I'm here in Seattle, for SharePoint Fest. It's a great event where stakeholders from all walks of SharePoint get together to share ideas, gain insight, solve problems and commiserate about the day-to-day issues they (and their users) experience with SharePoint. This is a really exciting time for SharePoint, as the Preview version of 2016 is set to come out before the end of the month. But three things popped out at me as I spoke with people at the event and sat in on as many of the sessions as I could humanly get to.
1. While everyone is very excited about SharePoint 2016 and changes that are happening with SharePoint online and Office 365, a lot of organizations are not even on SharePoint 2013. During a couple of the sessions I attended, the presenters did a roll call, asking, with a show of hands from the audience, which version of SharePoint their organizations were on. Many were on SharePoint 2010, and a handful were on SharePoint 2007. It reminded me how important it is not to forget about the IT pros who are guiding their companies though what may be a multi-staged process, fraught with--from what lots of people were telling me--lots of cultural baggage.
2. Speaking of cultural baggage, that was also a big issue as I spoke with people at the conference. While there is lots of amazing technology to talk about, SharePoint is a people platform, and people are often change-averse. New features available in SharePoint 2016 and Office 265, such as Delve personalization powered by Office Graph, are awesome and powerful and have a ton of promise for increasing productivity in the workplace. But many of the SharePoint administrators I spoke with noted that these kinds of features will be "scary" to many users, requiring purposeful training and a careful thinking about when and how the new technology is rolled out. "New technology = end user training" is not a new concept, but I think organizations sometimes forget to build in enough time for training--and for dealing with issues when things don't go exactly as planned. Which brings me to observation No. 3 ...
3. During the sessions I attended and in conversations I had with folks at the conference, many people expressed the importance of extremely careful rollout with new SharePoint (and Office 365) features. One IT pro called for a kind of "new feature escrow"--or, building in time during any upgrade to deal with the things that will inevitably go wrong. Again, not a new concept, but, if I was reading the rooms right, too many projects are planned without this kind of escrow--with IT pros left to band-aiding issues as they arise. This is a concern with any new platform, but with SharePoint being so people-centric--and with people being so, well, human--it can be difficult to guess what might go right and what might go wrong, and how much time to dedicate to dealing with the latter and leveraging the former.