2 Reasons Why You're Not Doing SharePoint on Mobile Devices

If you could steal a glance at a recent Forrester Research report, "SharePoint: Solid In The Enterprise, But Missing The Mobile Shift” you'd instantly conclude that mobile adoption of SharePoint is slow.

The summary of the report even says that.

Joe Herres cofounder of H3 Solutions, an ISV with mobile products for SharePoint and Office 365, sees, more than most of us, reasons for why this might be true.

This is in spite of users in the enterprise and other arenas demanding, or even more likely, assuming they can access SharePoint on mobile.

This is in spite of increasing numbers of vendors with mobile products in the SharePoint system, and an increase in on-premises vendors coming out with mobile apps.

2 Obstacles to Mobile

So what’s stopping people from getting into mobile? Two things, typically, Herres says.

Security. For enterprise customers, Herres says, the main consideration is still security. Not necessarily the fear of data exposure or breach but the question of “How are we going to let them in?”

“On-premises mobile is a pain—you’re dealing with firewalls, web access gateways, all kinds of hoops. The big pain is getting there. If they start with a client such as SharePlus or Colligo, and they’re using web services, are they going to have to punch a hole in the wall to get there? The biggest perceived challenge is getting inside.”

Certainly companies are wanting to jump on the mobile solution bandwagon, and that desire cuts across all verticals.  Often the primary reason companies get interested in mobile, Herres says, is because of a desire to access Exchange; next is wanting to have access to their intranet.

Agility. “Microsoft releases new versions every three years or so, and for SharePoint, they’ve been significantly different each time. People wonder, ‘How am I going to plan and migrate?’ It’s an involved process. By the time they get into the ‘new’ version, it’s time to plan and migrate to the next one. This leaves little room for value-add solutions,” Herres says. “Microsoft has found a formula in SharePoint. Now that they have put SharePoint and Office 365 on the same code base, we’ll see less significant changes.”

1 Imperative for Mobile

Another interesting situation occurs after a mobile solution is requested and purchased. It might be filed under that first-world technology problem known as “fulfilling the requirements versus fulfilling the need that prompted the requirements.”

“People buying for mobility have been the IT shop, whether mandated by their executives or not. When IT is in charge, they check boxes and go on with their day. For example, they’ll buy our product and want everything configured so all of SharePoint comes over to mobile. That’s not good—mobile users are different.”

The solution is obvious, but not widely carried out: You need to target workloads to mobile. “You need to ask, what will users need on mobile?” Herres says.

Understandably, loading more than a user needs means the user searches through that much more irrelevant stuff to find the necessities. “They need search, they want discussion features, but they don’t need everything.”

“Search is not available in Microsoft’s mobile features for SharePoint,” Herres points out, noting that H3’s Mobile Entrée builds in search and the ability to created saved searches, and is a mobile platform to deploy to SharePoint, using Visual Studio extensions to integrate it.

Microsoft's Mobile Story

“Microsoft left gaps in its mobile. It chose to focus on social and on documents. Social is the flavor of the year and it makes sense,” Herres says. “Documents make sense. But go back to SharePoint 2003—it’s a collaboration tool, with workloads, task boards, discussions. Microsoft hasn’t focused on the collaboration side for mobile. It’s the third-party apps that support calendars, task lists, workflows.”

“There’s no dev story for mobile for Microsoft. Their story is ‘Here’s an API—go build a Windows Phone app.’ They don’t have a mobile story devoted to SharePoint.”

“SMBs are going to be a really big deal,” Herres notes, for mobile but also for cloud, pointing to Microsoft’s partnership with GoDaddy as a sign. “They’re going to drive business to Office 365. It gives SMBs the ability to act like they’re bigger than they are.”  

Look for additional H3 releases in the near future, especially as Microsoft moves to accept auto-hosted apps in its App Store. Auto-hosted apps are “the secret sauce,” Herres says, letting you add to your tenancy an app that’s installed in a Windows Azure container, contained within the Microsoft environment.

Discuss this Blog Entry 1

on Feb 12, 2014

You're right that Microsoft is definitely behind the curve regarding SharePoint's mobile capabilities. Also, I agree that Microsoft is pushing the SMB's to Office 365. We've definitely seen that trend picking up at www.spmarketplace.com . Our SharePoint applications run on-premise as well as on Office 365. We use our own apps and the mobile version of our team sites work very well.

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Caroline Marwitz

Caroline Marwitz writes at the intersection of technology, design, and psychology, riffing on her years as editor and web content manager for SharePoint Pro Magazine and editor at Windows IT Pro...
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