SharePoint Commands a Premium!

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SharePoint Premium

SharePoint Commands a Premium!

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First released in 2001, SharePoint has gone on to dominate the Document Management/ECM/Content Services (take your pick), so why, over 20 years on, do we have a “premium” version? There are multiple reasons, but the most basic is to tidy up some loose ends.

This week, Microsoft announced something new: SharePoint Premium. First released in 2001, SharePoint has gone on to dominate the Document Management/ECM/Content Services (take your pick), so why, over 20 years on, do we have a “premium” version? There are multiple reasons, but the most basic is to tidy up some loose ends.

Long-time readers of our research may cast their minds back to 2019 when we wrote about the launch of Microsoft Project Cortex, which essentially launched a shift in strategy for the SharePoint team, embracing machine learning, leveraging Microsoft Graph, and making early moves to codify and bring some order to content and indeed SharePoint sprawl. Then, in 2022, we started talking about Syntex, an umbrella term for all the new ML & and driven document processing capabilities (Cortex was then forgotten). Fast forward to 2023, and we have SharePoint Premium, which encompasses the core SharePoint platform with all these more recent capabilities. From a practical go-to-market standpoint, the brands Syntex and Cortex never really caught hold, and if anything, caused a bit of confusion as externally, at least, they were perceived as parallel product sets to SharePoint. The reality is, though, that SharePoint is king, long has been, and everything now comes under one banner. So, in the simplest of terms, Premium is SharePoint + Syntex. There can be no real arguing with the logic here, but as always, the proof will be in the pudding. It’s one thing to rebrand and bundle another to execute and deliver an enormous list of services and functions seamlessly to customers. Plus, educating and empowering partners and Microsoft sales teams to understand how to embrace this shift is always an added challenge.

But wait, there is more! If there weren’t, you would be right to stop reading. Rebrands and bundles of disparate services may interest the vendors but tend to leave the rest dry. So let’s summarize where we are at: SharePoint Premium provides all the repository (document management) services it always has, but now it also provides IDP (intelligent document processing) capabilities and critically a swathe of AI-based tools to automate the tagging, governance, process images, assemble documents and the classification of content. Yet Microsoft this fall has added more functionality as standard in SharePoint Premium, for example, ‘Clause Analyzer,’ which allows you to upload critical documents at scale and, in the process, automatically identify high-risk (including identification of the specific risk or risk) documents in the mix.

Next year, more services will come, and some interest us. Most notable in our analysis are those that boost the power of SharePoint administrators and developers to extend the platform, gain control over sprawl, and ensure that as volumes continue to grow, they do so more controlled and measured. First, Microsoft Graph APIs are included as part of Premium, along with critical new functionalities such as automatic detection of PII (personally identifiable information) and redaction. These are significant additions, but we hope that Microsoft highlights new functionality, such as the ability to Autofill columns. Auto-filling a column is not going to get headlines usually. Still, as this feature uses AI, it provides the ability to ask questions such as “flag every file that has not been accessed in the past five years.” in the right hands, tools such as this are gold to administrators. And that takes me to the meatiest, though arguably least sexy, new areas of functionality that orbit around the field of governance. As included as part of SharePoint Premium is a toolset called DAG (Data Access Governance), an intelligent reporting tool that provides insights into which sites are shared, how often, identify ‘interesting moments’ such as a sudden massive download of content, and do all this by multiple criteria, for example examining sensitive or private content (confidential, secret, etc.) within sites. In short, you now have a pretty easy-to-use audit tool that can operate at scale across your SharePoint farm. When at-risk sites and content are identified, you can restrict access at the click of a button. Together, these represent a big step up in the SharePoint world to make life easier and work more targeted for administrators. But what stole the show for us, though currently running under the radar in Microsoft circles, is how this kind of Premium functionality can all be easily tied to policy, which is a big deal, or at least a big opportunity for users of the system to exploit. When you bundle in Microsoft 365 Archive with Premium, you can automate storage and records retention policies in tandem. As much of what Microsoft has designed is to ensure that storage volumes can be managed more cost-effectively, in simple terms, low-value content volumes that nobody is accessing anymore can be moved to lower-cost storage or archived. There is the potential here to marry compliance, records, and storage policies together through automation and AI, and that, if pulled off effectively, would be a big win, not just in terms of managing sprawl and regulatory compliance but also bringing much-needed cost management to more extensive and very expensive installs.

So, in summary, the existing Syntex functionality has now been bundled as part of SharePoint, and together, they are SharePoint Premium. That makes sense and hopefully simplifies what is sometimes a very confusing spread of technology. But we think that in the right hands, it has the potential to be much more than that for administrators, IT, and record managers alike. As always, time will tell whether Microsoft makes the most of this opportunity and whether buyers will similarly grasp the potential and run with it. And therein lies the challenge: the SharePoint world is massive, and for all the bundling under a single brand, there is a lot for buyers and partners alike to navigate through and make sense of. There is no question that there is good technology here, and this release brings some serious and positive advances, but there is just so much of it. It adds to an already bewildering array of technology features, products, and functions. The question is whether simple, coherent, and practical stories and structures can be extracted from this mass that will not only resonate in the market but provide step-by-step guides to empowerment and business value.  

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