As the technology partner (head of IT) at global law firm \n\n\t\n Bryan Cave\n \n, John Alber saw \nincreasing resources being devoted to keeping multiple information systems integrated and the \ndata flowing among them. Over time, the law firm brought in what it considered the best tools \nto handle tasks such as document repositories, e-mail management, conflict-of-interest \ndatabases and calendar management, to help attorneys and support staff research, collaborate \nand stay abreast of case developments. And keeping those tools working together was a \nnecessary price to be paid. But now, Alber is implementing a different approach: He's using \nthe new Microsoft SharePoint 2007 \nplatform as the common system for many of these tasks.\n\n\n\n\n MORE ON COLLABORATION\n \n Use Wikis and Blogs To Unclog Email Boxes\n \n A SaaS Uptick\n \n Jet Blue to Pilot Use of Wikis, Blogs\n Until the new version's October 2007 release, Alber wouldn't have considered SharePoint, \nsince its previous incarnation didn't have the management chops he needed. Windows SharePoint \nServices and SharePoint Portal Server 2003 was widely considered a departmental tool good \njust for non-critical intranet sites and project-based file sharing, says Rob Koplowitz, a \nprincipal analyst at \n\n\t\n Forrester Research\n \n. But the new version brings in much of what an \nenterprise needs to manage documents, create project workspaces, manage information \nrepositories and tie into content management, analytics and search tools\u2014all with IT-based \ncontrol over security, access management and data structures.\n\n\n\n\n Sharepoint, Explained \n\n If you're confused about just what's in SharePoint and what it can do, you're not alone. \nHere's the scoop. Most enterprises, if they use SharePoint, use the 2003 version that came \nwith Windows Server 2003. Officially called Windows SharePoint Services 2.0, this software \nlets you set up intranet sites and websites and create shared project portals called \nworkspaces. Within workspaces, you can store documents, contacts, calendars, and chatlike \ndiscussions for workgroup use. SharePoint 2003 lets users search within their site or \nworkspace, and it lets IT add functionality through custom .Net applications.\n\t\n Microsoft\n \n sold a separate product called Windows SharePoint Portal Server 2003 that let IT \nadminister security and access settings for the individual SharePoint sites from a central \nlocation.\n\n\n\nThe typical SharePoint deployment was for a specific project or department, says Forrester \nResearch analyst Rob Koplowitz. But most companies didn't centrally manage SharePoint \ninstances.SharePoint 2007 retains the SharePoint Services components (now at version 3.0.) They are \nincluded with Windows Server 2007. New to version 3.0 are e-mail and directory integration, \nalerts, RSS publishing and templates for building blogs.Available separately, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 effectively replaces \nSharePoint Portal Server. Known as MOSS, the new server has gotten enterprise CIOs' \nattention, says Burton Group analyst Karen Hobert.The reason? It provides enterprise-class management tools for user administration, \npolicy-based access and security management, relying heavily on Microsoft's Active Directory \nidentity and policy management tool. Unlike the previous server, MOSS allows management of \nidentities and security across workspaces and sites, not just at the individual site and \nworkspace level.MOSS also adds cross-SharePoint search tools, basic business intelligence (BI) \ncapabilities that use Excel 2007's new analytics tools. Microsoft also now portrays \nSharePoint as an enterprise content management (ECM) system, citing the SharePoint Services \n3.0 enhancements and the greatly improved management features. Also new is the ability to \ncreate .Net-based workflow applications for Office-compatible documents, such as expense \nreports, that can be deployed and managed via MOSS. Koplowitz and Hobert say that the search, \nBI and ECM capabilities likely won't meet larger enterprises' needs but could meet the needs \nof smaller enterprises and departments."We're all used to Microsoft getting it wrong, wrong, wrong and then getting it right," \nnotes Alber, "but SharePoint 2007 is a much better advance than you would expect even in that \nusual Microsoft pattern." Bryan Cave is not a Microsoft shop, so Alber was open to options \nfrom a variety of providers. But he found that SharePoint 2007 was much less expensive\u2014and \noften more capable\u2014than legal-information management offerings from SAP and Oracle, and he judged it much more capable and user-friendly than IBM's Lotus Notes-based collaborative tools such \nas Domino and Quickr (a Notes wiki tool.)But there's also a lot of confusion about SharePoint 2007, notes Karen Hobert, an analyst \nat Burton Group. Part of that is confusion over the SharePoint name, which used to refer to \nthe Windows SharePoint Services that come with Windows Server 2003 and let people set up \nintranet sites, document-sharing workspaces and project schedules for individual \nprojects.These services remain part of SharePoint, but new under the SharePoint umbrella is \nMicrosoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS), which handles the central management of sites, \ndata repositories, access and security policies, workflows, search and other functions. MOSS \nis what shifts SharePoint 2007 into the enterprise class, Hobert says. "Together, these \nprovide an information-management middleware for enterprises to use across departments, not \njust within them," she says.Auto pricing publisher Kelley Blue Book is a typical example of why the management \nfunctionality is important, analysts and consultants say. Kelley's IT staff had deployed the \nprevious version of SharePoint to create departmental intranet sites and workspaces as needed \nfor various projects\u2014and within a couple years, about 100 separate sites had arisen. \n(Forrester analyst Koplowitz says he's seen some companies with tens of thousands of \nSharePoint sites in place. "'Wild' is the polite word for that situation," he says.) The \nsheer number of siloed locations made information management difficult, as people no longer \nknew where to look for information or where to place it, recalls CIO Justin Yaros. But \nSharePoint 2003 didn't allow for cross-site search or access management, so IT had no way to \nassert control over the proliferation. MOSS now brings that control, he notes, which is why \nhe plans to adopt the technology.But now there's also confusion among IT professionals regarding what SharePoint actually \ndoes, since Microsoft has stuffed in analytics, search, Office-based forms and workflow \nautomation, and content management capabilities into the previous file sharing, calendar \nmanagement and site management features. "You can work it into almost anything," says Trent \nParkhill, director of IT services for consultancy Haley & Aldrich, which makes it hard to \nknow where to start.In examining SharePoint's fit, CIOs also need to consider a few downsides to the product. \nThe new SharePoint search, enterprise content management (ECM) and business intelligence (BI) \nfunctions may not be robust enough for large enterprises. Also, using SharePoint most \neffectively requires much other Microsoft baggage , including Office, Exchange and Active \nDirectory.Strategy Should Be Incremental\nCIOs should resist Microsoft's pitch for SharePoint as a solution for everything and instead \nmatch specific issues they have to specific SharePoint capabilities, then start with the most \npressing of those, says Paul Hernacki, CTO of consultancy Definition6. "You quickly get \noverwhelmed if you try to build a strategy around all its capabilities," says Joe Mildenhall, \nCIO of Apollo Group, an education provider best known for the University of Phoenix. "It \nshould be a phased approach," advises Forester's Koplowitz.In practical terms, that means starting small with SharePoint, using it first to corral \nany existing SharePoint sites and workspaces and take advantage of cross-site search, then \nintegrate it with Active Directory for security and access controls, says Andy Lin, ECM \nsenior director at consultancy Primitive Logic. Then consider building out new sites and \nworkspaces with SharePoint, perhaps replacing existing sites over time to provide a common \nuser interface and reduce IT's support burden, suggests Haley & Aldrich's Parkhill. Analysts \nand consultants agree that the core SharePoint capabilities\u2014file sharing, site management and \nother collaboration aspects\u2014are where most companies will and should focus their SharePoint \nefforts.After that, companies' deployment strategies will likely diverge, based on the tools they \nhave in place. Many will take advantage of SharePoint's workflow automation capabilities to \nreduce labor across forms-oriented processes such as expense reporting. You can also use its \nExcel 2007-driven analytics capabilities to bring basic BI to more employees, says Burton \nGroup's Hobert.Apollo Group is following just such a strategy, notes CIO Mildenhall, using SharePoint \nfirst for its intranet sites and workspaces, and then exploring the workflow and content \nmanagement tools' capabilities. So is Kelley Blue Book, notes CIO Yaros.\nBryan Cave's Alber calls this an incremental approach: "We reveal a little SharePoint at a \ntime until we have exposed it all," he says. He expects his SharePoint strategy to span \nseveral years and fully expects Microsoft to have a new version shipping before he is \ndone.Where SharePoint Falls ShortNote this, however: Despite the enthusiasm for SharePoint from CIOs such as Alber, \nMildenhall and Yaros, none see themselves adopting all of its pieces. "It's not an end-all, \nbe-all even though it can do a lot of things," says Yaros. "It gets you 70 percent of the way \nthere really fast, but for the remaining 30 percent, you should look at purpose-built \n[third-party] tools," he adds.Analysts and consultants agree that Microsoft's search, ECM and BI capabilities are not \nlikely to meet enterprise needs, at least not as the main tool in use. Smaller companies may \nfind them to be good enough. Alber came to this conclusion for Bryan Cave's search \ntechnologies, so he uses Recommind \ninstead. Likewise, Haley & Aldrich's Parkhill uses Coveo's search engine instead of SharePoint's across the consultancy's 21 \noffices, even within the SharePoint intranet sites and workspaces. "It's even better to use \nGoogle Desktop to find e-mails and so on rather than use SharePoint's search tools," says \nPrimitive Logic consultant Lin. Similarly, Bryan Cave's Alber has decided to not replace his \nECM tools with SharePoint's, "though I can see eventually displacing them."Even if you use third-party tools for such functions, you may find value in adopting \nSharePoint as a front end, since its familiar Office interface can make ECM, search and BI \ntools more accessible to users, says Burton Group's Hobert. Kelley Blue Book's Yaros isn't \nsure if he'll ultimately adopt SharePoint's BI technology, but he's fairly certain he'll have \nSharePoint be the front end to whatever he does choose.Likewise, Primitive Logic's Lin says many companies will find that SharePoint 2007's \nOffice-like interface makes a good front end to sophisticated but hard-to-use ECM tools such \nas EMC Documentum and IBM FileNet.Beware Microsoft BaggageAlthough SharePoint 2007 supports Web services and has hooks to data sources such as SAP \nR3 to pull information into central repositories (which it calls business data catalogs), \nusing SharePoint fundamentally requires that you have a strong Microsoft core in place, notes \nApollo Group's Mildenhall. "Even if you're not a Microsoft shop, you still need to use Office \nand Exchange," he notes, and not using Active Directory will limit your security and access \nmanagement controls as well.The upside to buying into Microsoft's goal of becoming a strategic component of your \nenterprise infrastructure is that "nothing else leverages Office and Active Directory as \nSharePoint does," he says. And SharePoint also ties in well to Microsoft's .Net and Visual \nStudio development tools to let IT make enhancements, says Definition6's Hernacki.As you connect non-Microsoft technologies to SharePoint, you can expect a bumpier ride. \nThat's a big downside for many IT shops. For example, at Bryan Cave, it "took a lot of work" \nto get SharePoint to integrate with the Recommind search system, notes Alber. Primitive \nLogic's Lin says his consultancy "struggled to get EMC Documentum working with SharePoint \nbecause the SharePoint interfaces are not so good." But Lin notes that IBM's FileNet \nintegrates more easily with SharePoint. Christopher Martini, Primitive Logic's Microsoft \npractice head, adds that SharePoint alternatives such as SAP's MySAP portal also require \nreliance on a proprietary core or lots of custom code.Ultimately, CIOs must ask themselves whether they want to bring Microsoft to the core of \ntheir collaboration and perhaps content management, BI, and search strategies, says \nForrester's Koplowitz. It's clear that the advances in SharePoint 2007 have caused many CIOs \nto look at that question again. "Any CIO should be cautious. There's a lot to MOSS that we \ndon't know yet\u2014for starters, how well it will scale in the real world. We'll know in the next \nyear what its real quality is as people put it through its paces," Koplowitz says.At Bryan Cave, Alber is not waiting. Impressed with the "robustness" of Microsoft SQL \nServer's recent release, he says, "Office 2007 is coming off the bus really quite \nadvanced\u2014there's no need to wait until Service Pack 2, as is usually the case with \nMicrosoft." Despite having misgivings about Windows Vista, he sees these recent enterprise \napps as proof that Microsoft is ready to play in the big time, and his early experiences with \nMOSS reinforce that belief. "I'm not seeing the same hiccups as with Microsoft in the past," \nhe says.Despite that enthusiasm, Alber doesn't just swallow the Microsoft Kool-Aid. "I've really \ntried to cherry-pick; I really try not to buy Microsoft's promises wholesale." The promise of \nSharePoint 2007 is strong, but the strategy of "trust but verify" remains essential, he says.