The evolution of SharePoint exemplifies Microsoft’s vision of digital transformation – empowered employees, engaged customers, optimized operation, and transformed products – with a “cloud first, mobile first” approach that is coaxing customers off in-house servers and onto cloud architecture.
SharePoint Online is now the second most-used product in the Microsoft Office 365 cloud-based office suite, trailing only Microsoft Exchange Online email service. More than 60% of all SharePoint customers use the version now bundled with Office 365. This success is proving that the cloud versions of Microsoft products are selling as well as or better than the traditional software that they are quickly replacing.
SharePoint streamlines workloads and coordinates efforts across enterprises of all sizes both as a central repository for documents, information, and data as well as a platform for proprietary application development. In other words, SharePoint supplies users with the tools to facilitate collaboration across company sectors and build specialized applications.
Born as a Document Management System
Just as the internet evolved from its infancy in the 1980s, the SharePoint collaboration platform has grown from its inception in 2001. Originally intended as a document management and indexing application, the first iteration of the product offered an easy, single-portal solution, but did not offer a broad range of function. The Office-style presentation, however, meant it was familiar to users, which allowed for quick learning and almost instant productivity.
Over time and based on user input, Microsoft has fine-tuned SharePoint to address challenges presented by the lack of customization and an unattractive interface. New tools and more powerful functions cultivated customer loyalty. By the time SharePoint 2013 was released, Microsoft had solved many of the program’s initial challenges and introduced capabilities in response to both evolving technological opportunities and consumer demand.
- In 2007, Microsoft added Excel Services to SharePoint, giving users access to Excel’s spreadsheets and workbooks. SharePoint Designer also debuted that year, which allowed easy creation or modification of SharePoint sites, websites, and workflows.
- In 2010, the ribbon command interface appeared to ease access to previously hidden controls. The Business Connectivity Service upgraded the 2007 Business Data Catalog, which gave users access to external databases and the capacity to work with data, including reading, writing, and editing. The 2010 SharePoint program also included early social networking features.
- In 2013, SharePoint added more social features and introduced OneNote, a digital notebook that captures, organizes, and shares data from any source, so keeping track of ideas, images, and conversations became as easy as talking into a smartphone. The new Audit feature gave companies the opportunity to fully customize auditing standards to fit their particular industry.
Matures into a Cloud-Based Collaboration Platform
Since 2014, Microsoft has focused on the cloud and introduced SharePoint Online as an adjunct to the SharePoint Server used by so many organizations. By shifting technology services into the cloud and away from on-site servers, Microsoft has reduced demand for in-house maintenance capacity in favor of improved productivity and operability. SharePoint Online incorporates Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud-based toolkit for building and managing those services, and the two programs work together to facilitate virtually any desired corporate function.
Office 365 is itself a cloud-based version of Microsoft’s popular suite of business-focused programs, and, in combination with OneDrive, provides users with access and computing capacity to the SharePoint cloud from any device in any location. For a mobile workforce, SharePoint Online and Office 365 offer the foundation to work from virtually anywhere at any time using any device.
According to Microsoft, the company is anticipating that SharePoint will guide its users to SharePoint Online to gain the benefits of the cloud while losing none of the attributes of the previous server-based software. If improved productivity and reduced costs are incentives, then it is likely that SharePoint Online will be as successful as each iteration of its predecessor.
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