With the release of SharePoint 2010 looming, we were curious to know what your plans were -- if you had any at all -- in regards to implementing the next version of Microsoft's business collaboration platform. Our poll revealed that while many of you are not in a SharePoint frame of mind, those that are seem focused primarily on its collaboration and social media capabilities.

A SharePoint Frame of Mind

Is Your Organization Planning to Implement SharePoint 2010? That was the question we posed earlier this month. And 1,575 of you responded. Here's a snapshot of your responses:

SharePoint 2010 Poll Results

Is the market for SharePoint getting bigger by the day? Why are organizations primarily looking to upgrade or implement SharePoint 2010? We took this opportunity to get some feedback and insights on our poll results.

How Far It Has Come

SharePoint has been around for awhile, in one incarnation or another. Many may remember using Site Server (I do), others SharePoint Portal Server 2001 (been there, done that), others MCM (Microsoft Content Management Server). But the functionality in all these really paled in comparison to what came in SharePoint 2007.

Dan Keldsen, of Information Architected says, "Realistically, SharePoint 2007 was the first "real" version of SharePoint. By that I mean it was the first commercially stable/viable version." He believes 2007 was aimed at creating a solid foundation, setting the stage for a push to a bigger business-focused market.

The 3 year development cycle catches Microsoft up to the vibrant 2.0 ecosystem that has been fired up as a result of combination punch of a horrible economy, and a realization (finally!) by a growing universe of businesspeople, that content and collaboration matters - so how can businesses effectively empower their employees to take advantage of digital content? Make it all MUCH easier to use through tagging, better integrated search (via $1.2 Billion FAST acquisition), and more.

And of course Microsoft is pleased with the results SharePoint 2007 has brought them: over 100 million licenses and becoming a billion dollar business. Hard to argue with that success.

But Microsoft isn't one to sit back and let things ride. They may come late to the party sometimes, but they always come. And they always bring something new and exciting when they arrive. Thus the anticipation for SharePoint 2010 is driving many up the wall.

According to Eric Swift, General Manager of SharePoint at Microsoft, "We have continued to work closely with our customers to understand their needs and work with them to build SharePoint 2010." 2010 has several areas of significant investment, Swift describes as:

  • Delivering the best productivity experience and driving end user adoption through Microsoft Office and the integration of the Ribbon into the SharePoint user experience.
  • Driving down costs by delivering a unified infrastructure that customers can consolidate existing solutions onto, across the Intranet, Extranet and the Internet as well as providing unparalleled choice and flexibility between on-premises and cloud deployment.
  • Delivering a platform and set of tools that developers can leverage to build rich solutions that can integrate and extend existing data and LOB applications as well as a rich tool set for the power user to build no-code solutions by customizing out of the box components.

The Top Reason for Implementing SharePoint 2010

Okay, so we know where we came from and where we are going with SharePoint 2010, but what's in this upcoming version that captured your attention? It doesn't seem to be web content management (4%), business integration (6%) or document management (8%). In fact the majority of poll respondents pointed to SP2010's collaboration portal/social media capabilities (24%). The question then becomes, what new aspects of SharePoint 2010 encourage this type of usage?

Microsoft's Swift says, "we are very pleased with the interest and adoption we’ve seen thus far [... ] and have continued to invest in the social tools available to customers by expanding our social offerings, including social tagging and podcast support."

Keldsen says he's still waiting to see what functionality is really enabled once organizations deploy SP2010, but:

Our research from Q1 2009 showed that file sharing was the most prominent use case, with collaboration and an internal portal/intranet being in a definitive 2nd tier of use. The vast majority of work done in providing additional WebParts or other layer/integration into SharePoint since 2007 was released has indeed been focused on collaboration (Enterprise 2.0), so it will be interesting to see how the increased "out of the box" experience for collaboration, particularly the social features oriented at providing tags, smarter/more useful profiles, etc., make an impact on both core SharePoint usage, and the ripple out into the ecosystem of partners in the SharePoint world."

Yet, Microsoft is also quick to point out that SP2010 is about more than collaboration. "However, SharePoint is an integrated solution for solving a multitude of business needs across different experiences both inside and outside the firewall. SharePoint has helped organizations break down both organizational and technological silos by shifting to a standard enterprise-wide platform for information access and sharing."

Not everyone would agree that Microsoft should be marketing SharePoint 2010 past the collaboration capabilities. Tony White, founder of Ars Logica, a consultancy specializing in WCM, puts it this way:

I think the question, "What new aspects of SharePoint 2010 encourage this type of usage," should be turned on its head as follows: "What shortcomings of SharePoint 2010 discourage enterprises from using it for document management, WCM, and business data integration?" It's no surprise that companies currently use SharePoint 2007 as a business collaboration platform, and it's no surprise that they will upgrade to SharePoint 2010 for the same purpose. Collaboration is, in fact, the proper use of SharePoint.

But try using SharePoint for document management or WCM, and your professional life may be, to borrow a phrase from Hobbes, 'nasty, brutish, and short'. I have seen companies try to force SharePoint to address their WCM requirements, and the results are commonly cost overruns in the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, and project failure. So to the 8% and 4% of you planning to use SharePoint 2010 for document management and WCM, respectively, DON'T!"

Still, WCM is Being Considered

It may be a smaller percentage according to our poll (4%), but some organizations are looking at implementing SharePoint 2010 for web content management. So it really can't be all that bad.

Swift told us,

SharePoint spans document management, records management, business process management and web content management in a seamless way to allow all users in an organization to manage and share their content reliably and securely. We have made content and web management even more powerful in SharePoint 2010 to help our customers keep their content organized and secure."

But are the WCM capabilities on par with that of the pure WCM vendors? White argues that they are not:

SharePoint's WCM capabilities are absolutely not on par with market-leading WCM products. In fact, not only are they not on par, they're not on the same course, and they're not playing the same game. Although I'm not surprised that Microsoft is spending so much to promote SharePoint, I don't think too many folks are fooled by the marketing. SharePoint simply is not a competitive WCM product. It wasn't in 2007, and it's not in 2010. Citing the mid-90's Mac-enthusiast mantra "Win 95 = Mac 84" and using WCM as an analogy, SP 10 = WCM 03."

Dan Keldsen, points to several reasons why WCM is not a key focus of organizations. The first is scalability from both a technical and licensing standpoint. But maybe even more telling is how he desribes the fundamental disconnect between SharePoint WCM and others:

SharePoint does tend to come from a more desktop applications/documents point of view - hence the tight integration (and sales approach) to the Office suite. "Pure" WCM tends to start and end life with the presumption that web pages (or apps) are the final interface, not documents that are uploaded and converted or simply served up as native Office documents. In my opinion, there's a fundamental disconnect between Microsoft's approach to WCM and the standards-oriented approach of the web, and that continues to keep SharePoint from being a real WCM offering."

All that being said, Microsoft has committed to working with the content management industry to develop standards that will support the true needs of organizations today. So while maybe web content management isn't going to be a strong focus, enterprise content management is still a viable alternative. Says Swift:

While we do have competitors in the content management space, the high-tech industry also has a great history of coming together to develop new or cross-platform solutions that resolve customers’ real challenges and promote innovation. Microsoft is committed to providing greater flexibility and helping to reduce costs and gain value from existing content management investments and as a founding member of the CMIS committee, we will support CMIS in Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and APIs will be available."

Are There Compelling Reasons to Upgrade Sooner?

Organizations have spent a lot of time and money getting SharePoint 2007 implemented and well-governed. And while there are a great many improvements in SharePoint 2010, there are a lot of things that haven't changed, like the underlying infrastructure.

According to our poll, 7% are happy with their current implementation and have no immediate plans for SP2010. But are there uses or improvements for SharePoint 2010 that would push an organization to upgrade sooner, rather than later?

White thinks there are:

As long as enterprises are using SharePoint for proper purposes (not for WCM) there are improvements to the 2010 version that make upgrading beneficial. The most significant improvements center around its offline capabilities. The ability to interact with content offline and then sync with collaborators once back online makes it possible for users to use their time much more efficiently, which makes SharePoint 2010 a better collaborative tool. Collaboration and efficiency really are the great promises of "rich internet applications." Vendors such as Adobe, with its Air platform, have begun to make the promises a reality.

Microsoft believes SharePoint 2010 delivers even better productivity:

SharePoint 2007 is a strong platform that our customers have been very happy with – and its success in the market is a clear indication of that. We also have an unparalleled ecosystem of partners who have built some incredible applications and solutions on the SharePoint 2007 platform. [...] And SharePoint 2010, when deployed, will help companies deliver the best productivity experience for their employees, it will cut costs by providing a unified infrastructure and it will help IT rapidly respond to business needs in a way that works best for their organization."

We leave Keldsen with the last word, as they resonate so clearly with us, and likely with you:

The blessing and curse of SharePoint is that it has caused the biggest wave of awareness the industry has ever seen - but it presents a significant challenge to the industry, as the inclination is for people to "just buy SharePoint" and for those who have not experienced the best and worst practices of content management over the last 20 years, they are likely to stumble and fall into the technical features of SharePoint (such as a WebPart obsession), and forget to deliver on the business and *user-specific* values of SharePoint.

Content Management is about the business value of content, not the technology per se. I see an increasing number of failed SharePoint deployments who have fallen directly into the technology trap without addressing why and how SharePoint solves specific problems.