by C.G. Lynch

Microsoft SharePoint Add-On Tracks Usage, Value

Aug 08, 20083 mins
Collaboration SoftwareEnterprise ApplicationsSmall and Medium Business

A reporting tool from Nintex, a Microsoft partner, could help CIOs and other information technology leaders learn how their SharePoint sites are being utilized and by whom, so companies can build a more devoted user base.n

Nintex, a vendor that builds add-ons to Microsoft technology, announced the launch of a reporting tool aimed at helping IT administrators and business people track how people are utilizing SharePoint 2007 at their companies. Analysts say it could help companies tweak their SharePoint sites to encourage better user adoption and interaction.


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The Nintex reporting tool, which was demonstrated for CIO earlier this week, will allow companies to track the heaviest users of SharePoint within their organizations and across various departments. The tool also drills down to see which documents are being read and edited the most, and helps managers identify which SharePoint documents that should be read more are falling on the wayside for lack of use.

“It might mean you need to promote some content on a different part of the site,” says Mike Fitzmaurice, Nintex’s vice president of product technology. “You can also see who is creating lists and participating in discussion boards, and also who isn’t.”

The tool could be especially helpful for business leaders who are trying to gage how their installation of SharePoint is being received throughout the enterprise, says Craig Roth, a senior analyst and vice president with The Burton Group. “One of the biggest problems with SharePoint implementations is visibility,” he says. “It’s like Lotus Notes in that way: people create all these databases, but you have no idea what they’re doing with it.”

The Nintex reporting tool will have its hands full crawling through the nooks and crannies of SharePoint because it comes with so many features and functions out of the box. SharePoint’s basic purpose is to provide companies with a central repository for users to check documents (such as Excel, Word and PDF files) in and out of a central website. In the 2007 release, Microsoft also added many social software features, such as wikis, blogs, social networking profiles and discussion boards.

According to Fitzmaurice, SharePoint does come with a reporting tool out of the box to analyze the kind of data Nintex does, but it is much less user friendly and doesn’t offer big picture visualizations (like dashboards) that Nintex brings with this current add-on.

“The analysis tools there are pretty limited,” Fitzmaurice says. “There is far less interactivity [with the data] and it’s pretty rudimentary.”

Because SharePoint does so many different things, garnering adoption can sometimes be difficult, especially if end users don’t see the immediate benefit, The Burton Group’s Roth says.

“Let’s say you announce [to employees] that something like SharePoint is available,” Roth says. “If you tell someone right when they need it, they’ll jump in, start using it and get excited. If they don’t need it, then you can’t expect them to start using it right away.”

This leads to two groups of users, Roth adds. There are the power users, who see an immediate benefit and start using SharePoint right away. The second group needs more convincing, and would benefit from content being promoted to them more strategically. The Nintex tool could help administrators know where to position content to that latter group accordingly, an essential part of succeeding with a SharePoint implementation, Roth says.

“Collaboration tools like SharePoint rely on the network effect,” he says. “The more who use it, the more valuable it becomes. You want to find those pockets [of people not using it] and find ways to get them on it.”