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Highlights and Observations from SPTechCon 2018

Highlights and Observations from SPTechCon 2018

Boston’s SPTechCon for 2018 wrapped up after a flurry of activities over a 4-day event. I wanted to give a shout out to the folks that put on this event for the hard work that goes into planning and execution. A heartfelt thank you goes out to the excellent crop of speakers and vendors that put their experience, knowledge, and opinions into presentation form to help all of us in the community. Without these folks, the conference and this community would not be possible.

The Timlin Enterprises team and I had a great time at the conference this year. Here are some recurring themes and observations I would like to share based on my conversations with speakers and attendees.

SharePoint is Still Going Strong!

Although we all want to talk about Office 365 and the absolute abundance of features being offered, we cannot overlook the needs of a large number of organizations that are running SharePoint 2013.

The community and conference tailor a lot of presentations to Office 365 and cloud capabilities, however, many customers are unable to take advantage of these features since they haven’t made the investment yet.

Minimal Talk about SharePoint 2016

I didn’t talk to a single person about SharePoint 2016 during SPTechCon. This also coincides with our experience in our day-to-day consulting. It appears that organizations fall into several camps:

  1. Smaller, nimble, able to head to Office 365 without as much technical baggage to contend with. They moved to Office 365 quickly.
  2. Larger, cloud-first initiatives and chose not to upgrade on premises anymore. They’ve moved to Office 365.
  3. New players to the SharePoint world who are too small to even have SharePoint previously because of the costs. They chose to go directly to the cloud and not on-premise.
  4. Too large to migrate in all and are leveraging a slower methodology. They want to migrate. These organizations appear to be in the thick of trying it or have some elements in the cloud already.
  5. Cloud-timid organizations that are very cautious about moving their data to Office 365. These are organizations usually in Financial Services, Government, or similar industries. Their employees seem to be somewhat frustrated by falling behind in digital capabilities.

Even with a huge cloud focus, I still would have expected a couple more SharePoint 2016 or planned 2019 upgrades to show themselves. I truly hope these folks find a path forward; the features have really improved over the last six years and will continue to build upon a whole modern set of tools they have no access to use.

The Third-Party Application Market Continues to Thrive

During the initial transition to Office 365, there was some trepidation and lack of direction for how the classic SharePoint product companies would react. A lot of small, independent products popped up to see what would stick, and the larger organizations needed to adapt or become obsolete, like the Blockbusters of the world.

I love times of major change, even when it negatively impacts us in the short term. It forces the market to think, retool, and make their offerings better. It also provides new opportunities for smaller players to get their ideas into the market. Some absolutely great products have emerged based on the massive use of Office 365, and they continue to gather momentum.

Big Demand and Challenges for Constant Feature Releases in Office 365

There are big demand and challenges for the constant features being announced and released in Office 365.  Folks have a difficult time knowing which features are out there, when they are being released, and how to plan and provide them for their end users in a deliberate and supportive way.

We had a LOT of conversations about these topics. It should be a concern for organizational leadership because digital transformation efforts are very difficult to nurture when end users are unable to receive the support they need to understand and use these tools effectively.

Based on discussions with our customers, folks attending the conference, and constantly watching the landscape, I believe our community (and our business here at Timlin) will be spending most of its time over the next few years addressing these demands and challenges.

Organizations are Focused on User Adoption and Engagement

One theme throughout the conference was the focus on user adoption and employee engagement.  We heard it directly from Naomi Moneypenny of Microsoft during her keynote on Tuesday.   It was also the theme or subject of a number of the educational sessions. Microsoft has developed tools and features in Office 365 to a maturity level that the challenge is no longer technical in nature, but rather it is all about the user.

In a study provided by AIIM, 67 % of respondents indicated inadequate user training was the number one reason that their SharePoint deployment was not deemed a success. This completely coincides with what we are seeing from our customers, and why we have shifted from a technical-based approach to one entirely focused on the users.   If you build it they will come is just not going to work.  It is always good to get confirmation that what we are seeing in the Office 365 marketplace is the same as what others are now talking about.

Again, thank you to the SPTechCon event organizers for another great year. We had a great time chatting with the speakers and attendees during our sessions and on the floor at our booth. In case you missed it, you can download the slides from my and Ian Dicker’s sessions below.

And if you’re interested in learning more about our Office 365 and SharePoint Center of Excellence approach, you can download our free white paper here.