Enterprise collaboration, as a software product/service domain, has had something of a roller coaster history, with lots of ups and downs. Starting with the combined send-and-share (messaging/documents) focus of Lotus Notes in the late 1980s and continuing through the enterprise social wave of recent years, enterprise collaboration offerings haven’t consistently delivered on vendor visions or pundit projections.
With new opportunities at the intersection of cloud, mobile, and social market dynamics, however, and with a competitive imperative to be more responsive and efficient, collaboration is back in the top-ten priority list for many enterprises. Both incumbent enterprise suppliers and specialized start-ups seek to capitalize on the new opportunities, creating what can seem like a paradox of abundance in options for enterprise decision-makers trying to find the best path forward from their current mixes of legacy on-premises platforms and first-generation cloud services.
The graphic below, from a Microsoft Ignite 2016 presentation, captures the dilemma faced by many Microsoft customers:
Source: BRK3001 – Explore the ultimate field guide to Microsoft Office 365 Groups
From a Microsoft customer IT perspective, it’s often business-as-usual, with an orderly progression from the earliest to the most recent releases of SharePoint Server. Having been through several not-entirely-smooth upgrade cycles in the past, many IT decision-makers are also not eager to be among the first to embrace the shift to the cloud.
From a user perspective, however, it’s common to find a pattern of digital diffusion starting several years ago, with a combination of IT-managed SharePoint resources and user-acquired and often not IT-managed cloud apps and services used for different communication/collaboration needs (such as Box, Trello, Slack, Facebook, Google Drive, YouTube, and Skype, in the graphic above). While perhaps more convenient and accessible from an end-user perspective, this sort of deployment pattern introduces a number of new challenges for content audit, control, and discovery, and also makes it difficult to establish clear and consistent criteria for determining which app/service should be used for a given collaboration scenario.
From CASAHL’s perspective, having focused exclusively on enterprise content/collaboration migration for more than twenty years, we’re now seeing several enterprise customer patterns emerge, as planners strive to regain control while shifting their focus to cloud services:
- Microsoft continues to build cloud momentum, announcing 100 million monthly active commercial Office 365 users in conjunction with its FY17 Q3 earnings announcement. There is still considerable customer uncertainty about the transition from on-premises to cloud apps/services, however, due to SharePoint Server/SharePoint Online inconsistences and the introduction of new Office 365 apps such as Delve, Planner, and Teams. SharePoint-focused developers are also often apprehensive about the transition from traditional on-premises tools such as InfoPath and SharePoint Designer to the new Azure-based Microsoft Flow and PowerApps.
- Many Google customers are also reviewing new and sometimes confusing options. While Gmail and Google Calendar are still widely used, other G Suite (formerly Google Apps) apps and services haven’t been as extensively used, and many G Suite customers have complemented their G Suite deployments with other collaboration-related apps/services such as Slack and Trello. Google recently redoubled its focus on G Suite, introducing an entirely new Google Sites and a new Slack-like Google Hangouts Chat app. Overall, 2017 is likely to be a pivotal year for G Suite, as many Google customers have migrated some or all of their communication/collaboration deployments to Office 365; it’s unclear if Google will be able to rebuild G Suite enterprise market momentum.
- IBM customers represent another community with new options to consider, with IBM’s recent introduction of a new vision for Connections and an expanded scope for Watson Workspace. Some IBM customers who were planning migrations from Note/Domino, Sametime, and earlier releases of Connections are now reevaluating IBM’s plans for Verse (IBM’s latest enterprise messaging cloud service), Connections, and Watson Workspace, along with IBM’s partnerships with related companies including Box, Cisco, DocuSign, and Slack.
- Amazon is another corporate contender gaining consideration from some enterprises, especially those with major commitments to Amazon Web Services (AWS) for other facets of their cloud deployments. Amazon now offers enterprise messaging (WorkMail), file management and sharing (WorkDocs), and conversation-oriented on-line meetings and video conferencing (Chime), competing with Exchange Online, OneDrive, and Skype (as well as Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Hangouts). Amazon also has a healthy AWS business hosting Exchange Server, SharePoint Server, and other traditionally on-premises platforms, creating another deployment option for Microsoft enterprise customers seeking ways to leverage cloud flexibility and economics without making the jump to Office 365.
- Workplace by Facebook is also emerging as a consideration for many enterprises. Facebook recently announced it has more than 14,000 organizations using Workplace, and it’s well positioned to displace Slack in many enterprises in part because of the more than 1.9 billion monthly active users of Facebook’s consumer-oriented service who would find Workplace (and its companion Work Chat app) immediately familiar and productive.
Collectively, these enterprise cloud competitors and smaller vendors such as Asana, Atlassian, Box, and Dropbox offer a wide variety of options for enterprises seeking to fully leverage new enterprise cloud content/collaboration opportunities. Overall, the resulting paradox of abundance in compelling cloud collaboration options can seem overwhelming. It’s especially daunting for enterprises that currently have complex deployments (including mixes of legacy on-premises platforms and first-generation cloud services) but don’t have a clear picture of which of their existing content/collaboration resources can be productively and cost-effectively modernized and migrated to a new cloud deployment.
Without a full assessment of current deployments, enterprises are unlikely to be able to take full advantage of new cloud opportunities to improve productivity and efficiency. They’re also unlikely to be able to fully retire legacy systems, perpetuating significant and unnecessary ongoing administration, hardware, and licensing expenses. Perhaps most significantly, if the content and collaborative app resources that users need to accomplish their work activities can’t be easily found in a new cloud deployment, it can lead frustrated users to revert to legacy systems, stalling momentum for the cloud deployment.
CASAHL’s assessment service addresses these challenges, delivering a quick and comprehensive way for enterprises to discover and analyze their existing content/collaboration deployments and providing detailed fact-based guidance on cloud migration options. The prioritized migration plans created based on insights from assessment then serve as input to CASAHL’s highly automated migration service, making it possible for enterprises to quickly and cost-effectively optimize their most valuable content/collaboration resources for new cloud deployments. For more details, please see our Eight Keys to Content/Collaboration Cloud Migration Success post.