Just a quick summary of my client meetings during our Catalyst event. Due to my speaking schedule and my role as a track moderator, I was available on one of the three days for onsite discussions. But, what a day ... 14 meetings, 30 minutes each - so 7 hours. Here's the quick overview of my impressions:
- Every meeting involved a Microsoft product
- 2 of the sessions involved OCS
- 12 of the sessions involved SharePoint (re: social computing)
- Of those 12
- 2 were “happy” (happy as defined by either (a) the capabilities matched the awareness of such tools by their end-users and/or (b) a belief that the social software tools would improve in the next release and that the platform approach was best in the long run
- 10 were not-so-happy (with the social computing aspects of SharePoint, not with SharePoint overall)
- 10 had seemingly reached a point where they felt they should look beyond what SharePoint offers out-of-the-box, via Codeplex and through customization - and explore where partner solutions can augment current capabilities, fill in gaps, or replace weak capabilities (e.g., SharePoints wiki which one person agreed with the metaphor “it’s not really a wiki, it’s more like a rich page editor”).
- Many of those 10 were most open to NewsGator, Telligent, and Atlassian.
- Jive was viewed as the most credible “mini suite vendor” with a viable alternative for shops that wanted a cleaner and more explicit separation from SharePoint. The reasoning was based on a pro/con of managing and coordinating multiple vendors that extended SharePoint and the longevity of the integration model as the next version of SharePoint matures to some extent. Jive, although more architecturally opposed to SharePoint (e.g., Java, etc) seems attractive because of an all-in-one platform, compelling user experience and perception that it is more modern re: Web 2.0 / Enterprise 2.0. (Note: That said, Jive still is missing certain functional areas such as feed syndication so vendors like Attensa and NewsGator are still needed.)
- IBM Lotus Connections came up in a few of the conversations but unless the client already had WebSphere Portal or Notes/Domino, there seems to be some hesitancy to rekindle past wars over e-mail and collaboration – not really a Connections critique at all, but more of an IBM/Lotus vs. Microsoft debate.
- Most of those 10 also seemed to be in various stages of disappointment with (1) the functionality of its social software (2) the long lapses between releases and (3) uncertainty that things will get dramatically better in the next version (Note: Those familiar with Microsoft’s internal effort called “TownSquare” were more optimistic and would like that solution now – although it is unclear whether that solution will be in the next release).
- Only one session did a client actually seem intrigued with Codeplex and that was only after I explained the best way to look at it (e.g., not as a Microsoft product but as something that is better than building it internally since virtually all shops customize SharePoint anyways). If you set expectations correctly, it can be a decent option. (Note: Microsoft should really support these extensions – or they need to go back to feature/function upgrades via service packs - people are getting very grumpy over the three year release cycle that, when it does come out, delivers functionality that is behind where the bar has now been set).
- The two OCS meetings were much more positive – one client seemed to be at a 12K deployment level (the largest I have found “in the wild”) although there are concerns often regarding interoperability with PBX vendors (especially when it comes to rich presence) and the overall maturity of the platform.
That's it ... back to writing my reference architecture template on social network sites.