The Challenges of SharePoint for Collaboration

The Challenges of SharePoint for Collaboration

PART ONE OF A TWO-PART SERIES

Microsoft is a large company with most of the Fortune 500 as customers. It often sells enterprise licenses to customers and bundles SharePoint (for free).

But free is not always free. There are lots of challenges with SharePoint (mostly for
SharePoint 2007, but some issues from the newest version of SharePoint 2010).

Although it is sold by Microsoft as a collaboration tool, it has very little collaborative functionality. Here is my definition of collaboration (which has stood for the last 10 years): “Collaboration is multiple coordinated interactions occurring between two or more people that include the transfer of complex information for some common purpose or goal.”

SharePoint is most often used as a portal to share content inside the organization. IT departments often are sold on the Microsoft collaboration story, of which SharePoint is a part, but the company also wants you to buy other Microsoft Servers like OCS and Exchange (e-mail) server to get the whole collaborative solution. For most organizations, the cost for all of these servers and the people to support themis in the millions.

It is no surprise that Microsoft is a dominant player in the enterprise collaboration marketplace with more than 100 million licenses (more licenses than Lotus Notes). However, the AIIM 2008 report shows that only 38 percent use it for the enterprise while 70 percent use it at the departmental level.

SHAREPOINT STRENGTHS

>> Lots of capabilities/features
>> From a big, well-known software company
>> IT usually has a prior relationship with Microsoft
>> Integrates with MS Office and Exchange
>> Granular security model
>> Reasonable document repository
>> Alerts (delivered by e-mail) that allow you to attach any stage of a workflow, risk, issues, deliverables and calendar events
>> Dashboards, with which you can roll up milestones from different projects for management view
>> Incorporates FAST’s search technology to make search more granular

WHY ARE MOST ENTERPRISES USING SHAREPOINT?

>> It is the easiest route for the IT department.
>> It insures that IT is continually needed to deal with SharePoint.
>> Although it is a good choice for IT, it is not always the best choice for the employees.
>> It does integrate with MS Office well, and the enterprise already has an investment there.
>> If the enterprise puts a lot of resources into customizing SharePoint, it is harder to move away and also limits the value of this investment.

>> SharePoint supports “governance and compliance” even more so in the 2010 version.
>> Ribbon editing control and Ajax inline editing has been added, which makes content editing easy
and more intuitive for end-users ( if you are used to the ribbon in Office 2007).
>> SharePoint 2010 now supports Managed Meta Data Services that allows creating and managing the meta tags across multiple sites.Meta data-tagged content can be further used to dynamically position content for the site audience, using the new Audience Object Model, which allows Audience objects to target specific content to the target audience.
>> A SharePoint HTML editor has been added.
>> SharePoint now offers reusable workflows. Choose between simple (serial) or sophisticated (parallel) workflow or customized workflow to suit your organizations content approval needs.
>> SharePoint also offers inbuiltWeb analytics to understand how yourWebsite may be performing. It shows the regular KPIs (key performance indicators) forWebsite monitoring.

SHAREPOINT CHALLENGES

Now that we have talked about the strengths of SharePoint and why it is so widely adopted by the enterprise, let’s look at some of the challenges. SharePoint Challenges break down into five areas:
1) getting started

2) the SharePoint Architecture

3) functional challenges

4) social and collaborative challenges

5) training, maintenance and TCO issues

Microsoft SharePoint is a complex tool with lots of capabilities. It has a steep learning curve that can lower adoption and use dramatically. We did in-depth interviews with almost 50 employees of an 8,000-employee client company, and about 35 of them had issues with or no love of SharePoint. They were only using it because they had no other option. In some cases, different groups got so frustrated that they went out and found another (SaaS) collaboration tool, which required no server or license (subscription based), less or no training, and no interaction with IT.

GETTING STARTED

Getting started with SharePoint can be a very complex process. In looking at Microsoft’s pages for SharePoint 2007 deployment, it recommends 381 tasks, 129 days, and nine different roles (business analyst, creative designer, trainer, infrastructure specialist, developer, and architect) to implement SharePoint.

It also requires active directory, IIS, .net framework, SQL server databases, anti-virus software for the server, and the Microsoft Deployment Plan.
SharePoint server is composed of:

>>Web front-end role that processes HTTP requests to the server;
>> An application layer that provides such features as Search and Excel Services;
>> A dedicated Microsoft SQL Server data storage.

The licensing process itself is also very complex. Another (hardware) client was looking at converting from Lotus Notes to Microsoft (with additional functionality, including SharePoint, Exchange, OCS, etc.). After many requests of the Microsoft sales team working on this account, I either could not get a clear cost for these licenses or a variety of different quotes. The 2010 version of SharePoint has tried to address this problem somewhat and has reduced licensing schemes to three. SharePoint 2010 has three levels of functionality, each with a set of corresponding licenses:

>> Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010
>> Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 plus Standard CAL
>> Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 plus Enterprise CAL (& Standard CAL)

Although SharePoint 2010 is not compatible with SharePoint 2007 (Designer), which is a specialized Web page editor for designing SharePoint sites and end-user workflows for the Server, it does connect well to other Microsoft server applications like Project Management server, OCS 2007, Exchange 2007 and Office 2007.

Although there are hooks in each of these Microsoft applications to help data move from one to the other, it can be tricky to set up and does require very knowledgeable IT or third party involvement (Microsoft Partner).

—David Coleman is not an expert in SharePoint, but he is an expert in collaboration and has been studying and working in this market for over 20 years. He has written four books on the subject and offers a variety of Webinars, classes, and workshops. If you are having collaboration challenges, visit the Website www.collaborate.com, phone (650) 342-9197, e-mail davidc@collaborate.com, or visit dcoleman100 on G-mail and Twitter.

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