Is SharePoint not a public website platform anymore?

Update 19 December: Microsoft confirmed it is dropping the Public Website feature from SharePoint Online on January 2015.
Information about upcoming changes to SharePoint Online Public Website 
Microsoft confirms it is dropping Public Website feature from SharePoint Online | ZDNet

SharePoint has been evolving over the years to a multi-pillar platform. It acts like a Swiss knife with loads of features that address business problems.

One of the core pillars in SharePoint is Web Content Management. Since SharePoint 2007, Microsoft is promoting SharePoint as a platform for building public facing websites. Although it was not delivering a lot of web content management features that are available in other incumbent products like WordPress, Sitecore, and Joomla…etc.

However, SharePoint managed to find its way into large enterprises websites. Microsoft was highlighting, if the organisation is using SharePoint internally and externally, a) it is easy to integrate the intranet and the website, and b) less training is required for content authors and IT because they can use the same skill set for the website and the intranet.

Microsoft invested a lot in web content management features in SharePoint 2010, then add more enhancements in SharePoint 2013 to support SEO, friendly URLs, videos, managed navigation and HTML 5.

Currently, Microsoft is focusing on the new strategy “Cloud first, Mobile first”, and after SharePoint 2013 Microsoft is putting all its efforts in SharePoint inside Office 365.

Microsoft is offering public website in Office 365 but it is very basic and targeting small and midsize business.

I am following the Microsoft marketing materials, speaking to the product teams, and watching all the investment in Office 365 through different sources one of them is the Office 365 Yammer network. It is evident that Microsoft doesn’t invest in the web content management features in SharePoint, and all the focus is on the collaboration features, Enterprise Social and the Office 365 platform.

Microsoft is not investing a penny in public websites features in SharePoint. In addition, the article published by Mary Jo Foley is stressing the same conclusion.

My opinion that Microsoft is promoting hosting public websites on Microsoft Azure regardless what is the technology. If you explore the websites are available in Microsoft Azure, you can find DNN, WordPress, Drupal, Orchard and much more.

Also if you are looking for an advanced website platform that offers marketing tools, A/B testing and campaigns management in addition to the content publishing features, Microsoft is promoting Sitecore. Sitecore is Microsoft ISV partner of the year 2014; its platform can be hosted on-premise and in Microsoft Azure. It is based on Microsoft technology stack; ASP.Net and SQL Server.

Watch out this space and let’s see how Microsoft is going to address this issue and its response to the customers’ feedback.

Will Office 365 change The SharePoint Partners focus?

Office 365 is a comprehensive platform that delivers main pillars like email, calendar, collaboration (including search, document management…etc.), unified communications and social.

Microsoft keeps adding to this platform like Project Online and PowerBI.

Office 365 is not an isolated platform, it works in tandem with Microsoft Azure to extend its services through Azure websites, Active Directory, and more to come.

The platform is fully managed by Microsoft and supported Microsoft SLA.

Having that said, how this will affect the existing SharePoint ecosystem and Microsoft partners specifically?

I would categorise existing Microsoft partners into:

  1. Boutique services: they deliver software services in the shape of custom developed solutions on top of SharePoint and consultancy services.
  2. Products companies: they develop ready-made products that utilise or serve SharePoint as a platform. For example workflow products, governance management, administration, back and restore, custom web parts, custom HR solution, ideas management…etc. You can check a lot of these products on Sharepointreviews.com
  3. Hosting and platform management companies: they provide managed services to clients who want to outsource the hosting of their own SharePoint platform.

Let’s see how each category will be affected:

Boutique services are the least affected in these categories. However, they should adapt and understand the change and the vision. Microsoft is pushing all the custom development to be outside SharePoint in the form of apps hosted on Azure websites or develop custom applications (websites, windows apps, mobile apps…etc.) that utilise SharePoint as backend; the applications will connect to SharePoint (or Office 365) using the new Office 365 APIs.

Products companies will need to reassess their strategy, review their market segments and how their clients are flexible to the new changes. There are clients slower to change or may be rejects the cloud concept. 

In my opinion, the companies focusing on the platform management like upgrade and migration, back and restore, administration are hurt by the new move. In Office 365 there is no new versions that need upgrade or new farm that requires content migration. These companies needs to repurpose their products, move up in the technology stack (rather than focusing on the platform move up to the application).

The companies building ready web parts or solutions on top of SharePoint, they will need to re-architect their solutions and keep a close relation with Microsoft to stay to top of any upcoming platform changes.

Hosting companies are the most affected category. Simply they are going to lose all of the clients who are going to move to the cloud. It is not only about SharePoint; most of the clients move the email and unified communication workloads first then SharePoint follows.

Cloud strategy is an important item on all the CIOs agenda; either in the short term or long term. That’s why all IT professional service firms need to re-innovate their offerings, focus on maximising the business value for their clients and divert the focus from IT only solutions

Glad to hear views and comments