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.

0 thoughts on “Response to Ian Morrish on "Are SharePoint Calendars Useless?"

  1. We come back to the validity of the 7 pillars. I haven’t found them to be 100% valid for any of my customers or myself.
    So 1. My meetings are not booked in SharePoint Calendars. They are either created as SharePoint Meeting Workspaces which do get created as full outlook meeting requests or they are created as normal outlook meeting request using a distribution group (that may include the email address of a SharePoint calendar list if the SharePoint Server AD group provisioning integration has been configured).
    2. Again, meeting are created in SharePoint calendar lists.
    3. Outlook is the meeting booking collaboration tool. SharePoint can publish the meeting information as a secondary resource but certainly contains the contextual information for the meeting (offline access to this content may be an issue if you have not extended your remote access solution to include SharePoint content – interesting thought, should each product provide its own offline solution or should there be a universal framework for this, that would be a good research/thinking opportunity).
    4. I guess we need to do more work around educating people on SharePoint Meeting Workspaces which do generate the full fidelity Outlook appointment. See http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepointtechnology/HA100656201033.aspx?pid=CH100649471033
    They may still not be perfect, but they are intended for meetings. You can create the meeting workspace from the Team Site calendar still.
    I come back to design/implementation decisions. If customers just listen to people talking about the product or have a go at using the product without engaging an experienced solution architect, rather than people delivering solutions on the product, they may get the wrong impression about the product.

  2. Oops, 2. should have been “meetings are not created in SharePoint Calendar lists”. Unless you tick the little box in the calendar item that says “create a Meeting Workspace”. You can also create the Meeting workspace from Outlook.
    4. The Office URL provided above also points out a few limitations with the Meeting workspace. I guess Microsoft wants to be really open about the products capabilities. I’m the first to tell customers what works and what doesn’t work for their environment.

  3. Michael, your comments about the flaws of having to drag Sharepoint calendar entries into your personal Outlook calendar are right on.
    And it’s even worse than you noted: Once you drag a sharepoint calendar event into your personal calendar, there is no linkage between the two events. So if the group calendar even changes in some way, your personal calendar entry will have the wrong information until you manually update it.

  4. I agree with Michael and his reasoning … basically, people don’t want any more than ONE calendar – there’s only ONE of themselves, why have to worry about TWO or more “you should be ats”.
    However, people do want to use multiple “event types (team, office, social, local theatre, sports events …)” and not fill their own up.
    They want to subscribe to other calendars that are overlayed onto their own.
    iCal
    It’s a standard, it’s what the Web-based calendars use and it works (to the user) in the same way as RSS – subscribe and there it is, unsubscribe when not wanted any more.
    I have ONE calendar (i.e., one place to go) … but on it I have 16 “calendar event types” overlaying my personal one which I can show/hide as I like.
    Actually I now have 15 as one is out of date – unsubscribe, gone!

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