Over the past five years I have worked on over 100 SharePoint projects in both an IT Professional and Developer capacity. In that time, many things have improved with SharePoint, but I wonder if SharePoint Online is going to be the new SharePoint Foundation.
Obviously SharePoint Online is a paid subscription and provides a larger feature set than any free version of SharePoint on-premises (such as Foundation), but one of the biggest issues I saw in the last 5 years was organizations standing up a free version of SharePoint and eventually letting it run wild. Aside from the fact that the configuration is normally flawed in such situations, the environments are usually seen as an online file share and not much else. At some point in time, a technically savvy user would figure out they could be using the SharePoint Foundation environment for so much more than a file share and pushed the business to take advantage of those additional capabilities. In many instances, that is when the organization started looking to bring in SharePoint experts, but had already dug themselves a pretty significant hole.
SharePoint 2016 does not come with a Foundation edition so there is no “freebie” version. A wise move by Microsoft, as they are really pushing Office 365. However, that doesn’t quite eliminate the potential for organizations to look at SharePoint Online in the same way they looked at the free SharePoint on-premises environments. Most organizations initially onboard Office 365 by taking advantage of Exchange Online. Rather than just getting licensing for Exchange, they instead take advantage of one of Microsoft’s various plans to fulfill another business requirement. When that happens, organizations are likely given more applications and features than they know what to do with. If that organization is not familiar with SharePoint what is to stop them from doing the same thing other organizations have been doing the past 10 years with the free SharePoint on-premises version?
The answer to that question is simple-yet-complicated in the SharePoint community. Those of us who have seen the horrors of environments with no governance planning – whether in the form of thousands of subsites with 10 documents in each and only 400 users in the organization, or custom solutions developed by some poor web developer asked to do something they had no clue how to do with zero guidance or training. I would really hate to see SharePoint Online be handled in the same way that the free SharePoint on-premises environments were. The Office 365 suite is so much greater than the sum of its parts but the as the old adage goes “You don’t know what you don’t know”. We cannot be screaming “Take SharePoint Online seriously” from a mountain top all day, every day but we can at least provide organizations entering the SharePoint world for the first time practical guidance. Learn from the mistakes of others and learn how to use SharePoint effectively and put some governance around it…you will save yourself time, money and frustration in the long run.
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