OK - this is all draft - nothing is final - everything below is a work-in-progress. I wanted to obtain feedback though... leave comments, thanks...
Losing the battle but winning the war?
- Many organizations have invested in Microsoft Office SharePoint 2007 as strategic infrastructure for content management and collaboration.
- However, the market responded negatively to the social tools included within MOSS 2007. Thought-leadership was lost as competitors (e.g., IBM, Jive) delivered social platforms that were far superior to what was delivered out-of-the-box by Microsoft. Microsoft partners (e.g., Atlassian, NewsGator) whose products integrated into SharePoint in ways that alleviated some of the worst functionality (e.g., wikis and communities) filled gaps in social tooling.
- Burton Group research on enterprise social networking in 2008 found that organizations were tired of tool-by-tool approaches when it came to social tools (blogs, wikis, social networking). This buyer-preference has included virtually all vendors to expand offerings of single social tools into suites or platforms.
- That same research also indicates that many organizations often position internal social computing efforts (e.g., Enterprise 2.0, social networking) as a component in their overall collaboration strategy. The association that social computing is tightly interwoven with collaboration strategies has influenced some decision-makers that technology solutions are therefore best enabled through a single platform.
- These dynamics favor a strong social computing comeback by Microsoft as SharePoint 2010 improves on its core collaboration tools but also delivers (based on current beta), social capabilities that, while not best-of-breed, are comparable to current market offerings.
- Improvements in SharePoint 2010 make it a compelling social computing platform for organizations interested in an intranet on-premises solution that includes tightly-coupled infrastructure for collaboration, content, and search.
- Strategists that dismissed leveraging MOSS 2007 for social computing will re-visit that decision in situations where SP2010 remains strategic overall
- Re-evaluation of third-party extensions to SharePoint will be a natural part of that due diligence process
- Competitive offerings will be assessed by how well they integrate in an overall SP2010 ecosystem - even when the competitive offering is retained for its social capabilities
- However, Microsoft’s long-term impact on social computing trends will not dominate if organizations have to wait another 3-4 years before subsequent enhancements to application-layer capabilities.
Thesis Key Points
- Intranet on-premises solution: Right now, I don't see SP2010 being viable/credible for external social media if organizations objectively compare/contrast what the market offers with competitive solutions. Also, there is still a lack of parity between SaaS and on-premises that may leave customers not being able to deploy hybrid environments or pursue more pure SaaS-based solutions. I think the SaaS weakness will hurt Microsoft in external social media scenarios as well. Competitors that have consistent external/internal solutions are viewed well by clients I talk to that are looking for cohesion across social tooling for communities and social networks that span internal and external audiences as well as support for consumer social web standards and integration with consumer public social sites.
- Tightly-coupled infrastructure: These is not a lot of architectural modularity in my opinion. There are more integration points however, and a lot of cross-dependencies, and inability to really substitute components.
- But - for self-described "Microsoft Shops" this release will be good enough to satisfy the vast majority of IT organizations. It should even cause Microsoft to regain some lost accounts that are using other products. I've already talked to a few that are at least pausing to have that discussion.
- Note: I chose wording here carefully - SP2010 is a release that IT organizations will like because it makes life easier in SharePoint shops (development, operations). However - technology is not the deciding factor when it comes to social computing - even with this release, organizations that focus on the user experience, community, and social networking needs of people in business areas can still make a credible case for solutions that leverage alternative technology platforms.
- Alleged IT cost savings by going with a single solution is only one side of the coin. Strategists need to weight IT costs vs. business benefits to get a total perspective. Sometimes SharePoint will make sense, sometimes it will not. It does not defacto make things better or easier from a business perspective.
- Granted - determining the intangible organizational value of social computing is not easy. Although, for instance, I find most of my Jive solutions in shops that have SharePoint. That might have been because of the deficiencies in MOSS 2007 but it also could be due to Jive being a very good social platform. Organizations need to avoid making this decision based solely on IT costs and vendor preferences from IT organizations.