Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Michael Sampson on Sharepoint Portal 2007

Michael Sampson recently wrote an article for Messaging News Magazine in which he does a high-level review of his favorite features from Sharepoint Portal 2007. In his final analysis he states the following:
Collaborative capabilities in SharePoint are positioned as merely one of six major functionality areas, the others being portal, enterprise search, enterprise content management, business processes and forms, and business intelligence. This is an extensive product that addresses an extensive list of business needs.
Wow. Where else have we ever seen a product do so much? I mean, one platform that handles all that? All kidding aside, welcome to the party, Michael. :-) Customers have been doing all that for nearly two decades with Lotus Notes and Domino. In fact, there isn't anything particularly revelatory in what Sharepoint Portal 2007 delivers. Michael's favorite features are as follows:
  • Blogs and Wikis - As far as I know this has always been part of Notes in the form of discussion databases, it just didn't have a supercool buzzword attached.
  • Shared Notebooks - The concept is that you can store information in a central repository and you choose who can view it. Again, it's a discussion database.
  • Knowledge Network for Collaboration Auto-Discovery - For those of you still awake after reading that, the idea is some sort of server-based spider searches your e-mail to find out what you're an expert in, then lets you choose whether you want to tell the rest of your organization. I think Lotus had something called Raven or KMStation that was similar, but it died because nobody cared. I guess in a large organization this might be useful for those times when the person who handles Responsibility X could be in another country. For the other 97% of companies I just don't see it being relevant.
  • Engine for Human Workflows - Basically a set of six or eight document-centric workflow choices, such as fill out your TPS report then select the "Forward to PHB" option. There isn't really much to say, other than it's nice this is easily accessible to end users. Doing it in Notes is still several orders of magnitude simpler for a developer. Notes doesn't have a built-in way to extend this to end users, though, and that is a shame.
I never used any previous release of Sharepoint Portal and only installed the 2007 version to see what all the hooplah was about. Coming from Notes and Domino I wasn't particularly impressed. The features aren't new, and to get the full functionality everyone needs to use Office 2007. That is an extremely heavy requirement in every conceivable way: massive hardware requirements, massive server requirements and massive user retraining. Michael sums it up well:
If your business or organization has the financial wherewithal to embrace Microsoft's Office 2007 system, plus the people to manage and maintain the resultant infrastructure, SharePoint is good move.
That excludes me.

Picked up from Peter de Haas, the article is available from Messaging News Magazine.


  1. Charles,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Firstly, the 2007 edition of the product is actually called "SharePoint Server 2007" ... "portal" has been deemphasized in naming, although not in the product itself.

    Secondly, I'd like to suggest that you are being too dismissive of SharePoint. The report I wrote about SharePoint 2003 was very critical of the product (under the Ferris Research banner), and even questioned whether it would survive. It clearly has, and Microsoft has made significant strides.

    Third, I know that Notes and Domino performs many of the same functions as SharePoint, and does some better and some worse (eg, enterprise search, ECM, BI). Those with a Notes and Domino background will be quick to discount SharePoint, but I think that's wrong. There are many, many customer sites that won't touch an IBM/Lotus product with a barge pole but will touch and embrace a Microsoft one. I recognize that there's a big list of required and recommended products, but many organizations don't seem too fazed by that.

    Fourth, re the Knowledge Network. I agree that it is more applicable in large organizations rather than small ones, but I believe that generally speaking, everyone can benefit from such capabilities. For us in small businesses, blogs, Feedster and Technorati are performing many of those functions. I'm sure your blogging activities have resulted in you meeting people with similar interests that you otherwise would not have met. I sure have!

    Finally, yes, that "if" at the beginning of the last quoted sentence was strategically placed. But that's true with anything. You've chosen that the "if" works for you with Notes and Domino; others will elect to say yes to the "if" for SharePoint.

    Take care,

  2. Michael, thanks for taking the time to respond. I'm not opposed to a Microsoft collaboration solution, it just has to do things better than what I already have to warrant me wanting to replace what I already have. I'm primarily dismissive of Sharepoint because it doesn't offer anything that I don't already have in Domino.

    I can't help but smile when I hear someone say they only consider Microsoft products. If Microsoft were always right we'd all be using MS Bob with Microsoft Natural keyboards. Technology is about solving a problem. Personally I don't care who delivers that solution, and I think anyone who politicizes the decision shouldn't be in a position to make that decision. Zealotry in any form is just plain bad.

    As I see it Sharepoint is finally on par with where Domino (and some would add Quickplace) has been all along. IBM is adding more moving parts to their collaboration environment and Microsoft is trying to look over the horizon and enhance their own functionality. As you said, the improvements from Sharepoint 2004 to 2007 were exponential. The next iteration is where it will get interesting to me, because that's when Microsoft might finally be able to show they have something to differentiate them besides the Microsoft logo. So far it's been mostly catch up.

  3. Nathan T. FreemanFri Dec 29, 01:17:00 PM

    "Microsoft Natural keyboards."

    Hands down the best keyboard available. I've been using one for over 10 years now. (The same one, actually.)

  4. Your mind works in strange ways, Mr. Freeman.

  5. Nathan T. FreemanMon Jan 01, 10:25:00 AM

    Actually, I'm pretty sure in this case, it's my fingers and wrists that work in unstrange ways. :-)

    Seriously, ergo keyboards are very important for people who do as much coding & writing as I do. You wouldn't believe the difference that keyboard has made in my comfort level after a long week.

  6. Actually I use a Natural keyboard, too, but my point is most people don't. The same as they don't use MS Bob. Both of these indicate that Microsoft is not the poster child for always being right that some people like to think they are.