As applications found on the Web let end-users collaborate without needing IT’s help or blessing, Microsoft has contended that SharePoint will be the “destination” platform that gives employees what they want and IT the management features necessary to running a business. Whether SharePoint turns out this way, however, is another matter altogether.
Bill Gates, for his part, remains bullish on SharePoint. In a recent presentation at Microsoft’s CEO summit, he gave an extensive demo of SharePoint to audience members.
On one hand, there’s plenty to like about SharePoint. This overview article, SharePoint demystified, describes why IT has been so hot on SharePoint: “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.”
But then on the other hand, it’s become what some pundits (and SharePoint competitors) call a “frankenapp”: it has been constructed with many different (and moving) parts over time, conceived during different technology cycles. SharePoint started as a document management repository and place to make intranet sites, and now it has everything from BI to enterprise search to Web 2.0 tools.
The Web 2.0 tools became the focus of a SharePoint article we did this past week. SharePoint added wikis, blogs, and social networking capabilities back in the 2007 version of SharePoint, and after a year, SharePoint’s flavor of Web 2.0 has garnered mixed reviews. The overall concensus: while the tools are a start, they don’t have the same capabilities as similar ones in the consumer space or those from pure play vendors who have focused on making these technologies enterprise-grade.
From an IT perspective, buying into the “SharePoint for everything” vision seems reasonable on the surface, but I wonder how end-users will feel about such a strategy.
That kind of lock-in has the potential to backfire for enterprises, because one vendor and one product can’t keep up with all the innovations in the consumer space. When that gap becomes wide, end-users rebel and grab what they need from the Web.