Can SharePoint keep up with collaboration competition?

Collaboration tools like Dropbox and Google Drive are taking SharePoint's share of the market, but what can Microsoft do to bolster functionality?

Collaboration within the enterprise is changing: cloud, mobile and social have become focal points. And while SharePoint has become a staple in enterprise collaboration, its features seem to lag behind competitors such as Dropbox and Google Drive.

SharePoint is like the Swiss Army knife of search, content management, file sharing, data analysis and collaboration. Many businesses use it to support department and business applications -- Intranet and content management systems, for example. But now it stands at a crossroads.

"Microsoft SharePoint is the centerpiece of many enterprises' collaboration and content strategies, but it isn't clear that enterprises will continue to invest in SharePoint to provide a broader range of social, Web content and content delivery functionality," said Rob Koplowitz, vice president at Forrester Inc.

SharePoint's functionality in those areas is suspect, and competitors such as Dropbox Inc., EMC Corp., Google, IBM and Jive Software are gaining ground in the enterprise collaboration space. In response, Microsoft continues to bolster SharePoint's functionality against its collaboration competition.

Collaboration moves to the cloud

Microsoft is a traditionally on-premises organization, so it has been slow to embrace cloud. Cloud adoption, however, isn't slowing. The global software as a service (SaaS)-based enterprise content management market will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 31.11% percent from 2013 to 2018, according to market research firm TechNavio.

So, this should be good for SharePoint, right? Not necessarily.

While 73% of IT professionals are satisfied with SharePoint, only 62% of business managers felt the same way, according to a Forrester report. And as business users gain more purchasing power, they're reaching for competitive products.

Many businesses are turning to Google Drive to store collaboration information. Others are looking to Dropbox, but enterprises are concerned about security and its consumer-based heritage.

SharePoint Online, the cloud-hosted version of the product, got a big boost with the delivery of SharePoint 2013, which features strong hybrid-cloud functionality. SharePoint Online runs as a standalone offering, or as part of the Microsoft Office 365 cloud suite. The system features connectivity to other Microsoft products, such as Exchange, Lync, and Office.

Still, the ramp up to SharePoint Online is slow. Fewer than 10% of SharePoint enterprises rely on SharePoint Online, reported Forrester.

Social content is also playing a more important role in collaboration tools. In 2012, Microsoft added that functionality to SharePoint after it purchased Yammer, the "freemium" enterprise social networking service. Currently, on-premises SharePoint deployments can access cloud Yammer through the navigation bar.

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