Silicon Valley has recognized for years that agility is a crucial attribute—be it in culture or technology. Why? The answer is cost.
Being inflexible is expensive, which is not an option in an industry as competitive as the cloud. Hence, the Achilles’ heel of legacy cloud solutions is their rigidity and the derivative costs—which are often hidden. Enterprises can't be agile if employees are wasting their time struggling to use unintuitive tools.
"Legacy" is a category into which Microsoft’s SharePoint certainly falls. Although it is a market leader and has a huge installed base, in regard to agility (particularly through the lens of user experience), SharePoint’s past life as an on-premises solution is its proverbial "ball and chain." If you've ever tried to edit a Word or Excel document in Office 365, you’ll get the distinct sense that Microsoft’s priority is still the desktop version of these apps.
Even after an enterprise has amortized SharePoint’s initial licensing costs, its inflexibility creates hidden expenses in three specific areas.
1. User TrainingHere's a bold claim: If you see a line item for “end user training” in a deployment budget for software, you are being asked to pay extra for bad user experience (UX). Have you ever heard of someone being trained to order on Amazon or post on Facebook? Why can’t we hold our enterprise software to the same standard?
When companies express user dissatisfaction with SharePoint, they point to inadequate user training, but why is it necessary in the first place? To be clear, budgeting for “user training” isn’t the same as for “change management.” User training is the need to explicate specific features of a tool, such as how to print a document or add a comment. That should be self-explanatory.
Personally, I’ve heard SharePoint complaints ranging from syncing issues to mobile interface torpidity, but training budgets are actually just half the cost. There is also the opportunity cost from the time your employees will lose struggling to understand the UX. Employees can spend up to 20% of their time consolidating and searching for documents, so cumulatively, this is far from negligible.
2. SecurityUsability and security go hand-in-hand. If users become frustrated with their content management platform and bypass that system with a workaround (e.g., downloading a file and then emailing it from a personal account), they are at risk of exposing the business to confidential information leaks on several fronts. Inflexible platforms lead to predictable results in this regard.
A file’s "findability," or lack thereof, is a frequent cause of workarounds, particularly for younger generations who rely heavily on search to locate their files and are rapidly becoming a plurality of the workforce. Millennials and Generation Z have grown up with consumer-friendly Chromebooks, MacBooks, iPhones, and Android phones. If they become frustrated with SharePoint, how long until they give up and store important information outside of company channels?
The hidden costs found within these workarounds can be enormous. First, if sensitive information leaves company workflows, it risks falling into the wrong hands. Perhaps even more worrisome is the possibility of fines for lax data oversight attributable to these workarounds. Businesses that don’t have a handle on their information face huge risks down the road if regulatory agencies find evidence of shoddy compliance.
3. MaintenanceIt is a truism that what’s expensive to implement is also expensive to change (and it is very expensive to implement SharePoint—about $15,000 for an office of 30 people).
Because further customization is usually necessary, SharePoint consulting and optimization services have grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry.
Ironically, SharePoint is also quite costly to maintain for Microsoft. Redmond does benefit from the inertia of a large customer base transitioning their legacy systems to the cloud, but because of the aforementioned costs and complications, enterprises are looking to greener pastures and have been subsequently harder to lock in.
Microsoft’s strength is its ability to move on-premises email and file systems to the cloud while keeping the same productivity tools. This affords infrastructure consolidation, but not digital transformation.
Remember, why do businesses turn to the cloud? It’s because they want more agile answers to their enterprise content needs, and by definition, that will always elude a non-native platform.