It's an exciting time to start looking at upgrading SharePoint to the different Office 365 Experiences. Is upgrading the right word? With the announcements made about the next version of SharePoint and the focus on Hybrid environments to use Office 365, we could potentially have to change the way we see the whole "Upgrade SharePoint to Office 365" strategy.
Understand why you want to upgrade SharePoint to Office 365
Know that there's a difference between SharePoint as you know it On-Premises and the product that is Office 365. It's true that SharePoint is a part of it, but we really should look at Office 365 as a product on its own.
If you're looking to upgrade SharePoint to something, either a new version of it or to Office 365, there's a difference between the two you should be aware of. You have to understand what Office 365 offers you, and what can be done with SharePoint Online that's different from what you're used to On-Premises.
To be honest though, I don't like the words Upgrade SharePoint.
The reason's simple, you shouldn't be upgrading just for the sake of upgrading to a new version. And that holds true to any technology you're using. It's why it makes more sense to me to say it when we're talking Office 365 Experiences.
So, before you choose to upgrade SharePoint to anything, look at what you're using it for in your organization. Is it working on files with other colleagues? As an intranet? A public website? Or searching for documents? Or even for mobility? And this is still just technology! What's the actual scenario or use case you have for it? Take that in consideration and look at what technology will be sensible to use to accomplish it.
Office 365 Experiences instead of upgrading to a new version
When Microsoft announced SharePoint 2016 in a blog post, the message pointed us towards a new version focused immensely on providing a Hybrid approach to solve current issues.
If you're not familiar with the idea, try seeing it as Office 365 providing you with ready to consume solutions using one or multiple technologies you may already be familiar with. For example, taking Exchange, SharePoint and Yammer to create the Groups for Office 365 Experience that help people collaborate and work on content together.
Here are some of these Experiences that were mentioned:
Search: With the Office Graph, the Search engine and tools like Delve. The ideas is to help people find the content they're working with.
Portals: By far my favorite as I, like many others, have grown tired of the Do-It-Yourself kind of philosophy of SharePoint. Portals like the Video Portal help you start working with video right away. Many more Portals are on their way to Office 365 in 2015.
Files: OneDrive for Business is a brand of it's own and has caused a little bit of confusion in our industry. It's a way for individuals to see the Files they're working on, whether they are in other sites or within their personal Library.
Team Sites: We've had this in our On-Premises SharePoint and if you think about it, it's probably the most popular use of SharePoint aside from the Intranet. No wonder we're seeing the concept of Team Site as an Experience to persist in our quest to upgrade SharePoint.
BI: Business Intelligence is an exciting part of our work, but we were told for too long not to mention it during showcases in fear that the execs would want it. Power BI brings a new spin to it in a friendly and simple way.
Social: Social is often viewed as some kind of replacement for the popular consumer networks, but it should be seen as a simple communication experience. Not unlike emails when they were first introduced, it's just different. We can see it as Yammer and conversations in Groups.
So when you're looking at what's next for your SharePoint, perhaps it's time to look at what you'd like to do and see if one of the Office 365 Experiences wouldn't be a better solution than a traditional, On-Premises upgrade.
It's important to note that I'm not suggesting you go All-In to Office 365 or stay completely On-Premises with SharePoint. My suggestion is: look at what you need to do and see if instead of upgrading everything bluntly, there may not be another simpler solution to the problem. Should you build a video portal yourself? Or just start using the one that comes with Office 365 for example?
SharePoint On-Premises is your platform to build on
For years now, we've been telling our customers "SharePoint is great, you can build whatever you want. It's a Platform!" And that's still the case and will be with SharePoint 2016. If you're looking to upgrade SharePoint to SharePoint 2016, don't worry I don't believe it will be a drastic change.
If you want a platform in your server room to help you build what you want to build, customize or simply because you need to be compliant to some legal and regulatory requirements, you can continue to use SharePoint or move to the next one.
What you get isn't so much the experiences already baked for you, but rather a way for you to create them. Needless to say, you can also have this in the cloud, you just need to be aware of what can and can't be done.
Lists, Libraries and Metadata
Content Types and Site Columns
User Profile Services
Search Engine configurations
Web Applications and Authentication management
You get your Lego box, but you'll have to go out and build it yourself.
Again, I want to clarify that I am not trying to downplay or make SharePoint less important. In the context of an Upgrade, I am simply telling you to look at everything you have and see if using Office 365 Experiences may help you more than going out and building it in SharePoint.
And as mentioned, it's not about moving to Office 365 or staying On-Premises anymore. It's figuring out which pieces, put together, make the most sense for you in terms of Experience, Extensibility and Management of what you're using.
If Apple's slogan is Think Different, then Office 365's would be Think Experiences.
Tell me, how far along are you in your move to the cloud?