Talkin’ ‘bout good ole Sharepoint

I was recently presented with another article that supposedly talks about the weaknesses of Sharepoint 2007 and why it might not be a good choice.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t the strongest of articles – in fact, I’ve yet to see a published critique truly worthy of my rebuttal skills. :)  However, this one had some points that were fun to refute (even the vague comments that he didn’t bother to try and prove), so I thought I’d post it. 

Notice the date, however – May 2008.  As you’ll see below, one of the things this points out is how fast and ever-evolving MOSS and the ECM, DM, and WCM industries are.  May 2008 is kind of old at this point.

In general, though, it sounds like these comments come from an organization with a non-existent or weak IT shop.  I can see MOSS being seen as a weak tool for organizations w/o the expertise to take advantage of it's open API and customization options, or w/o the insight to see how MOSS can integrate with their current IT infrastructure.  Those organizations probably do need a tool that thinks for them.  But for us IT folks, MOSS is pretty kool, and it becomes our job to show just how kool it is to the organizations that we support.

Anyway, here we go:

The pros and cons of SharePoint

by Toby Ward on Mon 19 May 2008 11:57 AM PDT  |  Permanent Link  |  Cosmos

SharePoint continues to be at the center of much of the intranet buzz – regardless of the water cooler, conference or country.

Shawn Shell, CEO of Consejo, and author of CMS Watch’s The SharePoint Report 2008 from CMS Watch, accurately summarizes SharePoint in one telling quote during his SharePoint presentation at Enterprise 3: “SharePoint does a lot of things, but it does very few things very well.”

I have maintained for sometime that SharePoint is an excellent intranet platform for departments, or small to medium-size enterprises. We in fact use it for our intranet at Prescient Digital Media (disclosure: we are fully technology-neutral with no partnerships nor reselling agreements with any technology vendor including Microsoft). But I don’t think that Sharepoint (MOSS 2007) is an appropriate enterprise intranet for medium to large organizations that need more robust content management, document management, and application integration.

--So, the high-profile, large orgs that are using it now for millions of documents and/or international collaboration (Dell, Air Force, FAA, HP, General Mills (records management), Bank of America (compliance), - are we saying they're crazy? :)

 

Nonetheless, SharePoint does have its strengths, and weaknesses, regardless of the client organization.

In no particular order, here are some of Shawn’s insights on SharePoint (and his company Consejo works almost exclusively on SharePoint implementations):

PROS:

  • Biggest strength: collaboration features and forcing compliance with information management policies.

OTHER STRENGTHS:

  • Blogs are built into every My Site
  • Wikis are out of the box
  • Reports – the ability to display and work with data from an Xcel worksheet.
  • Simple to use out-of-the-box
  • Search is very fast
  • Contributing content is simple
  • Direct integration with Office (XP to 2007)
  • Most functionality “exposed” through web services (e.g. all content can be subscribed to via RSS)
  • Mobile views via a PDA or phone is out-of-the-box
  • Alerts and workflow (though limited to email notification)
  • WSRP and SAP integration is included

I would add that if you’re an enterprise Microsoft customer, you can get MOSS for very cheap if not free (but the licensing typically represents 10-30% of the total cost). As well, simple out-of-the-box SharePoint management needs little to no training.

CONS:

  • Biggest weakness: Records management and digital asset management (non existent).

    --Non-existent???  Then what is this?  And this? And this
    ?

OTHER WEAKNESSES:

  • The wiki piece is a little weak (“The rumor is that the wiki and blog components were very late additions… they work very well (???), but the functionality is considerably lower than what you would expect from an enterprise deployment.”)
  • Sharepoint does not support AJAX (though there are work-arounds, MS will not support AJAX)
    --Sharepoint 2007 shipped before ASP.NET AJAX 1.0 did, but as of SP1 Ajax is supported
    .
  • Customization can be expensive and complex (and limited)  --if you have weak or no IT support
  • Content management (“It’s very average content management… its not very fabulous.”)  --sounds like a bells-n-whistles point, instead of core competencies
  • Analytics are very, very simple
  • Non-Active Directory authentication capabilities  --really???
  • Social networking built into MySites
  • Search returns documents and people  --huh???
  • WSRP and SAP integration is not terribly strong, but it works.

I would add the following weaknesses: immature technology, weak templates, and a reputation for weak service and training.

Shawn’s recommendations when considering or implementing SharePoint:  --The following sounds like it was taken directy from Microsoft's Planning & Architecture guidance...  plus, doesn't most of this guidance apply to any tool of this kind?

  • Understand information quantities and needs
  • Don’t just throw collaboration tools out there (he cited one client with “out-of-control” team sites and SharePoint sprawl)
  • Establish & enforce standards for use
  • Establish and closely monitor metrics for content creation
  • Continually evaluate and adjust approach to match reality
    • Enforce workspace use metrics
    • Notify of non-use after 60 days
    • Four notifications
    • Delete after fourth notification
  • Use workflow to suspend assets
  • Re-map and migrate intranet sites into Sharepoint
  • Use Search to Capture Outlying Sites
  • Create a controlled vocabulary (taxonomy and meta data)
  • Measure and measure again
  • Track search requests against workgroup assets

Shawn’s advice of what not to do:

  • Enforcing standards inappropriate for collaborative environment (ditch the Big Brother persona)
  • Repeat monolithic hierarchy (reduce the red tape)
  • Exclude active participants / authors
  • Ignore advantages of “competing” tools (e.g. Lotus SameTime)
  • Search results must be validated and in context

By the way… the next version of Sharepoint will be released in 2010 along with Office version 14 (MS is superstitiously skipping version 13).

I’m sure MOSS doesn’t work for everyone, but it sure does seem to work for a lot of folks.  And I’m thinking many of those folks who simply like to randomly talk about MOSS weaknesses might want to strengthen their arguments soon.  Because I’m betting the next version of MOSS might really make the competitors start to sweat even more than they are now. :)

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2 Responses so far.

  1. sge says:

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  2. EXCELLENT information. Your directions are clear and concise, and easy to follow. Thanks for your hard work in posting this info.

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