SharePoint for Search? Sure, Say Some Companies


Just last week, I wrote about the strengths and weaknesses of Microsoft's SharePoint, the content management software being hailed as the company's fastest-growing product ever. Shortly after posting, I encountered a Computerworld article describing how theater chain Cineplex Odeon uses SharePoint as an ad-hoc enterprise search solution that helps users track down data contained in e-mails, portals and other tricky areas. The article mentions that "many businesses" employ SharePoint in this way.


Working with Microsoft partner Legend Corp., Cineplex Odeon implemented SharePoint Server 2007 to help add structure to its unstructured data, and thus make it easier to find. The company is already seeing payoffs. Jeff Kent, the theater chain's CTO, says SharePoint helped Cineplex Odeon track down and organize information gained during the acquisition of a competing theater chain. It's a handy illustration of a point I made recently, that acquisitions can provide a valuable opportunity for IT to prove its worth to the business in a highly tangible way.


SharePoint also has made it quicker and easier for the company to locate leases that were once stored primarily on paper copies in file cabinets and to improve its forecasting efforts, including which movies will perform well at which theaters and what is the optimal run for a movie, Kent says.


Back in March, ZDNet's George Ou offered a positive take on Microsoft's Search Server 2008 Express, which has been positioned as Microsoft's entry-level search tool. SharePoint Search is its likely offering for the mid-level enterprise, and technology acquired from Fast Search and Transfer earlier this year will be the solution for companies with the most sophisticated search needs. Microsoft hopes to gain an edge over Google and other contenders in enterprise search by offering a search solution at every functionality level and price point.


Interestingly, Kent mentions his satisfaction with SharePoint's role-based access controls. CMS Watch founder Tony Byrne expressed some concerns with SharePoint security, including difficulty establishing security policies across multiple instances of the software, in his organization's report on SharePoint. And 87 percent of IT managers responding to a recent survey mentioned SharePoint-related worries over data leaks. I referred to the report and the survey in last week's post.