It's not you, Microsoft — or your highly anticipated, eagerly awaited SharePoint 2016. It's us — the users.

That's the conclusion of new research from AIIM, a Silver Spring, Md.-based information management group that sought to determine whether the latest version of SharePoint had generated new levels of love for the platform in the enterprise. 

Instead, the report concludes user adoption remains an issue for 58 percent of survey respondents, who consistently complain about poor or inadequate training and lack of management support.

But hold on. 

“This is an indication of human deficiency, rather than technological deficiency. It is not the technology that is failing the organization in as much as it is the organization failing the technology," the report states, specifically citing poorly developed business strategies as barriers to SharePoint adoption.

Historic SharePoint Problems

To be clear, this was a relatively small survey. The research is based on responses from June survey of 274 SharePoint professionals, all of whom are members of the AIIM community. While it could be argued that the sample is too small to be statistically significant, it's worth noting that similar studies have generated the same responses over the years.

Based on comments in the survey appendix, users have multiple issues with SharePoint use and deployment in the enterprise, most of it centered on people:

  • “The deployment of SharePoint depends on HR, communications and other areas. Not IT.”
  • “It has been a long and rocky road — but we are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.”
  • “I know our SharePoint implementation has been flawed, but seeing it here in my answers makes me realize how far we have to go.”
  • “I feel that the expertise to launch this type of platform hasn’t been available for my organization.”
  • “In a dysfunctional organization such as ours, I’ve been amazed what an individual or small group of forward-thinking people can do.”

'How SharePoint Is Used'

The principal issue with SharePoint is the way it is being used and deployed, Bob Larrivee, VP and chief analyst of market intelligence at AIIM International, told CMSWire.

“This is less of a technology issue than a change management issue,” he said. “Our research shows that 40 percent of organizations say their SharePoint implementation was unsuccessful due to inadequate user training (67 percent), difficulty of use (65 percent) and lack of senior management support (64 percent). Of course, SharePoint is not alone in this, as I have seen this with other technologies as well.”

Still, it doesn’t look like many people will be abandoning SharePoint any time soon. Despite the complaints, slightly more enterprises are now using SharePoint for Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Document Management (DM) than last year. In fact, 28 percent of respondents said it is their only (10 percent) or main (18 percent) ECM or DM system.

SharePoint 2013 is still the most used edition, although more than a quarter of those surveyed are still using the aging SharePoint 2010.

Only two percent are live with SharePoint 2016 while 19 percent have adopted SharePoint Office 365. The latter is likely to increase substantially in the future given Microsoft’s hybrid focus, which aims to give enterprises what they want, where they want it and when they want it.

But it’s not entirely clear that the new version will provide a remedy for the SharePoint adoption issues, hybrid focus or not. In fact, 29 percent of those surveyed said they aren't aware of what SharePoint 2016 even offers (43 percent said they were "somewhat aware.")

“If people do not know what it offers, they may be slow to adopt. Additionally, SharePoint implementations have seen stalls, delays, and even stops in projects due to user reluctance and resistance,” Larrivee said.

SharePoint Alternatives

If SharePoint is so difficult to use and user adoption is such an issue, then why aren't enterprises opting for other platforms?

"The key is to understand how SharePoint fits into the overall architecture, and the purpose it will serve, including the business problem it solves and the business requirements it addresses," he said.

Clearly, some managers agree. The survey shows that 26 percent of respondents indicate they plan to increase spending on SharePoint add-on products, with a further 27 percent looking to increase spending to integrate with other repositories.

This, Larrivee said, indicates that organizations are beginning to understand what SharePoint can do for them, and where they need to enhance it beyond the out-of-the-box capabilities. Many SharePoint implementations have been done in a siloed way, without linkage to other repositories or line-of-business applications.

There are also indications enterprises are looking to increase integration, which appears to show they now see SharePoint as an integral part of their information ecosystem.

“When organizations understand how SharePoint can fit into their infrastructure, and what purpose it will serve, it will gain momentum. There must be a vision, defined business goals and identified pain points to properly apply technology. Once this happens, you determine how the technology will fix the pain, support the business goals, and align with the corporate vision,” Larrivee said.