I get asked a lot whether Microsoft SharePoint is a document management system, an enterprise content management (ECM) system, or something else. The correct answer is that SharePoint is a document management system. But that doesn’t really tell you what you need to know about SharePoint. So I thought of a list of eight things that SharePoint is and that it isn’t, that together will give you a glimpse into the nature of the system and some of the common problems organizations run into with it.
Any of these sound familiar?
SharePoint Is Verbal Kint
Remember the film “The Usual Suspects”? Kevin Spacey sells himself to the police as the harmless little snitch, Verbal Kint, when really he is the criminal mastermind Keyser Söze. This is the same story with SharePoint. It sells itself as deceptively simple. But you only realize what you’ve released on the world after it is too late.
SharePoint Isn’t Plumbing
SharePoint isn’t Exchange or Office. But organizationally, many IT departments task the same teams who run the other Microsoft products with the implementation of SharePoint. This is like asking your plumber his thoughts on interior design. Your plumber might be a splendid interior designer. But even so, you probably want to separate those duties.
SharePoint Is a Disgusting Restaurant
Everyone knows what SharePoint sprawl is. But why does it happen? Answer: Because you didn’t hire any busboys! It’s as if your implementation were a new restaurant, and you hired a chef or two, opened the doors, and had a killer opening weekend. But because you only planned to cook and serve food, you didn’t hire busboys, and now your restaurant is a mess and no one wants to eat there anymore.
SharePoint Is a Child
Kids need boundaries. They are happier and better adjusted when they know what they are allowed to do and what is expected of them. The same thing is true of SharePoint sites. They require governance. Users will use SharePoint more if they understand the rules of the road for using it.
SharePoint Doesn’t Play Well with Others
Wait a second. Doesn’t SharePoint have an ISV market of nearly 70 thousand partners? How can you say it doesn’t play well with others? Let me be clear: Any particular version of SharePoint works okay with the ISV who has products for that version. But start adding layers like multiple versions of SharePoint, other ISVs, and additional CMS, CRM, or ERP systems to the mix, and you’ve got a very unhappy SharePoint on your hands.
SharePoint Doesn’t Play Defense
I haven’t watched the NBA since Jordan retired. (Seriously, what’s the point?) But I hear the talking heads on the radio always complaining about players who don’t play defense. Well, that is SharePoint. We all know by now that SharePoint doesn’t do records management. Even Microsoft brought in an ISV to handle its records management needs on SharePoint. If you have a legacy ECM system on premises, you can potentially do long-term retention there and just have SharePoint be the user interface.
SharePoint Is Already Legacy
With Office 365, Microsoft is finally moving SharePoint to the cloud. (I’m not going to count BPOSS, and neither should you.) The problem is that there are younger, blonder, more user-friendly cloud systems. Strangely enough, SharePoint is already a legacy system. As organizations move more of their content to the cloud, it will be interesting to see whether SharePoint is able to maintain its position in the document management world.
SharePoint Is a DAM Problem
Microsoft has never gone out of its way to support “exotic” file types in SharePoint. So far, this hasn’t been a huge issue. But I think over the next year or so it will become one. Smartphones, GoPro cameras, audio recordings, and a host of other “exotic” file templates will become increasingly common in parts of the enterprise that don’t have full-blown digital asset management (DAM) solutions.