Let’s be honest, SharePoint For Internet Sites (FIS) has been given a pretty tough time in terms of its ability to deliver rich and engaging experiences on the web.
This is evident in the number of poor SharePoint implementations online right now mixed up, of course, with a number of excellent best practice examples. When I say "poor," I’m largely talking about a lack of best practice for web optimization, coding standards and multi-channel support. This is doing SharePoint an injustice.
As an enterprise platform it’s very capable of delivering a plethora of portal solutions, it didn’t get the accolade of being Microsoft’s fastest growing technology for no reason. So, what’s the problem? Where do the issues lie? Can it be the backbone of an Enterprise Web Content Management (WCM) solution?
I think the heart of the problem lies in where SharePoint came from and how it grew up into the mature product that it is today. SharePoint was originally intended as a document sharing solution and an internal portal product, until the convergence of SharePoint FIS in the 2007 release.
In my opinion, the fact that SharePoint was born as a "behind the firewall solution" posed two main problems, resulting in the mixed feedback it gets as a pure play WCM solution.
#1. SharePoint’s feature set is geared towards internal Content Management
When you look at the core feature sets SharePoint has to offer around Content Management, it’s obvious that SharePoint out-of-the-box is more geared towards internal communication than external. Lack of SEO support, bulky front end code and heavy page weights don’t matter as much behind the firewall where bandwidth is usually abundant and user’s experiences are controlled by standardizing browsing environments.
On the surface this doesn’t look good for SharePoint, but you really need to dig a little deeper to find the hidden treasures. SharePoint is light on features that you would expect from a point WCM system, but it does so much more.
It’s a secure and trusted industrial strength technology from one of the world’s largest software vendors, supported by a very large ecosystem of partners and consultants. Furthermore, it’s open enough to enable a number of Independent Software Vendors (ISV’s), including the likes of Webtrends, to plug in their products and solutions making SharePoint a credible WCM and Customer Experience Management (CXM) solution.
#2. A lack of web expertise in the SharePoint implementation community results in under par implementations
Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means insulting the capabilities of the many capable SharePoint Consultants and Developers out there. However, most of these people focus on business productivity, business process and knowledge management rather than digital marketing, web optimization and user experience, and yet these people are implementing SharePoint websites. It is rare to find people out there that have a deep understanding of both "form" and "factor."
Compounding this problem is the fact that design agencies have not taken up SharePoint technology, probably because of its breadth of features and Microsoft’s historical lack of being slightly non-conformist when it comes to web standards.
On the flip side, there are a few companies and individuals out there that really understand SharePoint in a web context. From listening to the last key note speech at the Microsoft SharePoint Conference it’s clear that Microsoft fully intends to push SharePoint into the web space with future releases and versions of SharePoint. This will make it easier for agnostic agencies to pick a technology like SharePoint up and deliver engaging web experiences on it.
I truly believe that SharePoint is a fantastic platform to build web solutions on, especially as consumers do more and more transactions online. Although the WCM feature set is light, SharePoint more than makes up for this with the other features and benefits it can deliver straight out-of-the-box.
Lastly, I believe there is a responsibility for Microsoft to educate people on how to deploy SharePoint for websites, as well as a need for the SharePoint Consultants and Developers to hold their hands up when they are being asked by an organization to do something that’s slightly outside of their comfort zone.
Title Image courtesy of Eric Isselée (Shutterstock).
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