If there’s one, strong, recurring theme I’ve witnessed over my 10+ years working with SharePoint and the people who use it, it’s that most folks love to hate SharePoint!
And for good reasons.
SharePoint is far from perfect – I too have been plagued with deep negative thoughts about the platform. But admittedly, MOST of the time, my frustration has turned out to be my own fault...
- Rushing into building farms by clicking next>next>next
- Building tall, rigid hierarchies that followed my company’s org chart
- Showing enthusiastic power users how to copy their files over with Explorer and build elaborate InfoPath forms
- Installing free 3rd party widgets to make sites “pop”
- Crawling EVERYTHING!
Most of these mistakes were made in my early days of SharePointing, and I learned quickly just how bad they were. Performance would drag, tickets would pile up, and HR folks once asked me to explain why employees’ salary information was visible in SharePoint search results (oops). If you’re anything like me, you don’t often learn things the easy way. So, we repeat these mistakes and keep wondering why the platform is so bad.
And it’s not just the Admins
End users have been forced to adopt a new way of doing things that is clunky, confusing, undependable, and slow …then have to deal with bad attitudes of already frustrated IT techs who helped create these unfortunate messes (or worse, have inherited them, not given time/$$$ to fix them, and have to juggle complaints that grow exponentially). Then, the business gets a vendor quote for an upgrade or migration, and panic ensues. Is it any wonder why some people are visibly shaken when they hear the word “SharePoint”?
Sure, there are bugs – some stuff just doesn’t work the way it should. And, yes, it is true that Microsoft “stitched” together several products from different (and competing) project groups to deliver early versions of SharePoint. This resulted in a disjointed, awkward admin experience that seemed always broken and nearly impossible to troubleshoot with any speed. End users paid the price with poor collaboration experiences and the inability to find their stuff. They reverted to email and attachments from file shares (or their desktops <shudder>). Weren’t these the very things we were all told would never happen in the world of SharePoint?
Then Microsoft wised up
Even with mounting frustrations, Microsoft saw strong potential in this new way to collaborate. With time, they wised up and pulled product teams together with more clarity on vision, leadership, and product strategy. They listened to end users and delivered vast improvements in administrative ease, end-user experience, and scalability with each major release. Since the 2010 version (the first “true” enterprise version), the total cost of ownership has continued to go down even as adoption and overall environment size has gone up.
Now, with the cloud offering virtually unlimited scale, stable performance, flexible costing models, and a constantly evolving set of features/functionality, the platform appears to be unstoppable. While on-prem environments remain highly relevant for some organizations, the steady push from Microsoft is to go to the cloud. It’s better for them (who doesn’t want predictable, recurring revenue?), and they’re doing everything they can to make it better for clients. The more recent enhancements implemented across the Office 365 platform with Microsoft Teams, Planner and Flow/PowerApps to name just a few, make it a quite compelling platform for your digital transformation.
Pushback against going to the cloud
Yet, there has been pushback against going to the cloud. However, in our experience, most of the pushback we see is purely psychological.
- Is it secure?
Fears about data security and/or geolocation abound. However, growing evidence has shown that Microsoft’s infrastructure is likely (and statistically) far more secure than yours.
- My portal doesn’t look right.
Yes, businesses may not be able to make their portal look, feel, and act exactly the way they’d like. Trust us, this is usually a good thing! Standardization seems like small beans in the grand scheme of things when weighed against stability, supportability, performance, better end-user adoption, and lower costs. And, keep in mind that migration happens! More customizations = harder, more expensive, longer migrations that no one enjoys. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill for this condition! Even the best migration tools simply cannot handle all the variability of these boutique environments.
- If we go to the cloud, what’s a SharePoint Administrator to do?
Rather than shedding their SharePoint administrators, many businesses are finding huge value in leveraging them throughout the organization. Behind the scenes, former admins can prove indispensable for:
- Managing external sharing
- Forming and managing governance committees
- Prepping for compliance audits
- Establishing taxonomy/folksonomy
- Archiving stale data
- Monitoring and testing new functionality
- Enforcing the general rules of engagement
- Automating processes
- Building forms
- Setting up managed metadata
- Optimizing search
Bottom line? You can learn to love again.
The Office 365 platform has a lot to offer organizations striving for digital transformation, but balancing flexibility, scalability, performance, end-user experience, administrative overhead, and a constantly-evolving feature set is exceptionally difficult. There are bound to be missteps along the way, and most organizations are not prepared to manage Microsoft’s rapid release cycles. You will want to think differently about your resources, just like you did about your platform.
If you don’t have in-house expertise that has kept up with the evolution of the platform, it will be imperative to leverage a trusted partner who has. Doing so can dramatically improve your business outcomes, increase user adoption, and reduce your long-term costs.