With the introduction and success of Office 365, 2012 will see more businesses looking to take advantage of the cloud. As additional functionality is introduced to the online platform to bring features up to par with on-premise SharePoint 2010 environments, collaborative workloads such as team sites and extranets are likely to be migrated into the cloud, allowing anytime, anywhere access to business data. Businesses are likely to take a ‘best of both worlds’ approach by buying into hybrid solutions and plugging the gaps between on premise and cloud with the help of third-party software.

One feature that could be added to Office 365 in the near future is the introduction of an ‘app store’ for SharePoint solutions. In addition, the cloud is also likely to be used more and more as a replacement for temporary infrastructure, becoming a replacement for SharePoint development, testing and proof of concept due to its scalability and flexibility.

  1.  Tighter, Stricter, Stronger

Governance will be an important trend in 2012, as the amount of data that businesses are required to store continues to grow. In fact, a study released by research firm IDC, Extracting Value from Chaos, states that the world’s data is doubling every two years. This is making it increasingly difficult to find documents and manage site sprawl.

The increase in data will drive businesses to implement governance across their SharePoint deployments in order to better manage the content while at the same time ensuring that the data is not accessed by unauthorised personnel. As such, 2012 will see businesses develop governance plans that include input from both a business and IT perspective, imposing stricter rules on access and data management.

  1.  Consumerisation of IT

Consumerisation was huge in 2011 and is primed to continue in 2012. A wide variety of computing devices, tools and platforms have permeated the enterprise, and SharePoint has addressed this consumerisation trend by supporting various browsers, operating systems and devices. However, as it stands, mobile support is very limited and focused only on the Microsoft mobile environment. Analyst firm Forrester Research expects third-party software to make SharePoint more accessible for other prevalent operating systems in the near future.

  1.  Moving onwards and upwards

Businesses that are currently using earlier versions of SharePoint today are likely to focus their attention on upgrading or migrating to SharePoint 2010. New features and functionalities supported by the 2010 platform including, social and enhanced enterprise search functions, are appealing to SharePoint users due to the opportunity for fast return of investment.

  1.  Mind the gap

According to Forrester Research, lack of IT skills is an issue for businesses that have deployed SharePoint. The broad scope of technologies that Microsoft has built into SharePoint creates a complex technical environment. As businesses increasingly acknowledge the need to provide support for continuous improvement, adoption and engagement, training and education will be a priority for SharePoint users. Until administrators are adequately trained to manage this evolving platform, the ability to fully optimise SharePoint is limited. This year, third-party vendors will look to address this skills gap and reduce the complexity of SharePoint through automation.

  1.  Taking Control of Data

In 2012, businesses will be looking to concentrate and consolidate content in their SharePoint deployments. Storage optimisation solutions for SharePoint will be the drivers behind this consolidation effort. One such solution is SharePoint’s Remote BLOB Storage (RBS) APIs. However, RBS coding can be complex and time consuming, so expect to see third-party vendors plug this gap through storage optimisation software solutions and solutions that are built directly into the storage hardware.

Alongside this, organisations are starting to apply ECM methodologies, such as taxonomy and document holds in SharePoint. This will encourage businesses to focus even more on governance and planning.

  1.  A little birdie told me….

Social networks are one of the big trends of 2012. Businesses that deployed SharePoint as a collaboration and file share tool are now looking for the next step. Microsoft has been touted as the ‘Facebook for the enterprise’ and is a leader in the 2011 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Social Software in the Workplace. Businesses will want to take advantage of SharePoint’s new found social capabilities, as well as out-of-the-box enhancements. Expect to see more social features and functions to be added throughout 2012 by both Microsoft and third-party vendors.

2012 is set to be a year when businesses will change and develop the ways in which they use and interact with SharePoint. There will be a greater emphasis on governance and planning, and businesses will also look to unlock SharePoint’s full potential through its cloud, mobile and social features. Where SharePoint doesn’t improve natively, third party vendors will offer a solution to help companies maximise the value of this collaboration platform.

2012 will no doubt be another strong year for SharePoint, and this summer Microsoft will release the public beta of the next version of SharePoint, currently code named “SharePoint 15,” and many pundits expect Microsoft to make a big announcement at SharePoint Conference 2012 in Las Vegas – watch this space!