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By Sallie Wright, CIO, Fulton County Georgia
As the CIO of a government agency that supports over one million residents, the need for tools and processes to support our users has never been greater. Every day we are tasked by our constituents and leaders to do more with less and drive innovative solutions empowering our employees and residents. As such, technology is the nucleus my team must implement and support so our employees and residents can do their jobs and live their lives. Whether you are a retiree applying for a home tax exemption or a police officer needing the latest information on roll call assignments, my IT organization wants to give you the tools and processes to easily and effectively get the information you need.
Since the launch in 2001, I have seen Microsoft SharePoint™ evolve into a major component of the IT infrastructure. The humble and quirky beginnings are now ancient history with SharePoint becoming an enterprise level solution operating in countless government agencies, businesses and charities. While SharePoint has several great features needed for the future of any organization, there is still a lot of room for improvement. As a CIO, I continuously look ahead to set a vision and plan for serving my users. This article is my opinion and ideas of the future of SharePoint.
Access from any device (desktop/laptop/tablet/ mobile) is improving, however the experience should dramatically improve into the “App” based world. One of the key drivers of acceptance is the user experience and specifically the mobile experience will be first and foremost in use.
"All technology partners who want to be competitive in the future must have investments and strategies to stay up to date and be forward thinking"I constantly hear that IT must support “any device at any time.” I believe it is our job to support “any user on any device at any time.” Never forget the importance of the person you are serving. SharePoint will evolve to all devices, even those we don’t have yet—think about the future of wearables, Google Glass, voice recognition improvements, etc.
Over the years I have used SharePoint, the tool has improved its out of the box functionality with templates to facilitate “time to market.” The amount of time it takes an IT organization to implement processes and designs has decreased, but I am confident this can and will improve. Who better to develop and implement the process than the actual team that wants it implemented? Like a coach, I want to have my IT organization on the sideline providing guidance and encouraging our customers to execute their vision. I believe SharePoint will be fully used and managed by business users and not need technology professionals for creation, management or support.
However, IT still has a responsibility to inform its business users of the full breadth of capabilities of the platform. While the more pedestrian web and document management capabilities are well known, few business users are aware of the more advanced capabilities of SharePoint with respect to compliance, document retention policies, advanced business intelligence and analytics, ability to integrate with line-of-business databases, and reporting. Exploiting these features can reduce overall operating costs by potentially eliminating or reducing redundant tools, and also drive greater adoption of the SharePoint platform by demonstrating its diversity and breadth of functionality.
The days of laptops being turned in at a physical IT helpdesk for upgrades are over, so I am happy to see the Microsoft suite of tools, including SharePoint, move to a cloud based system where I only pay for what I use, not licenses based on projections or an audit. I must be able to provide new functionality to my existing tools without impacting my customers’ daily work schedule. I also need to allow the residents of Fulton County to gather information, submit information, and accomplish their tasks easily from their devices in their homes, places of work, or wherever they happen to be. SharePoint allows me to do all this today as new features and functionality are released.
Of course, there are some key technology issues we must continue to support in the IT world including compliance, data encryption and security, capital versus operating costs, backup storage and location (domestic versus international), etc. All technology partners who want to be competitive in the future must have investments and strategies to stay up to date and be forward thinking.
In summary, I predict a strong future for SharePoint with it becoming more nimble and evolving the way we do business and leading the industry as it changes.