Microsoft makes billions of dollars from SharePoint. It's their premier revenue generator at this point. The reason has mostly to do with Microsoft's sheer size, of course, and the prevalence of their operating system and office suite, particularly in small and medium businesses. But something else is going on here: IT is settling for less than it deserves.

SharePoint: Everything but the Kitchen Sink

What started as an attempt to kill Lotus Notes has morphed into this everything-but-the-kitchen-sink platform. First it was a portal with some collaboration and content management features meant to get people to use more Microsoft Office. Then Microsoft started adding more and more "ECM" features -- Records Management, Web Content Management, Search, BPM and Forms. At some point the platform grew to include not just enterprise content management but Business Intelligence, peer-to-peer (Groove) and VoIP (OCS & now Skype).

SharePoint sneaks in through the back door of an organization and then happily sets up shop right smack dab in the middle of middle management and the surrounding knowledge workers. SharePoint sites then proliferate, often unchecked, until an organization finds itself with stove pipes everywhere. What began as, "I think we already have it -- might as well turn it on," quickly devolves into "How did this happen and what can I do to fix it?"

Save the Knowledge Worker

But what frightens me the most is more insidious than the creation of a bunch of data ghettos across the enterprise: In a SharePoint organization, Microsoft owns the Knowledge Worker. From the operating
system of both the client and server to the application server and database, all the way to the browser and office suite on the desktop. No choice, no transparency and no portability.

The lack of choice at every point in the stack is actually seen as a benefit by some -- one throat to choke and all of that. But how much are you willing to give up by settling for SharePoint? There are far better options out there for every piece of the SharePoint kitchen sink. Some are completely free. Most are a fraction of the cost of SharePoint. And because many are built on open standards (not Microsoft's version of a standard), it all works well together. It's called open source software and, at this point, it is our only hope against Microsoft's continued dominance of the enterprise.

Don't Settle

So this is a call to action for all IT architects and managers: Don't settle for one-size fits all. You deserve better. Assemble a best-of-breed solution from open source components that implement industry standards. You'll save money, you'll keep your developers happy, and you'll be able to respond more nimbly to the needs of the business.

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