Microsoft changed the interview process

Interview with Office 365 boss Jeff Teper: "Not all customers want to go to the cloud, we see it and support it"

At the European SharePoint & Office 365 Conference 2018 (# espc18) in Copenhagen this week, I had the opportunity to speak to Jeff Teper, head of Microsoft's Office 365 division and inventor of SharePoint. He took a clear position on the much-discussed topic of cloud versus on-premises and explained Microsoft's future strategy.

SP360: Mr. Teper, especially in German-speaking countries, a large number of companies remain loyal to the classic SharePoint server. At the Ignite conference in September, you clearly expressed your support for this target group and announced further on-premises versions after 2019. Nevertheless, you are also making it very clear that music is now mainly playing in the cloud. What is your strategy here?

We say very clearly that we are continuously developing our cloud platform and that we can provide significantly more functions here.

Jeff Teper: SharePoint 2019 has grown enormously in terms of functions and is at the height of SharePoint Online in the central areas. For our customers, this means that they benefit from many innovations with the current on-premises server. But we also say very clearly that we are constantly developing our cloud platform and can provide significantly more functions here, starting with Teams, the Microsoft Graph, Yammer or PowerApps. In principle, all of these options are only available from the cloud; they are not available in local environments.

SP360: Four years ago it almost looked as if Microsoft wanted to force the move to the cloud company with a crowbar. That also earned you a lot of criticism. What has changed since then?

I am a realist and I see that IT provision via the cloud does not meet the actual requirements and wishes of all customers.

JT: Basically, I have to admit that I like the approach of companies like Google, Salesforce or AWS to offer all services from the cloud. But I am also a realist here and see that this form of IT provision does not correspond to the actual requirements and wishes of all customers. Fortunately, we at Microsoft are in the comfortable position of being able to offer customers what they need - whether from the cloud or on-premises. That is why we will definitely continue to pursue this strategy. Even if we say very clearly that the overall package in the cloud offers more comprehensive functionality. In the end, however, it is the customer's decision that counts for us.

SP360: Cloud skepticism was still very high two years ago, and it is still widespread, as we were able to show with our SharePoint user study. How do you go about convincing customers of your cloud offerings?

JT: Germany is one of our largest markets, and we are talking to many leading and internationally successful companies here. If you want to win such customers for the cloud, you have to convince them that you can meet the highest requirements in terms of security and compliance. This is often a lengthy process, although the general increasing acceptance of the cloud in recent years has also helped us a lot in Germany. At a certain level, the decision in favor of the cloud is very often made today. The number of those who are planning to use the cloud at least in part is now very high. But admittedly one cannot generalize that.

SP360: Google is a big cloud competitor in the productivity tools space, at least in terms of size and potential. Do you currently see Google as a threat, and how do you rate its capabilities?

JT: If you look at the breadth and depth of the functionality of our business IT solutions, I don't see Google anywhere as a competitor on an equal footing. They do a good job in individual areas such as Drive or Docs, where we also see them as serious competitors. But take, for example, enterprise content management with SharePoint, user productivity or security, in these areas we can offer much more extensive solutions.

SP360:What role do the very different business models play, is this important for customers and how does that affect the quality of the solutions?

Our biggest difference to Google is that we have aligned our business model completely with customer success and measure ourselves against it.

JT: Our biggest difference to Google is that we have completely aligned our business model to customer success and measure ourselves against it. If a German machine manufacturer finds that our applications optimally address his needs, he will continue to sign his license agreement. If we're not good enough, he'll look for another manufacturer. Regardless of whether it is about Office 365 or Auzure, our business always depends on whether customers find added value in it. We have to orient ourselves to this and align our development. Google's business model is more geared towards ads and e-commerce. You are in the role of mediator between seller and buyer. Our success, on the other hand, is very closely linked to the success of our customers. If they are successful, we will be successful too, and that spurs us on.

Wolfgang Miedl is the founder of As a specialist author and analyst, he has been working on workplace and collaboration topics in the Microsoft environment for over 20 years. He is co-editor of several SharePoint and Office 365 market and user studies.
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