My post yesterday on the E2.0 tutorial was pretty popular. Since I do not have a feed for comments, I thought I would share this particular post since it is very insightful. John makes several good points below (portions below, full text here):
I do think there are a couple of underlying issues at work here. The main one is that Connections and SharePoint are fundamentally orthogonal in purpose and usage, at least currently. They are both interesting tools, but one is a hammer and the other a saw. When you ask IBM and Microsoft to show what their tools can do, they will play to their individual strengths, and woe be to the one expecting the audience to appreciate clean woodcuts when they really want to see clean nail driving (MS should have known this, and were foolish to participate). Presented with the proposed scenario precisely as you described, if they knew anything about Connections and how its sweet spot coincided with the intentions of the "challenge", they should have declined outright.
Both IBM and Microsoft tout their respective products as first-class social computing solutions. I do absolutely agree that IBM Lotus Connections is a more focused platform designed around a particular solution domain. SharePoint on the other hand is a broadly horizontal platform with capabilities that span well-beyond social computing. That said, Microsoft continually positions SharePoint as a social computing solution and has done so since MOSS 2007 was released. Also, Microsoft has positioned SharePoint as a social computing solution that does not require partner add-ons or extensions.
I would argue that Microsoft's announcement of several partners during the E2.0 show is a shift in its internal thinking and external positioning of SharePoint. Microsoft has slowly come to the position that its platform out-of-the-box or via CodePlex is often inadequate to meet expectations of clients for a rich social computing environment. It is now aggressively pursuing partners to build out the ecosystem - this was not the case earlier, Microsoft has been somewhat stubborn in its belief that SharePoint blogs and wikis out-of-the-box are examples of great software and that customers could wait for the next version.
The case can be made for either vendor to have declined - why would Microsoft want to take on a product specifically design for social computing - why would IBM want to take on a product with capabilities much broader that a particular feature set. Both vendors eagerly agreed to this idea and format.
I'm positive news of this debacle has penetrated into the upper firmament at Microsoft (perhaps even to Ray Ozzie himself). I think it would be interesting for you to have a post-massacre debrief with Lawrence et al. -- I assume he still returns your calls :') -- to compare notes as to what they heard vs. what you were proposing. There had to be a tremendous disconnect somewhere (the results demonstrate that). My guess is that when you used the word "platform", they thought of the whole Microsoft ecosystem and that they wanted to show how Enterprise 2.0 capabilities are getting gradually integrated into a CM platform that is already widely used. I also suspect that Suzanne et al. understood "platform" to mean how IBM is developing something quite unlike anything else they have ever done (a new "application", if you will).
I want to be absolutely clear here. This setup and evolution of this tutorial spanned months. There were multiple calls and e-mails exchanged. There should have been no confusion on anyone's part as to what I was asking. I was extremely clear that in the use case scenarios, vendors could show off their entire platform(s) to establish the "big picture" (beyond social computing) but when we transitioned into the functional component walk-thru, that section was limited to the actual tools associated with E2.0 (blogs, wikis, etc). I repeatedly described what I was looking for and gave scenarios of how that might be handled. I also asked to see the demos before the actual event however schedule conflicts on all sides got in the way.
Lawrence and I debate all the time - we stalk each other on Twitter and FriendFeed - he is as passionate about SharePoint as I am in pursing my goal of objective and critical analysis of solutions in this space. At the end of the day, it's not personal - in fact, across-the-board, the Microsoft product folks that I interact with are able to separate a passionate debate about "stuff" from more important items like grabbing dinner and having a beer!
BTW, couldn't agree more that for now (and perhaps for ever), third party products/integrations are crucial for extending SharePoint as a platform to address E2.0 objectives. Fortunately for enterprises that have developed collaborative environments on the SharePoint platform, there seem to be a growing number of imaginative third parties looking to make a living from providing those goods and services. In fact, one question some potential customers may soon ask is how Lotus Connections can be made to closely integrate with SharePoint (and if so, whether purchasing Connections now is better than waiting for MS and its partners to provide equivalently interesting functionality).
- John Heckendorn
Absolutely. I think the important take-away is that organizations committed to SharePoint now have a decent number of third-party options for social computing that vastly improve what comes out-of-the-box and avoids issues related to CodePlex (not supported by Microsoft, no guarantee of upward compatibility, etc). It took a while for Microsoft to get to this point, the platform argument is a valid argument but it cannot cover up a poor user experience and an inadequate set of tools for social computing.
Thank you for a very thoughtful post!