Published on February 6, 2024, 6:26 am

Microsoft’s newly transformed content and collaboration platform, SharePoint Premium, is banking on more powerful artificial intelligence capabilities. This “Premium” version offers more than just a few extra features; it represents a completely different approach to content management and experiences. However, there are a few fatal flaws that shed light on the challenges CIOs will face as generative AI becomes more prevalent in enterprise software.

SharePoint Premium seeks to address the fact that around 80% of data in typical enterprises is unstructured, such as emails, documents, presentations, spreadsheets, and voicemails. In the past, IT departments focused the majority of their attention and budget on structured data while leaving a mere 20% to deal with unstructured information. Application vendors also bifurcated their offerings between document management systems (DMSes) and content management systems (CMSes), with each focusing on different aspects of unstructured data.

DMSes primarily functioned as glorified folder trees for categorizing documents to make them easier to find and organize based on subject matter. However, one limitation of this approach is that most documents logically belong to multiple categories. SharePoint Premium aims to solve this problem with its Syntex subproduct by utilizing artificial intelligence to crack multi-categorization challenges. It automatically assigns each document to the most appropriate folder tree and folder while providing pointers to other relevant locations where the document logically belongs.

If SharePoint Premium lives up to its promises, it will offer users the best of both worlds: folder-tree navigation and semantic search capabilities. Additionally, its AI-driven approach flips the traditional perspective of atom/molecule content management by transforming documents into content using generative AI technology.

While SharePoint Premium shows potential in revolutionizing content management within organizations, there are significant hurdles ahead. Getting end-users accustomed to adopting new technologies can be challenging—regardless of how beneficial they may be in terms of deep and consistent content architecture. Employees already have established work habits and may be resistant to change. For SharePoint Premium to succeed, Microsoft must provide an organizational change management vision that is as compelling as the new AI-enabled content architecture.

It’s worth noting that Microsoft missed an opportunity by not integrating email into SharePoint Premium. Emails are documents just like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. By unifying email under the SharePoint Premium umbrella, users wouldn’t need to duplicate folder trees in both systems.

As a CIO considering implementing SharePoint Premium or similar AI-powered solutions, it is crucial to consider how user communities will respond to these changes. Most end-users have the ingrained worldview and established work habits that help them get their jobs done efficiently. Convincing them to invest time in understanding and utilizing new technologies can be a significant challenge.

In conclusion, rather than rendering humans obsolete, generative AI capabilities like those found in ChatGPT are pushing us to adapt and evolve. The true challenge lies in meeting the demands of AI technology and effectively managing organizational change within enterprises. CIOs must provide simplified explanations of new technologies for executive stakeholders and overcome resistance from end-users to ensure successful adoption of AI-enabled solutions like SharePoint Premium.

Bob Lewis is a senior management and IT consultant who specializes in IT and business organizational effectiveness, strategy-to-action planning, and business/IT integration. He offers insights on his blog Keep the Joint Running regarding digital transformation and related topics.

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