Apps for SharePoint 2013 carry their own set of implementation risks

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthLarge organizations with an instance of Microsoft SharePoint running on premises may be thinking about migrating their customization process over from full trust solutions to a combination of HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Microsoft refers to this combination as the “SharePoint App Model”. A similar combination called the “Office App Model” is also being promoted for requirements to modify the components of Microsoft’s Office suite (“Office”) to meet the unique requirements of specific organizations.

Despite what I refer to as a near “binary” presentation, where the strengths of these app models (the “pluses”) are presented in direct comparison with the weaknesses of their full trust solution ancestors (the “zeroes”), readers with similar interests will benefit if they include a governance plan for customization along with the other migration components. Here is why:

jQuery is a popular function library for JavaScript. Since jQuery is actively supported in the user community, the library continues to evolve. Hence there are many different versions of the library. But not all features of all libraries are the same. So conflicts can arise from customizations built with earlier versions of the jQuery library. Especially when these customizations are actively used alongside other customizations built with other versions of the library.

The negative impact of these conflicts is greater when a central IT organization steps back and opts to empower line of business (LoB) units to build their own customizations for an on-premises complex computing platform like SharePoint 2013. On the surface this approach may look to be the correct one to take, especially if this stance has evolved after several years of an active BYOD policy.

Some proponents of Dev/Ops may recommend this kind of flexible posture on the part of enterprise IT. But if there is no central control over how jQuery libraries are to be implemented, then the risks of a breakdown in computer processing take on a more palpable shape. A far better policy calls for enterprise IT to directly arbitrate with LoBs on the question of how customizations are to be managed. In fact, enterprise IT ought to publish a set of standards for how customizations are to be built with SharePoint and/or Office apps. Finally, a set of tools should be implemented (and developed if they are not found to be available given the unique needs of a specific organization) capable of detecting processes running on internal on-premises computing systems to ensure any/all examples of app customizations are in conformance with this policy.

Without this kind of governance plan, larger organizations will face much the same odds of poor return on development investment from app model efforts, as would be the case if they simply proceeded with “legacy” customization techniques.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved


Enterprise tech ISVs should recommend hybrid computing platform scenarios to their customers

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthEnterprise technology consumers have made their reluctance clear. In most cases they will not agree to incur the expense and effort required to migrate on-premises computing platforms, like Microsoft SharePoint, to public cloud tenancy. So the ISVs owning the IP supporting these platforms, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, IBM, EMC, etc, should promote hybrid computing scenarios to these customers.

Anyone reading an article written by Jeffrey Schwartz, and published to the RedmondMag web site on February 20, 2015, will get this dose of reality. The article is titled SharePoint MVPs: ‘On-Prem is Very Much Alive and Well’, and is composed of a set of quotes from participants in a TweetJam, including Asif Rehmani, who is a client of ours. Rehmani is the CEO of VisualSP. VisualSP is also the name of Rehmani’s leading product, which, in my opinion, should be a core component in any adoption strategy for SharePoint for a large community of users. VisualSP provides SharePoint users with access to high powered technical tips, in video format, directly within the SharePoint workspace — in other words, “in-context”. This writer serves as Vice President for Business Development for Rehmani’s company.

The TweetJam was organized by Christian Buckley who also served as its moderator. Buckley, himself, is a SharePoint MVP and a familiar spokesperson on SharePoint topics.

The specific challenge platforms represent to stakeholders thinking about migrating enterprise applications to public cloud alternatives, is the opportunity users have, more often than not, seized to customize them. An ERP system built on SAP, Oracle, or Microsoft components, for example, usually includes an extensive set of features either provided by third parties, or built, from the ground up, with custom code. As the MVPs quoted in Schwartz’s article make clear, from their quotes, the effort required to migrate these “computing realms” entirely over to a public cloud PaaS like Office 365 is a non-starter.

Apparently Microsoft (the clear leader in this effort. Microsoft has used its “Mobile First, Cloud First” campaign to help its enterprise computing customers decide to migrate to Office 365 and Azure. The start of this campaign coincided with Satya Nadella’s ascendance to the position of CEO of the company in 2014. Nadella was the first to articulate this slogan of the Microsoft brand) has gotten this message. Several articles were published over the last two days about an event freshly added to the Microsoft Ignite schedule for May, 2014 — an early peek at SharePoint Server 2016.

This change is a healthy transformation of a campaign which appears to have been too brittle for its targeted audience to adopt. Hybrid computing scenarios, with a public cloud component supporting appropriately chosen computing requirements, operating, in tandem, with an on-premises data center, is the solution the enterprise computing market appears to favor. After all, no one likes ultimatums — least of all one’s core customers.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved


Microsoft lowers the volume on its Mobile First Cloud First clarion call at least for SharePoint

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthIn the aftermath of SPTechCon Austin, and a number of announcements from Microsoft, not the least of which being the planned debut of SharePoint 2016, later this year, it is safe to say the volume on “mobile first, cloud first” has been turned down by Redmond.

But not without a fight. Anyone reading a post to the Office blog titled Evolution of SharePoint will not find a section dedicated to “SharePoint Server 2016” in this roadmap. Nevertheless, the impact of the following acknowledgement: “But, we realize many customers continue to run their businesses on-premises, within the firewall or with hybrid deployments. That’s why we are committed to making the next version of SharePoint server the most secure, stable and reliable version to date—allowing organizations to take advantage of cloud innovation on their terms” cannot be missed.

Somewhere at Microsoft, a Kubler-Ross level of acceptance (stage 3 of her “On Death and Dying” presentation) has developed about the likelihood of enterprise business and comparably sized organizations in the public and private sector deciding to drop their on-premises SharePoint servers for SharePoint Online/Office 365. Wholesale migration to Office 365 cloud SaaS services will not happen any time soon for this market segment. But a hybrid computing scenario of on-premises computing PLUS a cloud component may work.

I attended SPTechCon Austin along with Asif Rehmani (Asif Rehmani has maintained a position as a SharePoint MVP for each of the last 8 years, and is the CEO of VisualSP). We were exhibitors at the conference. Asif Rehmani also delivered two well attended presentations on no-code approaches to custom process development for SharePoint.

I spoke with representatives from some of the larger companies based in the US (top 5 businesses in the energy sector, global financial firms, and manufacturers of heavy equipment), as well as with representatives from US government agencies at state and federal levels. With the exception of one of these conversations, the others were either entirely focused on SharePoint Server, on-premises, or on a hybrid computing scenario, where SharePoint Online, Office 365 would be implemented in parallel to on-premises servers.

The unique problem represented by SharePoint server, on-premises, in my opinion, is its historical role as a computing platform for the organizations opting to implement it. When applications are customized to enhance their usefulness within a computing platform (like an intranet, or an extranet), it becomes a monumental task to de-couple them from the platform, itself. Microsoft apparently recognized this back in December of 2014 and devoted over 6 hours of its Microsoft Virtual Academy training offer to a presentation on Transform SharePoint Customizations to SharePoint App Model.

Ironically, with a more appropriate perspective squarely in place, in my opinion many more of the larger communities of SharePoint users will be likely to decide to implement SharePoint Online, Office 365 than would otherwise have been the case. At the same time, Microsoft will likely benefit from a popular new on-premises server offer in the form of SharePoint server 2016.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved


End users benefit from in-context access to tech training content when new computing platforms are implemented

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthAdoption initiatives accompany almost any type of platform change for enterprise computing consumers. These projects are so common a whole industry developed around them. Back in the 1990s the business was referred to as “business process re-engineering”. Today the same type of work is rolled up and into something called “change management”.

The core objective of almost all of these efforts is to convince a specific group of computing users within an organization — usually “end users” — to adopt the new platform. The strategy powering the project is to provide end users with the technical support and methods they need to successfully transition from one way of doing the computer tasks they face on a daily basis, to another. The tactics include technical support teams, training intensives, and management testimonials on why the platform change was required in the first place.

Readers should not consider cloud systems to be somehow miraculously free of this burden. The adoption challenge big, mature ISVs like IBM, Microsoft, and even Google face when they partner with customers to help end users transition from on-premises computing systems to SaaS and/or PaaS offers in the cloud are the same ones faced just 20 years ago when IBM was seeding enterprise computing markets with Lotus Notes. Adoption is adoption is adoption . . . Or so the saying should go.

One of our clients, Rehmani Consulting, Inc. has brought to market a solution capable of making the whole adoption process easier. VisualSP is a help system built for Microsoft’s SharePoint computing platform. The “one-two punch” of the product amounts to a combination of:

  1. a unique method of exposing, in-context, the kind of technical training content for which enterprise end users have demonstrated an appetite, meaning short, right to the point presentations of computing procedures. The process by which end users absorb the content is referred to as “on-demand training”
  2. and lots and lots of video content

We have marketed the solution since July, 2012. In this space of time we have worked with some very large, prominent, multi-national corporation to help them accelerate their adoption effort with this product. Perhaps as many as 500K SharePoint users are now benefiting from the VisualSP system.

There is no reason why a solution like VisualSP cannot deliver comparable benefits to ISVs in need of a method of stimulating adoption of a computing platform. Our solution is built with modern software tools — HTML 5, JavaScript and CSS. If you would like to learn more about how our solution may help your efforts, please let us know.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved


Microsoft Continues to Service the Majority of Very Large Organizations with SharePoint and/or Office 365

If the group of attendees at this year’s SPTechCon, Boston, can be used as a reliable gauge of the positions of Microsoft SharePoint and Office 365 in the enterprise computing market, market interest in these solutions remains healthy and infectious. This writer has had numerous conversations, at this popular conference, with stakeholders from large organizations spread across a number of industries, including:

  • Government, both State and Federal
  • Healthcare
  • Banking
  • Insurance
  • Consumer Staples

In each case, these contacts have expressed keen interest to do what it takes to improve the computing experience of their users, and, thereby, hasten their adoption of computing methods unique to SharePoint, or SharePoint Online, Office 365.

A number of these contacts let us know their organizations had either decided to migrate from SharePoint on premises, to SharePoint Online, Office 365, or to implement the latter in parallel to SharePoint running on premises. Under normal circumstances this point would not be noteworthy, but when the industries within which their organizations compete — healthcare, banking, insurance — the notion of any of these firms seriously considering public tenancy on a cloud, SaaS has to be seen as some sort of win for Microsoft.

Contrary to a lot of market commentary, these organizations did not exhibit a diminishing interest, neither in SharePoint, nor in SharePoint Online. On the contrary, many of them spoke to a very high level of utilization for SharePoint, which can only elevate the importance of an application like this one to the position of a “mission-critical” set of procedures.

Once an application takes on this importance for an organization, it is not likely to be unseated. Since many of these organizations include thousands of seats, Microsoft should be able to count on a dependable, substantial revenue stream from these products for years to come. The only possible threat is the intensity of Microsoft’s own efforts to convince its customers to migrate to Office 365. Pressing much harder on this petal could turn out to be a bad thing to do.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved


Android’s New Enterprise Features Aren’t Likely to Overtake Microsoft Office Anytime Soon

Sundar Pichai presented the latest innovations from Android targeted to enterprise IT and business consumers during this year’s I/O Developer conference. Samsung’s Knox is one of the two anchor tenants of this latest tech strip mall, with Quickoffice (ostensibly a seamless way for users to “natively” edit Office documents without a file conversion) providing the big box store magnetism.

The big neon sign pointing drivers to this new shopping paradise was Pichai’s big claim of much higher levels of Android penetration of enterprise business markets–58% of the Fortune 500. The shock value of this statistic is, of course, diluted by what Pichai did Not report, meaning he did not answer the following question: “Is this penetration contributing to these same enterprise consumers deciding to drop other methods of processing computing tasks?”

While we don’t know the right answer to this question, the likely choice would be “no”. Technology consumers from enterprise business and comparably sized organizations in the public and not-for-profit sectors are notorious for having an interest in consuming several different solutions for the same problem, albeit at different levels of intensity. Sure, 58% of the Fortune 500 uses Google Docs, Drive, etc. But they are also using Box, DropBox, SAP, Oracle, and everything else out there with any kind of pervasive market credibility as a solution worth having.

Missing from the above list, of course, is Microsoft® Office. This writer omitted including Office in the list for one big reason. It is highly likely that 100% of the Fortune 500 uses this one solution, and with much greater frequency than any of the others.

So, with all due respect to Android, 58% is “chump change”. When we factor in the unique features of Office 365, which is reputed to be Microsoft’s fastest selling product of all time, the significance of Android’s latest moves diminish further. There is simply nothing comparable to SharePoint, and SharePoint Online in the Google set of enterprise applications. Any highly regulated business can still save a bundle by customizing SharePoint components into a satisfactory records management, or enterprise document management solution, complete with analytics.

Should Google opt to offer something directly competitive to SharePoint (this writer sees little incentive for them to do so) the situation may stay, as is, for quite some time to come.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved


Is Collaboration the Irresistable Lure ISVs Need to Motivate Enterprise Business to Embrace Cloud Computing Offers?

Microsoft® appears to be using its Yammer business to equip SharePoint Online, Office 365, with ‘cloud only’ features. Does this point to collaboration as a very hot topic for enterprise business? Or is this move simply another example of engineers building ‘a solution without a problem’?

On June 3, 2014, Christophe Fiessinger, a Group Product Manager on Microsoft’s enterprise social team published a post titled Yammer brings conversations to your OneDrive and SharePoint Online files. This post introduced a new product called “document conversations”, which will only be available to businesses subscribing to Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud SaaS offer.

“Document conversations” look like a method to add comments to a work in progress (a document, spreadsheet, presentation, etc). This capability is, of course, now ubiquitous, and a familiar feature of not only each of the components of Microsoft’s Office suite, but also other authoring products, for example, Adobe Acrobat Professional, or InDesign, or even each of the components of Google Apps. But ‘document conversations’ expands the range of options for teams to collaborate. The feature is built on a “Yammer pane”, which is juxtaposed next to the work space, and can be used to directly solicit opinions from team members, or to present questions about the topic of the document-creation project. This “Yammer pane” can also appear next to an image included in a document, or even some external content.

Is Microsoft onto something here? Are enterprise business CIOs losing sleep over concerns about the extent to which personnel are collaborating (or, perhaps it would be better to say NOT collaborating) on organization-wide tasks, or even departmental objectives?

I am not prepared to answer this question, but I can confirm the components of the debut of this feature, meaning a set of capabilities exclusively offered to cloud SaaS subscribers only, is likely to be repeated, going forward, as Microsoft (and its competitors) ramp up efforts to persuade enterprise business to hasten the pace at which they are adopting cloud, SaaS offers.

ISVs have a lot to gain should enterprise business speed up this process. As their product marketing objectives become clearer (and I think the ascendance of Satya Nadella to the role of CEO at Microsoft, along with the introduction of the now familiar ‘mobile first, cloud first’ mantra is a good example of one of these businesses gaining clarity on just where it wants to go on this topic), then enterprise business prospects will likely witness a lot more of these efforts.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved


Microsoft Offers Important Office 365 Growth Metrics at Its SharePoint Conference 2014

Jared Spataro, General Manager, opened the Microsoft®SharePoint® Conference, 2014 with news about Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud bundle offer of SharePoint, Lync, and Outlook: the business has grown by 500% and is now the fastest growing product in Microsoft’s history. Spataro also informed a massive audience awaiting the core of the keynote presentation (to be delivered by no less a luminary than President Bill Clinton) on sales performance for the product — Office 365 produced approximately $1.5 Billion for the company last year.

The core component of the Office 365 Software as a Service (SaaS) offer is SharePoint. Anyone interested in learning more about the year over year sales performance for SharePoint quickly got their answer. By achieving its position as the fastest growing product in Microsoft’s history, Office 365 had displaced SharePoint, itself, which had produced “double digit growth, consequently, for each of the last 18 quarters” (precis of comment made by Jared Spataro during his Keynote presentation at the Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2014).

So it doesn’t take a lot of math to put together an approximate picture of combined revenue into the company of some where well north of $2.7 Billion for a combination of on premise SharePoint sales and Office 365 subscriptions. My approximation is likely to be conservative as I’ve simply added $1.2 Billion to the approximate $1.5 Billion Spataro publicly presented (disclaimer: I have no verified statistics to support my approximation beyond the $1.5 Billion mentioned during the Keynote for this fiscal year).

The numbers didn’t stop here. Prior to Jared Spataro reaching the podium to kick off the Keynote, Microsoft presented a multi screen video show for the audience purely composed of some staggering statistics: SharePoint hosting, literally, hundreds of thousands of blogs, massive numbers of newsfeeds (combining statistics from its very popular Yammer with the core SharePoint newsfeed feature), and lots and lots of implementations of the product as an internal Intranet for business consumers.

The public relations timing of the opening of the SharePoint Conference, 2014, the announcement of Mark Hurd’s promotion to the position of Chief Strategy Officer for Microsoft (it’s worth noting Hurd served as the core pollster for President Bill Clinton, and, later, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton), and, finally, the interview with John Thompson, Chairman, on Bloomberg TV, is near perfect.

I can only conclude Microsoft is “smoking”, right now, and doesn’t look to cool off anytime soon.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved