SharePoint and ecm – Is 2010 the year to go BIG?

Will 2010 be the year Microsoft can push SharePoint into uppercase ECM? Will 2010 be the year SharePoint breaks out of the lower-case “ecm” category?

I was spurred into action today by a tweet from Philippe Parker. Where he asked “Is SharePoint viable as a cheap ECM?” This is a question I have been asked many times over the years. One of the responses I have given is that SharePoint is lower-case “ecm” --- that is --- until partners are added to the mix. I fervently believe this is the case. I have worked for Microsoft and I have worked for partners. The fact of the matter is that Microsoft needs partners more than ever to help make the jump to upper-case ECM.

image I remember when SharePoint was announced about 10 years ago. I was at the AIIM show and working for FileNet (now IBM) at the time. Some of the Microsoft people were making grand statements about how they were going to put Knowledge Management (KM) vendors out of business. This was before the term Enterprise Content Management (ECM) was in wide usage.

image The Collective Response:

We all laughed --- on the outside.

And shivered a little --- on the inside.

Not Quite There Yet

SharePoint v1 was a decent start, and as most people know that lived through it, they know it was missing a few pieces to be a complete ecm or ECM system. Some might say this was on purpose because those gaps were left there for partners. In fact, I used to say that when I worked for Microsoft. I still say it today. I’m not 100% sure Microsoft still thinks this is the case, but I’m a big believer in the the power of partners and a strong partner ecosystem.

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) – which was part of the Office 2007 suite of products got Microsoft into the lower-case “ecm” space. This is where SharePoint is today. The next release of SharePoint has recently been relabeled from the Office 14 class of products to be SharePoint 2010. It remains to be seen how Microsoft will leverage the partner ecosystem and what gaps Microsoft will leave and encourage partners to fill with the next release. From what I have seen and heard there will continue to be a strong and vibrant connection to the partner community. I hope so.

What does SharePoint need to do to be categorized as ECM?

A complete ECM system would include at least the Four Pillars (see image below and the associated link) and should also include Web Content Management (WCM), Digital Asset Management (DAM) which includes video and audio content and would have the capacity to capture and manage images from multiple sources and rock solid integration to all the disparate data sources that make up and enterprise.

image A Healthy Partner Ecosystem

One thing I can say for sure is that the Microsoft Partner Ecosystem is vibrant and includes a bunch of really sharp people that are looking to build the next killer app. One of the challenges of any partnering organization is keeping it fresh and helping people with like minds stay connected. Well, in the Microsoft world the partners have taken it upon themselves by creating a group called SharePint

Why do Partners Care? 
-- excepted from my post on
What CAN’T SharePoint do?

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.

The Big Question Remains

Will 2010 be the year Microsoft Office can really be called an Enterprise Content Management (ECM)system in Upper Case Letters?

I think the answer will be yes, but ONLY with the help and guidance of partners.

What do you think?

  • Is Office 2010 the time time to include SharePoint
    in the ECM club?
  • What else does Microsoft need to do with SharePoint
    to get to the ECM promised land?
  • Do you think Microsoft can do it alone?
    • Are partners really the secret sauce?

clip_image002About 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.

** I am available for consulting projects and speaking engagements. My areas of emphasis are business development and alliance management at the Intersection of Enterprise Content Management and Social Media.

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Jeff Shuey said…
Thanks to Kari Martin for making the recommendation for a book on the topic of SharePoint Solutions.

Check out - Building Content Type Solutions in SharePoint 2007 by David Gerhardt & Kevin Martin
next_connect said…
I think it may see some growth in the ECM market, but I think it is unlikely to see major growth. Many companies still don't see it as an ECM tool, or aren't convinced it can scale for large organizations.

Some of that is due to the large number of poorly planned and administered SharePoint environments already in place. Then you have the ECM vendors, even ones that position themselves with MS, undermining scalability information.

Because of these reasons I think there is still a huge sales job ahead. Some companies are doing great work to prove it can work and at a fraction of the cost of some systems.