SPTechCon 2014: SharePoint Experts Discuss Why on Earth We Need to Care About Development and the App Model

What a way to kick off day two of SPTechCon Boston!  In an effort to mix it up a bit, my first
session of the day wasn’t a speaker presentation but rather a panel of some of
the most revered SharePoint experts around. 
Moderated Jason Himmelstein, Senior
Technical Director for SharePoint at Atrion, the panel focused on
SharePoint development and the app model, all while asking: I’m a Developer: Why Should I Have to Learn
a New Skill Set? 
The cast of
speakers that carried-on the conversation run the gamut when it comes to
background and specialties:

  • Marc
    – Co-founder and President of Sympraxis
    Consulting and Microsoft MVP for SharePoint
  • Liam
    – Solution Architect for SusQtech and four-time SharePoint MVP focused on
  • Andrew
    – Independent Consultant and Microsoft MVP for Microsoft Content Management Server (MCMS)
    and Microsoft SharePoint Server
  • Jeremy
    – Technical Product Manager at Microsoft
  • Christina
    – Independent Consultant and SharePoint
    Trainer for Critical Path Training
  • Rob
    – .NET /SharePoint developer, trainer, author, MVP & MCT working
    with Portal Solutions and Pluralsight

To begin, the panel discussed one of the biggest questions
on SharePoint developers’ minds: How does the app model affect development and how should we build and deploy
apps?  As seemed to be the theme
throughout the discussion, the answer really boils down to what your personal
SharePoint environment looks like.  As
Marc discussed, what exactly does your environment need and how does
development play a role in getting there? 
He seemed to think that when it comes to apps and SharePoint in the
cloud, people are asking the wrong question. 
Rather than focusing on, “Should we go to the cloud?” Marc believes that
it boils down to being a business decision; some organizations’ SharePoint
environments are better managed in the cloud, while others aren’t.

After delving more into the relationship between apps and
the cloud, the conversation veered towards the broader topic of SharePoint Online and Office 365 versus on-premises SharePoint.  Specifically, the crowd was interested in putting
to rest a rumor that’s been going around the SharePoint community: Is there
going to be an on-premises version of SharePoint in the next release?  Or is Office
inevitable?  Rest assured on-prem
users, SharePoint Server isn’t going
anywhere, at least not in the near future. 
According to Jeremy, there will be at a minimum one more SharePoint
on-premises release with more to come in the future based on the demand for SharePoint Server.  While this is the case, Andrew seemed to
believe that the one future release isn’t going to be the only future
release.  He sees Microsoft wanting
people to go to Office 365 and cited
a number of benefits to migrating including: better support and maintenance,
lower overall operating costs, and lower risk.

As SharePoint Online continues
to evolve, the panel believed that it is increasing becoming a viable option
for organizations.  One of the main
reasons it is becoming increasingly attractive is the improved user experience
that it offers.  With Microsoft offering
premier support for SharePoint Online and
Office 365, these platforms are able
to offer a much higher level of consistency to users as well as a better
maintained platform.  As Jeremy noted,
just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. 
Specifically, why burden your IT with maintaining SharePoint when Office 365 offers built-in support from

So if Office 365
is so great, why isn’t everyone on it? 
One of the biggest hindrances to migrating to Office 365 is that for highly regulated organizations, moving to
the cloud isn’t a legally viable solution. 
That stated, as the panel noted, it’s not necessarily Office 365’s “fault” that organizations
can’t migrate, but rather a serious hiccup in how government regulates
businesses such as those in the pharma, biotech, and financial services
industry.  It’s not just Office 365 that isn’t being implemented, but also a host of other cloud-based platforms such as SalesForce, Amazon,
Google business, and more.  While people
such as Andrew are optimistic that in the future, regulators will have a better
grasp on cloud technology, unfortunately, he thinks that there’s going to be a
long time before regulators change their opinions of technology and loosen
restrictions on moving to the cloud.

To close out the panel, Jason posed a simple question to all
of the panel members: With so much change in the air, what are you most excited
about when it comes to the app model
and development.  Overwhelmingly,
everyone said that they were most excited to simply learn new things and expand
their skill sets.  For Liam, this
included the ability to explore solutions that can be run on different
platforms so that solutions are highly customized and not just “one size fits
all.”  For Andrew, he appreciates the flexibility
that the app model offers developers. 
Lastly, for Christina, the most exciting part about moving to Office 365 and the app model is the improved search capabilities.  She continues to be amazed how much she is
now able to accomplish without a lot of heavy lifting or development.

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