sharepoint 2103, enterprise content management, eim, information management, ecm

As SharePoint evolves, how will its position change within the organization? How do Yammer and Office 365 change our view of SharePoint

This is an interesting question, as SharePoint's position within the organization has changed quite dramatically from its beginnings as a primarily IT-focused, document-centric collaboration tool. SharePoint's near ubiquity today in every industry at organizations of all sizes would come as a surprise to just about every ECM pundit in 2003 -- or even to most ECM pundits in 2008.

To some extent, the shift in SharePoint's position within the organization has had as much to do with Microsoft's product strategy (intentional or not) as with external market forces; but overall, it's too difficult to draw a hard and fast line between these two sides of SharePoint's evolution.

So if we turn to consider the future of SharePoint, we have to admit that we're likely to be as unimaginative as the ECM pundits were who came before us in thinking about what might be next for SharePoint. But that having been said, I have some definite wild guesses about where SharePoint is headed and how its position in the organization might change.

Folks will stop trying to make SharePoint their sole ECM system.

In fact, the holy grail of a unified corporate repository as single source of truth, which has been dying a slow death over the last five years, will be helped into its grave by this evolution of SharePoint. Many folks have seen SharePoint as the last hope for trying to get all users on a single platform, and it's failed in that regard. So maybe, just maybe, we'll see a more nuanced (and realistic) approach to ECM emerge from the ashes of this dream.

Editor's Note: Don't agree? Check out Yes, SharePoint is Scalable Enough for Large Enterprise ECM.

The typical ECM architecture at large organizations will be "SharePoint and" for the foreseeable future.

Except in extreme edge cases, for the Fortune 1000, the standard issue ECM architecture will be SharePoint and -- whether that "and" is ECM (i.e., OpenText, IBM, EMC, Hyland, Perceptive, Oracle) or something else (e.g., KnowledgeLake, Gimmal, Collabware, NewsGator).

So before you go and hire some fancy-pants consultant (FPC) to tell you what to do about your ECM platform, know that any FPC worth their salt will tell you to use SharePoint plus big ECM. And given the near functional parity between the main ECM players (IBM, OpenText, EMC, and Hyland), in most cases you can throw a dart and find a solution that works for you. So if you already have a relationship with one of these four (and you don’t hate their guts or aren’t five versions behind), stick with them, figure out the right division of labor between them and SharePoint, and move on. That's what absolutely everyone else is (and should be) doing.

No idea what Yammer will bring.

Jury's still out on exactly what the integration with SharePoint will look like. But no matter what happens with Yammer and SharePoint, I think that SharePoint has gotten social enough -- and dedicated social platforms like Jive and Tibbr have failed to generate the groundswell they need to be truly enterprise platforms -- that most large organizations will abandon attempts to create separate, standalone social collaboration platforms and just do it (albeit in a more lo fi way) with SharePoint.

Editor's Note: An alternate view on this story: Planning for SharePoint 2013? Make Sure You've Got Yammer on the Brain

Microsoft will be more interested in housing your content in SharePoint rather than helping you manage it.

Despite Microsoft's success in eating big ECM's lunch for the last six years, I don’t think that killing big ECM is its end game (although it wouldn't shed too many tears about it if it were to happen). Instead, given its focus on cloud technology and its push to have organizations move email and Office documents off premises, I think it's more interested in being your go-to digital landfill provider rather than the folks who give you tools to clean up and manage content properly.

Think about it this way: which is growing faster, the total employees of the typical Fortune 1000 company or the unstructured content on its shared drives? It's a safe bet that no organization grows its workforce by 50% a year, so which growth curve would you rather have your revenue tied to? To me, this is a no brainer -- if you pay me to store your mess and enable you to keep doing what you're doing today, I make more money and ask you to do less organizational change...and the switching costs for taking your content back will be ridiculously high, so you'll likely be stuck with me forever. Cue 1990s Bill Gates maniacally laughing in a darkened room...

So, there you have it, my best shot in the dark, shoot from the hip prognostications on the evolution of SharePoint in the organization today. As usual, I'd love some good heckling and some heated conversations, so if you disagree with anything here (or even if you agree but are feeling cantankerous), jump in and get the conversation started!