SP Fest NYC: Expert Panel Keynote Debates “Bridging the SharePoint Gap: On-Premises vs. Online vs. Hybrid”

When I heard that this morning’s keynote was going to feature a veritable pantheon of SharePoint experts, to say that I was excited is an understatement. With the conversation around the cloud ever-changing, it was nice to have a diverse group of opinions on stage, all at the same time breaking down the complexities of the cloud and how best to prepare ourselves for the change that the cloud brings. Moderated by Office 365 MVP Dan Holme, the panel included the following experts:

The panel began their conversation by answering a simple question: What is the cloud? With a word whose definition appears to be getting as fluffy as clouds themselves, it comes as no surprise that each panel member had something different to share.

Bob described it as a multi-tenant hosted commodity that provided yet another avenue to outsource a service, Ruven pointed out the fact that the cloud provided a simple exchange: you are giving up a level of control in exchange for cost savings.

Speaking of cost, another thing that was pointed out by Paul was the financial function of the cloud; specifically that while on-premise solutions are traditionally paid for by a one-time cost, the cloud most often relies on a monthly subscription stricture. Chris perhaps provided the most straightforward, traditional description. Namely, the cloud is a means of delivering information to a ubiquitous point that you can access from anywhere.

Once a definition of the cloud could be loosely established, the panel moved on to a debate about what the cloud actually means within our organization.  Perhaps one of the biggest impacts the cloud has made is to change the dynamic of the relationship between IT and the business. Whereas traditionally, IT held most of the control, with the introduction of the cloud to organizations, there has definitely been a change in control.

As one audience member noted, the role of the IT administrator has turned into more of that of a “power user.” Specific to SharePoint, IT’s function has been transitioning into that of a teacher; someone who learns from the tools that Microsoft provides and imparts that knowledge to their users. The panel additionally compared IT’s role to that of a concierge. They are meant to listen to and identify problems and in turn offer the best, most viable solutions.

With this changing role, it should come as no surprise that there has likewise been a major change in the direction of the conversation that IT has in regard to technological upgrades. According to Chris, with Microsoft strongly pushing the cloud, many organizations have found themselves no longer asking “When do I upgrade?” but rather, “What do I do?”

Microsoft’s end, they have likewise been changing their conversation and have worked tirelessly to drive the discussion. When people answer in response to the “what do I do?” question that they are not ready to move to the cloud, Microsoft’s answer has overwhelmingly been, “Why not?”  Lucky for us, more and more, Microsoft has been eager to put its money where its mouth is and do what it can to change people’s minds in regards to migrating to the cloud.

Apprehensive about doing business in the cloud? According to Dan, you may be already and just not know it. Sharing files via Dropbox? You’re doing business in the cloud. Have conversations with customers on Twitter? Yep, you got it. You’re doing business in the cloud.

Though you may already be doing things in the cloud organically, what are some reasons for formally moving business to the cloud? According to the panel, two of the biggest drivers moving people to the cloud are cost and velocity. With the speed of business moving at a rapid pace, it’s more important than ever to be able, as an organization, to maintain this speed and not fall behind your competitors.

Like there is with any change, moving to a cloud environment can be daunting and full of growing pains. To help ease this pain, Microsoft has amped Office 365 up by empowering it with a number of exciting features. Dan closed out the session by turning to the panel for their opinions on the best new features that Office 365 provided.

Chris started by sharing that he believed that the most exciting feature was Office 365’s external sharing capabilities. According to him, extranets have never looked better. To echo Benjamin Niaulin’s presentation from yesterday, Chris believes that one of the most exciting new features in Power BI. The vast improvement in data visualization means that just like your extranets, your Excel data can now be its most visually stunning self. In contrast, Ruven’s favorite feature relates to function rather than aesthetics.  To him, the most exciting thing about Office 365 is the integration of Yammer and SharePoint. Specifically, he is impressed with the improved collaboration capabilities as well as document conversations.

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