Microsoft SharePoint

Response to Ian Morrish on "Are SharePoint Calendars Useless?"

Last week Ian posted a thoughtful reaction to my assertion that “SharePoint calendars are essentially useless for team collaboration”. His main points that stuck out to me were:

  • SharePoint calendars are not trying to replace a user’s personal calendar.
  • If you want to have an item from a SharePoint calendar in your personal Outlook calendar, all you have to do is drag it across.
  • Implement SharePoint calendars for the right applications, for example, an Events Calendar on your Intranet.

Michael’s Response
My comments were made in the context of my SharePoint 7 Pillars white paper, as reported and discussed at ChannelWeb. Here’s the paragraph that Ian is responding to:

While team calendaring in SharePoint is one of the application’s strong points, the lack of full integration with Exchange and Outlook renders the calendaring features “essentially useless,” said Sampson.

In response to Ian’s commentary (above), I say the following:

  1. The 7 Pillars framework does not say that team calendars replace personal calendars, but it does say that unless the two work seamlessly together, team calendars will fail in their breadth of application. If you want someone to move away from entering all of their calendar entries in Outlook, and having all of their project or team-related calendar entries in a team site, then you have to enable full fidelity in putting them back together … and that means (a) the ability to get a consolidated view of all of your meetings, and (b) the ability to have all of your meetings taken into consideration when a free-busy search is done. My white paper shows that SharePoint fails in its ability to support this, and therefore I say that SharePoint calendars are “essentially useless” in team collaboration scenarios.
  2. I discovered the workaround that you note for calendars (dragging an entry from a SharePoint calendar into your Outlook one), but if SharePoint calendars are embraced for team collaboration scenarios, then you will by implication see a greater proportion of meetings being managed directly in a set of SharePoint team calendars rather than in Outlook. Thus if you have 90% of your meetings scheduled in SharePoint, and each-and-every user has to (a) add all of the SharePoint calendars they are involved in to Outlook, and (b) drag-and-drop all meetings from a SharePoint team calendar over to the Outlook one in order for that meeting to go to their mobile device and be used in a free-busy search, then Microsoft is expecting far too much perfection in user behavior … and it will not happen. Once again, in collaboration scenarios, the team calendaring capabilities of SharePoint are “essentially useless”.
  3. If you implement SharePoint calendars “for the right applications”, such as an Intranet Events Calendar, you are advocating a use case other than team collaboration. Of course you can use a SharePoint calendar for an Intranet Events Calendar, but that’s not a collaboration scenario! Customers are relegated to using SharePoint calendars for such things because the product does not stack up from a collaboration angle. Thus Ian’s advice to “choose the right application” demonstrates Microsoft’s awareness that SharePoint calendars are “essentially useless” for team collaboration.
  4. Finally, I find it fascinating that if Microsoft doesn’t want people to use the SharePoint calendar construct for team collaboration situations, then why do so many of the team collaboration-oriented SharePoint application templates have a “team calendar” as a default? Isn’t there a serious disconnect here … ?

In summary, then, I feel that Ian fully validated the critique I laid on SharePoint. SharePoint calendars are essentially useless for team collaboration.

If you are looking at using SharePoint for team collaboration, then join the worldwide community of people and firms that have read my white paper to learn the sorts of things that will work and those that you had better avoid.