What the experts say about SharePoint (MOSS)

By Toby Ward — “SharePoint is good at a number of things,” says one SharePoint expert at the jboye08 conference in Denmark, addressing a group of SharePoint users and followers in Aarhus. “But it’s bad at just as many.”

SharePoint Platform Visual Representation

Content and Code's visual representation of the SharePoint Platform

There continues to be much discussion, debate, interest, enthusiasm, and caution about SharePoint (MOSS 2007).

Gartner nails the analysis in its spring report Five Best Practices for Deploying SharePoint:

“Though it covers a broad spectrum of capabilities, MOSS 2007 is not yet a full enterprise content management (ECM) system. Organizations requiring advanced content management capabilities and process-centric applications will need to augment their capabilities with partner offerings, or deploy MOSS 2007 alongside an ECM system rather than as a replacement for it.”

Jed Cawthorne, our resident MOSS expert at Prescient Digital Media, offers his own conclusions on his blog, ECM Stuff:

  • It might be the product for you, but how do you know unless you analyze your requirements
  • A phased implementation appears to be more successful, add bells and whistles later
  • SharePoint in itself is not a 'strategy' - it can be part of ECM, Intranet or collaboration elements of your overall Information Management strategy
  • Contrary to MS marketing hype, SharePoint does not actually do everything brilliantly
  • A SharePoint deployment, like any other technology implementation will ultimately fail if not aligned with strategy, and if not properly planned with commensurate governance in place

I should disclose at this point that perhaps it might appear that I’m not a fan of SharePoint – or that I oppose it. Not at all; in fact, we use SharePoint for our own intranet and are upgrading to MOSS 2007. As well, we have many clients that use WSS and MOSS. However, I do think however that SharePoint is being used by too many organizations, including clients, that aren’t well served by it.

I believe there are two telling quotes, both by Shawn Shell and Alan Pelz-Sharpe, the co-authors of the CMS Watch The Sharepoint Report 2008 (TSR) (the best analysis report on MOSS that I’ve seen) that best sum-up MOSS:

A number of experts and users (owners / licensees) have weighed-in on their expert opinions and analysis of SharePoint. To avoid any controversy and to protect the individuals who were freely expressing and sharing their opinions at the jboye08 in Aarhus, here are some of the more frank quotes:

  • “The perception is that the search engine is terrible. I’m not 100% in agreement… the engine is pretty good, but the search interface can be weak (e.g. the engine does support wild card and Boolean searches, but usually the implemented interface does not).”
  • “Personal sites (my Site functionality) is both interesting and scary at the same time.”
  • “The complexity across farms is ridiculous. Make sure your consultant (MS partner or implementer) give you a list of those things that stop working across farms.”

Still more advice from Information Week writer Nicolas Hoover (thanks to our own Cathy Mcknight, Can Microsoft Keep SharePoint Rolling?)

“The software's Swiss Army knife approach helps companies create more useful intranets, set up document sharing, offer blogs and wikis, and build a richer online company directory. This boundary-blurring nature is part of its appeal, and can even help in budgeting: IT teams that might not get the nod for document management software have been known to slip SharePoint into the Microsoft Office budget.

But SharePoint's feature sprawl can be part of the problem. By taking what comes bundled in SharePoint, companies can end up compromising on critical functions compared with best-of-breed tools. And SharePoint deployments easily can go wrong if IT teams just turn on additional modules without considering the business case, requirements, and training needed to make them part of a business process. SharePoint's all-in-one appeal may lessen as content management standards become more prevalent, making best-of-breed approaches more viable. Still, it's undeniable that SharePoint's on a roll because of intense demand to better manage and share an expanding glut of diverse content."

If you have MOSS, or are thinking of buying, Gartner offers the following recommendations:

  • To ensure that SharePoint does not become another content silo, build or update your enterprisewide content management strategy to address collaborative and basic content management.
  • Build a broad inventory of existing content management applications and repositories and assess the investment levels in those before bringing in another platform such as SharePoint.
  • Define business requirements and the corresponding technical and functional needs, which may span collaborative and process-centric content applications. Map your content management products to them with an eye toward minimizing the redundancy in application development, IT operational or other costs.
  • Examine the integration points required between MOSS 2007 and an ECM suite and assess the availability tools and technologies to ensure interoperability.
  • Establish and enforce governance policies regarding when to use and when not to use SharePoint.

MOSS 2007 is a wonderful solution – but its ideal for smaller companies, and can be a “massive problem” for larger ones. I like it a lot, but I’m technology neutral and am frank about its strengths and weaknesses. I’ll continue to recommend MOSS for some, but not for others.

Based on our early adopter knowledge of CMS Platforms, a technology-neutral approach to defining business requirements and a proven methodology for aligning online collaboration needs with organizational goals, Prescient has developed a customizable CMS Blueprint to help client select the best CMS platform for their organization.

For more information on our CMS Blueprint Service, please contact us directly for more information on how to transform your intranet into a high-value employee & business system.

Also free for downloading:
Good to Great Intranet Matrix
Social Media Checklist – Updated
Finding ROI: Measuring Intranet Investments