Posted by: Christine Herbert
Collaboration software, SharePoint
Hello all. Well this morning was the opening keynote of the sold-out Microsoft SharePoint 2008 Conference. Apparently there are about 3,800 attendees here. Fortunately I was able to be in the “live” keynote room rather than one of the two overflow rooms that many attendees had to use.
In over seven years of covering Microsoft technologies, I have to confess that this was my first time seeing Bill Gates speak. So that was a bit of a treat. He didn’t really have any groundbreaking news or information to share, but it was still interesting.
The most notable news announcement from the show is that Microsoft is now offering SharePoint Online and Exchange Online (currently in beta) to customers with fewer than 5,000 seats.
Most interesting to me personally was Gates’ discussion of the various levels of sophistication companies have when it comes to SharePoint deployment and usage. Ascending in complexity, they are:
- Personal Sites (My Sites)
- Collaboration Team Sites (unstructured content)
- Departmental Solutions (structured and unstructured)
- Enterprise Data Repositories (highly structured)
- Web Portals (corporate intranets and websites)
Gates said the “sweet spot” and opportunity for innovation with SharePoint really lies in the mid-range of that scale — i.e., at the department level. He may be right, but I think the challenge with that is ownership.There is a lot of obvious excitement about Microsoft’s SharePoint product and adoption rates are impressive. But customers still seem to be trying to figure out what exactly can be done with it. Many are using basic functionality like sites, but they haven’t developed sophisticated infrastructures yet that really leverage all their existing informational assets within the SharePoint framework. In fact, it seems like many companies still think of SharePoint as a portal when MOSS 2007 now really offers much more.
Kurt Delbene, a senior vice president at Microsoft, said three quarters of the Fortune 100 are currently using SharePoint. With enterprise-level companies like Ford, General Mills, and Viacom using SharePoint, there is obviously the potential for sophisticated SharePoint implementation. The question in my mind is how do companies go beyond vanilla deployments to reach that level of sophistication when SharePoint administration in so many companies is still virtually non-existent and/or completely decentralized?
During the keynote, a slide was presented that showed three different pie slices of users:
- Power users — SharePoint site templates and site customization
- Designers and analysts — SharePoint Designer, Office InfoPath, Office Access
- Professional developers — Visual Studio
I have talked to dozens of administrators in SharePoint shops that basically only have the “power user” part of the SharePoint trinity outlined above. Many companies have “hidden” SharePoint sites being run by department-level staff that central IT isn’t even aware of. Until SharePoint sites within organizations are owned by a central IT entity instead of being a distributed system of untracked sites and servers run by maverick and self-made SharePoint admins, any true leveraging of the product’s capabilities will not happen.
If companies truly want to maximize SharePoint’s collaborative potential, the ownership issue is the first one that must be resolved. Furthermore connecting departments and achieving innovative department-level uses of SharePoint cannot happen until there is C-level strategic ownership of SharePoint as a major business initiative.
I think we’ll get there. Microsoft now offers a SharePoint Asset Inventory Tool and SharePoint Capacity Planning Tool that will help achieve those kinds of objectives. Third-party vendors are also trying to answer that call. But we are still in the early stages of where SharePoint is going, in my opinion. Much more education and ownership needs to happen before its true potential will be realized.
On a side note, the Bill Gates’ Last Day at Microsoft video was probably the most entertaining portion of the entire keynote. It’s old news, since it already premiered at the Consumer Electronics Show a couple months ago. But it’s pretty darn funny if for some reason you haven’t seen it yet.