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SharePoint’s Growing Pains in a Mobile-First World

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SharePoint is everywhere. As of late 2012, it was deployed in 80% of the Fortune 500 and could claim 100 million users worldwide. Microsoft continues developing new features and enhancements, and enterprises continue to buy new versions. The SharePoint economy is big, it’s established, and it’s not going away.

Unfortunately for SharePoint users, however, widespread deployment does not imply widespread success. SharePoint seems to be stalling. Adoption is slowing. The problem seems to be with end users. Simply put, SharePoint is not meeting the needs of today’s increasingly mobile-first users. They find the user experience unsatisfactory. About half of enterprises are now complementing SharePoint with other cloud-based file-sharing solutions. Adoption of SharePoint is championed by IT departments, but line-of-business managers and their employees are decidedly more lukewarm.

Let’s take a closer look at some SharePoint trends as described in recent reports from AIIM and Forrester Research.

  • Only 6% of enterprises using SharePoint consider their implementation to be an unqualified success. The majority—61%—consider their implementations to be stalled, struggling, or failing (Source: SharePoint:  Clouding the Issues, AIIM Industry Watch, 2013).
  • Only 15% of enterprises have a mobile solution for SharePoint: 7% built a custom solution and 8% purchased a third-party solution (Source: SharePoint: Solid in the Enterprise, but Missing the Mobile Shift, Forrester Research, 2013).  In both cases, SharePoint required additional investment and integration to support mobile users. In a world where the average mobile worker is carrying 2.9 mobile devices (iPass), 85% of SharePoint installations lack a mobile solution for accessing files.
  • The majority of enterprises—64%—report that they are not seeing the level of adoption they expected from users, and an almost equal number—62%—reported that users don’t like the SharePoint user experience. (Forrester)
  • The vast majority of enterprises do not plan to rely on Yammer (the solution Microsoft purchased for use as SharePoint’s social media module) for social interactions.
  • In SharePoint Microsoft has undoubtedly built a powerful platform for storing, searching, and sharing content, but in the post-PC era this platform is no longer meeting end users’ needs. The addition of Yammer isn’t solving the problem, either, perhaps because ad hoc micro-blogging does not address the most pressing collaboration problems of users. Collaboration needs some other focus (perhaps files, rather than micro-blogging).

What do users want? Here’s a SharePoint wish list for a mobile-first enterprise.

1. A user experience that is pleasant and easy to use.
To improve the SharePoint user experience, a SharePoint solution should:

  • Provide a single interface for all repositories. Today, over 70% of enterprises have two more types of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems, and 40% are running two or more different versions of SharePoint (AIIM). Different locations, different interfaces, different workflows for file access—no wonder users are frustrated. A single coherent interface should span all ECMs and repositories, allowing users to focus on working with content, not extracting it.
  • Support the ability to share content securely with external users. Only 30% of enterprises have deployed features for sharing SharePoint content with external users such as partners (Forrester). In too many organizations, IT ends up deploying and maintaining two SharePoint solutions, one for internal users and one for external users. This increases costs and complexity.
  • Support mobile access without the use of VPNs. It’s well-known that using a VPN on a mobile device can be a bear. To provide a convenient and enjoyable user experience, ECM content should be accessible from a mobile device without the use of a VPN.
  • Support of annotation and editing of files on mobile devices. SharePoint provides limited viewing and editing of files on mobile devices. For businesses that rely on documents—for example, for patent offices whose workers routinely interact with hundreds or thousands of pages of documents—the ability to easily access and annotate files like PDFs is critical.

2. Optimization and integration with minimal expense.
Forrester’s study found that a major inhibitor to SharePoint deployments was a lack of external expertise to help with customization and integration. Enterprises are investing time and money in SharePoint customization. It would be nice if they could benefit from SharePoint enhancements that avoided six-month development cycles and lengthy engagements with consultants.

3. Support for on-premise deployments that provide the ease of connectivity and access users require.
In its survey of SharePoint users, Forrester found that 28% of enterprises will not consider a cloud deployment of SharePoint, and 32% considered a cloud deployment but rejected it for reasons security, data privacy, and compliance. Clearly, for a large number of enterprises, SharePoint and other file management solutions are going to be hosted on premise. The optimal SharePoint solution is going to support on-premise deployments while also supporting convenient mobile access, access without VPNs, and other user-experience must-haves.

For a more in-depth consideration of challenges and solutions for SharePoint, read the Accellion “Mobilize SharePoint Securely: Top 5 Enterprise Requirements” whitepaper.

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