We are in the final leg of our summer and what better time to tackle a topic like SharePoint in the Enterprise. There are more opinions, both expert and otherwise, on whether SharePoint is an enterprise solution than there are flavors of ice cream. And here's the awful truth...everyone is right.

What's Your SharePoint Story

Microsoft has done a very good job of marketing and selling SharePoint to all sizes of organizations. Now that doesn't mean that it was implemented properly or successfully, or that it was the right solution, but when you are Microsoft, you have a way of enticing people to come your way. Of course it also doesn't mean that every SharePoint implementation is a mess and the completely wrong solution.

The story of an organization implementing SharePoint can go a few different ways:

  1. We successfully implemented SharePoint for xx at the department level (or for an SMB).
  2. We successfully implemented SharePoint for xx at the enterprise level.
  3. We completely screwed up our SharePoint implementation, it was not the right solution.
  4. We completely screwed up our SharePoint implementation, we didn't plan properly.
  5. We implemented SharePoint, it works okay, but not how we expected.
  6. ....

This list could really go on, but I think you get my point. We like to think of SharePoint as some special platform that needs to be looked at differently from any other platform or solution on the market. But the truth is, SharePoint is just one option of many and you need to evaluate it from that perspective.

SharePoint has a couple of things going for it: a great community of developers, end-users, designers, administrators who know how to make it work and a large partner community and league of consulting firms who work with it daily.

A note of caution here: There are a lot of moving parts in the SharePoint platform and no one can be an expert in them all. Unfortunately there are more than a few people/companies that will claim SharePoint competence where there really is none, and if you aren't paying really good attention, you will get caught in a SharePoint trap.

SharePoint Needs to Fit a Purpose

You don't hitch your cart to your horse do you? Then don't put your technology before your business requirements. Got those defined and understood? Then check out your technology options. Chances are SharePoint will be on that list, because it offers a range of capabilities across document management, records management, collaboration and so on -- and there's a free component (SharePoint Foundations) to let you get your feet wet.

Now here's the reality we face daily. We like to think that organizations can sit back and be really objective about their technology decisions. And some can. But they also deal with regular relationships with particular vendors, have in-house skills focused on particular languages and technologies, and have preferences/opinions. This means, there are many situations where you have to make the technology work, and that's all there is to it.

Out of the box or with customizations, SharePoint can be made to work. There are any number of case studies and stories of that being true (saw one of those today that really impressed me). And yes, there are also just as many case studies and stories of SharePoint gone awry (had the opportunity to see one of those in person).

I think SharePoint is what you make of it. Know what you want to do, know your current technology partnerships/arrangements, know what your limits are in terms technology investment (infrastructure costs, development/customization, integrated & complementary solutions), know your strengths internally because you aren't going to want a partner to run the show forever (not 100%), have an idea where you want to go in the future. All these things influence your technology decisions.

In the end, it might mean SharePoint isn't the right option. But it could mean you are headed down that road. Despite what some might lead you to believe, SharePoint isn't the devil, but you can certainly make it into one if you aren't careful.

August is SharePoint in the Enterprise

We have chosen to spend the rest of our summer looking at SharePoint in the enterprise. We have a range of contributors who will provide expert insights into how you can make SharePoint work for your organization. And we have some expert insights where SharePoint is not a good fit and you need to think differently.

There are equal sides to this SharePoint story. It's important to understand both. Hope you join us in these conversations in the comments, on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.