by Shane O'Neill

Microsoft SharePoint: Users Still Don’t Get It

Nov 16, 2010
Data Center

A new survey shows workers still fear the SharePoint. IT must narrow SharePoint deployments and educate users, says one analyst.

Seems old habits die hard for SharePoint users struggling to make the best use of Microsoft’s collaboration platform.

According to a recent survey of over 300 business e-mail users, 80 percent of respondents with SharePoint access continue e-mailing documents back and forth, even though SharePoint software was designed to prevent this clunky process.

Respondents to the SharePoint survey — conducted in September by online market researcher uSamp and commissioned by software company Mainsoft — work in sales, marketing, human resources and legal departments in companies with 100 or more employees. Mainsoft, it’s worth noting, integrates SharePoint into Outlook and Lotus Notes to make e-mail more “social.”

For a software platform that offers everything from online document management libraries to Intranets to social networking sites, user adoption remains lower than expected. Thirty-four percent of users surveyed who have SharePoint access use it once a day, but 36 percent refuse to use it or use it about once a month. 30 percent use it about once a week.

[ For complete coverage on Microsoft’s SharePoint collaboration software — including enterprise and cloud adoption trends and reviews of SharePoint 2010 — see’s SharePoint Bible. ]

Why the weak adoption? Forrester analyst Rob Koplowitz chalks it up to user muscle memory.

“Workers are used to e-mail,” Koplowitz says. “They’ve been using it for document management and collaboration, and for other things that e-mail wasn’t even intended to be used for.”

Indeed, 80 percent of e-mail users in the survey with SharePoint access continue to e-mail documents back and forth instead of sending document links and using SharePoint’s library services for check-in, check-out and version control. Moreover, 83 percent of the survey’s e-mail users prefer to e-mail documents back and forth instead of uploading documents on a public folder, shared drive or workspace.

Three-quarters of survey respondents say they prefer doing this because it is the fastest option; 44 percent says it’s what they know best; and 36 percent say they do it because all their business contacts are in e-mail.

A recent Computerworld feature story reveals that a big part of the problem is that SharePoint sites can spread like weeds in a company, leading to user confusion, poor IT governance and possible legal risks.

“If deployed in a haphazard way, SharePoint can become like a wildfire in a company,” says Koplowitz, “and users are more likely to fall back to what they are most familiar with — e-mail.”

Survey responses reflect this confusion. The three biggest gripes about SharePoint are: users don’t know how to use it; it takes too long and is too cumbersome to use; and it’s difficult to find documents once they are uploaded.

Much of this user confusion about SharePoint can be rectified if IT implements SharePoint for a specific purpose such as to reduce e-mail traffic or build social networking sites, says Koplowitz. IT then needs to train and educate users on what problem is being solved and how they can use SharePoint.

“Users tend to embrace new technologies more when IT lays out a plan,” says Koplowitz.

Shane O’Neill covers Microsoft, Windows, Operating Systems, Productivity Apps and Online Services for Follow Shane on Twitter @smoneill. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Shane at