It has been fascinating to witness the pretty dramatic change in cloud transformation especially here in the US especially moving from SharePoint to Office 365. I have worked intimately in the collaboration space (SharePoint and Office 365) for quite a while, participating in numerous SharePoint conferences, talking to hundreds of people about their plans in moving to the cloud and solicited channel partners to adopt a cloud business model. Besides this, I have sold and supported cloud solutions.
But what most end user organizations don’t probably realize is the pain that Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) have to go through to transform their on premises SharePoint solutions to Office 365 enabled solutions that support enterprise type of use cases. These uses cases are typically based on the need to have a scalable and user friendly solution that supports hundreds or even thousands of users.
The task of moving from SharePoint farm solution or sandboxed solution to SharePoint App model is not an easy task to do for any independent software vendor, especially targeting larger enterprises with use cases that require things such as integration to on-premises Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), support for large scale user-base with fast UI response etc. The good news is that there is plenty of resources to study from like Richard diZerega’s blog that explains the app capabilities and how to customize things to get things done. Another good write-up is Bob German’s blog that provides some guidance of the new SharePoint App model and what the developer has to consider when moving the App model.
But the transition is not just technological, it is also a tremendous change in the business model for the software vendor. It is a change from traditional licensing model with annual maintenance towards a subscription-based model where the software vendor has to prove every day that the solution is worth paying for and that the usability is what is expected. Many software vendors are still pondering how to make this transition as it is not an easy one but something that every software vendor has to do to stay relevant. I sincerely also think that it is a tremendous opportunity for many software vendors to innovate and do something new that was not done before.
I believe that there is a place for every type of solution. Some scenarios will stay in the on-premises environment and some will move to a hybrid model and some will deploy a pure app/cloud model. It is also important to remember that from end user organization perspective a SaaS solution can be exposed as private hosting. However, in this model the software vendor does not enjoy the elasticity, scalability and resource pooling among tenants so the model is not sustainable in the long run. There will always be new native cloud vendors that will provide something that is “good enough” and will eventually compete with more established vendors.
What should we learn from this? First of all, it is very important for software vendors to educate potential leads of what is possible and what is not in respect to some use cases. Secondly, end user organizations should not expect to have full parity with an enterprise solution and a cloud solution. I do not even think that should be the aim. Software vendors should use the technology (cloud or app) in a way that was not possible in the past. That brings value to the user and brings competitiveness to the software vendor.
I have become a true believe in using the Lean Startup approach in developing solutions with minimum viable product (MVP) as the starting point for customer validation as Steve Blank emphasizes in his book. When you combine this with the use of Value Proposition Canvas from Dr. Osterwalder, you have a killer combination to ensure that you are building something that organizations and end users want to use and a solution that fulfills the “Jobs-to-be-done” it expects to cover and solves the pains and provides the gains that users feel.