Death of Sharepoint triggers search for intranet alternatives

Guido Stevens | Mar 03, 2015 | intranet · technology
IntraTeam conference highlights ongoing disruption in intranet market.

Never mention the word "intranet" on a date, or in any conversation for that point. It bores people to death.

Ask a whole auditorium of intranet managers: what emotions does your intranet evoke? Beyond indifference, the answers you get are: resignation, frustration, rage, desperation, contempt.

Intranets are dying

Throw an intellectual heavy weight like Dave Snowden into that mix, and he'll happily challenge some of the audience's dearly held beliefs.

"The future is distributed. I don't believe, in five year's time, there'll be significant presence at any conference to do with intranets."

"The intranet is going to die. We're moving to fully distributed systems. The sooner you start shifting the better."

Snowden thinks, apps are much better at playing this new field of distributed information and knowledge management.

Sharepoint is dying

Microsoft appears to have arrived at the same conclusion as Snowden.

"Office 365 is a collection of small applications, maybe loosely tied together. Or completely siloed."

And this app based system is what replaces SharePoint, up to now the dominant software package for building intranets.

"The next version of SharePoint is Office 365, and it is already here. SharePoint 2015 will just be a fancy service package."

Perttu Tolvanen, an analyst at North Patrol, makes the point that Microsoft's big money maker is Office, and the whole company strategy is aimed at protecting that asset. SharePoint used to support Office, but now that Office has moved to the cloud in the form of Office 365, on-premise SharePoint is no longer needed.

"For Microsoft, it's a supporting business for Office. That's why Microsoft has decided to let go of this business. SharePoint 2013 is a dying system. ... All the product development focus of Microsoft is in Office 365."

Other analysts at the conference confirmed this conclusion. It's a public secret anyway.

Let me put that into context. On an intranet conference, you meet someone with the job title "digital workplace application analyst" - that's a SharePoint application manager if you talk to them. Or you encounter a "technology independent intranet consultant" - you'll find out that their bread and butter is as a SharePoint project manager. It's as if SharePoint and intranet were close synonyms.

SharePoint is a swiss army knife system strong enough that IBM and Oracle had given up on the intranet and document management market.

And now the 800-pound gorilla dominating the industry just -poof- disappears!

WCM best positioned to take advantage

On first sight, the Office 365 cloud offering looks similar to the SharePoint on-premise version. But if you look closer, you'll find that complex portals or integrated digital workplaces cannot be migrated to the cloud. You need a complete re-design to bring your existing intranet to Office 365.

"Microsoft doesn't care for the on-premise customers for the next five years. There will be a lot of customers looking for alternatives to SharePoint, once they realize that SharePoint 2013 is dying."

Web Content Management systems and portal systems are already better than SharePoint for building complex systems with multi-language capabilities and integrations with other systems. The departure of SharePoint from the intranet market will accelerate the search for alternative solutions. The departure of the dominant supplier leaves a lot of extra oxygen available for the rest.

Return of the portal

What we're seeing here, is a transition from the outdated intranet concept, to a new digital workplace paradigm.

Dave Snowden:

"We're moving into a radical new approach to software which is fully distributed. The only interesting question at the moment is: what is the glue that holds it all together? That is probably the big strategic area to grasp."

Paradoxically, one of the contenders for the integrative part that brings everything together is a revival of the portal concept.

The screenshot below is from James Robertson's presentation and shows how a HR page becomes dramatically more useful by pulling relevant, personalized information from various back-office systems.

screenshot of Telstra HR portal

The blurring is a design feature by the way. There's a button to un-blur your pay info when nobody is watching over your shoulder.

Seeing that screenshot, Kristian Norling tweeted:

Thinking that ... the portal strikes back #IEC15

And that's a something that Perttu Tolvanen also referred to.

This is not your grandfather's portal anymore, though. Snowden again:

"The other point is, things will be loosely coupled. This, by the way, is where object orientation comes in big time, but true object orientation."

That's a vision similar to what Prahalad and Krishnan in their 2008 book The New Age of Innovation.

Connecting heterogeneous networks of loosely coupled business objects is core business for web technology. Open standards, open source approaches are especially well placed, to thrive in such environments.

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