A post on the Microsoft Office blog today entitled “Evolution of SharePoint” grabbed my attention. In it, Office Product Management team General Manager Julia White discussed ways the SharePoint platform is changing to fit its niche in the cloud and on premises.
As I read the article, I started thinking about how SharePoint BI has also evolved and is continuing to co-evolve with the host platform:
1) Less Excel, more Power BI
In SharePoint 2010, Excel Service and Power Pivot were big deals — not to mention the introduction of PerformancePoint Services. By 2013, these same features had been streamlined for on-premises users, but SharePoint Online users kinda got the short end of the stick. Enter Power BI, and the integration with Excel became even deeper with Power View and the BISM Connector providing additional functionality. But now, Microsoft has basically unyoked Power BI from Excel with the introduction of Power BI Designer.
What exactly this means for SharePoint users is as yet unclear — especially those in the on-premises scenario. One can expect that the Power Pivot Gallery will live on. There are promises of being able to embed Power BI artifacts in SharePoint online pages or web apps, as well. But what seems most likely is that a Power BI App will be made available to on-premises users of SharePoint 2016.
2) On-premises to Cloud
Progress marches on, and nowhere is that truer than in the BI realm. From the long list of services and features provided to expand the BI experience in SharePoint 2013 on premises, we’ve seen the entire industry pivot to the cloud. For SharePoint, this has essentially meant expansion of Office 365 and SharePoint Online in competition with the on-premises product. And to date, it’s the cloud path has really gotten the most lavish attention from Microsoft with Power BI. It remains to be seen how SharePoint 2016 will be positioned in that light, and whether we might see a new story for on-premises SharePoint BI take form.
3) Performance Point is dead
No, really. I would bet one of my digits (although not a significant one, yuk yuk yuk) that PerformancePoint Services will be deprecated in SharePoint 2016. We’ve already seen it dropped from the existing cloud offerings; if you want PPS in the cloud, you’ll need to run SharePoint on Azure VMs. So, what takes its place? Nothing in Power BI has the exact same feature set, but upcoming Power BI Dashboards (based on Power View) should be able to at least provide a visual analog — if not the sophisticated drilldown capability.
4) Mobile on the rise
You don’t have to be too perceptive to note the surge of importance in mobile. SharePoint 2013 made major strides in terms of browser compatibility by moving strongly towards HTML 5 standards, thus improving the UX for mobile users. SharePoint 2016 is strongly expected to be fully HTML 5 compliant, and to improve that mobile experience even more. Similarly on the BI side, while the initial release of Power View was not HTML 5 based, Microsoft has made good on their promise to rebuild included visualizations to be HTML5 based. The recent release of Power BI apps for iOS devices underlines the desire for the service to be both platform and device agnostic. Basically, we are seeing Microsoft bend these platforms to the way usage patterns are changing. Count on both SharePoint and Power BI to continue in that vein.
5) App Oriented
Based on what we are seeing from Microsoft, it appears that we can expect SharePoint to become more app-centric — both in the Cloud and On-Premises contexts. SharePoint 2016 is rumored to include a manifestation of an App store. Power BI Sites is a SharePoint Online app and, as mentioned above, I would expect a version of that app might be made available for on-premises SharePoint 2016. Add to this the embracing of mobile, and an App based approach seems to be the best choice an increasing number of scenarios.
Overall, the direction for both SharePoint and Power BI is clearly to the Cloud. Old tools and approaches are being turned over in favor of new ones. And there is some uncertainty resulting from that for on-premises users of SharePoint. But Microsoft seems to be standing by the platform no matter what, so I would expect to get a better idea of the BI story for SharePoint 2016 as CTP versions start hitting the Web.