Why am I still signing SharePoint enterprise deals even if everybody is talking about Office 365? Let me explore some of the reasons that I have found out from my hundreds of calls with both Microsoft channel partners as well as end user organizations. I already made a few comments about this in my blog entry “What is the future of SharePoint?”
Organizations have invested heavily in SharePoint infrastructure and solutions
First of all, lots of organizations have invested heavily into SharePoint infrastructure and have built extensive solutions that are very hard to “rip off” and start from scratch even if many would like to do so. Any SharePoint SI or ISV knows that SharePoint can be your best friend or your worst enemy depending on how well it has been implemented. With careful planning and correct metadata structure and taxonomy model, it can be a wonderful platform as long as the developers understand that the UI needs to be simple and easy to use. I referenced in my previous blog posts to a survey made by AIIM where one of the key issues of SharePoint failure is the complexity of the UI.
Changing one-dimensional SharePoint lists to relational and user friendly
I also mentioned in my previous blog entries that there are Microsoft SharePoint Independent Software Vendors (ISV) such as BPA Solutions that have seen an opportunity to add value on top of SharePoint and its usability by providing an abstraction layer on top of SharePoint. SharePoint list management is very “one dimensional” and to solve this BPA has built web parts that enable business analysts to connect related lists in similar manner when building relations and applications using a relational database and its form builder. From end user perspective, the user sees information that is logical to the brain with maximal exposure to related information. A good use case is when there is a need to display accounts (or companies) with its related information such as contacts, contacts, tasks, projects, actions etc. This is not something that SharePoint can do “out-of-the-box” and Microsoft relies on its huge partner ecosystem to fix and amend SharePoint platform with features and functionality that makes the platform better.
People and organizations have invested in SharePoint skills and solutions
When I talk to end user organizations, one of the key reasons for sticking with SharePoint is also the fact that most of them have a long history of skills built and invested in the platform. One just does not change direction overnight and ask employees to pick something else if you have enterprise wide solutions running on a specific platform. Third-party software vendors such as BPA can extend the life of a platform by providing tools/solutions/frameworks that enable developers to increase the productivity to a new level without having to “rewrite” everything. That is why there are lots of ISVs innovating each and every day how to extend platforms such as SharePoint and get access to a large ecosystem. Another successful SharePoint ISV is Nintex with its workflow engine that complements the SharePoint platform and have a similar story to that of BPA where end user organizations can accelerate the adoption of the platform and increase the productivity of the developers.
Why not move everything to Office 365 today?
Why doesn’t people just leave SharePoint and move over to Office 365 with SharePoint Online? This is the question I get from people that I talk to. First of all, there are millions of different business scenarios where SharePoint Online is not ready for prime time when it comes to the solutions that are implemented. Do I believe there will be a day when SharePoint Online will have all of the scenarios covered? Absolutely. Do I believe SharePoint Online can cover lots of scenarios already today? Absolutely. I run everything in my own company TELLUS International using SharePoint Online and have done that since the solution came out.
Most of the business scenarios that enterprises still want to have their SharePoint installed within their own firewall are scenarios where the solution is tightly integrated to mission critical systems such as ERP, financial applications, help desk etc. These scenarios require lots of the surrounding infrastructure and it would take considerable work and investment to change what has already been built. Therefore, organizations will keep on adding solutions as it is a “sunk cost” and until there is a real need to move away from the current environment, then even the solutions are architected in a way that they support natively a cloud environment. What we are also seeing is that organizations are extending their existing on-premise SharePoint solution with Office 365 extensions where some of the new apps that needs to be built are built using with the combination of Microsoft Azure and SharePoint Online.
Selling SharePoint solutions today to organizations without SharePoint
Cases where I talk to end user organizations that have no SharePoint skills or SharePoint installed it is a bit more challenging to get the organization to invest in both SharePoint as well as third-party solutions. I am not saying that it would not happen, but I am saying that the sales-cycle becomes much longer and in some cases it might be better to drop the case and focus on organizations that are already invested in SharePoint.
Opportunity to sell Office 365 solutions to organizations without SharePoint
Cases where the end user organization does not have SharePoint, there is a huge opportunity to sell Office 365 as the implementation is “net new” and the consultants can envision new ways of working and the solution reflects the attributes of the cloud. I mentioned in my blog that Microsoft guidance of building solutions for SharePoint Online is different from how organizations are building for on-premises environment and this is why we will see new generation solutions coming to the market in different solution areas.
Software vendors (ISV) need to think about migration strategy to Office 365
It is important for SharePoint and Office 365 software vendors to create a strategy how existing SharePoint customers can migrate to new generation Office 365 solution and what the potential restrictions might be. There will be restrictions as SharePoint on-premises and Office 365 have not reached parity from functional perspective and I believe that SharePoint Online of the future will have features and functionality that we will never see in SharePoint on-premises environment. Even Microsoft has messaged this to partners and customers that use SharePoint Online (as part of Office 365) will be of first priority for Microsoft. Once the SharePoint Online has been released, Microsoft evaluates what can be moved to the on-premises environment and what is native to the cloud and can’t work in private infrastructure setting.
Answer to the question why I still close SharePoint enterprise deals?
So to answer to my question “Why am I still getting SharePoint enterprise deals” has to do with some of the elements above. It has been fun and exciting to work with BPA Solutions SharePoint-based quality and risk management solution and the 30+ enterprise grade web parts that enables organizations to build any business applications with much higher ROI. And yes, I am closing enterprise deals and BPA channel partners are happy to be part of that effort. I am also happy to get lots of requests coming for Office 365 as we are very close to have that also on the market.