Riding the SharePoint Highway

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Topics: SharePoint, Process, vCIO

2049_tesla_model_sI had the opportunity to test drive a Tesla Model S while at the SharePoint conference in Boston during the week of June 30, 2016, and walked away feeling like I had just jumped into a time machine to the future. Driving down Interstate 90 at 70 miles per hour without my hands on the wheel was an exhilarating experience , and the autopilot performed flawlessly. In fact, it might have performed too well. I was surprised by how quickly I started to trust the technology that made the skills needed to drive a busy highway—skills that once took years to learn—seem…obsolete. …Or did it?

I recently read about the first fatality caused by a Tesla on autopilot. I don’t know for sure if it was the technology that caused the accident, but I can see how the autopilot could lull a person into believing that the technology can deliver more than what’s realistically possible.

Some navigation skills are needed

SharePoint is also a technology that makes something hard seem very easy. At first glance, anyone can create an intranet with libraries for document management, lists to keep track of information, and collaborate with anyone in the company—all at a very low cost of entry. The ability to go from zero to 70 while building your own intranet from scratch using out-of-the-box features is undeniably simple, right? Well, if you’ve ever tried to build a SharePoint site, you probably recognize that there’s a lot more involved than simply clicking a few buttons before being whisked away “hands-free” along the SharePoint highway…

While at the SharePoint conference, I heard experts from Microsoft and other private industries speak on how much work goes into building this incredibly complex tool. And, make no mistake—it’s complex. Properly designing a SharePoint on-premises site requires a multi-server architecture, which requires skilled administrators, server maintenance, and an understanding of PowerShell. But even if you are on SharePoint online, document libraries need to have a well thought-out data architecture and security policies. And, while many capabilities are integrated into SharePoint, it will likely not be long before you realize you’ll need some scripting to meet certain business needs.

It soon becomes clear that experts are needed to design and maintain the SharePoint platform, especially as it grows. In addition, new features and additions, such as the SharePoint Framework, Microsoft Graph and "Feature Packs"—which are simply Microsoft’s rolling upgrades—will all deliver new capabilities regularly into an already fluid deployment model. This will only increase the need for SharePoint experts to stay in tune with new capabilities so they can communicate and leverage them to end users.

Keep your hands on the wheel

Although it was very unfortunate, the Tesla car accident doesn’t dismay me, personally. I had the privilege to get a glimpse into the future of automotive technology, and I still want to be part of it. However, much like SharePoint, I also recognize the limitations of the technology. When used properly, it can be a revolutionary leap into the future, but, instead of blindly trusting that we’re speeding along on the right highway, we also have to remember to keep our hands on the wheel.