Whether you love it, or loathe it, you simply can't escape the content management and collaboration behemoth that is Microsoft's SharePoint family. We know the MOSS 2007 incarnation was a huge success for Microsoft based on the massive number of licenses deployed.

Whether you judge it a successful product from an enterprise or users perspective, or not, SharePoint is pretty much an industry unto itself. From local user groups, to international conferences, from books to blogs, not to mention the occasional presentation or article by people like me, SharePoint was every where in 2010. And it will continue to be in 2011.

The Ghost of SharePoint Past

It's not just the loosely bound networking of user groups; there is a massive ecosystem of third party vendors, consultants and Microsoft Partners who work to bring us SharePoint based solutions. As we entered 2010 these groups were already getting agitated, or perhaps excited is a better word, about the latest release. Yes, we had seen Microsoft presentations and maybe even got our grubby little fingers on the Beta, but SharePoint 2010 was coming! Admittedly at the beginning of 2010 we were not exactly sure of the release date, but in some respects that just fed our frenzy. 

I was as guilty as anyone, lapping up the official presentations by Microsoft reps at our premises, attending SharePoint Saturday at MS Canada and such stuff. However my attention had an almost laser like focus on how SharePoint 2010 was going to be better than MOSS 2007 in a number of key areas. Why? Well because I was one of the burgeoning group of users who were getting a little fed up with the "idiosyncrasies" of the platform.

Criticism of MOSS 2007 was by no means new in 2010 (the year I mean). It's not really enterprise content management, the WCM is weak, the Records Management is not very good, it's not very 'social' without add ons, etc, etc... We had of course known all this for some years, but it appeared that the hopes for the new version made the critics more vocal, or maybe the less critical just chipped in at this point. 

The Ghost of SharePoint Present

Well SharePoint 2010 was released during the year, and we got to read reviews, play with VM's and maybe even get our sleeves rolled up and dove into an upgrade!

The general reception seems to have been very good. The organization I was working for when it was released was no where near ready for an upgrade, and the one I am working for now won't be upgrading for some time either, so my hands on experience is limited.

However the social computing aspects such as activity streams, improved blog and wiki functionality and the ability to stream media have all won plaudits. The ability to share content types across server farms and the new Managed Metadata Service appear to be big improvements. Records Management has been improved too.

Considerable effort has been put into the BI side of things. Although I think the "Business Intelligence for the masses" marketing tag line is no more accurate about SP2010 than "ECM for the masses" was for MOSS 2007. Personally, I see this as improved Portal functionality, the ability to easily build dashboards to display dynamically updated information. The team I currently work with would love to get its hands on this functionality, alas it is not to be, not for a while at least.

This probably applies to a lot of users. It's not easy to upgrade a global portal infrastructure, and of course this does not apply just to SharePoint, it applies to all large enterprise software deployments, be they ERP systems or ECM systems or bespoke line of business apps. So we will be learning the lessons of SP2010 deployments for a while yet.......

The Ghost of SharePoint Future

So what does 2011 bring on the SharePoint front? Lots more conferences, books and blog posts that's for sure, but probably not a lot from Microsoft. Maybe a service pack? Microsoft have said that due to the breadth and depth of the product there is no way they can easily reduce the development cycle between releases, and so they don't intend to try.

Instead they will rely on their partners to develop their add ons with quicker development cycles. So whether it's digital asset management, XML structured authoring or enhanced social computing functionality, you can expect the announcements to come from the partner ecosystem, where the smaller companies are more agile and quicker to release their enhancements. There is nothing wrong with that of course, it just means that in many respects it's going to be business as usual for SharePoint in 2011.

Companies need to go into their upgrade cycle or new deployments with their eyes open; make sure you have distinguished marketing hype from reality. Yes SharePoint as a platform can probably be made to do absolutely anything you need or want it to do, but that won't necessarily be easy or cheap.

Organizations that think SharePoint (or any piece of software) is a panacea for all their problems will be disappointed, and those that realistically position it as a tool to facilitate their information management, knowledge management or communications strategies may be pleasantly surprised.

Those that neglect management and let team sites proliferate like wild fire into a thousand separate information silos will undoubtedly suffer the fate of Ebenezer Scrooge at the hands of a particularly wrathful set of ghosts (or very expensive consultants....)

Those that treat SharePoint with respect, and healthy dose of skepticism, plus some good project management methodologies can expect a new year filled with happy praise from end users and senior management alike -- we hope !

Either way I wish all the readers of CMSWire a very happy new year !