Open Letter to Andrew Brust, Chief of New Technology at twentysix New York

Kevin McLaughlin from ChannelWeb and I chatted last week about my SharePoint 7 Pillars paper, and he wrote up our discussion in an article entitled Study Takes Aim at SharePoint’s Shortcomings.

As he should have done, Kevin sought comments from others, and Andrew Brust, Chief of New Technology at twentysix New York shared some thoughts. Here’s an extract from the article:

Unsurprisingly, solution providers who’ve built healthy SharePoint businesses were incredulous when informed of Sampson’s study, with many scoffing at the limitations that Sampson described.

“SharePoint’s popularity is growing so fast that we literally cannot serve all the opportunities we find out there,” said Andrew Brust, chief of new technology at twentysix New York, a New York-based IT consultancy.

Brust says SharePoint’s key advantage is that it’s part of a full stack, which means its feature set is complemented by that of the Office Suite and server products like BizTalk and PerformancePoint, which mitigates the impact of any perceived limitations in its feature set.

For example, users can tap Outlook to connect to SharePoint, work offline with SharePoint documents and data, and sync once back online. Groove, which offers similar offline capabilities, has its own set of collaboration features for distributed teams, notes Brust.

My response to Andrew, is this:

  1. If you had taken the time to read the Summary Document, which is free, you would have noted that I do not dispute the success of SharePoint in the market, but that I also have focused this paper on how SharePoint does in supporting team collaboration, not all of the other reasons that you might put in SharePoint.
  2. I agree with you that SharePoint is part of a full stack of servers (and hey, the paper gives SharePoint a pass in two additional areas because of my assumption that one of those servers will be there), but I stridently disagree that this “mitigates the impact of any perceived limitations”. Firstly, what I have outlined are limitations in fact not in perception, and secondly, even if you add all of the servers in Microsoft’s stack into an organization, you do not overcome the limitations that my paper outlines.
  3. I agree with you that Outlook can connect to SharePoint, and the paper says that, but the paper also lists the problems with how Microsoft has chosen to do this in the scenario of team collaboration . Eg, there is no conflict flagging and merging capabilities on SharePoint when two people change the same item in a SharePoint list that is being accessed through Outlook. Eg2, as is noted in the free Summary Document, although you can take SharePoint calendars to Outlook, these look pretty but (a) are ignored in a free-busy search, (b) will only display if an individual is sure to connect all of their SharePoint calendars to Outlook, (c) only works if organizations permit PST files on the desktop, and (d) SharePoint calendars do not sync down to a Windows Mobile 6 device … hence my comment to Kevin about the calendaring features being “essentially useless”. Were you aware of these limitations in practice, and did you explain these limitations to your prospects and clients before deploying SharePoint for team collaboration?
  4. If what you said to Kevin was accurately quoted, then I think you are being pretty loose with your language to say that “users can … work offline with SharePoint documents and data, and sync once back online“. You are right on the data side (“but please, oh please, I hope no-one else has edited this too“), but you mis-characterize how it works with documents. The full story, as the paper reports, is that documents that have been edited offline must be re-opened one by one and re-saved into SharePoint when the user has a network connection. This is a bit like having to re-open all of the emails you put in your outbox and click send again. Do you really believe that we can trust every user of SharePoint to do this perfectly all of the time? I don’t, which is why the paper says what is says.
  5. Ah yes, Groove 2007. I talk about that in the paper too, and how having “its own set of collaboration features for distributed teams” is a problem for teams that are using SharePoint for collaboration.
  6. Andrew, I know there is a price tag on the paper; independent industry analysts are worth their hire too. But, if you don’t want to spend $49 to purchase a single user license, drop me an email and I’ll send you a complimentary copy on the agreement that you read and review it for me. I’ll publish in full your email response.
  7. And finally, it is true that SharePoint on its own merits fails 6 out of the 7 areas in the collaboration framework, but Microsoft has designs on making SharePoint do all of those. The paper isn’t a personal afront to you or Microsoft; it just highlights that SharePoint isn’t there yet for team collaboration, and warns customers ahead of a deployment of what they can and can’t do effectively with SharePoint. I would have thought that this would make your job easier–customers would have the right expectations–rather than being something to “scoff” at.
  8. Regardless, all the best with your work! SharePoint sure is a gold-mine at the moment for firms like yours.

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