About a month ago, I compared Microsoft's SharePoint to Shimmer Floor Wax, a faux product featured in an old "Saturday Night Live" sketch that was improbably both a floor wax and a dessert topping. As I noted then, SharePoint's suitability for a multitude of tasks has made it Microsoft's fastest-growing product. But its growth has been largely unchecked, resulting in some headaches for both users and IT administrators.
I shared some good advice from Fred Yeomans, a consultant at T4G Limited, who urged companies to come up with some solid business reasons for implementing SharePoint before actually doing so. Sounds obvious, right? Then, why, as Yeomans writes: "...Do I still have conversations with potential clients who come to me saying 'Help us implement SharePoint' when they cannot clearly articulate why they want to implement it?"
Why indeed, unless folks remain confused about what the heck SharePoint does?
As CMS Watch lead analyst Tony Byrne writes on Intelligent Enterprise, SharePoint can be used for collaboration, Web content management and business intelligence. Yet it performs some of these tasks better than others, which is why Byrne encourages companies considering SharePoint to understand its functional strengths and weaknesses. He offers five more tips:
- Keep SharePoint simple, avoiding unnecessary customization.
- Maximize investments you've made in SharePoint 2007 before jumping into SharePoint 2010, which is currently in beta.
- SharePoint was designed for departmental use. If you want to standardize SharePoint across an enterprise, it might be best to bring in third-party help to address performance, security, administration and cost issues.
- Create standard configurations for specific business scenarios rather than using the generic team spaces that ship with the product.
- To control provisioning of new sites, disable ad-hoc site creation.
Maybe I used the wrong pop culture reference. It looks as if Microsoft SharePoint may end up being VHS to the Betamax also-rans with which it competes in the collaboration and document management space. As Mike Alsup, a vice president of systems integrator Gimmal Group, says on Digital Landfill, management expects SharePoint to win the standards battle. He writes:
Because of the incumbent SharePoint siblings, Microsoft Office, Exchange and Windows, management teams give SharePoint much more of the benefit of the doubt than they gave the competing ECM or EDM or WCM or BPM or RM products that provided similar functionality.You know a product is important when it is expected to triumph in areas where its current capabilities are not yet as competitive as they should be. Make sure you understand your management team's biases and perspectives on SharePoint.
(Wow, that first sentence has a lot of acronyms. I think he means enterprise content management, enterprise document management, Web content management, business process management and records management.)
Like Byrne, Alsup notes that while SharePoint can do lots of enterprise tasks, you'll have to invest significant amounts of time and money for some functionality. But users like it. That's important, considering that no software will be a success if users reject it. Alsup's advice:
- Consider the most obvious application, replacing shared drives with SharePoint, to yield quick and quantifiable value. Invest in indexing, categorization, tagging and auto-classification tools to improve the accuracy of content metadata, which should save you time and money on the project. Determine how sites should be standardized across the organization, so that users are happy while enterprise compliance and records management needs are fulfilled.
- Establish a standard information lifecycle across the enterprise so content in SharePoint sites is managed consistently.
- Establish SharePoint site auto-provisioning.
- Plan now for migration of current sites to SharePoint 2010. (This conflicts a bit with Byrne, who says that most organizations probably won't want to introduce SharePoint 2010 until 2011 and should focus instead on maximizing current SharePoint investments.)
Alsup also says organizations must be cognizant of the information governance challenges presented by SharePoint. He writes:
One way to think of SharePoint is as a logical successor to the functions to which Lotus Notes aspired 15 years ago. Anyone can use the free SharePoint components to build a site and begin to collaborate or share information. Unfortunately, it is going to be difficult to find, share, and manage information across thousands of SharePoint sites that were built inconsistently with non-existent or incompatible content types and information policies. The logical result is that information governance will be more difficult instead of easier. On a really big scale. It is critically important to plan thoroughly to take full advantage of all that SharePoint 2007 and 2010 have to offer.