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Continuing the SharePoint influencer series, this month we caught up with Laura Rogers, manager of SharePoint consultants at Rackspace Hosting, Microsoft SharePoint MVP and 2014 Top 25 SharePoint Influencer. Laura shared her thoughts on why companies are transforming to adopt cloud solutions, what challenges they face when transitioning from on-premise to the cloud, and what benefits Office 365 adoption brings. See below for the full interview!


Q: How do you see companies justifying their move to the cloud?

Laura: When companies make the move to the cloud, this often happens during a time of transition. A lot of companies are still using older versions of SharePoint or Exchange, and they realize that it’s time to either buy new hardware or go to the cloud instead. This is usually triggered by technical issues such as software compatibility, disk space or just general failure of old hardware.

Cost can also be a driver. When companies go through a reorganization, some of them come to the realization that it is more cost effective to move to a managed cloud or Office 365 scenario because it allows them to trim down their IT staff. This way, they don’t need to have engineers with deep technical (server level) expertise in each of the areas such as SharePoint, Exchange, and Lync, and they can have a lighter crew that is responsible for managing servers via a web interface in the cloud.

Yet another common scenario for moving to the cloud is when one company splits off from another company, or vice versa when a company gets absorbed by another.


Q: What are the top reasons why moving to Office 365/other cloud solutions takes longer than expected?

Laura: The move to the cloud usually takes longer than expected because of all of the factors that may not have been considered when the business made the initial estimate. A migration involves more than flipping a switch, and it is even more than just physically moving data from one server to another.

A lot of connections between systems are involved. With Active Directory alone, the company has to decide whether an existing on premises instance will be used, or if that needs to be migrated to the cloud, or if it is going to be a hybrid environment. Hybrid scenarios are more and more common, but knowledge of ADFS (Active Directory Federation Service) and other possible authentication protocols is needed. DNS adjustments need to be made as well, which need to be thought through and planned well. For example, if a company is splitting off of another company, they tend to assume that their users will have all of the exact same logins and passwords in the new “system”. This is usually not the case. There is definitely a transition period involved, and it is usually not completely seamless to the end user.


Q: What are some of the unexpected benefits of moving to the cloud?

Laura: The unexpected benefits usually come in the form of new features. With Office 365 in particular, new functionality gets rolled out quite frequently. While this can be frustrating to end users sometimes when they feel like things get moved around just when they’re getting used to them, I feel like this is still a positive benefit. For example, consider Information Rights Management. This is a very powerful feature, and it exists in Office 365 (as of just recently), and can even be used in document libraries in SharePoint Online. For more information on it, see my recent blog post, Office 365: Information Rights Management.


Q: What is your vision of the future of enterprise productivity over the next few years with cloud, mobile and social trends gaining traction?

Laura: With search indexing and large quantities of data being easier to search through than ever, it is becoming apparent that it matters less where things are stored. For example, if I received an email about some topic, I would have to do a search through my email for it, then to find more information, I’d do a search in SharePoint, and then another through the file system. In the past, it was important to know where a document was stored to be able to get to it later, and for others to know where to go to read that document. If work had been done on a particular project, computer users would need to be sure to save those files in a specific library, and maybe in a particular folder.

Enterprise productivity is growing, and will keep exponentially growing over the next few years, because computer users will have to spend less time doing two things: finding what they need, and deciding where to save files that are new. With SharePoint search being dramatically improved and having high integration with other systems, experiences like the Search Center and Delve are going to become the most common way to get to the content you need, and see what’s relevant to you.

Also, along this vein, it is becoming more important than ever to invest in taking the time to do search administration in the enterprise. Take care of the search experience, and fine tune it to your own company’s needs.

Laura Rogers
Top 25 SharePoint Influencer