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Microsoft SharePoint at a Crossroads – Opportunities & Challenges Abound

We assembled a group of recently selected top SharePoint influencers to learn where they think Microsoft SharePoint is headed

The next BriefingsDirect panel discussion explores one of the most broadly deployed collaboration platforms, Microsoft SharePoint, to determine how it's rapidly evolving from local network portal roots into the new cloud and mobile era.

Delivering information as an actionable asset in a widely collaborative and increasingly mobile environment has clearly become a top business priority. Business architects need the agility enabled by such unshackled information sharing and contextual collaboration to keep pace with distributed services and a boundaryless enterprise approach to their operations and commerce.

This is why IT leaders worldwide recognize that they must better manage knowledge, share information more safely, and yet rapidly and securely enable mobility among workers and their activity.

We’ve assembled a group of recently selected top SharePoint influencers to learn where they think Microsoft SharePoint is headed, along with newer services like Office 365, to gauge how companies can best exploit and extend such productivity services.

To better understand how enterprise collaboration and document management are being transformed by new cloud and mobile requirements, the expert panel consists of Christian Buckley, Director and Chief Evangelist at Metalogix Software in Redmond, Washington; Yaacov Cohen, Co-founder and CEO of harmon.i.e; Joel Oleson, Director of Marketing and Technology Evangelism at ViewDo Labs in Salt Lake City, and Laura Rogers, Manager of SharePoint Consultants at Rackspace Hosting.

The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: SharePoint was designed quite some time ago to play a somewhat different role. Organizations need to start thinking about cloud, or even clouds -- and learn how to manage across them, to do collaboration and safely shared documents. How well suited is SharePoint to take on this new role?

Rogers: It's interesting, because some of the bread-and-butter of SharePoint is being able to collaborate on documents. One of the main things that people have done with SharePoint over the years is in moving from file-shares to SharePoint. So that’s just getting things from file-shares to being able to collaborate with them easier.

Rogers

Now, a lot of things are moving to the cloud. Everything that people do in their daily lives is based on the cloud. People are used to being able to pick up their iPhone and have a FaceTime conversation. They’re used to being able to pick up their phone and check Facebook.

All these different applications are in the cloud, and it's part of people’s daily life. Now, they have this expectation of being able to have all this live information and collaboration going on with what they're doing at work as well.

Microsoft is moving to Office 365 and is doing a lot with the integration between Office 365 and the Office apps, being able to take files, quickly edit them on the phone, and then quickly upload them to SharePoint. In general, people have expectations of being able to collaborate wherever they are.

That’s where the pressure is coming from for enterprises to either physically move their data to the cloud and go to Office 365, or at least upgrade and keep all of their on-premises technology up-to-date, so that the end users have that seamless experience.

But that gets more and more complicated, because of all the different servers you would need to have involved -- like the latest version of SharePoint, the latest version of Exchange, the latest version of Lync. As it gets more and more involved to do those things on-premises, that’s where some companies are saying, “Let's just go do it in the cloud. It might be easier.”

Gardner: Christian, given the fact that we’re seeing increased complexity, it's one thing to move storage to the cloud and share documents across a cloud service. It's something quite more complex to bring a process into the cloud, manage the process, and have it extended across the boundaries of the organization. Are companies yet progressing to that point?

Buckley

Buckley: You've hit on the complexity of what actually moves across. Look historically at intranets. I started getting involved in the intranet knowledge management space in the mid ’90s, and organizations approached building out those intranets and building the complexity of their work processes into digital form. That’s why automation, whether it's your dashboarding, workflows, and all those capabilities, fit into how SharePoint has been built out.

What's changed is that as all of these consumer-based technologies, which are primarily out in the cloud, have progressed, organizations want to focus less on infrastructure and focus more on actual business systems. End users on the other side of that want their corporate solutions to match more closely to their personal habits, to their personal tools. They're doing everything in the cloud, everything via a mobile phone.

Just want access

As you look at those changes to the traditional intranet model, how you approach and develop those solutions, build and maintain an infrastructure, and all the complexity, the difficulty is that end users are ahead of the curve. They want to have everything in the cloud flexible, dynamic, and real time via their phone or their tablet. They're out on the road. No matter how they're accessing the information, they just want access to it.

The difficulty is that not all of the technology is yet at parity with what you have on-prem, and that’s where SharePoint is at this crossroads. That’s what we’re starting to experience. The consumer is driving what's happening within the corporation, rather than corporate IT driving what end users have access to. That’s a huge change.

Gardner: Joel, it sounds as if we have businesses seeking agility and trying to find any way to improve the speed of doing business, but that there is tension between allowing on-premises systems to catch up, versus leap wholesale out to a cloud. Is that how you see it and how does that portend the future of SharePoint?

Oleson: There's an interesting transition happening right now where there is a big move to the cloud and a lot of companies are looking out at things, asking, "Is this Tinkertoys? Is this something that’s a trend? Is it something bigger? Do we need to invest here?"

 

Oleson

In the beginning, it was seen as more of a hosting move where there are companies that are doing this hosting, and now Microsoft wants to do hosting, and there are these various companies that are out there doing hosting. What we’re seeing now is a transition of a technology, where it’s this trend of "cloud first," and where the actual product is being developed and the features are showing up first in the cloud.

This trend of hitting features a year ahead of time and being able to validate and get richer experiences in the cloud that may never have come on-premise, is really making customers look at it quite differently. There are business solutions that enable, in terms of making it easier, and someone else is taking care of upgrades and someone else is taking care of your infrastructure needs. So you really focus on your business value from that perspective.

Also, when you look at it from the perspective of this approach of cloud first, on-premise second, on-premise comes across as the second-class citizen. A lot of these arguments that have held people back are around security, such as not wanting other people managing your data, and that bigger concern around how to best handle the situation. With SharePoint, that trend is going to continue.

Gardner: Yaacov, thinking about the complimentary nature of cloud services and mobile devices, we’re seeing not just an interest in going to cloud for cloud's sake, but being able to better deliver services across boundaries and out to mobile devices -- maybe even to bring-your-own device (BYOD). After listening to our panelists, our top influencers, how do you see something like the on-premise world readily adapting to both the needs of the cloud and mobile?

Cohen: Our panelists talk about these very significant transitions. Not only is Microsoft at a crossroads, but the customers and the large SharePoint shops are also at a crossroads. It's about a "cloud first" for Microsoft, and now with the recent announcements, it's also about "mobile first."

Now, we see that Microsoft is very serious about iOS, about the iPad, and also about Android. Your question was well pointed. There are two different types of scenarios when you're accessing the cloud and Office 365 for mobile devices. I know we're talking SharePoint, but in fact, there are two different products now: the OneDrive which earlier used to be SharePoint Online, and the SharePoint On-Premise.

Different scenarios

There are two different business scenarios where a lot of what Microsoft is looking at, including on mobile access, is more of a document-saving, document-storage, document-sharing capacity. It's very consumer centric, very competitive to Dropbox, and may also compete with Box, and be very easily accessible from mobile devices.

 

Cohen

Now we have Office on the iPad. That’s really a huge statement from Microsoft’s standpoint. But then, there is a totally different scenario looking at SharePoint as a knowledge center, as a record management center, and as the core of the business processes for the enterprise.

That’s not quite addressed right now by Microsoft with the "cloud first" and "mobile first" approach. With the "mobile first" approach, there's no real attempt by Microsoft to try to continue to support Office 365 or SharePoint Online as a knowledge center. We've also made our data and tags and taxonomy.

The focus is much simpler. They want to be a Microsoft-centric Dropbox, providing very easy access for mobile devices. So we're talking about two very different scenarios. This is a pretty interesting time also for end users. They need to be a lot more accurate in the business requirements they're trying to solve either with OneDrive for document sharing or SharePoint for knowledge management.

Gardner: It seems to me that having the ability to compete with Dropbox and share documents is really table stakes at this point. The larger proposition is enabling a hybrid transition and enabling better management and control over the complexity, even as we expand the extent to which we’re collaborating.

Laura, as users begin to think about how to not just deal with this tactically, but to think about that larger hybrid cloud capacity -- where the control remains internal with the best of cloud access -- how do you think they're viewing SharePoint? Is there a change in the perception of what SharePoint does?

Now we have Office on the iPad. That’s really a huge statement from Microsoft’s standpoint.

Rogers: The perception of SharePoint is changing a little bit, but it depends on who you are, where you are coming from, and what type of organization you are in.

For some people, especially smaller companies that are a little bit more flexible as to where they can store their data and how fast they can get their data moved, their perception is that if they can't move to Office 365, they want to quickly figure out a way to get hosted SharePoint and get all of their data into the cloud.

So they're analyzing Office 365 and they're figuring out if it will do everything they need it to be able to do. Of course, if you're a smaller or a mid-size company, you're a little bit more flexible, because you might have fewer custom applications and things like that. So they're analyzing that, they're analyzing other methods of putting things in the cloud, and they are comparing them

When it comes to bigger organizations, and organizations that have more restrictions such as governments and healthcare and things where you have to have HIPAA and different regulations considered, they have a whole different perspective.

Very hesitant

They're thinking how they can keep SharePoint where it is right now in a lot of cases. Then, they're researching to see how other companies that have their same sort of stipulation and are going into the cloud. They're going to be very hesitant.

The perspective is going to be that the cloud to them is a little bit more dangerous and scary, because they don’t want to have anything happen to their very sensitive data. But they're researching and figuring out all the different ways that they can do hybrid environments, so they can still have some of their intranet in the cloud and have it connected to their on-premises solution. So there is going to be a lot of hybrid situations going on as people gradually get weaned over to the cloud.

They're going to have combinations of some information here and some information there. The trick is going to be to make it look seamless to the end user and have them be able to just go to SharePoint, whatever SharePoint happens to be, wherever it happens to be, do a search and have the search come up with everything.

So it's "SharePoint wherever" in all the different locations that it might be, have it just look like a seamless interface to end users, and have everything that they do in that environment be seamless. Because when it comes to the IT people and the decision makers, they have a lot of things to worry about when it comes to where to put the data, how to migrate it, and how to be able to get to it for backups and things like that.

As long as those decision makers don’t forget that the end users just want to be able to do their jobs and not have everything be more complicated than it needs to be.

They have to keep remembering that the end user wants to be able to have something simple, that they know where to go, the interface is familiar, and then just be able to do their jobs. As long as those decision makers don’t forget that the end users just want to be able to do their jobs and not have everything be more complicated than it needs to be.

Gardner: Christian, it seems that the opportunity for Microsoft here is to make SharePoint the entry point, the face, if you will, of both hybrid cloud activities and mobile collaboration activities. It's a tremendous opportunity for them.

How do you feel about the perception of people in the field, those users and those managers at enterprises? Are they seeing SharePoint as the potential silver bullet for managing this complexity, or do they see it more as a steppingstone to something else?

Buckley: There are a couple of things. We're talking about perceptions, right? There's some talk within the expert community about SharePoint as the brand, when I talk about going out to my SharePoint system. You're hearing the word SharePoint less and less. It doesn’t mean that the technology is going away. It's more that it's becoming ubiquitous.

When you think about the various Microsoft properties that they’re building on top of, OneDrive, Yammer, and within Office 365, a lot of those various components, where there is content and where there is a process or workflow and other things that are related.

When you're talking about some of the PowerBI, the dashboarding capability, you're talking about SharePoint. That’s where the data is stored behind that. It's the unifying technology underneath the platform.

Current perception

Backing up a bit, the perception is about the control, administration, compliance, auditing, and all those options. The perception is that that you have less of an ability to do those things out in the cloud.

Government bodies, highly regulated industries, went to SharePoint and on-prem because they had that level of control and the ability to go in and configure and customize and add-on and extended all those things. SharePoint grew so rapidly, because of that ability, but they are very correct in some of those perceptions about not having the same degree of control out in the cloud.

There is not yet parity when you think of it in those terms. The tools need to mature. The application programming interfaces (APIs) need to be expanded. On the flipside, those perceptions of what you can and can't do and control out in the cloud is because many organizations have overbuilt SharePoint. End-user adoption is a serious issue, as it is for every enterprise collaboration solution out there. Any competitor in the space that tells you otherwise is marketing to you.

The reality is that end users want something that is streamlined and that’s simple. They want to click once, twice at the most, get in, and get their jobs done. They don’t care what the brand is. Microsoft needs to extend and add, increase the parity between Office 365, the software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, the SharePoint Online, version of the on-prem version, get that parity across it.

Microsoft still has some messaging to improve on to help change some of those perceptions of what SharePoint is, where it's going, and how people can make that transition.

They need to make it easy to access, easy to invite people in, easy to click once or twice, get to the information that you need through the interface that you’re most comfortable with, whether it's Exchange or Yammer or OneDrive or going into SharePoint, going into your intranet or an extranet, with all of those things. SharePoint underlies all of those things.

Microsoft still has some messaging to improve on to help change some of those perceptions of what SharePoint is, where it's going, and how people can make that transition.

Gardner: Joel, thinking about a more practical approach for the user organization, rather than waiting for Microsoft to simplify SharePoint, maybe reduce some of this overbuilding, making it more appropriate for cloud activity, what can organizations do to take the best of what SharePoint can do, leverage the investments they’ve made and yet still be able to break out across boundaries, into cloud, into mobile?

Is there some basic blocking and tackling advice you can offer for using SharePoint, but in this new environment?

Oleson: Some advice for customers ... They really need to dip their toe in the water. Some customers, when they decide they want to go Office 365, go all in and then they have second thoughts. It's not that people shouldn’t invest in Office 365, but they need to be cautious about understanding some of those limitations around customizations and some concerns that other departments may have: IT, for example.

So there's a cautious approach, and a pilot needs to happen. OneDrive, as an example, is an amazing way to start getting involved with the cloud. Yammer, as well, is a great way to get into the cloud and also to, all of a sudden, be able to support with mobile devices  great conversations with fellow employees.

Taking advantage

But part of that approach is getting the right kind of policies and procedures in place that can support the users and the departments that want to, and need to, take advantage of the new technology.

But I don’t think that it's throwing everything out there willy-nilly. There's that approach of going service by service. Another example is people who are going to move their email. It's a no-brainer to move your email out there, but there is some identity work that has to be done, and the budgets have to be right to be able to understand the investments and the time it's going to take.

But that hybrid process of moving things out there is a multi-year approach, and the investment that’s going to be required has to be a conscious decision in having the right engines firing on all cylinders and making that transition. It takes all eyes open as you make that transition.

Gardner: Yaacov, what advice do you have for organizations that are in SharePoint deeply, who want to continue to leverage that investment, recognize that their users are getting a lot of value from it, but also want to start extending their activities using hybrid approach to more application by application transitions, as Joel mentioned?

The “cloud first”/"mobile first" marketing is very nice, but it's not ready yet to deliver a sole business solution.

Cohen: Joel had some good points about the progressive approach, looking service by service. Also, it's about defining your business requirements and, for example, to differentiate between collaboration scenarios, which are more ad hoc, more social, and which say more about project management and not so much about knowledge management. So in this case, Office 365, OneDrive, and Yammer is a great way to go. We're already investing a lot of preparation in taxonomy and the information architecture.

But if you're looking at more enterprise-wide projects to share knowledge across multiple business lines or you're trying to reduce the liabilities with record management, that’s where you probably need to take a more comprehensive approach with more preparation and design. You need to know that the “cloud first”/"mobile first" marketing is very nice, but it's not ready yet to deliver a sole business solution.

Gardner: Laura, tell us about what you’re doing as a SharePoint Consultant Manager and what Rackspace Hosting is doing vis-à-vis collaboration and SharePoint Services?

Rogers: At Rackspace around SharePoint we have a couple of major divisions. We have people that support our hosted SharePoint environments and we also have SharePoint consulting. A lot of our hosted SharePoint customers will make use of the consulting services. But we also provide consulting services to people who aren’t necessarily hosted at Rackspace.

We have different types of hosting that you can get there. We have a per-user environment, which basically means you're buying site collection, and it's similar to Office 365 and there is one big farm that’s managed in a central place. You’re not necessarily in control of your SharePoint environment.

Different levels

There is also one where you can have your own SharePoint server. So there are all different levels of being able to have a hosted environment. As consultants, we can take care of those clients.

But we get a lot of clients that come to us and say they're looking at Rackspace hosting and also looking at Office 365. They ask why they should do one or the other. We go through their requirements and what they want to be able to do in SharePoint. Then, we help them to talk about the pros and cons. We explain "You have this custom app over here and you wouldn’t necessarily be able to do that in Office 365."

They have all this super custom branding, little technical things that they have, and we go through some of the tradeoffs they might have to make, one way or the other.

We have different groups of consultants. I manage the group that deals with business solutions. We have a group of developers. We have a group of branding guys, and then my business-solutions guys have out-of-the-box functionality, business intelligence (BI), user adoption, governance,  documentation, and things like that. Business solutions includes things that don’t involve custom code and things that don’t involve branding. I also teach at SharePoint 2013 Power Users class online for a week each month.

There are all different levels of being able to have a hosted environment. As consultants, we can take care of those clients.

Every Wednesday at 11 Central, my team and I get together and we have a free YouTube broadcast, where we just talk about some business-solution topic, do demos, and things like that. That’s the SharePoint at Rackspace YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/sharepointrax.

Gardner: Christian at Metalogix, tell us a little bit about what you do there, and what your organization does in the SharePoint community, or eco-community.

Buckley: My role is Chief Evangelist. So I sit across multiple areas. I work very closely with product management and product marketing. I work very closely with our partner and alliance management team. I do a lot of meeting with customers, meeting with partners, and setting up and investigating various technology partnerships.

From a community standpoint, I'm also very involved in helping organize various community efforts and, in that way, spreading goodwill for the brand out there within the community. I've helped launch about a dozen SharePoint Saturday events primarily out in the Western U.S. states.

Then, I travel around the world speaking at conferences, sharing perspective, usually to the IT business decision-maker and executive crowd. I do events where I travel on behalf of our partners and meet with their customers. I try to help fill the pipeline from a sales perspective and help partners on my own sales team close on deals and things that people traditionally expect an evangelist to do.

Metalogix is the largest, fastest growing SharePoint ISV. Two areas that we are really known for are migration and governance and administration solutions. I write a lot of content around those topics, as well as things like storage optimization and replication.

Helping people

We're very much involved in working with Microsoft and with our partners in helping people manage and migrate between SharePoint environments, as well as moving people from on-prem into Office 365.

We're the only ISV that has a solution that migrates Exchange, public folders, file shares, and SharePoint content to Office 365. So I'm doing a lot of promotion and talking about those options out there on a regular basis.

Gardner: Joel, tell us similarly about yourself and ViewDo Labs as well.

Oleson: ViewDo Labs is focused on Yammer analytics. My role has been working with the community around writing, speaking, and blogging.

I've gathered a group of influencers in the enterprise social space. We get together and talk about various topics around enterprise social and take on the biggest challenges. I participate in a lot of conversations, Tweetups, and variety of activities as they relate to enterprise social, moving forward maturity around enterprise social as it relates to Yammer and other technologies in that space.

Basically, we wanted to bring a customer-like user experience to the enterprise world. We've built a one-screen user experience across emails, mobile devices, and cloud.

As an example, Christian talks about his travel. Travel is something that’s been a big passion of mine, connecting with folks around the globe and building communities. Just a week ago I was in Jamaica running a SharePoint Saturday, but also launching a user group. I’ll be speaking at a European SharePoint conference. Following that, I'll be doing some travel in Central Asia and launching a community in Uzbekistan.

A passion of mine is expanding global reach and connecting communities that otherwise would never meet people that are on the top tier speaking circuits. I try to go to those locations where they’re underserved markets, you could say. But the big focus is on enterprise social and working transparently, working like a network, and just getting excited and working with businesses around how that big transformation is happening.

Gardner: Yaacov, tell us a little bit about why you co-founded harmon.ie and what harmon.ie does and how that fits into the SharePoint ecosystem?

Cohen: We founded harmon.ie in 2008. Basically, we wanted to bring a customer-like user experience to the enterprise world. We've built a one-screen user experience across emails, mobile devices, and cloud.

We provide a suite of connected apps on mobile devices like iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry. Within Outlook, we provide an Outlook plug-in, delivering the same consistent user experience across on-premise SharePoint, Yammer, and Office 365.

The idea is to help the business users to get a complete view of their network and their colleagues’ network in order to be more efficient at the enterprise level in the ways they manage knowledge management, knowledge centers, record management, and how they can really evolve into more of a social enterprise, which is really collaborating and working like a network. That’s what we try to do.

Social collaboration

Gardner: I’d like to just address one more issue before we sign off, and it's the impact of social collaboration. People are now looking at the walled interface, being used to things like Facebook, and LinkedIn, and Twitter, and then recognizing that that’s a powerful way to get knowledge transferred and allow for people to work together, but now also recognizing that more and more people are using mobile devices.

And so there's this combination, this Reese’s cup of peanut butter and chocolate, when it comes to mobile and social. How do you all think that this is going to be driven into use -- will the technologies keep up with the demand on the user experience and behavior?

First to you, Christian. What do you foresee as the methods that the IT department will have to adopt and the technologies that they will have to exploit in order to start allowing users to do what they want on a mobile device and be more collaborative in a social type of way?

Buckley: It's evolving so rapidly. To say what technologies they need to start considering, I take a very pragmatic, project program management approach to this. That’s a lot of my background. Working with customers, it would be to fully understand what you are trying to accomplish for the business.

If you're recognizing that your end users are requesting more social and mobile capabilities and yet you have certain constraints, compliance and auditing, regulatory requirements, sometimes legal requirements that you need to make sure all systems comply with, you just need to make sure that the solutions that you are building out, the technologies that you go investigate, can comply with those needs.

You need to ask those questions and then make some decisions, which could mean paring back on your requirements.

And certainly, if you go with Office 365 and social through Yammer, whether a standalone Yammer or Office 365, and if you're going to build a hybrid solution, these are questions you need to ask and understand, which may determine how you configure the platform or which options you choose.

We're not at a place where you can plug and play, even in the Microsoft stack, any of those tools and just assume that you're going to meet all of those standards that you need to be held to. You need to ask those questions and then make some decisions, which could mean paring back on your requirements. It may be a phased approach, as you wait for further advances, but it's just something. Ask the questions and go into it with your eyes wide open.

Gardner: Joel, the same question. How do you see organizations being able to manage this risk-and-benefit balance between allowing users to get what they want for functionality and collaboration, but also keeping it inside the organization and limiting them in some other way? How do you balance this best, and how will that balance perhaps change over the next few years?

Oleson: Well, that’s really interesting. This is really a battle between wills. Microsoft is making some major bets, and some of those bets aren’t just with the IT department. It's the business departments that are really going to make and drive some of these decisions. And if the IT department essentially holds back the business, they may find that they are going to go around.

So there are going to be some pros and cons and cost benefits, especially as it relates to licensing, but I think you'll find that some of the businesses are needing these technologies, and so it will essentially be business IT units that will test the waters and may drive ahead of the IT department in some cases.

IT as the enabler

It's not going to be everybody all nodding their heads at the same time. There's going to be some pilot theory happening and it's going to be the proof is in the pudding. Where it's going is that IT is the enabler. Are they going to be helping us make that transition and move, or is it going to be marketing, or is it going to be HR or some of these other business departments that essentially make that first bet in making some of those decisions?

I'm finding that some of the IT environments are actually more conservative and more cautious, where some of the business departments see the benefits and they see that it's going to be easier. It gives them more of that device approach that they need, and they may get out ahead of IT. I expect that to happen in many organizations.

Gardner: And Laura at Rackspace, is it "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, adopt the cloud, and let IT figure out how to catch up later?" Or from strictly a cloud perspective, do you think that you can give those users what they want in terms of social and mobile collaboration and keep the risk at a managed level?

Rogers: Joel brought up a great point about the technology and people just going around it if they don’t have what they need. Not necessarily Rackspace, but a lot of companies are coming across financial restrictions, because they might decide that they do need x, y, z technology.

Because people are going to go around and they are going to figure out a way to do something with whatever the latest technology is, even if the company doesn’t provide a way to it.

They need to have their own private Yammer network and actually purchase the enterprise versions of that. Or they might need to purchase the enterprise version of SharePoint or Box.net or whatever they happen to be using, and it might be cost restrictive for them.

So this is going to be a case where when you think about all of the people that might go around and use different technologies, like using their personal OneDrive to share things with people outside the company. That’s not very secure. Neither is using other technologies they might come across on random apps on their phone or on the web and start using that with business information.

So when companies are thinking about technologies like this for the enterprise and how cost restrictive they are, how expensive they are, I think it's more something where you have to weigh what could possibly happen with people uploading sensitive information to all these uncontrolled locations and what's the risk there compared to what you benefit from going ahead and purchasing that enterprise level product or whatever it happens to be, and just pay for it, and therefore you will be able to have a lot more control over that data.

Because people are going to go around and they are going to figure out a way to do something with whatever the latest technology is, even if the company doesn’t provide a way to it.

Gardner: Yaacov, it seems that regardless of whether the IT department leads or the business leads and whether they use internal or external services, getting these services visible and usable across any and all needed screens and devices is going to be essential.

So, given that it's still an open question as to how mobile and collaboration and document sharing and social interactions evolve and become delivered, what do you think is an important part of being able to be in front of that and maybe accommodate whatever the outcomes are on the back end?

What's appropriate

Cohen: This is really a good point. When I work with IT, I advise IT to start thinking differently about their job. Rather than being the gatekeepers, they need to become enablers. They need to become like a systems integrator and a service provider within their own organization. And they need to take a look at mobile and cloud and see how they can take these technologies and package them in a way that is appropriate for their business users.

They need to look at the lines of business or the departments as their customers and they need to act and market solutions to these customers. This transforms also our relationship as a vendor with IT. Rather than selling to IT, we are partnering with IT in order to help them package and sell solutions internally, mobile solutions in order to improve the business experience and, as such, to boost the business initiative, collaboration, and mobile.

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At Interarbor Solutions, we create the analysis and in-depth podcasts on enterprise software and cloud trends that help fuel the social media revolution. As a veteran IT analyst, Dana Gardner moderates discussions and interviews get to the meat of the hottest technology topics. We define and forecast the business productivity effects of enterprise infrastructure, SOA and cloud advances. Our social media vehicles become conversational platforms, powerfully distributed via the BriefingsDirect Network of online media partners like ZDNet and IT-Director.com. As founder and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, Dana Gardner created BriefingsDirect to give online readers and listeners in-depth and direct access to the brightest thought leaders on IT. Our twice-monthly BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition podcasts examine the latest IT news with a panel of analysts and guests. Our sponsored discussions provide a unique, deep-dive focus on specific industry problems and the latest solutions. This podcast equivalent of an analyst briefing session -- made available as a podcast/transcript/blog to any interested viewer and search engine seeker -- breaks the mold on closed knowledge. These informational podcasts jump-start conversational evangelism, drive traffic to lead generation campaigns, and produce strong SEO returns. Interarbor Solutions provides fresh and creative thinking on IT, SOA, cloud and social media strategies based on the power of thoughtful content, made freely and easily available to proactive seekers of insights and information. As a result, marketers and branding professionals can communicate inexpensively with self-qualifiying readers/listeners in discreet market segments. BriefingsDirect podcasts hosted by Dana Gardner: Full turnkey planning, moderatiing, producing, hosting, and distribution via blogs and IT media partners of essential IT knowledge and understanding.