Q&A: SharePoint Webinar and Whitepaper (Part 2)

This is my second post in which I answer questions that were posed but not answered during the webinar on SharePoint. (See earlier post for additional Q&A, and original post for details on the SharePoint study and the slides from the webinar)

You may still listen to the recorded webinar during which many other questions were answered and issues discussed.

Q:  Is SharePoint a hot short-term fad or will we see it in a prevalent presence 10-15 years from now?

A:  I am reluctant to make predictions that go out 10 – 15 years.  Far too much can occur to really have genuine insights regarding the fate of SharePoint over a decade+ from now.  That said, however, I will say that I do not believe that SharePoint is a “fad”.  Far too many organizations have invested time and money into it for it to simply go away like yesterday’s fashions.  Moreover, Microsoft has much riding on this product/platform, and Microsoft is a force to be reckoned with.  There is every indication that they will continue to support and enhance SharePoint.  So while I am reluctant to speculate on what SharePoint will look like 15 years from now, I will state that I believe that it will continue to grow in scope and capability for the foreseeable future, and that it will continue to have a presence in most global organizations.  We will see much market activity amongst ECM solution providers to complement SharePoint rather than compete head-to-head, and we will see Microsoft making improvements to SharePoint.  What will it look like in 15 years – cannot say, but at the very minimum, remnants of SharePoint applications will remain 15 years from now.

Q:  Is SharePoint like another Lotus Notes Virus?
A:  OK, I am guessing that this was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but as they say, many a truw word [and question] are said in jest.  So let me answer it. This question is perhaps related to the earlier ones regarding the competitive nature between Notes and MOSS.  As I said in the last post, Notes users who have built complex and critical applications in Notes, do not yet appear to be actively migrating them to SharePoint with any degree of consistency and momentum.  At the lower end of Notes applications, yes, SharePoint is a serious alternative that is replacing many Notes databases. If for no other reason, SharePoint is to be commended to applying pressure on IBM and its Notes product line. In both cases, however, the relative immaturity of the products, as full-fledged ECM solutions still warrants, for many organizations an investment in complementary products, and certainly much customization and integration work.

Q:  What are the scalability issues in SharePoint and would you recommend SharePoint to be used as Document Management system, where collaboration is not primary requirement.

A:  There are several scalability issues with SharePoint.  Based on the responses to the survey, the greatest amongst these are performance issues when increasing quantity or size of the document repository, lack of support for complex document architectures, and the administration associated with larger installations.  Based on feedback from users, I would not recommend using SharePoint as an ECM solution in cases in which internal collaboration is not a primary requirement.  Again, internal collaboration and knowledge sharing were ranked as the primary strengths of SharePoint and the number one application amongst its users.  To leverage SharePoint in a situation focused on other applications (for example, an external customer facing portal, complex internal records and content security management) would be a case of misapplying technology.  These features are not SharePoint strengths (yet).  Satisfaction ranks high amongst those using it for internal collaboration, and then satisfaction levels significantly drop (to say nothing of the need for customization and integration complexity.)
Q:  What are the key functionality weaknesses that make SharePoint a weak solution for records management.

A:  Two main issues.  First, the records management functionality, known as the Records Center is a MOSS component and does not function in Windows SharePoint Services (WSS).  Thus, right off the bat it requires further investment beyond SharePoint itself. Secondly, the Records Center is a platform, not a near-turnkey records application like that available from products such as CA, HP/Tower, Autonomy/Meridio, OpenText, IBM and EMC Documentum.  Most records functionality has to be built using the toolset.  There is no auto-declaration of records for example, nor rendition control or clawbacks. SharePoint provides only the most basic of records management features. Consider that MOSS Records Center is not DOD 5015 compliant out of the box, but requires a “resource kit” to make it compliant.  If you attempt to download the resource kit from the Microsoft site you receive the following message:
“This additional download provides an easy way to learn about the pack while deciding if it is useful for an organization. It is not for production use. Please work with your account manager to engage a partner that has been trained on the DoD 5015.2 Resource Kit to support your DoD implementation.” – enough said.
Q:  When or at which cross point is SharePoint expected to seriously compete with other ECM packages.

A:  I would say that that time has already come.  Granted, SharePoint still lacks all of the functionality that is bundled in the leading ECM suites, but consider that each of these products has a SharePoint integration story to tell.  The point is that while SharePoint may not compete feature to feature, it does compete “enough” to be positioned as a viable component of an ECM strategy, as we have discussed, especially for collaborative internal knowledge sharing environments and portals.  As Microsoft continues to enhance SharePoint, and there is every indication that they will, it will only become more competitive.  Indeed, it is not outside the realm of possibility that Microsoft may acquire a “full-featured” content management system, and leap frog its competitors.  Although they have not yet integrated it into SharePoint, recall that last year, Microsoft leapfrogged into enterprise search with the acquisition of FAST.
Q:  Thoughts on limitations with SharePoint enterprise search and how FAST might come into play in the future?

A:  I purposely listed this question to follow the one above, in which I used the FAST acquisition to show how Microsoft can leapfrog into targeted ECM markets through acquisition.  Yes, the acquisition of FAST made Microsoft “a contender” in the enterprise search market, competing with products such as Endeca, Autonomy, Vivisimo and Google.  To date, FAST functionality has not yet been tightly integrated into the SharePoint environment, but that is inevitable, and when that occurs, the features and functions of FAST will catapult SharePoint enterprise search functionality, positioning it  amongst the leaders.
Q:  Would you identify SharePoint as an Internal Social Network?
A:  Yes.  SharePoint does not provide all of the functionality that comprises social networking (e.g. social tagging and social network analysis), but it clearly has some of it.  For example, SharePoint provides Wikis and Blogs, “My Sites”, and the ability to track and share declared groups of colleagues.  You may recall from the webinar that most SharePoint functionality gets a “good” rating.  That would pertain to this question as well.  The Internal Social Networking capabilities are not leading edge, but for many teams – good enough.

Q:  Are you seeing competition from open source solutions in same area?

A: Yes, and the most visible is Alfresco.
Q:  How many respondents didn’t use SharePoint because they already have another solution in place?

A:  I will answer this question in two ways.  First, using the survey that was the focus of the webinar.  You may recall, that amongst 592 responding organizations, 33% were NOT using SharePoint.  Of those, only 5% indicated they were not using SharePoint because of a preference for another product. Not a conclusive answer. Because of the way the question and answer were worded, I cannot tell if the preferred product was already in house (the nature of your question), or if a new purchase was made in lieu of SharePoint.  With that said, I will also share my observation based on working with many organizations over the last 2 years. In most cases where SharePoint is being used, other ECM products precede it.  SharePoint is being embraced in many cases, not as a replacement, but an alternative.  As SharePoint matures, this attitude or approach is beginning to change.

Q:  With SharePoint are you restricting yourself to Microsoft platform?

A:  Virtually every major vendor has a SharePoint integration story and strategy, so no, you are not restricting yourself strictly to a Microsoft-only platform. But, with that said, obviously, as an organization becomes more dependent upon SharePoint they are  becoming more aligned with a Microsoft platform.

OK that’s it for this post. You are probably tiring of reading, and I certainly am of typing.  More to come so stay tuned …

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“Dan has a great grasp of business innovation...what it is, what it isn't, and what it takes to drive it. He understands the difference between innovation (process and capability) and innovations (events). His insight comes from his professional experience and from his curiosity, caputured in his blogs and podcast interviews with thinkers on the subject. In other words, he knows how to ask the right questions.”
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