Earlier today, the Intranet Benchmarking Forum hosted a 90-minute webinar on SharePoint 2010 for Intranets. Martin White from Intranet Focus in the United Kingdom was the lead presenter, and I was one of the panelists. The two other panelists were Richard Harbridge and Jed Cawthorne, and the call was moderated by Paul Miller (the CEO) and Elizabeth Marsh (the CKO) from the Intranet Benchmarking Forum. During the call, Paul said that there were “a couple of hundred” people listening in, and listed some of the firm names.
Martin set the scene, drawing on the SharePoint 2010 for Intranets report he wrote, and that was just published by the IBF. His key points were:
- SharePoint is seeing widespread adoption. SharePoint 2007 was “good”, but there has been a lot of interest in SharePoint 2010.
- Some of the expectations for SharePoint 2010 have been met — better support for mobile workers, significant search enhancements, etc.
- BUT, there is little real experience with the platform yet. It’s early days.
- There are critical success factors to getting SharePoint to work. Eg, an intranet strategy, understanding the technology, and more.
We then went to a moderated discussion time, and fielded / discussed about 10 questions. These included:
– What are the significant technical improvements in SharePoint for intranets?
– What does the mobile delivery look like?
– What about accessibility?
– What’s coming next on the roadmap?
– … and so on.
It was a good discussion … but as Paul stated at the end, “We have only just begun.“
Some Extra Comments from Me
Here are some extra comments from me, 12 hours removed from the event.
- On Search in SharePoint 2010 … Martin said something to the effect that “the search engine in SharePoint 2010 is much better, and could result in people getting rid of the best-of-breed search engine they’ve just deployed. Try explaining that!” My reaction: welcome to the reality of working with SharePoint. Microsoft takes the approach of building as much as it can into the product for a release cycle, and then listening to what customers want as input for the next. Yes, search is better. It needed to be. And yes, what SharePoint 2010 offers out-of-the-box may now be as good as or better than competing alternatives. The lesson? If you are going to extend SharePoint with other things, make sure you can see a benefit within the time scale before the next edition is released, because Microsoft may “fix it”. This is what I said in chapter 3 of SharePoint Roadmap last year.
- On Legacy Stuff in Other Tools … The IBF is vendor-neutral, neither endorsing or not endorsing a particular product. It has an interest in SharePoint because many of its clients are wrestling with the platform. With this background in mind, Martin said “organizations will have other tools in place with people profile information — Lotus Notes, for example — how will firms integrate this in?” My reaction: Welcome to new information system platforms that change the rules of the game. Every organization will have to decide how much of their IT needs they meet natively in SharePoint, and how much of their IT needs they meet through legacy or complementary products. When multiples are in play, integration will be required. It’s no different from anything else.
- On the Roadmap for SharePoint … Paul asked about the “next version of SharePoint”, and what we know about Microsoft’s roadmap for SharePoint. The other panelists gave their views, and I was about to speak up with mine when the conversation leapt in a different direction. (And that was fine). But for the record, I say this. The purpose of a technical roadmap from any vendor is to give assurance to organizations that the business decisions they are making based on current technical realities have legs for a specific period of time. As SharePoint 2010 is the fourth version from Microsoft, and the story from version-to-version has improved on a set of basic ideas, I’m no longer so worried about not knowing what’s coming next. Microsoft will keep improving on the things that its customers tell them are important — and so for any organization that wants such a say, get involved in the Microsoft early adopter programs, for example. And from a different perspective, are we expecting something from Microsoft that other established vendors are actually doing a great job at? Start-ups need roadmaps, and new products from established vendors need technical roadmaps, but … it becomes less of an issue as any product matures.
- On Governance … Martin talked briefly about governance, and the backchannel on Twitter was alive with people talking about governance too. For example, @andyjankowski said “Noticing theme in disc … SharePoint 2010 does not eliminate the need for solid intranet strategy, governance and mgmt #ibfsp2010” and @candicecahill asked “Has anyone already put governance in place and how is it being implemented? #ibfsp2010“. This blog post is not the place for a full discussion on SharePoint governance — hey, I’m writing a book on the topic, but suffice to say, no, SharePoint 2010 does not eliminate the need for strategy, governance and management. As Ryan Duguid from the SharePoint team at Microsoft said last week at the New Zealand SharePoint Conference: “Governance is not a product feature.”
In closing, it was a great webinar … and definitely worth getting up from 1.30am to 3.45am New Zealand time to take part. There is much to be said, to be explored, to be tested. Don’t get pushed into doing unnatural acts with SharePoint because Microsoft or your Business Partner thinks you should. It will take time … and money … and thought. Spend it now, or spend it repeatedly over the next few years.
My thanks to Elizabeth for the invitation to take part, and for the stimulating conversation with the panelists and attendees. As I said later on Twitter, happy to help.