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March 31, 2008

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Lawrence Liu

Mike, these carefully selected and diligently incubated partnerships are primarily about integrating best-of-breed social computing functionality with SharePoint in order to address the requirements of *some* of our customers. The reality is that *most* of our customers are actually quite happy with SharePoint's native social computing features, which they use as natural complements to SharePoint's core collaboration functionality. I've long maintained that what's best-of-breed about SharePoint is the platform centric approach we've taken in designing/developing it as well as in marketing it and working with customers/partners to leverage it .. as a platform. SharePoint is the platform on which a wide variety of social computing applications can be built (very easily/quickly in most cases) and into which similar apps can be integrated, and this has contributed as much to the current “SharePoint has taken business by storm" meme as SharePoint’s integrated Collab, ECM, Portal, Search, Forms/Workflow, and BI capabilities. I think that most people overlook the importance of (and our competitive advantages in having) the Platform Services core at the center of the “SharePoint pie.” As more SharePoint-based enterprise scale, advanced business solutions (such as this one: http://blogs.msdn.com/sharepoint/archive/2008/03/31/microsoft-interactive-media-manager-a-digital-asset-management-solution-built-on-top-of-moss-2007.aspx) get deployed this year, I believe that the strategic value of the SharePoint Platform will become much more appreciated.

Sam Lawrence

Yikes. What a mess.

The kitchen drawer strategy Sharepoint is using doesn't work for our exec-lead customers who don't want an "everything for everybody" solution. It's probably great for IT-lead projects who have a check list of ingredients. ECM? Check. File server? Check. Search? Check? Those IT-folks can can cobble together a Sharepoint drawer filled with tons of add ons, partnerships, and other stuff to glue together a Frankensuite. Problem is, a lot of companies have figured out that it's really about giving users something that makes sense, not about a checklist of ingredients.

A good analogy is the smart phone market. Are there devices with calendars, photos, email, music, internet access, etc etc out there? Yeah. There have been clunky phones out there with all those ingredients forever. Then the iPhone comes around and everyone goes, "ahhh....much better." The iPhone is built with users at the center. And that's they reason companies come to us and continue to use Sharepoint's outstanding file management stuff.

It would be cool for Lawrence to show us some of the out-of-the-box social computing Sharepoint applications (built "very easily/quickly") and the companies that are using them. Also, why they're so eager to use something socially-centric. That would help dispel the widespread belief that Sharepoint is no more than a glorified file management system.


Dennis Howlett

"IBM is falling behind on execution (or so it seems to me). I continue to hear concerns regarding how expensive Connections is just to get the Profiles piece for instance." Got some facts to back this up?

Sharon

Huh. Pretty interesting comparisons and contrasts - sure wish you had included Jive's Clearspace in there also. I'd like to see all three getting a good critical eyeballing.

Janet

Mike - Would also love to see your take on the "Lawrence vs. Lawrence" debate.

I believe the debate comes down to "old time" religion vs. new belief systems.

On one hand, you've got IT - as demigods - creating tools (cobbled together from parts often labeled "best in breed") to serve their organizations and perhaps the people in them.

Versus built-from-the-ground-up tools - like those that Sam describes - which are more easily implemented and used by mere mortals.

What do you think?

Mike Gotta

@Dennis Several client conversations on pricing issues related to Connections (not statistically relevant but large enterprises) - one conversation a couple of weeks ago where a large firm was looking at Connections but due to the price, decided to build on top of SharePoint. Consistent feedback to us overall on navigating and rationalizing the IBM portfolio.

Lawrence Liu

@Sam, so you want to be the “iPhone of enterprise software” – great, good luck to you .. seriously. Our aspirations are much, much broader. We’ll continue to focus on the diverse needs of our rapidly growing base of customers, which include IT folks as well as business folks. Our customers want choices and flexibility. Some of them want out-of-the-box functionality while others want a choice of different add-ons or integration/interop with apps that they already use. We provide plenty of value for both types of customers as detailed in over two years of posts on the SharePoint Team Blog (http://blogs.msdn.com/sharepoint) and over 200 case studies (http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/search.aspx?ProTaxID=1902). With respect to social computing features in particular, here are the relevant blog posts: http://blogs.msdn.com/sharepoint/archive/tags/Social+Computing/default.aspx. And here’s a relevant case study: http://www.microsoft.com/business/peopleready/business/innovation/casestudy/miamidade.mspx.

I guess that the solution you offer is so good that your customers have no need to customize, extend, or integrate it with anything else. If that’s really the case, then I would indeed be very impressed. Of course, I’ve seen similar claims by other vendors in the past, and their solutions turned out to be silos that many companies are still trying to get rid of (by consolidating or migrating to SharePoint) or integrate with SharePoint. Perhaps the real reason why you think our ever strengthening strategy with partners is a mess is that it messes up your ability to compete effectively against them. Fortunately for you, our partnering strategy is not about exclusivity, so dance or fight, the choice is ultimately yours to make.

Sam Lawrence

@Lawrence. What can't you guys do? Who aren't you for? What problem don't you solve?

And totally agree you should learn about our solution. It will make this conversation much more interesting.

Here's a good perspective from our IT dude re:Sharepoint. He survived it once and is obviously biased now. http://snurl.com/234dn

Brendon

@Mike I don't really follow you on how you go from Microsoft encourages partners to interact with their products to Microsoft's tools aren't all that. I think the core services that Microsoft SharePoint provides for user profiles, My Sites, and many other features provide what most enterprise clients are looking for. I see SharePoint more as a framework that you can build on rather than just an application you have to use in one way.

Take for instance the blogging functionality built in. If you don't like the blog functionality that SharePoint provides out of the box you could modify the blog to act the way you want. Great example of the CKS:EBE http://www.codeplex.com/cks .

One thing I don't understand about is how the blogosphere reacts to Microsoft. When Microsoft creates an application that performs a given task and doesn't involve partners, people complain that Microsoft is not open enough. However, when they involve partners to achieve solutions, they are criticized for not providing all of the functionality themselves.

It seems to me that we should all be happy that SharePoint offers APIs and web services to integrate as we see fit. The amount of developers and documentation that is available for SharePoint 2007 is amazing, growing, and seems almost endless. I am a big fan of being able to extend and build on a platform or framework, but at the same time having a starting point so I don't have to write everything from scratch.

@Sam The more I read the conversations, the more I am concerned that we are talking about two different markets. I really see SharePoint working in both the small teams and as an enterprise portal. It seems like the "iPhone" approach you describe is more of a small team approach that you are trying to fit into. I still think both products can work in small teams, but most companies I work with that want Enterprise 2.0 are not very small.

I built an example site of the Social Networking features of SharePoint in less than one night, check out what it looks like http://blogs.sharepointguys.com/brendon/social-computing/social-networking/1-night-to-build-a-social-networking-application-with-sharepoint-2007/ .

I am also pretty sure that a good example of using Microsoft Social Networking capabilities in an Enterprise would be Wachovia who is using Microsoft SharePoint MySites for their 110,000 employees. http://www.cioinsight.com/c/a/Past-News/Will-Microsoft-Become-Facebook-for-the-Enterprise/

I think we are a little biased based on what we have done in the past and our jobs today. I hope that everyone reading these comments knows that each one of us has our own objectives and we are excited about what we like. That is just the way the world works.

Mike Gotta

@Brendon - a couple of thoughts:

The blogging function and the wiki function are both weak implementations when you compare to what other vendors have delivered on the market (e.g., Traction, WordPress, Moveable Type, IBM via Roller, and hosted options such as Awareness).

The wiki is also weak when compared to market leaders (e.g., Atlassian, Socialtext, and open source options).

The Profiles is "ok" but lacks the more complete social network capabilities out of the box that people I talk to are looking for - yes you can build it yourself if you want to commit to that path and yes, it does create opportunities for partners such as the recent Telligent news - but these deals strike me as reactionary response to how customers and the market has reacted to the social computing features in MOSS. I disagree with the assumption of your argument that poor capabilities are what people are looking for.

re: CKE As I've mentioned on earlier posts. If you go in with your eyes wide open - Codeplex can make sense - but it is not supported by Microsoft - it does not go through normal quality assurance processes and there is no guarantee that it will be supported in future releases. It is a tactical fix.

If you look at the broader and consistent Microsoft messages to the market and to customers regarding "great software" and "rich user experiences" (e.g., to justify continued commitment to Office,etc) - then you cannot as a vendor, pivot and say "well, these capabilities here are 'good enough'" - Microsoft has always held itself to a high standard and I expect that standard to be applied here. The social computing implementation is about a "B-" - and no one should be satisfied with that grade.

Mike Gotta

@sam I really have to disagree on the notion that SharePoint is merely a file management solution - outside my comments on its social computing capabilities (which I believe reflects a B- implementation) - there are other capabilities that SharePoint delivers quite well. The problem with all workspace efforts is that many do end up being file dumping grounds because of user behavior and the lack of tools that can allow files to be shared by reference (perhaps addressed by tag/bookmarks and greater native web content).

The issues that is open to discussion is modularity, cohesiveness, coupling and other architectual assessments. But I don't begrudge vendors in general from attempting to provide broad horizontal platforms - my concern is more about how brittle such platforms are - how well they promote innovation on the top of that platform - how well they provide access to the data within the platform - how well they allow extensions and other integration with that platform etc. Included how the platform supports software and SaaS models.

There is no denying that over time functions we once considered the realm of applications sink towards infrastucture as those behaviors become more generalized - they evolve into common services.

MOSS, although it is a third release of sorts - is probably the first version of itself as a cohesive platform so I expect these inconsistencies and differing levels of maturity (as we see with its social computing functions) to continue perhaps as far as what might be called O15 ...

Mike Gotta

@Lawrence Liu I believe I have been pretty consistent with my assessment of the social computing capabilities within SharePoint. I don't deny that people are customizing and extending the social computing capabilities within SharePoint (e.g., Wachovia). I'm aware of several other organizations that are doing similar things but they cannot be mentioned by name unfortunately. But that's true in general - almost every vendor (including IBM, Jive and others) can point to customers that have succeeded through internal development or partner add-ons.

That does not mean that we should all be happy with what people have to go through to get to that level of completeness. One would hope that people can go farther out of the box (e.g., including options for REST, Atom/AtomPub, etc).

Hopefully sometime soon we will be able to talk about what will be improved in future releases of MOSS to address the gaps that exist today.

Dennis Howlett

Mike - I have some pricing stats - they don't seem that bad but they are confusing! Straight from the horses mouth ie IBM

Suzanne O. Minassian

re "some people have told me that they are looking for more of a Connections 'stack' that does not require them to navigate through the rest of the IBM portfolio"

Lotus Connections does not have dependencies on any other Lotus products. Out of the box, customers have our services (Communities, Profiles, Blogs, Social Bookmarks, and Activities), and these have no need for other products.

We have built a set of extensions and integration points as enhancements to the Connections experience, but they are not core dependencies in any way. Our extensions include Lotus products as well as Microsoft products and more and allow people to interact with social software from their other day to day tools. Connections itself does not require these.

Mike Gotta

@Suzanne True - but no wiki (need a partner, or Quickr), and no feed syndication platform (need a partner) are two components of a possible "stack" that come to mind.

Personally, I remain puzzled over the decision to go with Roller vs. WordPress given the large community around WP ... not that Roller is bad per se - but you could have tapped into quite the loyal user base with WP.

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