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What is SharePoint Premium?

What is SharePoint Premium?

If you’re unfamiliar with ‘SharePoint Premium’ you’ll have questions: what does it do that SharePoint doesn’t, will it help me, how much is it? As of April 2024, it has been ‘introduced’, but not yet launched. You can use some services but must wait for others. We look at what’s known, what’s promised, and possible timescales.

SharePoint Premium was ‘introduced’ at Microsoft’s big annual event, Ignite, on 15 November 2023. But it wasn’t launched. More on that later. However, the introduction provided the vision, demonstrated some already available capabilities, and helped us to understand the potential value of SharePoint Premium.

What is SharePoint Premium?

To begin, SharePoint Premium is not a new version of SharePoint with some added features on top. It’s something completely different: a set of complementary, value-added services that sit on top of SharePoint, to improve content management.

Premium makes extensive use of AI (artificial intelligence) and Microsoft’s introductory video headlines Premium as ‘Where AI meets content management’.

Jeff Teper, Microsoft’s President of Collaborative Apps and Platforms, speaks of Premium providing improvements in experiences, processes, and governance. That means using AI to enable better content discovery and collaboration, to automate workflows and processes, and improve governance. And it’s this that is most likely to excite IT: eliminating manual tagging, managing content lifecycles and access, and controlling content sprawl.

Teper refers to SharePoint Premium as the new brand for Microsoft Syntex. Although with a lot of additional and interesting functionality either in ‘preview’ or in development, you’d be doing it deserve to think of it as no more than a renaming.

What is Microsoft Syntex?

Syntex, already no stranger to name changes, was launched in September 2020 as SharePoint Syntex. Becoming Microsoft Syntex in October 2022. So, it’s already an established technology with existing users and notably this includes KPMG in the UK.

It is tightly integrated with Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft 365 and uses AI and machine learning technologies to categorise and analyse unstructured data. Not only making that data valuable, but adding security, compliance, and governance to it.

Why is SharePoint Premium important?

As CIO columnist Bob Lewis observes, ‘in the typical enterprise, about 20% of all data is structured — the stuff that fits nicely into relational databases. The remaining 80% is unstructured’. Which makes it hard for the organisation and its users to derive value from this data.

In theory, Microsoft Copilot will help solve this problem by providing employees with an AI companion to search all available content for answers. But, without the right data permissions and security in place, staff could be seeing all sorts of content they shouldn’t have access to.

Microsoft Syntex, and in future SharePoint Premium, provides the means to resolve these issues.

How can SharePoint Premium help me?

SharePoint Premium provides AI-driven content analysis combined with the ability to automatically apply the desired metadata, tags, and retention policies.

At Ignite Microsoft’s Chris McNulty provided some useful examples. He showed how the review of sharing permissions could be streamlined. First, creating a report to identify vulnerable content, by identifying sites using the ‘everyone except external users’ permissions group. Then focusing on high value sites, such as HR and finance, he tasked site owners with determining whether their sites should be shared. See video 1.

Another example showed how good sharing permissions could easily be applied to sites with similar content. There are many other examples like this. In short, the technology provides manageable means of making the unstructured, structured, and adding data security and compliance where it was perhaps lacking.

Although not strictly part of SharePoint Premium, Microsoft 365 Archive is worthy of note. Video 2 shows how sites can easily be archived without compromising ease of restoration.

But SharePoint Premium isn’t just about compliance. It enables document-centric business processes and workflows to be automated. Such as document routing, approval, review, and archiving. It also helps employees to analyse and understand the content of documents and extract relevant information. There’s much more than we can cover here.

When will SharePoint Premium be launched?

The short answer is that we don’t know just yet.

Existing Syntex capabilities are already available. But there’s been no update on SharePoint Premium’s official launch and availability since November. Then, Teper stated the intention to ‘bring SharePoint Premium to broad availability in the first half of 2024’.

Microsoft likes to coordinate important announcements with its show-piece events. These are Microsoft Inspire in July, at the start of its new financial year, and Microsoft Ignite in November. With Inspire now fast approaching, if not announced soon, further Premium news may be held back until July.

How will SharePoint Premium be licenced?

Current Syntex functionality will continue to be available within Microsoft 365 plans, until it’s moved to the SharePoint Premium brand.

Microsoft has already stated that SharePoint Premium will have two licensing models. Content processing services will be available as a pay-as-you-go addition to most Microsoft 365 plans. While new capabilities will be seat licensed services.

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