When Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella first took the reins of the company in 2014, one of the first things he did was issue a new edict for the company: “cloud first, mobile first.”
It took two years for SharePoint, the company’s team collaboration tool, to get with the new program. But now, SharePoint is actually a leader in Microsoft’s “cloud first” effort.
More than 60% of all SharePoint customers use the version that’s included with Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud-based office suite. And SharePoint is now the second-most used product in that suite, trailing only the Exchange Online email service.
“SharePoint is very much a hero app with a vibrant community,“ says Microsoft Corporate VP of SharePoint Jeff Teper.
SharePoint is the kind of multi-purpose enterprise product that startups like Dropbox and Slack love to pick on, but it’s a huge product for Microsoft, generating more than $US3 billion a year in revenues for the company in 2015, the last numbers the company’s disclosed. It acts as a central repository of documents, data, and information for employees, and lots of developers use it as the launching point for their own products. It became fully in sync with Nadella’s vision with the launch of its mobile app in May 2016
The Office 365 suite of which SharePoint is a part is an important part of Nadella’s strategy. Microsoft needs to show Wall Street and the world that the cloud versions of its products are selling as well or better than the traditional software they’re quickly replacing. SharePoint’s success in the cloud has given Nadella a way to show his strategy is working.
Across the universe
Nadella has some new catch phrases for Microsoft to focus on: Now it’s all about the “intelligent cloud” and the “intelligent edge.” His vision is that, using a system called the Microsoft Graph, customers’ data will be stored in the cloud and available on any of their devices, no matter what those devices happen to be.
SharePoint will play a big role in this effort. The cloud version will have a new, personalised search function that will track the documents you use in every Office app and on all your devices. If you’re at a Fortune 500 company, and you have thousands or hundreds of thousands of documents to sift through, the new feature will makes it easier for you to find just what you’re looking for.
“It’s the biggest leap of the SharePoint user experience in the history of the platform,” Teper says.
For SharePoint, it’s a weird sort of homecoming. Teper says his team actually created the Microsoft Graph years ago. The SharePoint team created an app called Delve, that allows customers to see a newsfeed of the documents and files their coworkers are using. The app, which Teper says was a way to “incubate” the Graph, became one of Nadella’s favourite ways to manage the company.
“Now, it’s a cross-company thing,” says Teper.
The SharePoint team has worked closely with the rest of the company — not just with the Office 365 group, but also with the Azure cloud computing platform, Teper says. Its service works well with all of Microsoft’s products, he adds. Those are signals that times are changing at the tech giant, he says.
“Microsoft is really coming together under Satya’s leadership,” Teper says.
Going forward, SharePoint’s biggest challenge doesn’t come from competitors, he says. While SharePoint has rivals that “push us forward,” the hardest task for the product’s managers is convincing the hold-outs among its customers to use the cloud version of its service. Microsoft aims to lure them in by talking about how Office 365 will allow to receive upgrades and new features, like personalised search, while also relieving them of the need to manage their own servers, he says.
“The biggest opportunity is to move all of our customers to the cloud,” Teper says.
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