thought Microsoft was heading in a good direction from the customer adoption perspective, because if it all works like it did in the demo, bundling is a good idea.  Otherwise, there sure is a lot of opportunity for purveyors of goods and services that fill in the gaps to solve real business problems and alleviate real pains.  
Vegas for a week was a beating.  Thanks to all who participated.  See you next year.  

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