Whether it be during preliminary discussions with a potential client or in the lines of a request-for-proposal, the question is coming up exceedingly more often: "How does your proposed solution integrate with SharePoint?"Some of the organizations asking this question are long time Microsoft shops where SharePoint has been a way of life for as long as anyone can remember. However, an increasing number of companies with questions about SharePoint have yet to deploy Microsoft's content management and collaboration solution. Rather, just the availability of SharePoint 2007 is enough to shape a considerable number of current software investments.
A recently released white paper from Clearview Software attempts to shed some light on why every sales team needs to be able to answer the question above.
The paper begins with a discussion of how the enterprise content management market has evolved over the last decade. A market that began with a handful of vendors who had a plenty of room to maneuver in what was called a "niche" space soon gave way to consolidation. These smaller vendors were quickly acquired by larger organizations looking to address the growing demand for document management, records management, and related ECM functions.
While the market was growing and organizations were realizing that an enterprise content management solution was less of a nice-to-have and more a necessity, Microsoft employed their famous "wait and see" attitude to the space and SharePoint quietly began to make its way into the enterprise.
In recent years, three trends converged to push Microsoft to create what is now known as MOSS 2007:
# The ECM market became white hot.
With the big-time players in IT (EMC, IBM, Oracle) making acquisition plays left and right, Microsoft realized that there was a huge revenue stream to be tapped into. But why did Microsoft not jump on the acquisition bandwagon and instead chose to invest in its existing product? The answer to that question can be found in the next bullet point.
# The Microsoft Office productivity suite maintained its dominance on the desktop.
Although applications like OpenOffice attempted to usurp market share from the ubiquitous Word and Excel, organizations across the globe continued to standardize on the .doc and .xls formats for word processing and spreadsheets respectively. Therefore, who better to provide a content management system for these formats than the company who invented them. However, the third trend shows where Microsoft's real challenge came from.
# The rise of the online desktop, Google Apps in particular, strikes the first semblance of fear in the Redmond-based giant.
Why does an organization need a desktop word processor and a content management solution, when both are available via a web browser? As web browsers finally come of age and rich internet applications become a reality, Microsoft sees it ownership of the desktop challenged by a completely web-based solution. Perhaps it is this trend, more than the others, that pushes Redmond to take a defensive stance and protect their turf on the desktop and their dominance of corporate documents.
Yet what is interesting about MOSS 2007 is not how it leveraged or responded to the above trends, but how it reshaped the ECM market. For example, no one will argue that SharePoint has some serious limitations when compared to other solutions. However, these gaps in functionality have created opportunities for smaller companies to create integrated solutions and for larger players to leverage SharePoint's core competencies while not losing their own identity.
This "co-existence strategy", as Clearview puts it, is only a short-term solution. In order to be successful in an ECM market, CMS vendors must avoid the temptation to compete on price -- a strategy that any IT veteran will tell you never works -- and provide a solution that not only leverages modern technology but also has a plan to stay current.