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IT cheers new SharePoint mobile apps

Microsoft's significant SharePoint makeover has IT pros praising the platform's new mobile apps and integration with OneDrive and other software.

Microsoft customers are excited about new SharePoint updates that will help IT better provide collaboration and file sharing to mobile users.

Microsoft will offer new native SharePoint mobile apps for iOS, Android and Windows. Until now, users had to access SharePoint via mobile device browsers, which could be a cumbersome experience. IT pros anticipate a much better interface on the mobile apps.

"A native app experience is going to make everything easier to access from all devices," said Jeff Janovich, a software analyst at Carlisle Construction Materials, a SharePoint shop in Carlisle, Pa. "I am very excited for the apps they are starting to build."

SharePoint is included in Office 365 licenses, which may sway Microsoft customers to use the platform, even though it competes with a growing number of collaboration services, such as Box and Slack.

"We are an Office 365 shop, and if SharePoint is included in Office 365, why pay extra?" said Steven Powers, IT manager at Millar, a medical technology provider in Houston.

The SharePoint mobile apps will also allow users to be more productive on the go, Janovich said.

Microsoft's large existing install base is a big differentiator -- especially because IT admins want to minimize the number of vendors whose software they manage, said Robby Hill, founder and CEO of HillSouth, an IT consultancy and Microsoft partner in Florence, S.C.

"It has a lot of customers who are looking forward to the new features of SharePoint and want the ability to access it from more locations," he said.

People may not have used SharePoint in an on-premises environment but will look at it in the cloud and say, 'this is what we want and need.'
Allen FalconCEO, Cumulus Global

Microsoft's integration with its own software also sets it apart from competition such as Slack, said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, a research firm in Austin, Texas.

"Slack will not be the No. 1 platform," he said. "Microsoft is going to get ahead of it."

The SharePoint mobile app for iOS will be available by the end of June, and apps for Android and Windows will come in the second half of the year, Microsoft said.  

SharePoint beefs up Microsoft integrations

The latest Microsoft SharePoint updates bring even further integrations with OneDrive, Office 365 and other Microsoft software.

For example, users on Office 365 will be able to share work files with users on SharePoint automatically and vice versa.

Another new integration allows users to sync documents and folders on SharePoint to OneDrive. Some of the new features and integrations will be available before the end of June, with the rest due by the end of the year, Microsoft said.  

The integrations are a major draw, Moorhead said.

"Office 365 and OneDrive are both best in class," he said. "OneNote just became world-class. If you have any of those, you have perfect integration with SharePoint."

The SharePoint upgrade will also support both cloud and on-premises deployments, which could be a benefit to companies such as Millar that are in the early stages of transitioning their storage to the cloud, Powers said.

More than 200,000 organizations use SharePoint, Microsoft said. But that number could increase with growing cloud adoption and SharePoint's integration with Office 365, said Allen Falcon, CEO at Cumulus Global, a Microsoft partner in Westborough, Mass.

"People may not have used SharePoint in an on-premises environment but will look at it in the cloud and say, 'this is what we want and need,'" he said.

But for SharePoint to really take off, it needs to be successful among end users. The interface must be familiar, simple and easy to navigate, he added.

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