Launched in 2001 by Microsoft, SharePoint is today’s leading collaborative content management platform—offering companies multiple organizational services: document storage + management, an internal collaboration and communications system, business intelligence, and a workflow + process management portal.
THE BASICS: SHAREPOINT IS YOUR BUSINESS MANAGER
“As the pace of work accelerates, it’s more important than ever to harness collective knowledge by making it easier to find information and expertise, right when it’s needed, and to encourage best practice sharing.” —Microsoft SharePoint teams
Microsoft originally offered SharePoint in two versions—an on-premise company server, and the now standard, cloud-based platform, SharePoint Online. Throughout its history, SharePoint has organized its solutions around three key buzzwords—integration, customization, and collaboration.
Integration. The entire SharePoint system works as a centralized, web-based, collective platform, compatible with all other Office/Windows products. Designed to support business connectivity, every Microsoft product is easily incorporated into the SharePoint concept. Julia White, corporate vice president for Microsoft Azure, describes this integration as SharePoint’s cross-suite ability to “[blend] experiences across Office 365 and [blur] the lines across traditional product silos.”
Collaboration. In contrast with OneDrive for Business—which is similarly cloud-based but designed simply for personal doc storage without a shared interface—SharePoint groupware, called Team Sites, is built on the concepts of collaboration, organizational interaction, and common informational access. The content management system (CMS) operates as an organizational file server comparable to Dropbox—storing, archiving, searching, retrieving, and reporting digital documents.
Customization. Since SharePoint is highly configurable based on organizational needs, usage looks slightly different for each enterprise. This customizable server architecture is intentional: Companies are encouraged to shop at SharePoint’s “app store” for generic software, then build and deploy web PowerApps to their specific industry, business, and department. Pages, web apps, widgets, lists, content, and sites—every SharePoint element starts as a free form, build-to-specification concept that is adaptable and flexible enough to handle the complexity of any enterprise.
TIMELINE: SHAREPOINT PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE
Microsoft regularly presents users with a roadmap—introducing upcoming innovations, changes, and product releases as part of its overall enterprise-supporting goal of “reinventing productivity” through its content management system: SharePoint.
In accelerating enterprise efficiency, driving digital transformation, and changing the culture of the workplace, SharePoint has offered users—from top-level executives to frontline employees—an unprecedented depth of integrated work experience, regularly enhancing its capabilities throughout its 18-year history.
- Earliest version—SharePoint Portal Server, becoming SharePoint Team Services in 2002
- Document storage primarily
- 2003 introduced a commercial edition in addition to the free option
- For nearly ten years, free licenses and commercial extensions provided content management capabilities
- Social networking features
- Integrated applications with the rest of Microsoft Office
- Stronger enterprise connectivity, workflow management
- Wiki pages
- Cross-browser uploading
- Customizable company site designs
- OneDrive for Business becomes alternative individual work storage solution while SharePoint maintains status as enterprise content management tool
- Improved search capabilities and greater data support
- Introduced to over 50,000 at the Future of SharePoint virtual event
- Mobile app introduced
- Flow and PowerApps offer client-controlled in-house forms for data collection, approvals, and project completion
- Framework offers client-based customized development
- Security and compliance capabilities (data loss prevention, mobile device management)
- Modern Team Sites introduced, connecting Office 365 groups with user-controlled intranet sites for collaborative task management, creativity, and communication—including videos, images, events, and feedback
- Hosted Virtual Summit—a free, global, online event—to introduce updates
- 60%+ of users transitioned to cloud-based management as part of Office 365
- Used by 250,000 organizations and over 85% of Fortune 500 companies
- 10 million+ new sites created worldwide—internal company-related webpages, including top-level team sites and subsites
- Framework launched with support for open source tools, allowing clients to build company-customized SharePoint Web Parts
- Limitless scalability and more thorough searchability for both people and content based on fingerprints, tech tags, geolocation, or classification
- Compliance-focused—supporting enterprise accountability in tech audits, privacy rights, action logs, confidentiality, breach-detection, and block capabilities
2018 – PRESENT DEVELOPMENTS: THINK ONLINE. THINK LONG-TERM.
As on-premise SharePoint server versions present challenges for organizations with increasing support needs, Microsoft is responding with migration tools to assist companies in transferring content to the Office 365 cloud-based system. Microsoft’s blog explained, “Industry thought leaders have noted the shift from archives for decades-long content retention, to agile collaboration-centric cloud toolsets that also empower security and reuse.”
Additionally, to encourage forward-thinking enterprises to think holistically in planning for their future, SharePoint offers solutions for the entire lifecycle of company content. It’s not just about creating content, but also about ensuring long-term consumption. The concept of “content velocity” refers to the speed of production, usage, and delivery of information within a business. Within a culture where content velocity is high, SharePoint can assist company leadership in managing digital content in a way that supports value.
AHEAD IN 2019: FUTURE-PROOFING YOUR COMPANY
With more than 400,000 customers, SharePoint is firmly positioned as the industry’s content management and team collaboration leader. On May 21, 2018, at the Virtual Summit User Conference in Las Vegas, Microsoft unveiled upcoming updates for SharePoint.
- Migration: Helping enterprises move from on-premise to cloud-based SharePoint
- Spaces: Functional virtual reality for business—SharePoint’s customizable, immersive work experience
Content Management—From In-House Server to Online Cloud. For web developers, SharePoint’s Migration Tool 2 will offer significant support for transfer of enterprise server accounts to the online, cloud-based storage provided for Office 365 users. According to David Roe at CMSWire.com, an online tech publication for digital and marketing executives, the SharePoint 2019 edition places “a heavy emphasis on hybrid capabilities as it has become clear since the release of the SharePoint 2016 edition that many enterprises were not prepared to dispense with their on-premises investments even though Microsoft had been pushing them to move to the cloud.”
VR in the Business Environment. But 2019 also brings the introduction of Spaces—SharePoint’s innovative virtual reality feature that gives companies the opportunity to craft their own collaborative tech world at a lower cost, allowing nearly any device to access a real-time, immersive experience. WebVR for business has been pricey, but Spaces proves Microsoft’s attempt at a strong ROI value. Spaces demonstrates the software leader’s recognition that individual documents, team projects, enterprise communication, and all data interactions need to make sense in a modern, intelligent, connective, sensory user experience.
Useful for executives in recruitment and new hire onboarding, Spaces presents panorama, navigation, virtual presence, video, and real-time experience. Users can create or view with full customization of 3D models, motion, sounds, images, and lighting. Spaces lets companies produce their own augmented reality, and then share it with employees via mixed reality headsets in lieu of screen-mouse-keyboard interactions. Additionally, this latest feature is GDPR-compliant—meeting the European Union’s user privacy requirement effective as of May 2018.
CMSWire cites Bruce Dara at PCM, a California-based Microsoft reseller: “Mixed reality and content transformation using AI is going to have a positive impact on manufacturing and healthcare industry. This will not only save development/testing time but will also improve UX and user adoption.” Though templates are provided, Microsoft’s intent is to provide SharePoint users with an intuitive, industry-flexible, personalized, and learnable option for enterprise visualization.
Working toward an efficient, cohesive experience, SharePoint 2019 will also the following additional enhancements:
- Modern Team Sites—including pages, lists, and libraries
- OneDrive Sync Client
- Improved support for business process with integration of PowerApps and Flow
- Ability to migrate Classic Pages to Modern Sites seamlessly
- Mobile-friendly and web-friendly
SharePoint is considered by many enterprises to be foundational for digital workplace transformation. Optimizing the use of SharePoint—with its consistent advancement as the content management front-leader for organizations globally—requires forward-thinking leadership and regular effort to future-proof business operations.