Culture & Competency

Is SharePoint "Worth It" as a Collaboration Tool? – Joe Shepley

Joe Shepley, the VP and Practice Leader at Doculabs asks whether firms should be using SharePoint 2010 as their collaboration platform at all:

I’m in the middle of a series on SharePoint collaboration. In the first two posts, I focused on why SharePoint collaboration fails and how you can take steps to ensure that it succeeds.

In this post, I want to step back a bit and ask a more existential question: should you even be using SharePoint 2010 for your collaboration platform in the first place?

To answer this, we need first to compare SharePoint to the other options out there for enterprise collaboration, i.e., best-of-breed, purpose-built social computing platforms, like Jive, Lotus Connections or Socialtext. Then, we need to look at what kind of collaboration you’re planning on doing, because that’s really what should drive your decision to use a given tool.

My Comments
1. It’s awesome to meet someone else who is willing to ask similar questions on the topic of using SharePoint for collaboration. Joe’s two earlier columns – SharePoint Collaboration: If You Build It, Will They Come and SharePoint Collaboration: Build So They Will Come – advocate similar practices and approaches to what I wrote in my two books, SharePoint Roadmap for Collaboration and User Adoption Strategies.

2. There’s a case that could be made for switching the two parts of Joe’s approach – starting with an understanding of what kind of collaboration the organization needs, and then comparing and contrasting the different tools. Doing the comparison first is a double-edged sword – it may educate about possibilities, or it may prematurely constrain thinking and exploration.

3. I like the diagrammatical way of stating Enterprise 2.0 features, and then highlighting what SharePoint does and doesn’t do. In Figure 3, however, I think some aspects that are not highlighted should be highlighted – eg, the “Publishing Engine” and “Recommendation Engine” ones, among others.

4. In the “Messaging” box, because email and instant messaging are not internal to the SharePoint, it doesn’t score at all. Joe needs to add a notation to the diagram – perhaps highlighting the box in red – to note that Microsoft has put those capabilities into complementary products – Exchange and Lync Server. In other words, if you only have SharePoint you’ll “fail” in this area, but most enterprise customers who put SharePoint in have Exchange, and some have Lync. I don’t believe it has to be “internal to the solution” as an essential requirement, per se. And in fact, if an enterprise customer already had an enterprise messaging and instant messaging infrastructure, the fact that a potential Enterprise 2.0 tool duplicated that would count against it – not for it. In such a case, “integration” with existing email and IM platforms would be far more critical.

5. Given that Joe has scored SharePoint in terms of capability boxes, it’s hard to know which features within particular capability boxes pull SharePoint from a green to orange. Eg, in the “Notification Engine” orange box, which item or items pulled SharePoint down? It does the first two natively, item three with Lync Server, and I’m unsure what item 4 means.

6. For a lot more on the topic, Doculabs recently published a white paper on this, called Enterprise 2.0 and SharePoint 2010. It doesn’t look like the paper was sponsored by a vendor or a collective thereof, so that puts it in good stead.

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