SharePoint was originally developed as a platform that would allow companies to implement their own individual solutions. In some ways, this offered a revolutionary solution to the problem of one-size-fits-all IT software. Over time, however, the changing nature of business created a demand for user-friendly solutions that could be more quickly implemented and deployed. SharePoint simply wasn’t keeping pace. Now many companies are wondering whether it’s worth investing the time and money in upgrading and training employees on an ever-expanding and increasingly overwhelming list of tools and functions. Some critics even question whether SharePoint can continue to stay relevant in an increasingly cloud-based market.
More Tools Is Not Always Better
One of the biggest complaints about SharePoint, and what some point to as a clear signal of its impending demise, is the sheer number of tools that tend to require ongoing management. While developers continue to create more and more tools, business users are actually finding the platform more and more difficult to use. And many of the really great tools that first drew in customers are now being offered by more user-friendly cloud-based tools like OneDrive. Why not sign up for Office 365, settle for fewer tools, and get the benefit of less confusion and faster upgrade cycles? In some cases, these more general programs are even easier to use than SharePoint solutions that have been custom created for that particular company.
Up till now, SharePoint has remained relevant owing to unique functions like dashboards, workflows, and highly customized solutions. But to ensure survival it needs to do three things:
1. Continue to move toward a more cloud-based model. This will allow for faster upgrade cycles and make it easier to share information and integrate with other commonly used programs.
2. Microsoft needs to continue the move they’ve begun with SharePoint 2013 toward offering developers the tools they need to make interfaces and navigation tools more useful and intuitive for end users. As long as documents are easier to share via email, and easier to find in OneDrive, no one’s going to bother uploading them to SharePoint sites. But with more powerful search options, and with tools like Delve, which predicts what documents workers will be most interested in, user adoption will start to take care of itself.
3. Business leaders and IT people also need to be made to appreciate how involved a process SharePoint development is. End users need to be involved throughout planning and all the way through deployment so they feel like they’re being provided a tool that will work for them and not just being thrown into a complicated system that they don't understand. True, there is only so much Microsoft can do about how companies plan and launch new solutions, but it may benefit them to be more proactive with their own marketing programs to help bridge any educational and training gaps so that workers are able to see the real value of using the platform.
On Its Way Out?
Even though SharePoint is currently moving in the right direction, Office 365 already offers a sufficient solution for many companies. So which is the better choice? The answer has a lot to do with whether you have already invested in the platform. For those who don't currently have an existing platform, the decision can be a little more complicated. An on-premises SharePoint solution is still the best bet in some business situations. In others, SharePoint Online (the cloud version) and Office 365 will be the more efficient and cost-effective option.
It’s becoming harder to distinguish SharePoint’s unique functions from those of other collaboration tools. Ironically, whether the platform survives depends in large part on its ability to piggyback on the designs and interfaces that are easy for everyone to use as it moves away from being locked on-premises to being a predominantly cloud-based system. Regardless of whether businesses continue building on-prem versions, SharePoint will continue to exist as a back-end to a lot of tools like OneDrive—though few people will even notice. So it'll be around even if you don't notice it.