Jeff Teper on SharePoint

In charge of many Microsoft solutions over the past 15 years, Jeff Teper is now responsible for SharePoint worldwide. ICTJournal's Rodolphe Koeller took advantage of his visit to Geneva to discuss the challenges of managing a cloud product, the latest developments in SharePoint, but also Teams and Slack.

How is SharePoint currently used by companies?

SharePoint is an intranet product for creating collaborative sites, for example project-related spaces, in a wide range of fields ranging from marketing to HR. For example, I have just met a Geneva-based company whose 2,000 employees are on Office 365 and who use the cloud version of SharePoint to manage all of its events around the world. In fact, we are seeing rapid growth in the use of our cloud solutions. Today we have about 85 million active users on Office 365 and this is contributing to the growing use of SharePoint. Businesses appreciate the easy start-up and ongoing evolution of cloud solutions.

Do you see a somewhat chaotic proliferation of SharePoint sites in companies?

It depends. Some companies leave a free hand to their employees and actually count thousands of sites because the product is very viral. Conversely, other companies strictly control the creation of new sites.

What does it change to manage a product in the cloud? How do you reconcile the stability of the solution with the continuous addition of new features?

I would mention three aspects. First, we manage the servers in our datacenters better than most businesses do. We ensure high availability, disaster recovery, load balancing, etc. Software inevitably has problems and so it must be resilient. Then, we intentionally migrate to the cloud only some of the functionality of SharePoint, which companies can set up securely. Finally, it is easier to carry out small releases frequent than to large launches. We can test improvements with certain user groups and reduce the risk. In the end, the entropy is less.

This represents a big organisational change...

Indeed. Between 2001 and 2010, we launched a new version of SharePoint every two or three years. Thousands of engineers were involved and each launch was the occasion for a huge party; We sabred the champagne, it was a bit like the end of classes. Today we divide brick developments that take about 12 weeks. It is easier, there is less risk and it is also more pleasant to quickly put the improvements in the hands of the users.

What is your strategy for integrating third party tools into SharePoint?

This is a huge market. Many integrators and consultants build solutions on and connected to SharePoint. Previously, these customizations were based on .Net, whereas today we have a more open approach via the Office Graph API, which opens the environment to developers using other languages. Since being CEO, Satya Nadella has worked to make our APIs fewer and easier to use. It is a centralization effort: all our development teams must ensure that their solutions are consistent with Office Graph. Today, companies like Adobe, Salesforce, SAP or Documentum use our API to integrate with SharePoint. On the other hand, we have with Flow an alternative model that creates mechanics between SharePoint and third-party services. There are now Flow connectors for many services, such as Trello or Slack. For example, I can use Flow so that every new opportunity in Salesforce generates a new item in my SharePoint site.

What about your Teams solution in which many see an answer to the Slack application, which makes a lot of buzz?

With Teams, Office 365 user groups can collaborate as a team based on chat. Unlike Slack, however, Teams guarantees the continuity of experience and security, thanks to a concept of access and transverse permissions. Thus, there is no risk of sharing a document with a colleague who has no right to access it. This is easier to manage for IT that does not have to reconfigure the permissions in each application. In the end, companies have a choice. They can connect Office 365 to third-party applications such as Slack and Dropbox. Or enjoy a more homogeneous experience with tools like Teams, Skype and OneDrive.

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ICT Journal

The Swiss magazine for IT Business news & journalism