You may have dismissed SharePoint 2007 as the web content management system for your internet presence, but with the update to SharePoint 2010, and its improvements to web content management, maybe it's time to reconsider? 

The growth of SharePoint within organizations is well documented. However many organizations have been apprehensive in adopting SharePoint as a Web Content Management system for their public internet presence due to the difficulty in customizing SharePoint Server 2007 effectively.

With the release of SharePoint 2010 Microsoft has made a concerted effort to position SharePoint as a leader in the WCM space, prompting organizations that already have deployed SharePoint in an Intranet or Extranet environment to consider the feasibility of adopting the platform. Although many of the technical improvements have already been discussed in various articles the question that most organizations are now considering is if it is worth moving from their established WCM platform to SharePoint. The recent release of the Gartner WCM Magic Quadrant for 2010 has shown that the new version of SharePoint has improved its capabilities in this area.

In this article I try to provide some guidance into some of the advantages, disadvantages and various questions that organizations should be considering when contemplating this move to SharePoint 2010.

Technology Rationalization

It is the dream of every CIO and administrator to reduce the amount of systems that an organization possess and standardize on a platform that will be robust, scalable and ultimately support business goals. If an organization has made a considerable investment internally on the SharePoint platform, most commonly through an Intranet/Extranet/Collaboration presence, then having a completely separate platform for an Internet presence can be a huge hindrance.

By standardizing on SharePoint for all types of Web management there are huge savings that can occur. Savings in hardware, licensing and operational costs can amount to huge sums to an organization. The ability to only have one platform to develop customizations on, one governance model or one common set of skills needed for employees is a very attractive proposition.

If this course of action does occur however, an organization should make sure that firstly SharePoint will fulfill their requirements for a WCM platform. Also if rationalization does occur it could be a considerable amount of time before cost savings are realized. Training staff in a new technology, the cost of transferring from one platform to another or simple change management activities can be sizeable for an organization and should be considered before moving to SharePoint 2010.

Platform Capabilities

With the broadness of the feature set in SharePoint 2010, being able to leverage this in an internet scenario is highly palatable and advantageous.

Not only can the considerable WCM capabilities of SharePoint be leveraged but other important feature sets can also be utilized. The social toolset can be used to create public internet sites that can make use of SharePoint’s considerable tagging, ratings, blogs, wiki and other social engagement features. The search capabilities can be leveraged to create compelling search experiences. Business Intelligence for real time reporting can be combined with rich online InfoPath forms capabilities to create more consumer driven sites.

Other features such as Claims based authentication can be leveraged to allow users to authenticate using a third party provider. Microsoft’s heavy investment into cloud computing also lends itself extremely well in a WCM scenario where potential traffic spikes can be absorbed by the cloud infrastructure.

Of course the breadth of SharePoint’s capabilities can also serve as its downfall. If your organization has specific needs that need deep vertical capabilities than you should be considering the cost of implementing this custom functionality on the SharePoint platform. If this is the case then you might be better served with a niche solution, rather than the broader set of features that SharePoint offers.

(Editor's Note: You may also be interested in Martin White's 7 Issues to Consider When Selecting a Web CMS for your Intranet.)

User Rationalization

From an end user perspective there are huge advantages of having one platform for daily activities. The time wasted performing the mental switch from one interface to another is well documented. The reduction of training costs is another advantage of having one platform for interaction. User engagement can also be increased with users feeling confident in being able to contribute content across all possible areas of an organization.

In essence users hate and resent having many differing interfaces to generate the same output. It simply doesn’t make sense that authoring a news article on the Intranet is different than authoring one on the Internet for many users. Presenting users with one interface, one set of actions, one set of guiding principles can lead to huge efficiency gains across an organization.

Licensing Changes

The new licensing model that Microsoft is now providing for public facing SharePoint sites is much more palatable then it was for SharePoint 2007. In the days of MOSS, the public connector license necessary to expose SharePoint to an anonymous audience was cost prohibitive for many smaller and mid-tier organizations to adopt.

This has changed considerably in SharePoint 2010 with the new licensing model that Microsoft has provided. With the various flavors that are available, and the ability to use FAST search in these licenses, it makes for a very attractive proposition cost wise for many clients. Although licensing is still as complex as ever, I would dare say more complex now, at least mid-tier organizations can expose SharePoint out to the world without a huge price tag.

Partner Ecosystem

It’s also worth noting that because SharePoint is a Microsoft product that the potential to find resources, training, add-ons and partners to assist an organization in meeting their business objectives in an Internet scenario is increased.

The common issue of finding suitably experienced and expert staff in a particular technology can be somewhat alleviated by standardizing on a single platform, with the backing of the huge partner ecosystem that revolves around Microsoft. I expect partners to become even more engaged with SharePoint work in the near future as the demand grows. With the growth in the public web facing presence, Microsoft partners could specialize on this skillset and find themselves in a great position for the future. Of course this would have the added advantage to providing skills necessary for organizations as well.

Final Thoughts

I hope that this article does provide some information that should be considered for implementing SharePoint 2010 as your web content management system. As with any product, careful planning and tradeoffs should be considered before making any major platform changes in your organization. However I believe that the ability to standardize on a single platform, a common architecture, governance model and training and user experience can be extremely powerful to an organization. Make sure that you spend a considerable amount of time researching the pros and cons of any such move.

Also from Michal Pisaerk: 5 Ways to Ruin Your SharePoint 2010 Upgrade.