Monday, March 23, 2009

What CAN’T SharePoint do?

For those of you that don’t know what SharePoint is here is a quick overview: SharePoint is a product and a technology from Microsoft that allows people to share information.

In reality – SharePoint is much more than this, but if you don’t know what SharePoint is this should be enough.

imageFor those that DO know what SharePoint is and does I hope you read on. In my opinion SharePoint can be morphed into almost any solution imaginable. The reason I say this is because of the role partners play and because Microsoft has created SharePoint to be a platform.

When is SharePoint good enough?

You hear this once in a while. It’s not a completely incorrect statement, but it is incomplete. A sub-set of SharePoint called Windows SharePoint Services is free (or I should say included within the license of Windows Server) and has built in capabilities to create sites, wikis, and otherwise collaborate with co-workers. However, that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. SharePoint is really only complete when partners are involved.

Partners have created hundreds if not thousands of solutions. Some of which are listed here and here, but there is so much more to be done. If executed correctly the potential exists for SharePoint to become the framework that underpins many of the solutions of tomorrow.

As I alluded to above - SharePoint by itself is not the be all - end all solution. However, when combined with the experience, expertise, and energy of the partner community SharePoint really shines.

Depending upon which statistics you want to believe there are over one million Microsoft partners out there in the world. These includes all types of partners and they may not all be focused on (or even aware of) SharePoint, but they should.

Why do Partners Care?

imagePartners care because of the 1:3:5 Ratio that can come from being a part of the Microsoft ecosystem. Because Microsoft has created SharePoint (and other core Microsoft Products & Technologies) to function as a framework partners can build anything they can dream up. Of course, there are limitations. Sometimes they are limitations in technology and sometimes they are limitations in licensing. If given the option I would much rather change a piece of paper (the contractual side of the relationship) before changing the code (the development / framework side).

Previously I wrote a blog post about the Microsoft Partner Ecosystem and the 1:3:5 Ratio which highlights why partners care. I discussed the four things partners expect from a relationship with Microsoft and I still think they are the core elements of why partners care.

Partners are innovative and unbelievably creative. Given a predictable and repeatable (and of course stable) platform upon which to innovate and the ideas will come forth at an alarming pace.

Extending the SharePoint Framework

Earlier this year I wrote a blog post about ECM entitled What is ECM? Your Definition and Mileage may Vary where I focused on what I consider to be the Four Pillars of ECM. The Four Pillars cover a wide range of technologies and there is an equally wide assortment of vendors to serve the ECM needs for customers of every size and every market. This is the the starting point for where SharePoint fits in and if executed correctly could help form the foundation of a whole new generation of solutions.


SharePoint & Horizontal Solutions

Partners have the expertise and the customer base to create solutions that span every business. Using SharePoint partners can form the foundation for numerous Horizontal Solutions.image

SharePoint & Vertical Solutions

Partners also have the subject matter expertise to create specialized solutions that meet the needs of vertical industries.


REQUESTS to Microsoft / Expectations from Partners

  • Provide a predictable roadmap for products (see Why do partners care? in this blog post)
  • Adjust the Licensing program to allow for SaaS / PaaS (Azure based services) to become a reality
  • Let customers know that partners really are partners and that it's OK to work with them on both simple & complex projects. Back up the Partners - they are betting on Microsoft.
  • Minimize competition between Microsoft and the partner ecosystem. When there will be competition --- LET PARTNERS KNOW well ahead of time. Include a roadmap and let partners know when changes occur that might affect them.

Thinking Points / Questions -

For End Users

  • Does your company use solutions built with SharePoint?
  • Does your company use SharePoint to offer hosted services?

For Developers / Solution Providers

  • Do you develop on SharePoint?
  • If you considering or already using Software-as-a-Service (Saas) - What platform do you use for SaaS based solutions?
  • Does SharePoint (Microsoft) support your needs for SaaS?

Full disclosure: I worked for Microsoft for five years and for the past five years I have worked in the partner ecosystem. I remember when SharePoint version 1 was announced. I was at the AIIM show and I was working for FileNET*. We chuckled – because they told us that the big ECM vendors of the day were doomed. Ten years later some, but not all, has changed.

image *Note: Now FileNet is like Shoebox Greetings a Teeny-Tiny division of IBM. Perhaps there was some truth the SharePoint v1 proclamations. Because Documentum is now part of EMC. Only Open Text survives as an independent ECM vendor and I think it’s only a matter of time before that changes – see predictions.

What’s Next?

I think SharePoint has done well over the past three iterations of the product (SharePoint sales hit $1B). Office 14 – the next scheduled update for the Office Suite of products which includes SharePoint is due out in 2010. The potential for SharePoint to become the framework that underpins countless solutions is real. I expect to be working with quite a few companies that will make a bet on SharePoint.

So, back to the title of this blog post and the question posed:

What CAN’T SharePoint do?

Will you be making a bet on SharePoint? Why or why not?

Comments welcomed. Please drop me a line here as a comment or contact me via Twitter, e-mail or Facebook.

clip_image002 About The Author:
I have spent the better part of the last 16 years working in various aspects of the ECM space. I spent time at
Kofax, Microsoft, FileNet, K2, and most recently Captaris (which was acquired by Open Text in Nov 2008). Prior to that I was a Unix VAR running my own company. Follow me on Twitter, check my blog, send email or find me on Facebook or LinkedIn.

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jammy heris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jammy heris said...

Nice posting, thanks for sharing with us. Your blog is great and helped me feel better knowing about the sharepoint partner. Thanks again!

Hedley Elliott said...

The factor I would like to create is that SharePoint has complex issues because it was marketed as a records management solution.