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Microsoft® Adds Business Connectivity Services (BCS) to Office 365 SharePoint

On November 30, 2011 Microsoft® announced the addition of Business Connectivity Services to Office 365 SharePoint. Using SharePoint Designer, Office 365 users will now be able to configure BCS to include external databases, document repositories, etc within SharePoint Online.

We were particularly gratified to see this announcement. In August of 2011 Asif Rehmani wrote an article for MSDN on Customizing SharePoint Online with SharePoint Designer. Much of the content from his article will be useful as users start working with the BCS feature of SharePoint Online.

Adding BCS to Office 365 SharePoint makes a lot of sense. Microsoft appears to have finally implemented a winning method for offering Office components within a Software as a Service (SaaS) model. Kurt Delbene, President of the Office Division noted that “We are seeing really positive momentum for Office 365. Customers are adopting Office 365 eight times faster than our previous service, and the solution is on track to become one of our fastest-growing offers in Microsoft history,” (quote from Press Release as posted to PRNewswire). Mr. Delbene noted that over 90% of these early adopters are “coming from small businesses.” (ibid). We think that most small business customers will lack an integrated local computing environment that integrates CRM programs, SaaS Banking, Saas Bookkeeping, etc; therefore, granting these small business customers access to BCS will lend substantial “stickiness” to online SharePoint.

Systems Integrators, ISVs and Partners with offerings built on Office 365 SharePoint should have a clear idea of what it will take for their customers to capture the value that they build into their systems. We think that, more often than not, focused, specific and scalable training for readers, site owners, administrators, and architects will constitute a substantial portion of those implementation “must haves” for the end customers.

We further think that any training plan that does not empower each class of these users with the tools they need to derive the most benefit from SharePoint Online (in other words, any “flat” plan that only satifies the needs of one group of users) will not work. As we have written earlier in this blog, recent studies have demonstrated that a lack of training still constitutes the largest impediment to user adoption for SharePoint. But filling the training void has not been an easy process. Organizations with pervasively low levels of satisfaction with Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems in general and, in particular, SharePoint have demonstrated inertia on the training point. However, SharePoint Online, and add-on systems and solutions from integrators, ISVs and partners promise to fill the value gap and, thereby, facilitate long overdue training. Call us at (630) 786-7026 to further this discussion, or Contact Us.

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