When To Use -- And Not To Use -- SharePoint 2010

Forrester this week evaluated SharePoint 2010 -- which it expects to ship by the end of June -- and although analyst Rob Koplowitz called it “evolutionary, not revolutionary,” he said there are still times when the software should not be used.

Here is his advice to IT managers on when to look for something else, either because SharePoint is overkill or because it has limitations that Microsoft hasn’t yet addressed:

  • For “lightweight, fit-to-purpose workloads,” such as a simple shared workspace for a set of customer service representatives. “The full SharePoint platform will look like a sledgehammer compared to products from companies like Socialtext, Jive, and others,” Koplowitz writes.

  • For corporate social networks that need to include employees, customers and business partners

  • For the ability to serve content dynamically to specific groups of people in different geographies

  • For high -- volume transactional content, such as financial services case management, or for situations that require advanced, complex workflow around document and metadata assemblies

  • For advanced data cleansing and transformation
“The point I try to put forward is that SharePoint is neither good nor bad -- it’s big and rather strategic,” Koplowitz said in an interview. “It has a lot of capabilities, but sometimes … there are pure-play vendors that do what you need particularly well.”

That said, Microsoft has added a lot of new features to SharePoint 2010 that Koplowitz likes. Like Janus Boye (see my previous interview, "Proceed Cautiously With SharePoint 2010, Analyst Says"), he cited the social computing tools -- which include improved blogs and wikis, microblogs and better ways to link and share information among users – and the new development environment. Visual Studio can now be used to deploy code into SharePoint, and non -- developers can use SharePoint Designer to create new applications without having to write code at all.

He also cites several other new features, including the improved search capabilities and the improved access to other Office applications and line-of-business transactional applications.

So who should use SharePoint 2010? Koplowitz singles out two groups – companies that are running SharePoint 2007 (about a third of the companies surveyed by Forrester) and have an urgent need to move, perhaps because they’ve held off on an important process like social networking; and companies that are not running SharePoint and are willing to take on a broad application that will take them years to plan and install.

But, he warns, “If you’re looking for rapid functional iteration, SharePoint is not for you.” That’s because SharePoint is so broad and so integrated. As new features emerge from the consumer Web – and Koplowitz, a former Microsoft employee, says they will, rapidly -- Microsoft will stage them into upcoming releases.

A Microsoft spokesman had no comment on the report, but pointed out that SharePoint has “earned over $1.3 billion in revenue, representing over a 20 percent growth over the past year.”

According to Forrester’s survey, just over half of the companies that have installed SharePoint or one of its competitors -- Lotus Notes, for instance -- use it as a Web portal to collaborate on documents. Other popular uses, in decreasing order of importance, are for network fileshares, task management (calendars, schedulers and so on), sharing documents with partners or customers, and social networking.

Twenty percent of companies were not using any collaboration platform, and 18 percent provided access to what they did use with BlackBerries or other mobile devices.

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