Earlier in the week, I pointed to some Microsoft material from last year that talked about “the partner opportunity” with SharePoint. The key point from Microsoft, is that for every $1 an organizations pays Microsoft for SharePoint licensing, they pay business partners “$6 to $9 on services.”
I’ve been thinking more about this over the past couple of days, and in particular, what the phrase “platform” actually means to organizations making a decision to invest in SharePoint.
Here’s my current thinking – your feedback welcome.
Look at the slide above. It’s a Microsoft slide, and is aimed at business partners. It includes this line in the middle of the slide: “Out of the box functionality accelerates time to value, time to close.” What does “functionality” actually mean in this context, if firms must then spend $6-$9 on services?
Now add the Microsoft positioning of SharePoint as a “platform,” not a product. Does a person – an administrator or end user – actually use a “platform,” or do they use a “product”?
Think about what comes out-of-the-box in SharePoint, and how usable it is. Roughly speaking:
- Team collaboration functionality … Team sites and the group work site – they are basic, and often require mitigation by third-party add-ons. Eg., CorasWorks for aggregation and summarization, Colligo Contributor for offline (SharePoint Workspace 2010 is a forward step, but Colligo is still better).
- Communities and Social Networking functionality … My Site (newsfeed, content, profile) in SharePoint 2010 is a big improvement over SharePoint 2007, but still has large usability issues. To make it work, firms need to do development, or buy NewsGator Social Sites.
- Content functionality … For Web content management, document management, and records management. Again, it’s better in SharePoint 2010, but lacks some things. Eg., email integration between Outlook and SharePoint for dragging-and-dropping email messages and attachments into a SharePoint document library, and records management that works.
- Workflow functionality … Firms often need to buy Nintex Workflow or K2 to make workflow usable.
- Administration functionality … It’s not my area, but clients tell me they need more to make it usable – via AvePoint or Quest, to name but two.
So … in the SharePoint world, a platform gives functionality that ISVs build products on top of, and those add-on products are required to make SharePoint usable. Thus the SharePoint decision by implication involves a commitment to both buying the platform and a suite of add-on products, in order to make it work.
Here’s my slide, as a way of explaining it:
After making the decision to buy platform+products, the firm has a collection of products from multiple vendors, built on a common platform from a single vendor. This means that a “SharePoint installation” is complex not just because SharePoint as a base platform is complex, but because the raft of add-on products makes upgrade and migration complex, means that look-and-feel and interaction modes between different products is different and thus complex, and there are multiple vendor relationships to maintain over time.
As a result, SharePoint is not about a single thing from a single vendor.
Hence the $1 : $6-$9 figure above.
Does this make sense?