What is SharePoint ?

Having been priviledged enough to attend the second SharePoint conference this year and given the opportunity to see both Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer deliver the keynotes at these two events, one point became very clear. What is SharePoint? I have known the answer to this for some time and pleasantly surprised when Steve Ballmer did not have an answer to this that impressed me. It took to long for him to get the point across and by the time he did I had lost my will to live.

The point being that the CEO of Microsoft did not have the words to properly define his best selling product, where do we as mere mortals and sales people even start with this concept that at every release seem to consume more and more functionality and products under the banner of SharePoint.

Well I’m pleased to say that Steve’s lieutenants did not have difficulty in bringing the point across. The answer is pretty simple really. It is an Information Operating System. This might make it easier to help identify the types of problems customers currently have and can be suitably resolved on the SharePoint Platform

SharePoint can be viewed in two primary dimensions:

SharePoint as a Product

One as a product where the opportunities are broadly speaking directly related product core features. An example of this might be Document Management, Records Management, Search etc. These types of solutions often find themselves competing with best of breed products, and when compared on this basis more often than not it seems to be a relatively costly competitor. Depending on your licensing arrangements in place.

The following often misleading concept is that of using SharePoint product features and finding that they have shortcomings. Primarily this could be attributed to the design principles of the product not to be a best of breed but to provide a stable platform for building these types of solutions on top of.

These gaps are filled by ISVs focusing on a variety of areas including disaster recovery, migration and functional enhancements such as CRM and Project Management to name but a few. Considering al of these elements when evaluating the suitability of SharePoint for your needs will help inform your decision.

When extending the scope of the implementation you may indeed find that better ROI can be achieved, the following section considers this viewpoint.

SharePoint as a Platform

When we see SharePoint as the Information Operating System the opportunities are endless. Consider the Windows Platform, can we truly begin to name the number of solutions built on it each with a specific need and each with a set of requirements defined by a segment of the market that created the demand. These applications all have one thing in common, without the capabilities of the Operating System it would be impossible to build these in a cost effective fashion as each product would have to build their own mechanism of instructing the hardware on the appropriate instructions.

When taking into account the common elements that the applications in your organisation currently have and how many those are duplicated. Not only on the same platform but also across other platforms. Now consider the time and effort it took to construct these application features and add to that the overhead of managing them on a daily basis. Considering these elements to inform the design of single platform for implementation of enterprise wide applications might yield more returns than can be imagined. Simple and easy, however we should not under estimate the time and effort to get to this “nirvana”.

It does help to take step back and define clearly the objectives , formulate a strategy and subsequently a migration plan. Keeping all implementations aligned with benefits realisation against a Clearly Defined Business Case.

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Comments

2 Responses to “What is SharePoint ?”

  1. Matt Groves on November 5th, 2009 15:58

    It’s a surprisingly tough question to answer. You cover the product/platfrom quite well here.

    To me, SharePoint is many things: http://www.mattgrovesblog.com/2009/11/sharepoint-is-clay.html

  2. Peter on November 5th, 2009 18:32

    Good analogy Matt. Depending on who is asking the question matter might even get worse in terms of answering. Considering it for a project with a defined functional oputcome indicates it is being evaluated as a product. Making it pretty expensive. Should it be evaluated as part of a strategy the costs allocated to a number of projects to implement the strategy(economies of scale) things get better. Then to further complicate matters there are the Business and IT view points. You can easily see where the complication arises ;-)

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