Cape Town, 23 Jul 2015
Although SharePoint as a technology has matured a great deal over the years, I still see many businesses struggling with issues related to on-premises SharePoint, says Simon Hepburn, director of bSOLVe.
Not only that, but cloud-based SharePoint via Office 365 also offers completely new opportunities ready for the picking, which in many instances makes migrating a compelling road to walk down. You may be thinking: "Are things really that different using SharePoint on Office 365?" Office 365 is constantly evolving and as I will explain, this evolution brings with it opportunities that your business should seriously consider exploring.
The most obvious advantage of moving SharePoint to Office 365 is that one no longer has to maintain physical hardware and software. This means requiring less technical skill internally to manage SharePoint, with consultants being involved if and when necessary. Practically, this translates into direct cost savings, but more importantly, it means you can increase the effectiveness of IT initiatives by being more solution focused instead of technically focused. Peace of mind is also something we all dream of in IT, so knowing that your data and documents are about as safe as they can be is a big positive.
Innovation is something cloud offers in volumes since new solutions can be rolled out almost instantly in order to take advantage of the latest technology advances, without the pain of infrastructure upgrades. Microsoft has been working hard to deliver useful ready-to-go solutions like the Video Portal, Knowledge Management Portal, etc, on Office 365. These solutions enable you to easily try a solution to see if it works for you, with minimal effort. As this model grows it will support innovation within businesses by making it easier for people to try new things and make powerful solutions readily available.
Upgrading SharePoint is often seen as a problem area. Migrating to the cloud can remove much of the pain of having to do this time and time again. In the cloud, the platform is constantly moving forward in smaller increments, with the complexity of large migrations broken into smaller more manageable chunks. With the correct tools, migration to the cloud can be significantly simplified and also won't necessarily cost you an arm and a leg. As is said, it's often best to just "rip the plaster off quickly".
Machine learning, in my opinion, is one of the big benefits of cloud, since it isn't feasible having the necessary level of computing power available in on-premises environments. The benefits we can gain from technologies like Delve (which personalise our experience based on what we're doing) offer an immediate look into the future. Personalisation is currently an effort-intensive exercise, but with machine learning we can gain far more and do so more quickly and accurately with the information within our organisations. This technology can literally help us "find out what we don't know".
Flexibility and scalability are two of the core benefits of the cloud, enabling your solutions to grow with your business. If you need additional services and data storage, all you need to do is buy more when you need it. This gives your business the ability to adapt quickly to changes in the market or in response to your competitors. This approach also lets you make the best use of the funds that you have available by not spending on unnecessary licences or storage.
Moving SharePoint to Office 365 also makes it easier to leverage other powerful offerings such as Yammer. Using Yammer you can facilitate more effective interactions between people for collaborative scenarios where e-mail can be limiting due to its lack of interactivity. With the widespread use of social media platforms, people are getting more used to interactive, dynamic digital communication that facilitates actionable involvement in the form of "Likes" and such. With Yammer's integration to SharePoint, the experience is seamless and useful.
Enabling people to be mobile has become a must in a work environment, where the average person always has a powerful mobile device with them. Most of these users demand access to information when and as they need it in order to be able to work anywhere. Office 365 is supported by numerous mobile apps which enable this work style to match the demands of the modern workplace.
Adoption is probably the most significant SharePoint challenge most businesses deal with. Office 365 smooths this challenge by not just addressing one sticking point, but by an overall offering combining all of the elements mentioned above. Solutions can be delivered quickly and regularly, ready-to-go options are available, technology combinations are easier to implement and use and new and better ways of doing things are released often. As you can see, Office 365 presents an opportunity to deliver tangible results with SharePoint, something which up until now has been far more difficult to do.