Sharepoint as a Gateway Drug to Greater Efficiency...

I've lost count of the number of conversations about enterprise collaboration that revolve around the elephant in most company's living space - Sharepoint.Described to me recently as SiloMaker by a disgruntled user, Sharepoint is everywhere in companies of all sizes.
Written by Oliver Marks, Contributor

I've lost count of the number of conversations about enterprise collaboration that revolve around the elephant in most company's living space - Sharepoint.

Described to me recently as SiloMaker by a disgruntled user, Sharepoint is everywhere in companies of all sizes. Thomas Vanderwal has just posted a piece which does a great job of encapsulating the issues around Sharepoint, calling it a 'Gateway Drug to Enterprise Social Tools'.

Thomas's post is well worth reading in its entirety, especially if you're grappling with Sharepoint planning and issues. The post cites the recent AIIM report (AIIM -'Find Control & Optimize your Information' - is also known as the enterprise content management (ECM) association) 'State of the Market: Microsoft SharePoint ' which essentially reinforces the perception of Sharepoint as an enterprise document file sharing system.

That report described usage by their sample group as using Sharepoint in a 'Broad but Shallow' way: Roughly 70% use SharePoint at the Workgroup and Departmental level and 38% Across Departments or Enterprise-wide.

File sharing was highly used by this group, with search, collaboration, portal, document management and security somewhat used, and surprisingly, records management not being used. (AIIM know a thing or two about document management). Process Automation, BPM/Complex WF, Forms Processing, WCM and DAM wasn't used by the sample group either.

50% found development of custom solutions required MORE effort than expected: Support of More Complex Applications was cited by 59% as a major scaling Issue …and the #1 challenge to development cited by 44% was Developer Training and Toolset.  The #2 challenge to development cited by 37% was Integration with Existing Applications.

Interesting stats, but the core issue we hear again and again in the field is the shared drive issue. The reason my client called Sharepoint 'Silomaker' was the multiple document graveyards issue. People used to working in Microsoft Office have to save their files somewhere. Historically they saved them to their hard drive and emailed iterations around, but then came Sharepoint. Now, instead of saving to their C drive, they save to the Z drive. What used to be a muddled filing system on their personal computer became a document dumping ground in various shared drives in the organization. Multiple silos of information are created, often with no organization, or different organizational logic for each team.

Multiply this by a few thousand people and you quickly have a major headache on your hands.

Thomas's post does a great job of describing the fixes various vendors provide for this problem:

Information Locked

One of the largest complaints is the information is locked in SharePoint micro-silos and it is nearly impossible to easily reuse that information and share it. Not only is the information difficult to get at by people desiring to collaborate outside the group or across groups, but it is not easily unlocked so that it can benefit from found in search. The Microsoft SharePoint model is one that starts with things locked down (focussed on hierarchies) then opens up, but unlocking is nowhere near as easy a task as it should be....

....SharePoint Roadmap Marginalized Over Time

Where do people turn that have gone down the SharePoint route? Well most start by adding solid functionality they had thought SharePoint was going to provide or wished it had. SharePoint has acknowledged some of this weaknesses and has embraced outside vendors that make far superior products to plugin as components.

Some common social tool plug-ins to SharePoint are Socialtext, Atlassian Confluence, and Connectbeam (among with many others). Then there are those who build on top of Sharepoint, like Telligent and News Gator Social Sites.

Thomas goes on to discuss the cost of this type of endeavor, to get access to the information in the silos, citing the presentation by Lockheed Martin's collaboration team at Enterprise 2.0 Conference last year (they will be keynoting this year) who have done a great job in rolling out a solution that meets their needs.

I can't help thinking of Sharepoint as information repositories - hard drives full of files that are hard to find - I'd be very happy to hear from Microsoft to understand their future plans on this.

If you're grappling with Sharepoint issues I strongly suggest you read Thomas's piece. It may help get you focused on efficient, economical industrial strength collaboration solutions that may be more appropriate for your needs.

I'd argue you'll be weaned off the Sharepoint drug rather than be plunged deeper into file management frustrations.

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