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SharePoint 2010: More questions than answers?

The much-anticipated SharePoint 2010 launched for business users yesterday, but many are left scratching their heads. We know Microsoft is emphasizing the three C's -- connectivity, collaboration, and cloud computing -- but those are fairly high-level objectives, leaving info pros at odds with how to best use the platform in their own particular business environment and achieve its promised benefits.

First, let's recap the challenges.

1. SharePoint is many things to many people. Are you using it for content management? Document management? Collaboration? The intent for using SharePoint often dictates the outcome, or success. The problem is, the intent often gets muddied amidst all of the different feature/functionalities available.

2. Most people know SharePoint has a tendency to generate micro-silos. And depending on an organization's governance -- which varies company to company -- some do not allow their users to open up a Team Site simply because they do not want more silos. This undermines a major perceived benefit of having SharePoint in the first place, and compounds the end user access and productivity problem.

3. People often underestimate the cost of development -- both in money and time. An organization has to weigh the cost and complexities of a larger platform deployment, in addition to committing its IT resources to providing ongoing maintenance and support.

All of this leads to the million-dollar question: Is any of this going to change with 2010? I think the jury is out, and will be for a while.

Part of the reason is reflective of what we see across many of our own customers and prospects, which is "let's just wait and see." They intentionally stay a release behind in order to let Gates and Co. work out issues and bugs, and let early adopters pave the way to recommended practices for achieving the advertised benefits of increased collaboration and organizational effectiveness.

This is fairly common, as many users are just recently migrating to SharePoint 2007 from SharePoint 2003. I believe it will be at least a year before the world understands whether 2010 has/will resolved any of the problems they've encountered in earlier versions.

What's more interesting, however, is not only will the wait-and-see attitude affect SharePoint sales, it will also impact all of the markets that SharePoint touches (content management, document management, etc.), as well as third-party applications.

This boils down to the classic IT decision: build vs. buy. If you decide to build your applications within SharePoint, you must ask yourself, what value does this ultimately bring? Is it worth the time and effort in the long run?

If you decide to buy a best-of-breed app, you face a different decision. In order to go down this road, you have to first put SharePoint in some kind of category. Say content management, for example. Then you need to decide which content management application would be best for your organization to use with SharePoint.

Relying on third-party applications will take it part of the way, but does not eliminate development. So either way you slice it, SharePoint needs to rely heavily on IT.

Perhaps the strongest thing SharePoint has going for it is its integration into the Microsoft Office applications, which are so deeply entrenched in enterprise organizations. But is that enough?

I think if SharePoint 2010 doesn't wow its audiences, it's going to have real problems continuing as a standard enterprise platform. In fact, I see a strong possibility of a mass migration towards best-of-breed solutions vs. the big platform sell.


StanderBy said...

This review appears to be more of a wish than anything based on reality.

SharePoint is and (to a great extent was in the making) an enterprise product.

It is for the world to decide which side of the fence they wish to sit and wait for Microsoft to die.

For all you care, it will outlast all the fence sitters and encroach the ECM space slowly but steadily.

SharePoint 2010 augments / addresses almost all of the gaps that were found in SharePoint 2007 - ECD, DMS, RMS, WCM spaces and has a far cleaner integration with Office clients.

It is not perfect, it will be in another few iterations but life is like that - never too perfect.

About adoption - you are grossly mistaken. Enterprises are doing a lot of testing the ground / implementations around SharePoint 2010 and by 2012 - it will be the Office of the ECM.

Take a bet.

Bob Warren said...

Thank you for your thoughts. Yes, it’s true, only time will tell the extent to which SharePoint impacts the enterprise. We are simply reporting feedback based on our customers’ experiences across many disciplines and industries. This post is not so much a ‘wish’ as a ‘reflection’. It will certainly be interesting to see how it all plays out in reality.


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