What is the future of SharePoint? That, my friends, is the million dollar question that only Microsoft knows the answer. The bottom line is, Microsoft wants you in the cloud via Office 365. That being said, Microsoft has admitted (in their own way) that they were presumptuous on the ability (and desire) for every organization to make the move.
Great, so what is Microsoft’s solution to getting organizations in the Cloud?
The solution is to give the masses long-term training wheels. Let’s give them SharePoint 2016! This is exactly what the majority of SharePoint users wanted. But it comes with a catch (more on this later).
Unlike its predecessors, SharePoint 2016 will not stray far from the previous major release. At least on the surface. SharePoint 2016 will look a lot like SharePoint 2013. The bulk of the changes are under the hood. Once you pop it open, you are going to see a lot of wires pointing to Office 365. These wires exist to enable something ‘hybrid’. Start getting familiar with this term.
What does ‘hybrid’ mean?
- What needs to stay on-premises, stays on-premises
- What can move to the Cloud, moves to the Cloud
- Easy setup and configuration for IT
- Seamless end-user experience
For example, Microsoft offers OneDrive for Business with a terabyte of storage for each user. From a cost and infrastructure perspective, an on-premises solution cannot complete with this offering. However, one of the early drawbacks of OneDrive for Business was the complex ‘hybrid’ configuration and setup. IT does not want that type of headache. That’s why Microsoft now provides you with the ability to automate the process of linking on-premises SharePoint to Office 365.
Microsoft understands the need for on-premises SharePoint.
There are customers with legal obstacles and regulations (i.e. data cannot be stored in a foreign country) and Microsoft recognizes because of that, there will always be a need for on-premises SharePoint. To enhance the SharePoint experience going forward, the ‘hybrid’ approach provides on-premises customers with the opportunity to leverage Office 365 functionality with features such as:
- Office Delve
- Power BI
- Outlook Groups
- Data Loss Prevention (DLP)
This is the ‘training wheels,’ or the catch I mentioned earlier. If an organization wants to leverage some of the Office 365 capabilities, Microsoft wants to provide them with the ways and means. Essentially, Microsoft is getting users accustomed to the Cloud so they can ultimately bring these on-premises SharePoint users to the Cloud.
There isn’t a crystal ball that gives the long-term answers for the future of SharePoint.
However, if you want to get insight into SharePoint’s direction in the near future, look no further than the Office 365 Roadmap. This roadmap provides you with the features and capabilities Microsoft is adding to SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business and other Office 365 technologies. It is also good indicator of what will eventually land in a future on-premises versions of SharePoint.