What the experts say about SharePoint

The following is a review of the older version of SharePoint, Sharepoint 2007 (also called MOSS), but the review is also pertinent to the 2010 edition.

SharePoint has always been many things: a document management system, content management system, portal, web development portal, etc. And Microsoft's intent has always been for SharePoint to be many things to many people. However, the broad appeal and function set has been at the expense of performance and usability. 

Gartner provides a damming analysis in its report Five Best Practices for Deploying SharePoint:

“Though it covers a broad spectrum of capabilities, MOSS 2007 is not yet a full enterprise content management (ECM) system. Organizations requiring advanced content management capabilities and process-centric applications will need to augment their capabilities with partner offerings, or deploy MOSS 2007 alongside an ECM system rather than as a replacement for it.”

SharePoint is easy to deploy, out-of-the-box, but is overly simplistic with dreadful usability when it's not customized properly. Trouble is, it can be difficult and expensive to customize (and Microsoft doesn't support customized versions). Smaller, phased implementations using an Agile approach is recommended. And SharePoint requites a plan. A SharePoint deployment, like any other technology implementation will ultimately fail if not aligned with strategy, and if not properly planned with the mandatory governance model.

Regardless of the technology or the organization, like any intranet or portal project, SharePoint requires a detailed strategy and plan. Bob Mixon, President of Mixon Consulting, was frank in his assessment at the Enterprise 3 conference in San Diego (see SharePoint requires proper architecture & governance ):

“Without proper architecture and governance, I can guarantee you that SharePoint will fail.” 

Officially, we are technology neutral; we neither endorse nor oppose SharePoint. SharePoint is good for some, and not appropriate for others. However, we use SharePoint for our own intranet and now use SharePoint Online with Office 365. As well, we have many clients that use SharePoint. However, SharePoint is being used by too many organizations, including clients, that aren’t well served by it.

Two telling quotes, from Shawn Shell and Alan Pelz-Sharpe, the co-authors of the CMS Watch The Sharepoint Report, best sum-up SharePoint 2007 and 2010:

  • “SharePoint does a lot of things, but it does very few things very well.” Shawn Shell (see The pros and cons of SharePoint).
  • “SharePiont is very good for very good in smaller, workgroup environments (it’s not traditionally very good for 5,000 or 10,000 concurrent users),” Alan Pelz-Sharpe (see SharePoint overview (pros & cons, MOSS).
A number of experts and users (owners / licensees) have weighed-in on their expert opinions and analysis of SharePoint. To avoid any controversy and to protect the individuals who were freely expressing and sharing their opinions at the jboye conference in Aarhus, here are some of the more frank quotes:

  • “The perception is that the search engine is terrible. I’m not 100% in agreement… the engine is pretty good, but the search interface can be weak (e.g. the engine does support wild card and Boolean searches, but usually the implemented interface does not).”
  • “Personal sites (my Site functionality) is both interesting and scary at the same time.”
  • “The complexity across farms is ridiculous. Make sure your consultant (MS partner or implementer) give you a list of those things that stop working across farms.”

Still more advice from Information Week writer Nicolas Hoover (Can Microsoft Keep SharePoint Rolling?)

“The software's Swiss Army knife approach helps companies create more useful intranets, set up document sharing, offer blogs and wikis, and build a richer online company directory. This boundary-blurring nature is part of its appeal, and can even help in budgeting: IT teams that might not get the nod for document management software have been known to slip SharePoint into the Microsoft Office budget.

SharePoint's feature sprawl can be part of the problem. By taking what comes bundled in SharePoint, companies can end up compromising critical functions compared with best-of-breed tools. And SharePoint deployments easily can go wrong if IT teams just turn on additional modules without considering the business case, requirements, and training needed to make them part of a business process. SharePoint's all-in-one appeal may lessen as content management standards become more prevalent, making best-of-breed approaches more viable. Still, it's undeniable that SharePoint's on a roll because of intense demand to better manage and share an expanding glut of diverse content."

If you have SharePoint, or are thinking of buying, Gartner offers the following recommendations: 

  • To ensure that SharePoint does not become another content silo, build or update your enterprisewide content management strategy to address collaborative and basic content management.
  • Build a broad inventory of existing content management applications and repositories and assess the investment levels in those before bringing in another platform such as SharePoint.
  • Define business requirements and the corresponding technical and functional needs, which may span collaborative and process-centric content applications. Map your content management products to them with an eye toward minimizing the redundancy in application development, IT operational or other costs.
  • Examine the integration points required between SharePoint and an ECM suite and assess the availability tools and technologies to ensure interoperability.
  • Establish and enforce governance policies regarding when to use and when not to use SharePoint.

SharePoint 2007 and 2010 were mixed solutions at best – ideal for smaller companies, not so much for larger ones. Prescient will continue to recommend SharePoint for some organizations, but not for others.

Based on our early adopter knowledge of CMS Platforms, a technology-neutral approach to defining business requirements and a proven methodology for aligning online collaboration needs with organizational goals, Prescient has developed a customizable CMS Blueprint to help client select the best CMS platform for their organization.

For more information on our CMS Blueprint Service, please contact us directly for more information on how to transform your intranet into a high-value employee & business system.


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