Microsoft SharePoint: The CMS Killer

March 7, 2010

I read “Interesting Perspective on How SharePoint Is Capturing the ECM Market.” The write up references a post by Lee Dallas who writes the Big Men on Content blog. The idea is that SharePoint works seamlessly with Active Directory. As a result, access and identity are part of the woodwork, and no information technology staff have to futz around so employees can find and manipulate documents, presentations, or spreadsheets. Furthermore, SharePoint put a stake in the heart of enterprise content management systems by adding collaboration to the create it, find it, and use it approach of the traditional content management vendors. SharePoint won because it added these features and did a great job marketing.

I agree that Microsoft SharePoint seems to be everywhere. I also know that Microsoft has pumped Tiger Juice into its partners and resellers to push the SharePoint solution. The marketing message is reinforced with zeal and great prices. Keep in mind that SharePoint requires a dump truck full of other Microsoft software to deliver on the bullet points in the SharePoint sales presentation.

Now my view on this brilliant success is a bit different.

First, Microsoft SharePoint has been around a long time. It is a combination of products, features, functions. When I hear SharePoint, I see the nCompass logo, circa 2001. I also think “content server”. The current incarnation of SharePoint is a bunch of stuff that requires even more Microsoft stuff to work. A number of Microsoft partners have built software to snap into SharePoint to deliver some of the features that Microsoft talks about but cannot get to work. These range from search to content management itself. I wrote about a SharePoint expert who uses WordPress because SharePoint is too much of a headache. Age can bring wisdom, but I think SharePoint’s trajectory has been one that delivers  mind boggling complexity. SharePoint consultants love the product. Addled geese like me see it as one more crazy enterprise solution that today’s top managers just pay for reflexively.

Second, the world of content management has become mired in muddy road after muddy road. Some projects make travel by donkey delightful. CMS was created to help outfits without any expertise in producing information post Web pages. Then the Web morphed into an applications platform and the CMS vendors were like the buggy whip manufacturers who thought horse powered carriages were a fad. Big CMS projects almost never worked without application of generous layers of money and custom engineering. At the same time, information management became important due to the fine work of the SEC, Enron, Tyco, and other outfits. Now many organizations have to keep track of documents, not lose them like White House email. It turns out that managing electronic information is pretty difficult. The bubble gum approach of Web CMS won’t work for a nuclear power plan engineering change order. Some folks are discovering this fact that a Web page is different from tracking the versions of a diagram for a cooling pipe in an ageing pressurized water reactor. Imagine that!

Third, companies lack the dough to spend wildly for information technology. The financial challenges of many organizations have not been prevented by fancy systems. Some might argue that fancy systems accelerated the impact of certain financial problems. The reason there are the alleged 100 million SharePoint users is a result of really aggressive marketing and bundling. If SharePoint provides job security, go for it. I have heard this sentiment expressed by an information technology company in Europe on more than one occasion.

The net net of SharePoint is that Microsoft is going to make a great deal of money, but there will be a gradual loss of customers. The reason is partly due to demographics and partly due to what I call SharePoint fatigue. When users discover that the fancy metadata functions don’t work, some will poke around. Metadata must be normalized; otherwise, fancy functions don’t work very well. Fixing metadata is expensive. When a cloud service comes along with the function that normalizes metadata transparently, then SharePoint will be behind an eight ball.

SharePoint, like other Microsoft software, is reaching a point where moving forward becomes more difficult and more expensive. That’s the signal for outfits like Google to strike. The death of CMS has given SharePoint a good run. Now that SharePoint may be difficult to scale, stabilize, and extend, SharePoint becomes catnip for Googzilla. Just my opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, March 7, 2010

No one paid me to write this. Since I mention Microsoft, I think I have to report non payment to the many SharePoint fans at the Department of Defense.


5 Responses to “Microsoft SharePoint: The CMS Killer”

  1. ARB Security Solutions » Microsoft SharePoint: The CMS Killer : Beyond Search on March 7th, 2010 3:10 am

    […] SharePoint Blog Post From SharePoint Security – Google Blog Search: The reason there are the alleged 100 million SharePoint users is a result of really aggressive […]

  2. stefan demetz on March 7th, 2010 8:49 am

    well, I am biased as I do Sharepoint consulting …
    1) just because one does not use Sharepoint as a blog engine doesn’t mean a thing ( I use Dasblog)
    2) Sharepoint has a free version (provided you have a Windows server) which is heavily used, so it’s not as pricey as you make out
    3) large compnaies often need complex software to cover all bases (otherwise SAP, Oracle, IBM would’t make a dime)
    4) Google like hundreds of others companies have a few point solutions which are often better thank Sharepoint’s features but if you try to integrate them it might cost you 5-10 times
    5) Are there softwares around easier to extend than Sharepoint? IMHO not many, e.g. it might be difficult to extend Google apps as 1) you cannot get it running off-line ( on your company’ servers) 2) you cannot deploy code to Google’s servers

    Sharepoint (even upcoming 2010 version) has still several shortfalls and weak areas, but it’s way easier to work with (customize, develop, admin) than others

  3. Steve Goulet on March 7th, 2010 5:15 pm

    “Now many organizations have to keep track of documents, not lose them like White House email.” LOL

    “When users discover that the fancy metadata functions don’t work, some will poke around. Metadata must be normalized; otherwise, fancy functions don’t work very well. Fixing metadata is expensive.”
    Fancy metadata solutions work much better in 2010 from what I’m seeing. Regardless, metadata functions are probably only a major concern for a fraction of SharePoint customers.

    Great post but I am still surprised at the irony of disrespecting SharePoint consultants for not using SharePoint blogging tools, when you are a Google expert not using Google blogging tools.

    Good point by Stefan on the cost of integration. SharePoint could be less expensive for custom integration points between enterprise data stores and ad hoc presentation layers. Google has exposed APIs, but MS has gone way beyond that.

    Overall the most important point to me is the Active Directory connection. Enterprises with AD are easily convinced to use WSS/Foundations. True, the cost of deploying it right, and customizing it to meet business requirements is far from free. But TCO for a Google solution accompishing the same thing would be much higher given the AD hooks in WSS/Foundations.

  4. snreddy on January 27th, 2011 11:29 am
  5. Waldemar on March 1st, 2011 4:48 am

    Sharepoint is useful for big companies in combination with sitecore

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