SharePoint has come along way since SharePoint 2003. Its success has surprised many and frustrated others. But to be successful, you can't remain in one place. And it sounds like Microsoft has some big plans in the works, much related to web content management and customer experience.

SharePoint Success

According to Jared Spataro, Director, SharePoint Product Management at Microsoft Corporation, SharePoint earned the software giant US$ 1.23 billion last year and has achieved double digit growth since then. He says that if SharePoint were a standalone vendor it would be bigger than

A few other tidbits: SharePoint has 100% penetration in developed economies and on average 70-80% around the world. It is, without a doubt, the 200 lb 24,000 lb elephant in the corner of the room.

But Spataro says people aren't asking what SharePoint is anymore. Now, they are asking "what can I do with it" or "what's the best way to take advantage of it"?

Enter Microsoft's research and a three phase model that shows how SharePoint has been implemented in the enterprise:

  1. Initial deployment
  2. Broad adoption
  3. Business solutions

Phase 1 -- Initial deployment -- is where you see the penetration numbers coming from mentioned above. In its research, Microsoft found that the bulk of SharePoint 2010 deployments over the last couple of years have focused on team sites and portal sites, with fileshare coming in third. Spataro said that one of the main things they observed is that organizations are focused on specific capabilities and that governance is key for every feature and/or capability implemented.

According to its research, about 80% of organizations will have upgraded to SharePoint 2010 in the next twelve months. It looks like SharePoint 2007 may be on it's way out the door -- finally.

Phase 2 -- Broad Adoption -- is about using SharePoint as the platform it's designed to be. It's about content management, mostly document management, but sometimes web content management. The rich metadata and term store features within SharePoint 2010 are key to this. Also in this phase, organizations are moving from doing just SharePoint governance to the broader Information governance.

Phase 3 -- Business Solutions -- This, says Sparato is the place many are interested in. But he warns that orgs should do Phase 1 first. This is where you see many partners getting on board, integrating their solutions into the platform and extending SharePoint. But it's also where you see custom solutions created from scratch by development teams, to support specific needs within the organization.

Microsoft plans to spend the next twelve months sharing the message and publishing the technical content needed to support organizations in all of these phases. But they are also heads down thinking about what comes next. And it sounds like customer experience management is a key part of the next phase of SharePoint.

What's Coming Next for SharePoint

I don't have my crystal ball in hand right now, and you know that Spataro wasn't going to give me specifics. But he did tell me a few things:

  1. Microsoft knows Customer Experience is critical and it has been making key investments into the different areas of CXM that will push SharePoint into a leadership position in this area. Here, web content management will play a role.
  2. Microsoft is learning a lot from the FAST acquisition and it will be taking a lot of that into SharePoint.
  3. The focus on SharePoint as a broad platform will not change and Microsoft is committed to growing its business via the fantastic ecosystem that currently supports it.

Web Content Management & the Customer Experience

Spend a little time with Jared Spataro and you will see that Microsoft is serious about using SharePoint for web content management, and they have the clients to prove it. The website shows you 2,263 public facing websites built on the SharePoint platform, ranging from government to financial to educational sites. The user experience ranges from Flashy to portal like and the functionality varies as well.

Spataro said that customer facing web content management is very important to Microsoft's customers and it's important to the SharePoint business. In fact, 10% of overall SharePoint revenues are for web content management -- it's one of the fastest growing areas within the SharePoint platform.

I know you will say that the revenues are high because the cost  for licensing and implementing an external website on SharePoint is very high. But Spataro believes SharePoint's pricing is competitive with other vendors and in some cases lower (in terms of licensing). Microsoft is also depending on the strength of the channel to support the development of websites.

We won't pretend here that SharePoint has the greatest web content management capabilities. It uses the old page model for content and can be complex when designing the UI. Spataro acknowledges that SharePoint has its strengths and weaknesses in this area and said that Microsoft is determined to grow the platform so that business users and end-users are better supported. This includes a strong focus on customer experience management, which is really the next phase of web content management.

SharePoint does have some of the capabilities for customer experience management, otherwise it would not have made Forrester's Wave for Customer Experience. But it doesn't have it all and it has quite a way to go to deliver on it in the way that other Web CMS vendors already are. This puts SharePoint behind in the game.

Fortunately, customer experience management is very new and there isn't a vendor out there now that can claim to offer everything needed. This is a market that is in its early stages and if Microsoft plays it right, it could propel SharePoint up the ladder quickly. Of course every other vendor is growing as well, so Microsoft will have to differentiate and innovate.

I think it will be interesting to see how Microsoft evolves SharePoint "next". Will it make the right moves? Will it make them in time?