As Microsoft gears up to the launch of SharePoint 2010, more than a few IT organizations are taking a moment to reflect on the benefits and drawbacks of one of the fastest-growing applications in the enterprise.
The obvious benefits are that SharePoint provides a handy repository for storing documents that's relatively easy to set up. The drawbacks are that there isn't much in the way of tools to manage those documents. That results in cumbersome repositories where finding documents is not only hard, but once you do find them you'll discover multiple copies of the same document with little to no clue about which revision represents the latest and greatest form.
Unfortunately, far too many IT organizations tend to treat SharePoint as the place to store large files that take up too much storage space on their Microsoft Exchange servers. The end result is that SharePoint, outside of some rare examples, never quite lives up to expectations. Those disappointments tend to result in either IT organizations just throwing up their hands as they leave end users to their own devices, or contemplating a managed or cloud computing service to help save them from the chaos.
The good news, of course, is that SharePoint 2010 will improve some of the administrative functions. But if IT organizations want to get the most out of their SharePoint investments, the time has come to consider deploying third-party applications on top of SharePoint that make the overall environment truly collaborative. For instance, companies that have recently extended their collaboration applications by adding SharePoint integration include:
Arc90: A provider of idea management software called Kindling that allows customers to not only keep track of new business ideas, but also vote on their probable success
Box.net: A provider of a namesake set of collaboration applications that are delivered as a service
Inmagic: A provider of a Web 2.0 Presto knowledge management application that integrates with SharePoint documents
Recommind: A provider of an enterprise search application that layers in on top of SharePoint and other document management systems
These and many other SharePoint applications all serve to highlight the many shortcomings of SharePoint in one form or another. But as easy as it is to bash Microsoft for delivering yet another product that doesn't necessarily live up to expectations, you have to give Microsoft credit for one thing that overrides all other issues: It was smart enough to create a vibrant ecosystem that ultimately serves to make SharePoint one of the most strategic application platforms in the enterprise today.