While recent research by AIIM indicates that at least 70% of organizations have deployed SharePoint in some shape or form over the past year, the way it is being used and the reasons it is being deployed in the first instance, are as many as there are enterprises using it.

However, according to the latest in AIIM’s Industry Watch series report, entitled The SharePoint Puzzle - adding the missing pieces (free after registration), the fact that so many enterprises have a SharePoint presence should not fool people into thinking that it is taking over.

Yes, it is present in the majority of companies, but the survey of 551 individual members of the AIIM community that produced 488 responses, shows that many enterprises are also using third-party products to bolster perceived functionality weaknesses in all SharePoint editions, including SharePoint 2010.

SharePoint offers enterprises the promise of collaboration, team and project management, enterprise content management (ECM), intranets and portals, records management, and more -- all straight out-of-the-box.

But the research has also uncovered dissatisfaction with SharePoint. Some companies say that the functionality just doesn’t go far enough; some even say it was a bad decision. In fairness, though, there will be detractors around any software product, and SharePoint is no different.

In this research AIIM has set out to discover the reality of SharePoint use across the enterprise. It examined user expectations before deployment and after deployment and what parts of what enterprises are using what functionality. More importantly it also set itself the task of identifying gaps in SharePoint.

Enterprise SharePoint Deployments

Some extremely interesting figures emerged. The research, which was carried out over May and June this year, showed that 28% have it in use across their whole workforce, while 70% have at least half their staff using it at least once a week.

Nearly half (44%) are using some other form of enterprise content management system, or document management system, along with SharePoint, while content migration and information governance capabilities are cited as demonstrating the greatest shortfalls in expectations.

In terms of functionality, records management, workflow, social tools and email integration are considered lacking in capability. The result is that 55% of respondents feel that it was the right decision to choose SharePoint. Nine percent say it was a poor decision, and 22% feel they have only achieved a basic deployment.

Over half of those that have deployed it are using, or are planning to use 3rd party products to enhance functionality, with only one third stating that they will stay with the out-of-the box product

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AIIM: SharePoint usage

SharePoint Editions

No matter what detractors say, though, there are still a large number of organizations that have been seduced by its functionality out-of-the-box. As of this year almost half (43%) are now using SharePoint 2010, including 14% that are using it for the first time.

This is double the number from the AIIM SharePoint Industry Watch in 2011 and in keeping with the predictions of that report, which also said a large number would upgrade from 2007 to 2010.

Sure enough 20% of companies are in the process of upgrading from 2007 to 2010, but this probably has more to do with the fact that as of October coming, Microsoft will no longer support SharePoint 2007.

That said a quarter of those using earlier versions -- in some cases SP 2003 -- said they won’t be upgrading, while a telling 1% no longer use SharePoint for anything.

SharePoint Deployment v Use

However, there is a major distinction that needs to be made here. While the deployment figures suggest that it is starting to dominate in the enterprise CMS world, they do not suggest that it is being used exclusively.

In other words, while some enterprises are using it, they are not using it on its own, with 70% not using it as their primary ECM system.

The research indicates that while 14% are using it as their primary system, the vast majority are using it as a single point tool. This means that many are using it for particular sites, or projects, but not as their principal repository.

That is not to lessen its usefulness; when used along with a third party add-on it is still an extremely powerful portal enabling users to access content. In fact, this appears to one of the favored ways of using it; 44% of those surveyed said they were using some form of ECM or document management tool alongside SharePoint.

While this deployment can take many forms, from single sites to multi-systems, over half (57%) are deploying a single SharePoint system across the entire enterprise.

SharePoint Expectations

AIIM also went digging to see why people had originally deployed SharePoint in the first place. The collaborative capabilities of SharePoint were the strongest with half of all those who replied citing it as the principal reason.

However, SharePoint was more often selected to be a file share replacement than a live document management system, which the report speculates may be why there is such a relevance of alternative ECM and document management solutions running alongside it.

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AIIM: Why SharePoint was deployed

This applied to internal collaboration only. External collaboration wasn’t rated very highly, but this is probably as much to security issues related to extending outside the firewall, as well of course, as licensing.

In terms of expectation relation to usability, many respondents appear to have been disappointed. There were only two areas where expectations exceeded results: ‘Amount of ongoing management’ and ‘time to learn’. Otherwise, at this level there was a lot of disappointment.

SharePoint Usability

Functionality fared a bit better. There were a lot more areas that met expectations than there was on the usability list, but there were still some notable exceptions.

SharePoint 2010 came with better records management through Records Center. However, either people are not using it, or it still does not offer robust records management. Other areas that did not meet expectations include ease of content migration (34%), information governance capabilities (26%) and time to implement (16%).

However, internal collaboration (82%) and document/content management (72%) and messaging (53%) are all said to be meeting expectations, as is its external collaboration capabilities (44%).*

On top of this over a third feel that SharePoint has taken them down the correct road of ECM and around a quarter find SharePoint a cost-effective solution and that it has slotted into their overall strategic direction.

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AIIM: SharePoint expectations

SharePoint Dissatisfaction

Given that, it is probably surprising that over half of those responding have positive feeling about the implementations, although 24% say it has been tough.

According to the results a quarter say they have yet to develop anything beyond the basic deployment despite intentions to develop something a little more sophisticated,  largely as a result of limited, or in adequate functionality, or because of a lack of internal skills and expertise that will enable them maximize the functionality.

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AIIM: SharePoint issues

And that’s the not the end of the bad news. Ten percent felt that implementing SharePoint was a bad decision including 3% that are moving away from SharePoint completely.

Specifically, over a third feels that SharePoint functionality around document management, records management and compliance was not adequate with many citing information management and governance as the principal issue.

Other negative sentiment focused on corporate capabilities in terms of planning/executing (33%) and lack of skills to deploy properly (17%), but also on problems in taking it beyond basic deployments, which was also cited by 15% of enterprises as a problem.

This last group of responses could well go back to issues that we have identified in the past in relation to poor SharePoint strategies; notably lack of planning around deployments, which time and time again has been found to be at the origin of unsuccessful deployments.

After all, SharePoint is just an application, it cannot make deployment, or implementation decisions itself. Despite this, 40% are sticking with it and undoubtedly there will be more when SharePoint 2013 becomes generally available next year. In the second part of this look at AIIM's report The SharePoint Puzzle - adding the missing pieces, we will look at those companies and issues around them.