SharePoint 2010 as a Social and Collaboration Platform [#e2conf]

This session is presented by Tony Byrne (Real Stories) and Shawn Shell (Consejo Consulting).  You can find the session slides at http://www.e2conf.com/boston/2011/presentations/workshops.  Username: workshop; Password: boston2011.

[These are my notes from the Enterprise 2.0 Conference 2011 in Boston.  Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error.  Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

NOTES:

  • Typical SharePoint myths:
    • it provides unique collaboration services
    • it is easy to use
    • it is low cost
    • it represents the latest and greatest
  • What is special about SharePoint?
    • close ties to the rest of the Microsoft Office suite
    • huge armies of  “Redmond Partners”
    • the breadth of services available via this platform
    • the implied development model is individual and departmental development rather than enterprise-wide development — the tool is more focused on features for users and for developers (to customize the environment), but less so for back-end administrators.
  • Strategy. Microsoft’s strategy behind SharePoint is that it is intended to help keep Microsoft Office relevant in an age of web services.
  • What services does SharePoint offer for collaboration? At first blush, it appears to be feature complete in that it claims to offer most social tools (except microblogging).  However, it isn’t really plug and play out of the box. While it is possible to provide basic blogs and wikis, you’ll need to purchase third-party services to deploy other fairly typical forms of social functionality.  Once you get beyond very basic project-based collaboration, then SharePoint is nothing more than a development platform.
  • “Communities” are a weak point in SharePoint. Communities in SP2010 are more virtual or implied.  This is why people are using third-party services like Newsgator to plug the gap in community management services and features.
  • Search. The out of the box search is decent,but it isn’t FAST.  Be careful, because most of the demos you see feature FAST. Third-party search engines layered on top of SharePoint don’t always function well.
  • Development Cycle. SP has a 3-year development cycle.  However, towards the end of each cycle, users tend to do a lot of bespoke work.  This leads to the need to do a lot of catch-up at the beginning of the next cycle.  This also presents a problem in the social business arena, where changes occur more frequently. To address this and similar concerns, Microsoft is providing more frequent service packs to release new features and bug features in the midst of a development cycle.
  • Don’t Talk About SharePoint. It’s like a blank slate.  Talk about the specific applications or solutions that you create with (or on top of) SharePoint. For example, deploying a tool to solve a business challenge (e.g., improve service quality) is a business solution worth talking about.  The fact that you were able to do it using the SharePoint platform is great, but chances are that SP by itself  was not the complete answer.  You probably needed something extra.  Therefore, talk about the business win — not the foundational tool.
  • MySites. Many people are scared to death of MySites.  One big problem is that MySites don’t scale to companies with hundreds of thousands of employees. MySite allows up to 50 thousand MySite collections per web application. If you have multiple applications, you can have a terrible mess.
  • FAST. It is not free. It isn’t necessary unless you have an enormous number of document (e.g., more than 50 million documents). If you have fewer documents, there are other, cheaper, less complicated third-party search tools that work better for you than FAST.
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