To appreciate the amazing possibilities of the Microsoft cloud as they are today for small and medium enterprises, one must first remember a little bit of history.
Enterprise solutions were once the unique realm of large organizations which could contribute time, resources and substantial budgets to business programs and IT projects to deliver heavily customized, configured and integrated services for their business audiences. Due to the clunky, out-of-the box nature of the default SharePoint interface, customization was always the choice du jour.
The SharePoint platform was pitched for over a decade as a development platform upon which anything could be designed and built as long as a team of developers were available to perform the work and support it afterwards. SharePoint infrastructure was centred around substantial investment in server farm technology with development, pre-production and live server farms as well as fail-over sites, all being the order of the day.
“Small organization can reach a far wider client base and serve its customers with a degree of sophistication previously unheard of”
For the small and medium enterprises, custom solutions with supporting infrastructure were simply out of the question. Delivering a complete intranet on SharePoint for a couple of hundred users would make no financial sense without an extraordinary business case or the decision that there was no alternative.
Alongside this were the numerous instances of SharePoint installed by stealth. An Information Systems (IS) department with the appropriate DVDs were able to spin up a few team sites at no real cost for pilots, aiming to gain business buy-in and further investment. The investment didn’t come, but the pilots became live solutions that grew out of control with no strategy or organizational investment. Very soon site sprawl and lack of governance undermined the use of the product.
Well times have changed radically.
In the post financial crisis years, it has been essential to drive growth through the rise of small and medium enterprises and one thing that has been critical is the ability for the SME to compete on a level playing field with the big boys. The Microsoft cloud has brought enterprise-class technologies and solutions not only within grasp but firmly within the hands of all businesses, whether ten or ten thousand users.
Be in no doubt this is a huge game changer. It now means that a small operation can run with the small level of process, organization, sophistication and technical service ability as a major corporation and present itself as such. This means a small organization can reach a far wider client base and serve its customers with a degree of sophistication previously unheard of.
How has this come about? SharePoint no longer requires on premise infrastructure and can run completely and seamlessly from the Microsoft cloud. Organizations can begin with a handful of users due to per seat licensing and grow their use of services over time without major up-front investment.
The complete enterprise features of SharePoint are available from day one and within very affordable SaaS licensing bundles. That means, for an annual investment of a few hundred dollars, small and medium organizations can be leveraging enterprise search capabilities, business intelligence and advanced collaboration, communication and content publication services immediately.
However, there is something even more important which is proving the real game changer. If one analyzes the traditional cost of SharePoint to an organization over a three-year period, it is easy to conclude that a traditional enterprise deployment could easily reach hundreds of thousands of dollars with little effort. Today, an organization does not need to worry about extensive development and customization costs or indeed the dangers of over-development and maintenance. The first reason is the Microsoft app model which has meant clients are no longer forced to maintain unwieldy code that prevents upgrades. The Microsoft cloud model means that SharePoint remains evergreen and with the Microsoft cloud-first strategy, the very latest features and functions are always available.
The second reason is the increasing shift to packaged business solutions using SharePoint. An intranet which may have taken six to nine months of requirements gathering, design and testing with iterations can now be installed, configured and branded for any organization. It can be done within weeks at a cost of a tenth of a traditional deployment, with none of the risks or costs of the old.
Consequently, where small organizations have begun by purchasing cloud licensing and delivering email services quickly, now find that they can be running on a complete enterprise-level intranet solution combining the very best in collaboration and communication services, fully integrated with the larger Microsoft Office suite almost immediately. This means that any organization however small can ensure they are making the very best of their cloud license investment and consume as many services as possible to build and grow their businesses to become as successful as possible as quickly as possible.
The post-recession years are a boom time for small organizations underpinned by the huge capabilities and possibilities that Microsoft cloud technologies offer. That combined with the speed of deployment of complete packaged solutions means that today’s small business capabilities are literally, extraordinary.
One should also remember the small businesses of today will be the large employers of tomorrow.