SharePoint 2007 Demystified: How to Cash in on Collaboration Tools
Previous versions of Microsoft's collaboration tools lacked management prowess. SharePoint 2007 fixes that problem and packs in a sometimes confusing array of features from workflow to search. Here's how smart IT leaders are making this often-misunderstood product work for them.
Mon, January 07, 2008
CIO — As the technology partner (head of IT) at global law firm , John Alber saw increasing resources being devoted to keeping multiple information systems integrated and the data flowing among them. Over time, the law firm brought in what it considered the best tools to handle tasks such as document repositories, e-mail management, conflict-of-interest databases and calendar management, to help attorneys and support staff research, collaborate and stay abreast of case developments. And keeping those tools working together was a necessary price to be paid. But now, Alber is implementing a different approach: He's using the new Microsoft SharePoint 2007 platform as the common system for many of these tasks.
Until the new version's October 2007 release, Alber wouldn't have considered SharePoint, since its previous incarnation didn't have the management chops he needed. Windows SharePoint Services and SharePoint Portal Server 2003 was widely considered a departmental tool good just for non-critical intranet sites and project-based file sharing, says Rob Koplowitz, a principal analyst at . But the new version brings in much of what an enterprise needs to manage documents, create project workspaces, manage information repositories and tie into content management, analytics and search tools—all with IT-based control over security, access management and data structures.
If you're confused about just what's in SharePoint and what it can do, you're not alone. Here's the scoop. Most enterprises, if they use SharePoint, use the 2003 version that came with Windows Server 2003. Officially called Windows SharePoint Services 2.0, this software lets you set up intranet sites and websites and create shared project portals called workspaces. Within workspaces, you can store documents, contacts, calendars, and chatlike discussions for workgroup use. SharePoint 2003 lets users search within their site or workspace, and it lets IT add functionality through custom .Net applications.
sold a separate product called Windows SharePoint Portal Server 2003 that let IT administer security and access settings for the individual SharePoint sites from a central location.
The typical SharePoint deployment was for a specific project or department, says Forrester Research analyst Rob Koplowitz. But most companies didn't centrally manage SharePoint instances.
SharePoint 2007 retains the SharePoint Services components (now at version 3.0.) They are included with Windows Server 2007. New to version 3.0 are e-mail and directory integration, alerts, RSS publishing and templates for building blogs.
Available separately, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 effectively replaces SharePoint Portal Server. Known as MOSS, the new server has gotten enterprise CIOs' attention, says Burton Group analyst Karen Hobert.
The reason? It provides enterprise-class management tools for user administration, policy-based access and security management, relying heavily on Microsoft's Active Directory identity and policy management tool. Unlike the previous server, MOSS allows management of identities and security across workspaces and sites, not just at the individual site and workspace level.
MOSS also adds cross-SharePoint search tools, basic business intelligence (BI) capabilities that use Excel 2007's new analytics tools. Microsoft also now portrays SharePoint as an enterprise content management (ECM) system, citing the SharePoint Services 3.0 enhancements and the greatly improved management features. Also new is the ability to create .Net-based workflow applications for Office-compatible documents, such as expense reports, that can be deployed and managed via MOSS. Koplowitz and Hobert say that the search, BI and ECM capabilities likely won't meet larger enterprises' needs but could meet the needs of smaller enterprises and departments.