SharePoint: An Evolving Product
Since 2003, SharePoint has been evolving and changing into a more useful, enterprise-ready product. SharePoint is absolutely a portal platform and has found a niche within organizations seeking to create sites for employee, project and social collaboration.
Starting with Site Server in the late 1990s and then ‘Tahoe’ in 2001 (SharePoint Portal Server), SharePoint has matured with its customer base.2 Microsoft has taken steps with each subsequent release after SharePoint Portal Server (SPS) 2003 to more tightly integrate users’ experiences with the Office suite of tools.
At the same time, the attitude of users has moved from “just migrate my shared network drive” to “I need a place to collaborate and work together.” Users have also come to expect a platform that can render mobile content, natively integrate with other platforms and understand enterprise data using configuration, not development.
SharePoint 2013 represents the next step in this evolution, and although the mobile experience is not quite there yet, Microsoft has taken steps to move in this direction. SharePoint 2013 introduces the concept of an “app store” which is believed to enable companies to build “apps” that can be implemented without the traditional pain of web part design, construction, development and maintenance. Development organizations have started creating ‘apps’ and early adopters of 2013 have begun to provide feedback on this concept model in action.
Microsoft has found a place for small to very large organizations (<$50M to >$50B) to quickly turn on a site, upload content and begin sharing information. These same organizations may already have larger enterprise tools (such as OnBase, Oracle, IBM WebSphere, Captiva, FileNet) but find that SharePoint provides agility, speed-to-market and additional concept-to-market capabilities. Sharing information within SharePoint is often preferred and thus helps perpetuate this product’s niche.
SharePoint Options – What’s Right for My Company?
It is great SharePoint has evolved, but how can that help my organization? Simply put, it is necessary to have a good understanding of the product and understand what it can and cannot do. A few fundamental questions to ask when choosing your SharePoint solution include:
- What functionality does our company want and need?
- What functionality do we NOT need out of the tool?
- What are the best options with the best licensing package?
- Does one really need SharePoint enterprise, standard or foundation?
- How much to customize, develop, configure, etc.?
As often the case, these myriad of options creates a paradox1 and often results in organizations settling for the simplest and out-of-the-box (or most complex and customized) implementation of the tool.
I believe SharePoint is good for organizations that have a relationship with Microsoft and have some familiarity with the Microsoft ecosystem of products (SQL Server, .NET, etc.). It is likely your business users will like to experiment, so help support them in a controlled environment. Prove out whether SharePoint will work before investing extensively in the product. Be aware, however, that if you decide to embrace the tool as an enterprise solution, examine SharePoint functions through feature-to-fit analysis and determine if the solution provides a fit (or gap).
SharePoint will continue to evolve and likely incorporate more of the use-case-based solutions many of Microsoft’s peers use to position their products.
- Schwartz B. The Paradox of Choice. HarperCollins e-books; 2009.
- Available here. Accessed May 31, 2013.