Microsoft SharePoint as a technology isn't bad. SharePoint is only as good as its implementation. Soon SharePoint might only be good as its mobile experience. The mobilization of Microsoft SharePoint is a topic I've been following since I began at TechRepublic and wanted to get back to it this year. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Yaacov Cohen, CEO of harmon.ie , a collaboration tools vendor to get a status check about how enterprise mobility, SharePoint, and Office 365 are currently working together.
Opportunity for enterprise mobility to change SharePoint perceptions
"I think enterprise mobility and the ability to mobilize SharePoint is a huge opportunity for IT people," Cohen says. Even Forrester Research data he has seen points to only a small number of enterprises mobilizing SharePoint.
Cohen sees iPad dominance in the Enterprise 2000 market and the executive world is a tremendous opportunity for SharePoint, which has been suffering from a lack of acceptance at the executive level.
"SharePoint has been the poster child of the IT department," Cohen relates. "The geeks love it and the business users ignore it."
He points to the iPad user experience making SharePoint appealing and even "cool" in user perceptions.
"I think the main thing Satya [Nadella] has done has been to say 'OK we aren't going to focus so much on Windows we are going to focus on Office 365'," Cohen posits. He further sees that the Microsoft is becoming more mobile platform agnostic with since launching their own Android and iOS apps.
Cohen sees the iPad becoming an inflection point for both Microsoft Office with the recent launch of Microsoft Office for the iPad. The iPad is also an inflection point for SharePoint to help the platform become more accepted in the lines of business.
An interesting point from Cohen in our conversation is him seeing the growing acceptance of iOS and its legitimacy as an enterprise operating system in turn helping move the mobilization of SharePoint forward.
Cohen points to recent mobile device management (MDM) market events including MobileIron going public, Good Technology making moves to go public, and the recent IBM/Apple partnership.
"Things have changed from iOS being a threat to IT," Cohen says. "Now one year later iOS is an opportunity for IT to gain back the confidence and support of lines of business."
Mobile security for mobilizing SharePoint
Cohen points to recent security developments in iOS 8 and related MDM partnerships as positive signs for enterprise mobility and SharePoint. He cites iOS developments including VPNs at the application level, security and encryption at the file system level and Apple's work with major MDM vendors as positive signs for enterprise mobility and SharePoint.
He sees Apple as still very much a consumer company with partners driving their enterprise market
While I'm not sure I agree with Cohen on Apple as a consumer versus enterprise company, I do agree with him that their technology partnerships especially around application programming interface (API) are contributing to the mobilization of SharePoint.
SharePoint for the business user
Cohen sees the mobilization of SharePoint for business users being split between SharePoint on-premise and Office 365.
If you are running SharePoint on-premise Cohen was quick to point out the dependency on the IT department to adopt and implement an MDM solution.
He sees all the security around opening up on-premise SharePoint as delaying the mobilization of SharePoint in many enterprises.
"Now if you look at it from an Office 365 angle, you get a different perspective," Cohen adds happily. "At an Office 365 level, Microsoft is saying we will take care of the security and the MDM management, and this has a lot of potential to be very disruptive for the MDM market."
Office 365 simplifies access to SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, and Lync Online for mobile users because now mobile users are accessing the cloud and an intranet.
"Everybody is an external user," Cohen points out. "Because now you are talking the cloud and not an intranet."
Another SharePoint/enterprise mobility angle I hadn't put together yet that Cohen brought up is about the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS). He sees no coincidence in Microsoft launching the Enterprise Mobility Suite quietly along with Office for iPad.
"The message from Microsoft is very clear," says Cohen. "If you go Office 365 you can use our apps and then be connected to an Office 365 document repository."
"The route to the cloud is simpler," Cohen adds "What I think Microsoft might be doing is using mobile as a lever to gain acceptance for Office 365 and this is actually working and this is what we are going to see in the next couple of years with Office 365."
SharePoint and enterprise mobile collaboration
In the SharePoint and enterprise mobility world, harmon.ie made some early investments in metadata and taxonomy to support true mobile collaboration versus file sharing
"SharePoint enables metadata, taxonomy, and the best of knowledge sharing," Cohen shares.
"We invested early on at harmon.ie to support metadata," says Cohen. harmion.ie uses taxonomy and metadata to bring information to mobile device users.
harmon.ie's metadata and taxonomy support point to the future of enterprise mobility and SharePoint and by extension mobile collaboration as more enterprises adopt mobile first or Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategies.
The lingering question for me is will Microsoft launch their own iOS-native SharePoint client app? It's a question that Microsoft might answer as Office 365 becomes the cloud platform behind more mobile first enterprises I'm sure.
Right now, Office 365, IOS, EMS, along with partners like harmon.ie certainly speak to a bright future for SharePoint mobilization to move from just early mobile technology adopters into more mainstream organizations.
Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management applications, Google Apps, Microsoft technologies, and online collaboration for TechRepublic and other sites. Will also works as a contract technical writer for clients in the Washington, DC area and nationwide. Follow Will on Twitter: @willkelly.