This week Microsoft announced the availability of the SharePoint Server 2016 IT Preview. A couple of years ago, “SharePoint is dead” dominated the conversation about SharePoint. Now it’s clear that Microsoft has invested a lot in creating SharePoint 2016, and that there will be another release of SharePoint Server in the future. So given Microsoft’s commitment to SharePoint, how does SharePoint 2016 fit into your strategy?
At Sitrion, we’ve worked with hundreds of SharePoint customers ranging from hundreds of users to hundreds of thousands of users. We’ve seen a lot of successes and challenges. As we’ve talked with our customers over the last couple of years, it’s clear that several different strategies have emerged. Some companies are going “all in” on the cloud, some are plotting a course that stays firmly rooted on premise, and yet others are looking at hybrid deployments with a mixture of cloud and on premise solutions.
For companies who have committed to moving entirely to the cloud, the release of SharePoint Server 2016 is really a non-event in my mind. Most of these companies are focused on all the steps needed to make the cloud transition. They are cleaning up and migrating content. They are cataloging applications and figuring out their cloud strategies for them. They are preparing their users. From what I’ve seen, none of these companies intends to install SharePoint 2016.
Staying with On Premise
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we see companies who know they will operate on premise for at least the next two or three years. The interesting thing about these companies is that some of them have not yet made it to SharePoint 2013. So some of them are looking at whether they should try to focus on getting to SharePoint 2016 (technically, this requires making a “hop” through SP2013). For companies who know they have a significant amount of on premise operation in their future, things like the improved provisioning capabilities will deliver a ton of benefit.
The Hybrid Approach
Based on what we have seen, the biggest category is actually companies who expect some level of hybrid deployment over the next few years. Whether because of security and compliance concerns or just assessing the level of effort, cost, and risk of disruption to move a large existing SharePoint deployment to the cloud, many companies we work with do not foresee totally shutting down SharePoint on premise. At the same time, many of them have use cases like working with partners and customers or more easily supporting highly-distributed or short-tenured employees. Having a platform like O365 makes many of these use cases much more viable, so we see a lot of companies deploying or at least planning for a hybrid future. Microsoft clearly sees this trend as well, and has an entire site devoted to it. For companies with a clear hybrid future, SharePoint 2016 makes a lot of sense. It will ease operational costs and effort while providing the best chance to be able to take advantage of Microsoft’s hybrid offerings.
From a Sitrion point of view, SharePoint 2016 is a great thing. Microsoft continues to support powerful, full-trust applications (like our Sitrion Social product) in SharePoint 2016. So our customers can move from SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2013 and on to SharePoint 2016 at their own pace and keep the same Sitrion Social software with the same great features. Since Microsoft has said that they aren’t adding more social features to the native SharePoint Server product, we have focused on making sure Sitrion Social integrates well and adds value to every version of SharePoint. We’ve already installed Sitrion Social on the IT Preview release, and the current version of Sitrion Social works. There will be more changes to SP2016, and we will want the best possible experience for our customers. So we will be working on taking advantage of new capabilities in SharePoint 2016 and have a compatible version of Sitrion Social ready for the generally available release of SP2016 which Microsoft has forecast as happening in Q2 of 2016.
How does mobile fit in?
Like the majority of our customers, we think the future is hybrid. In addition to our investments in Sitrion Social, we’ve been working hard for the last couple of years on Sitrion ONE. On the surface, Sitrion ONE is mobile platform that focuses on delivering moments of productivity. As a completely native client experience, it’s nice to see that this will deliver a great compliment to SharePoint 2016 which is focusing on HTML as the mobile experience. Sitrion ONE works with much more than SharePoint, and does really cool things like aggregating approvals and providing key insights when you need them (like a Google Now for your company).
The thing that’s less obvious is Sitrion ONE provides a fantastic platform for hybrid solutions. Because ONE is powered by an Azure platform, includes secure access to premise-based systems like SharePoint and SAP, and also integrates with cloud-based platforms like O365 and Salesforce.com, it’s the perfect set of technologies for hybrid use cases. For example, we’re working with a company who runs their primary employee portal on O365. They have a premise-based SAP system, but also have a few other cloud based systems. With Sitrion ONE, they are not only aggregating all the approvals and key updates from these systems on mobile devices, they are also delivering these approvals and updates in their O365 portal.
The bottom line here is that most SharePoint customers should be investigating and incorporating SharePoint 2016 into their plans. Whether you’re going to be running entirely on premise or deploying hybrid solutions, SharePoint 2016 probably has a good payoff for you. And Sitrion continues to invest in helping you get more out of your SharePoint investment and meet your goals.