A few months back, I wrote a post about the demand for products that make complicated technologies seem simple to end users, a demand that proves maddeningly difficult for most tech companies. It's even more true in the enterprise than in the consumer market, since enterprise ROI is linked so closely to user adoption. Despite this, enterprises usually make all kinds of requests of their vendors, seemingly believing that "more is more" in terms of features.
They are getting lots of features in SharePoint 2010, as can be seen in the laundry list of new functionality announced by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer late last year at a SharePoint user conference. As Michael Hickins wrote on CTO Edge, SharePoint
"has ... become one of the company's last points of defense against the incursion of Google Docs and other online and open source productivity application vendors into Office's territory."
It'll be interesting to see how that plays out since Google and other companies hoping to challenge Microsoft's dominance in the productivity space are offering far less complex products.
At least one expert thinks Microsoft risks alienating some current SharePoint users, who adopted SharePoint largely because it was simple to implement and use. Writing on the Real Story Group Blog, Shawn Shell says Microsoft now sees SharePoint as a platform rather than a product. With this shift in strategy, it's adding so many new features, it may not only put off existing users, but intimidate potential ones as well. He writes:
... SharePoint 2010's ability to address so many challenges -- like finding content, surfacing key performance data, or assisting with document lifecycle management -- makes the platform so vast, that it's a challenge to describe it in a coherent and meaningful way for business decision-makers.
I think that was an issue even before the new features. I once likened SharePoint to Shimmer Floor Wax (a floor wax and a dessert topping) because of its seeming ability to do it all. Microsoft promotes at least six "pillars" of functionality in its marketing materials for SharePoint.
Many companies investing in collaboration software only have a general idea of what they want it to do and thus are seeking fairly generic features, writes Shell. Some of them may take a pass on SharePoint since "a large, complex platform like SharePoint will overwhelm those who don't invest in specific use cases."
This point is reiterated in a PCMag.com item, which refers to SharePoint as "overkill for a company that does not generate a lot of digital content and does not need robust content collaboration." The piece opines SharePoint will prove most useful for Microsoft shops that want to impose order on their large and unorganized collections of documents, images and other types of files stored on network drives.
Be sure to check out the lively debate in the comments following the article. One commenter says "most of my clients are moving swiftly away from Microsoft products because they are tired of being shoe-horned into expensive server products to make their Office Suite work as intended" while another says SharePoint "is becoming the de facto social media OS for the enterprise." Another commenter advises small companies to consider having SharePoint hosted for them.