January 5, 2015

2015 Crystal Ball From A SharePoint of View

13 minute read

By Mike Alsup
Jan 05 2015
​Here is what I think is happening in SharePoint, Office 365, ECM, WCM and the kitchen sink as 2014 ends and 2015 begins:

Current News

Apple iOS is killing it. Like almost everyone in North America, I have a new iPhone 6+. This is relevant because iOS is why Microsoft is now “Cloud First, Mobile First”, not Windows devices first. This Microsoft pivot is working, and Office 365 is killing it also. Office 365 is winning because the corporate world is not going to give up Word and Excel and PowerPoint and now they are available on iOS. Box and Google are examples of competitors to Office 365, but OpenText and Documentum are not. The Legacy ECM vendors are collateral damage in this arms race because of the direction and pace at which the architectures of information governance are evolving. More about that later.

2014 was the year we learned about cloud-scale. Microsoft, Google, and Amazon are pulling away from everyone else in capacity and capability. My analogy is Interstate Highways vs. Farm-to-Market roads. Which would you rather drive on? Microsoft has 1MM servers in its cloud, which puts it behind Google’s and Amazon’s server numbers based on articles I saw last year. Managing such a cloud is complex and Microsoft had its glitches this year, but they led the way to 1TB free per user (in the consumer space, which isn’t exactly analogous to Azure but it shows how rapidly the cost of cloud storage is declining).

File Sync and Share is still a confusing market. There are too many vendors and too little differentiation amongst them. Microsoft’s entries in this market, OneDrive and OneDrive for Business, aren’t exactly winning, but they are growing market share. Dropbox has a large market share, and Microsoft is partnering with Dropbox to leverage their 300MM users. Box is complaining about not also being inside Office 365 while its marketing continues to pummel SharePoint. Their recent SEC filing says it is expensive to live like Box as they spent $152MM in Sales and Marketing expenses to deliver $153MM in Revenue in the 9 months ending in October of 2014. This was better performance than the prior year.

SharePoint’s primary focus is on portals and employee productivity, not customer engagement. In other words, don’t build your public-facing websites in SharePoint or Office 365. Microsoft has stated they will stop supporting public websites in Office 365. (http://support2.microsoft.com/kb/3027254.) Microsoft has promised to better define what this means at the new Ignite event in Chicago in May of 2015. I think it means good news for existing WCM vendors, such as GoDaddy or Ektron in the mid-market, and Adobe, Sitecore and SDL at high end. Several related press releases this year pointed to managing content in Office 365, such as email and files, and exposing them through Microsoft partners’ WCM platforms.

In 2015, and probably for the next few years, most organizations will not be 100% cloud or 100% on-premises, which means that if we are going to the Cloud at all, hybrid information management is the market in which we will all live. 2014 was the year that most companies decided that hybrid information management is their strategy. Microsoft got this message after having it explained to them by many of its customers (and most of its partners) .

New News

Windows 10 is coming with great spectacle. Windows 8 will not be remembered as Microsoft’s best ever OS experience. If the historical example of Windows 7 after Vista holds true, Windows 10 will be very well received. There are huge numbers of beta testers, and promises of consistent functionality.

SharePoint Server 2015 is coming this year also. One of the important pieces of news about SharePoint is that the SharePoint App Model, which was introduced with great fanfare in SharePoint 2013 is evolving significantly to better support industry standards and multiple client platforms. Some components of the SharePoint App Model, like the client side object model (CSOM) and REST APIs, will be included in the new Office 365 App Model, but there are enough differences that SharePoint on-premises may have become “legacy”. What does “legacy” mean? It means investments in the on-premises SharePoint platform, whether based on the SharePoint Full Trust or SharePoint App Models, may be stranded over time.

This is big news for Microsoft’s partners and competitors because their investments in solutions based on the SharePoint App Model or Full Trust Model may have been marginalized. This year, I had more than one SharePoint add-in vendor tell me how, through significant investment, they were over the hump on building their SharePoint App Model-based solutions. The big question to be addressed is which approach should be used to develop these solutions. Does an organization build the application inside the platform (e.g. a SharePoint Full Trust solution) or do they use an application server and industry standards (e.g. REST, OAuth, Azure Active Directory, etc.)?

It may be some time before the Office 365 App Model is mature enough to migrate highly customized SharePoint on-premise solutions confidently to Office 365. The equivalent functionality is not available and may not be available in 2015. Eventually, of course, it will be available, but in the meantime the market needs to prepare for at least three different environments, plus prior SharePoint versions:

  • SharePoint 2013 on-premise with the Full Trust model (solutions inside SharePoint)
  • SharePoint 2013 on-premise with the SharePoint App Model (provider-hosted solutions)
  • Office 365/SharePoint Online (provider-hosted solutions)
  • Existing SharePoint 2007 and 2010 Full Trust solutions

This also means is that the need for SharePoint content governance has grown to become the need for information governance with Microsoft repositories as the containers of the largest share of the information. The prior analyses that I and others published about the alternatives of governing Microsoft content from inside or outside of the Microsoft stack are still very relevant. Governing content will become hybrid, so that information policies will need to be consistently enforced in multiple repositories. I believe that managing content types, metadata inheritance, controlled copies of documents, an information lifecycle, and site provisioning and decommissioning will be easier from inside the Microsoft stack than coordinating and imposing policies and rules from outside the Microsoft stack. Not everyone agrees with this, especially vendors that want to govern Microsoft content by taking it outside of Microsoft repositories instead of managing it “in place”.

What is Old News That Still Needs a Reminder?

What is not working? The main risk in information governance is in unmanaged content. The problem isn’t in the big Legacy Open Text or FileNet solutions. This is the best managed content in most organizations. The problem is that most of an organization’s content is usually in email and share drives, and maybe in SharePoint sites, and maybe in Box or Dropbox, and maybe on thumb drives and home computers and pocket rocket smartphones.

Get a Roadmap for your Journey to Information Governance. Effective information governance requires a plan for managing 100% of the information in an organization. This is not necessarily full governance of 100% of an organization’s information, but it requires an understanding of what content exists, where it is, with the enforcement of policies and rules on this content consistently and to the extent possible. Dashboards for governance across platforms are enabling content, risk and records managers to know where their information is and giving them better tools to manage it. Technology and software not the issue. Without a roadmap for your Information Governance Program, to paraphrase Lewis Carroll, any road will get you somewhere, but maybe not where you wanted to go.

Focus on Measurement. Memories are short. The Information Governance Program Roadmap needs to define the benefits you are trying to achieve and the subsequent execution of the Information Governance Program needs to measure whether or not you achieved them.

Focus on the Small Stuff. There is big payback in big ECM solutions, but the first task in most organizations is how to get lots of simpler sites deployed in a consistent and well-governed manner. As Joe Shepley pointed out, most organizations are still more worried about categorizing and finding their information in multiple locations than in big solutions. pointed out, most organizations are still more worried about categorizing and finding their information in multiple locations than in big solutions.

Build vs. Buy? Predictably, it drives me crazy to talk to organizations that say that they don’t buy SharePoint or Office 365 add-ins. What this means is that they are developing solutions that other organizations have developed previously and are willing to sell them at a tenth of the cost to develop them. Additionally, it means that the internally developed solutions will still need to be migrated to new platforms (e.g., SharePoint App Model or the Office 365 App Model) and the expensive consultants who were paid by the hour to build the first solution are happy to be paid by the hour to build the new solution and every revision thereafter. In contrast, the add-in vendors are usually on the hook to upgrade their solutions under support agreements.

Open Questions for 2015

Applications vs. Apps. How different are the SharePoint App Model solutions we were developing in 2014 compared with the Office 365 App Model solutions we will be developing this year? Will the migration of solutions from one platform to another be a large effort, since many of the elements are similar?

How likely is Microsoft to grow the SharePoint App Model as a foundation for on-premise solutions? Will Microsoft’s customer require the on-premise solutions to continue to evolve, so that SharePoint on-premise becomes a more independent product line from SharePoint Online?

How will “App Parts” fare? Several leading ECM vendors, including HP, Open Text, EMC, and Laserfiche, stub content from SharePoint into their repositories for governance purposes. This worked well in the Full Trust SharePoint on-premise model, but less well in the SharePoint App Model. Does it make sense to govern content by stubbing it out of every SharePoint and Office 365 site, as opposed to out of a Record Center or at a predefined point in the content lifecycle? This could mean that thousands of sites need to be connected to a foreign governance repository as compared to a much smaller number of site connections from the Record Center.

How should a buyer think about the alternative SharePoint on-premise, SharePoint App Model, and Office 365 App Model-based solutions? It is clear that this is another year of significant platform development for Microsoft.


Most of what I learned this year, I learned in the market from our clients. For that, I am deeply grateful.

I try to read ECM market information and research online, and I wanted to give a shout out to the best content that was available to me:

NARA published excellent guidance to its clients on multiple occasions this year. Commercial and government organizations should follow their work.

James Lappin of Thinking Records is thinking deeply about records. His posts paint a picture of information governance that is well reasoned. Similarly,Barclay Blair of the Information Governance Initiative is trying to establish an industry consensus about the policy and governance dimension of information governance. Laurence Hart, of Word of Pie, also had several intriguing governance pieces this year. I am always amazed at how frequentlyChristian Buckley, formerly of Axceler and Metalogix, makes high quality posts in the AIIM Communities. Steve Pogribevsky, of Metavis, also had some fine posts this year also.

Cheryl McKinnon, of Forrester, published several particularly good papers on records management, information governance and SharePoint this year. Mark Gilbert, Debra Logan, Garth Landers and Sheila Childs of Gartner also published several really good papers on Easy Content Management, File Sync and Share, SharePoint, Office 365 and the evolution of ECM.

CMSWire, especially Virginia Backaitis and David Roe, sends interesting articles every day to subscribers (free) and bring the perspective of longtime observers of the ECM market. For geeks like me, they cover the ECM market like it is the sports page.

Doculabs, especially Lane Severson, Joe Shepley and Richard Medina, has been blogging their perspective frequently, and many of the best articles I saw last year came from them. I disagreed with many of their opinions, but their opinions are frequently more mainstream than mine and they are always well reasoned. Late in the year, they had some interesting articles that indicated that we are still trying to solve the same ECM problems that we were solving in 1999.

John Mancini of AIIM has established himself as a leading thinker and blogger about the impact of the social and big content dimensions of ECM and in so doing, has kept AIIM on the leading edge of information governance.

The biggest lesson I relearn every year is that the future happens more slowly than I expect.

As to the quality of my forecasts, I am reminded of economist John Kenneth Galbraith who once said, “The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.” I think this holds true for technology forecasting as well.

To all in the ECM space, happy hunting, Happy New Year, and I’ll see you in the field.

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