Did you know.....

If you own or use a Mac the only way that you can install and use Microsoft Office applications is by purchasing an Office 365 account? No disc, no download, no other way to install Word, PowerPoint etc. Yup, you are forced into a subscription model for that software. The good news is that you can buy MS Office for $15 per month, the bad news is that you will be doing that for as long as you need to use it. This represents a fundamental change in the Microsoft business model, and it worked like a charm. Mac users have a choice of only using browser based versions of the MS Office Suite with their Office 365 subscription, or for a few dollars more per months, can also download the fat applications (install on your machine) in addition. Either way, the default storage location for your files is not your trusty old hard drive, it is the MS Cloud. In the Mac world this all happened without so much as a whimper. Microsoft was able to silently shift a large population of computer users into their Saas business model without a whimper. Not only that, they simultaneously pulled in the monstrously huge world of Apple IOS devices by offering mobile versions as well. In one fell swoop they managed to pull users of MS Office applications across the entire Apple ecosystem into the Microsoft Cloud. Everything of course works so much better with a Office 365 paid subscription which automatically sucks everything you create or share into the Microsoft cloud otherwise known as SharePoint. Yes that's right, OneDrive for Business, Office365 Premium, SharePoint On-line is all SharePoint in the cloud. Which by the way is the same SharePoint (minus some obvious features) that companies run on-premise.

So to summarize if you are a business user on a Mac, Office is the de-facto business tool, and Microsoft SharePoint is now your new shared hard drive (aka File Server).

Slowly but surely Microsoft is rolling out the same approach they took in the Mac world in the PC world, but from a different angle. 90% of all Fortune 2000 companies have and use SharePoint. 47,000 Corporations around the world have Microsoft enterprise licenses which include SharePoint. Thus a grand-slam total of well over 200,000 companies, spanning somer 300 million desktops (and laptops), use SharePoint (et al) as their new cloud/web based file server.

In case you didn't get the memo, its safe to say that all future versions of Microsoft content creation tools (Forms, One Note etc.) will point to the same "file server". So if you're in the digital transformation business as either a business manager, IT manager, vendor, consultant or service provider guess where digital transformation initiatives have to start?

The Enterprise Bus

If you're techie reading this, then you know what a "bus" is. If you're not a techie then think of a "bus" as being a main circuit cable that flows all electricity through your company to each and every outlet that you plug in to. In most enterprises SharePoint is that "cable" and all documents, project data, appointments, emails etc. flow through it. Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft tipped everyone off to the strategy around SharePoint. During the launch of SharePoint 2010 he said "SharePoint is a general purpose platform for connecting people with information." Satya Nadella (new CEO) added "...in the cloud." to that sentence.

The Reality of Where Things are @

Phase 1 of that strategy was to get SharePoint out in front of customers. To that end the Microsoft hype engine was going at full throttle and succeeded in getting everyone to buy it, regardless of what you could actually do with it. Phase 2 was to get people to actually use it, and the thumbscrews (audits, relentless sales pitches, training) were going full bore to get it on every desktop, regardless of the mess it made. The harsh reality is that Microsoft simply wants everyone to get off their client/server dependencies and move it all to the web/cloud SharePoint version of a file server, regardless of the body count. In that effort, the real power of SharePoint has been cleverly camoflauged to look like its not much more than a cloud based file server just like Dropbox, Box or any other file sync and share solution. Oh and you have to throw "mobile" into that sentence too, because everyone salutes that even if they don't know what that means.

In the hurry to get SharePoint deployed, and to force people to save to it via Office 365 and the latest version of the "install" versions of MS Office, the gigantic content mess complete with a side dish of utter chaos if you actually attempted to try to find or organize anything, was simply ignored. Digital Disfiguration happened, not Digital Transformation. Who knew?

I guess you could say there were un-intended consequences. In retrospect that is completely understandable that after years years of naming files whatever you wanted, creating folders everywhere with naming conventions that only you understood. Engaging in faux organizational efforts my making as many "marketing stuff" folders as you could think of in as many nested folder locations you had access to didn't really matter because that was all your doing on your personal computer. Now that the hopelessly disorganized along with the hyper anal "collaborate" by continuing those practices in their new shared cloud environment it shouldn't come as a surprise that it doesn't work.

Undoing Digital Disfiguration and Achieving Digital Transformation

What this means, in a nutshell, is that organizations need to rethink how information is managed across the enterprise. Business managers need to stop treating SharePoint as a mystery technology that only IT can tame and take accountability for how it should work for them. We do free workshops around the country now that address that very issue, so come and learn.

The first step in that "take control" process, is to get a better handle on what SharePoint and Office 365 really is and what it is really capable of doing, and the second is to bring in the right outside resources to fix it. No I did not say developers, I said resources, that means planners, people who understand Digital Transformation best practices (like us) who can configure SharePoint to do what it was meant to do and in some cases add the proper additional software.

In our experience with many user organizations, it is obvious that management either hasn't fully dialed in that SharePoint is capable of far more than is being used, or they fail to realize the amount and kind of skillset needed to really make it work, thus setting unrealistic objectives for IT. Knowing how to work a wrench, doesn't make you an auto mechanic. Given the fact that IT is under resourced to begin with and under informed about the best practices for managing content in general, not to mention how to do that with SharePoint. They simply don't know enough about the features and functions, not to mention how to use them to gain business benefit. Luckily there are many people who do know those kinds of things, and in our workshops we're happy to talk about them.

There is of course a solution, and that is to use the technology Microsoft provides in the right way and to build proper libraries, and use them to gain control over important business documents. Case in point: A large auto repair chain in our area regularly sends us employee injury reports. For some reason we ended up on a fat finger distribution list we shouldn't be on. I'll leave it to your imagination what wonderful information is on those reports, and the sender should be grateful we're not a law firm or the auto service chain's problems would be much bigger than an on the job injury. Anything like that happening in your neck of the woods, with your enterprise content bus?

Digital Transformation is not about knowing how to work the wrench, its knowing about the best practices of Digital Transformation and implementing them with proper use of the wrench.

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