Monday, February 15, 2016

A Big Year for SharePoint Looking at Its Past to Understand Its Future

Steve Tonkin, Solution Architect

2016 is going to be a big year for SharePoint. It’s been just under a decade since the release of SharePoint 2007. We’ve seen 3 major releases, a cloud platform, and many other changes in that time. We’re anticipating another major release this calendar year. The biggest question on my mind lately is… what happens next?

I don’t mean that to be some existential question meant to be answered in a trendy coffee shop while looking up from ‘War and Peace’, I really just wonder where SharePoint is heading.

Usually when I’m unclear on the future of some topic, I look for statistics. For instance, Nate Silver’s 538 in all its forms (Independent, NYT, ESPN) always provides me with comforting data and realistic expectations. So why not combine the two things I talk about at dinner parties that get people to walk away the fastest? Let’s do a SharePoint statistics deep dive to try to see what the future looks like!!!!!

(I promise you, there is a really cool .gif at the end if you make it through)

The Setup

In order to get an idea of the future state of features and where SharePoint is headed, we have to look back at the past. Luckily, we now have nearly 10 years of data points on features that have been added and removed. It’s not a huge sample size, but it provides an interestingly deep background on the changes since SharePoint 2007 (the change from 2003 to 2007 was too great, 2007 starts to being to look like the first major release of SharePoint, post-infancy). I collected each new feature from the Microsoft official release guides, plus any subsequent announcements around new and deprecated features.

In looking into that data, it broke out into 6 distinct categories of features:

Feature Category

What it is…


Anything that helps display information

Content Management

Features that facilitate helping store and tag content

User Interface

Display and User Experience functions

External Connections

Connections to other systems

Mobile Integration

Anything that provides mobile experiences

Farm Management

Back-end tools and features

Using these categories to understand common themes in the way that SharePoint has evolved to this point provides our information to start tracking trends quantitatively. 

The Analysis

Starting with the features added in SharePoint 2010, some trends start to emerge.


Specifically, the staggering amount of features released for collaboration and content management. It’s not terribly surprising, knowing the primary function for SharePoint is to make those things happen for organizations. It does reinforce that development for SharePoint should first and foremost focus on the content being developed for.

The rest of the categories max out at just under half of collaboration. What I infer from that is that things like farm management, while there are functions added, stays similar to the original platform (although we know it has gotten easier).

My other takeaway was surprise that mobile integration wasn’t higher up in new features. The qualitative discussion around the mobile experience has clearly increased both in general and with SharePoint. So, what happens if we insert removed features per category and look at the net gain in features over the timeframe?


Here we get a bit of a different story and it a mobile story! While features around content management and collaboration appear to be more volatile, mobile integration joins them with the amount of total features added since 2007.

The Takeaway

The qualitative information on new features and the future of SharePoint supports the trends we’ve seen with this data. Certain types of collaboration seem to come and go but new ways continually get added. Content management is probably the most important function in SharePoint and new way to improve that keep coming. Mobile is impossible to ignore and continues to be push out in features at a high rate. Developing with these points in mind should assist in both now and into the future.

If you made it this far, you might be interested in hear me and my colleague Paul McAleer talk about this and other more interesting parts in the future of Design and Development at SharePoint Fest in Denver on March 2nd.

And as promised, a really cool .gif: