Home Workforce Productivity What Microsoft’s SharePoint Online Strategy means for On-premises Customers

The message is clear – the future of SharePoint is online. We’re seeing functionality introduced at a much faster pace for SharePoint Online/Office 365 customers. SharePoint Online features a much tighter integration with the powerful social capabilities of Yammer compared to SharePoint on-premises. There is a legitimate question as to whether some functionality introduced online will ever make it to the on-premises version of SharePoint.

Where does that leave a SharePoint on-premises customer?
If you are an on-premises customer, know that you are not alone. Despite the push for SharePoint Online, the majority of SharePoint use is still on-premises. At SharePoint conferences and events, the question of “How many of your companies are looking at SharePoint Online?” results in a lot of raised hands – typically at least 80%. The next question, “How many of your companies are using SharePoint Online?” results in far fewer hands being raised – closer to 25% on average. This means there are a lot of SharePoint customers working through the online/on-premises scenario. Also recognize that you don’t need to make a drastic move to SharePoint Online. On-premises isn’t going away any time soon, and is still the right environment for many use cases.

One major recommendation for on-premises customers is to understand what SharePoint Online means to your specific use(s) of SharePoint. Make sure you have a comprehensive understanding of how your environment is being used, including current and planned future uses. Do you rely on features that are not yet available online? Would you benefit from some of the tools already available online but not available on-premises? Do you have ongoing or planned SharePoint development projects that you should consider developing in an “online-friendly” way? A SharePoint Strategy can be valuable in helping to answer these questions about your current and future SharePoint plans.

Prepare for SharePoint Online
As Microsoft continues to develop, market, and push customers towards SharePoint Online, you can take steps to prepare your organization for a potential move to online. These approaches are relevant even if you don’t believe you will go online in the foreseeable future – and they will put you in a better position if you do.

If you are planning any custom development in your on-premises environment, strongly consider development that can easily be ported online. This means no full-trust solutions, and a heavier use of front-end development technologies like JavaScript and new SharePoint capabilities like display templates. If your application will integrate with other applications, consider how these integrations should be built to work effectively when SharePoint is not on-premises. Since there is not feature parity between online and on-premises, ensure you don’t use features that aren’t available online.

Another way to prepare for SharePoint Online is to review your Governance Plan and determine what areas will require further thought and revision. Common areas that require additional considerations include security, development guidelines, site ownership, content management and processes, and third-party tool usage.

Dip your toe in the cloud
A hybrid implementation can be great way to gain experience with the capabilities and challenges of SharePoint Online while also building confidence that it can meet your organization’s business, technical and security requirements. Identifying a pilot solution, such as an extranet with a limited audience, is a great way to experience SharePoint Online without significant costs or impacts to your support organization.

Microsoft’s SharePoint Online strategy isn’t forcing on-premises customers to move online (yet), but it does mean that you should be thinking about what SharePoint Online means for you, and planning for your company’s online future.

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