Should you use SharePoint? Should you use SharePoint for your public facing website? Is SharePoint a good CMS? Does SharePoint have shortcomings as a web content management platform? Is SharePoint overkill? Is SharePoint design friendly?
The SharePoint debate is definitely a heated one. Some people love SharePoint. Some folks hate SharePoint. Some people that have never seen or use SharePoint even hate SharePoint. Some people hate Microsoft and thus by the transitive property also hate SharePoint.
Platform Argument. SharePoint is a more than just a single web site tool. This is a great platform that you can use build your Intranet, Extranet, private social network, professional network, search engine tools, and public facing website. Once you and your team know a little bit about SharePoint, you can focus on doing your job and not learning and supporting niche applications and tools.
Capability. SharePoint is extremely feature rich. SharePoint is documents, pages, images, videos, discussions, blogs, wikis, calendars, sites, subsites, security, workflow, search, dashboards, and much more. The fact that you can construct so many types of solutions without ever writing code is a powerful feature in itself. If you do write code, then the SharePoint world is your oyster.
Speed of Innovation. SharePoint is bigger than Microsoft. There are literally thousands of options available products, add-ons, solution starters, templates, samples, examples, and even source code (see CodePlex). Even companies that are competitive with Microsoft develop products that ‘tie in’ to SharePoint – even IBM.
Availability of Information. Do a search for “whatever solution you are thinking about using”. Then do a search for SharePoint. Then go to Amazon. Search for books related to your subject. Then search for books related to SharePoint. If you want to become completely self-sufficient (and not rely on the vendor/consultant/IT guy) – there is no platform that has more information available than SharePoint.
Community. There are more developers, end users, architects, consultants, companies, vendors, Microsoft partners working around SharePoint than any other solution or platform I have every seen. The SharePoint community exists both online and in person! There are user groups that regularly meet and talk SharePoint in every major metro area – and many international! The single most important facet of the community is welcoming attitude of the SharePoint community. Join any group and participate, or just sit back and watch. The community is extremely helpful.
Conferences. There are so many conferences every year that I can’t even keep an accurate count. Even if the conference isn’t dedicated to SharePoint, there are SharePoint tracks or sessions.
Stability. I’ve worked with a lot of niche applications that have brand new releases and upgrades every few months. Wow that sounds exciting! In an enterprise environment where I’m trying to focus on the business at hand (whether that’s creating content, selling products, providing services, fund raising, representing members, or managing our community), the last thing that I want to do is spend time, resources, and money on continual upgrades. SharePoint’s major versions are released every few years. If I do want to continually upgrade and provide new features – I do have the speed of innovation of the entire community.
Speed to Launch. One of the arguments that I have heard is “I can have a WordPress site up and running in under an hour.” I’ve always found that amusing… Are you really going to launch your corporate web site or Intranet or ANY site with that little planning? Guess what. If you want to, you can do the same with SharePoint. There are tons of hosting providers that automatically provision your site and have it turned on and working with any selectable template immediately – even Microsoft.
Marketability. I’m talking directly to the techies here. I know many IT folks that have resisted SharePoint. The best advice I can give any IT person out there is to learn SharePoint. Take a few moments and peruse the job listings. Really. Go to Monster and look around. SharePoint is an extremely in-demand skill set and has been for years. From commercial organizations to non-profits and associations to the federal government, SharePoint is in use, and SharePoint experts are in-demand.
Return on Investment. This is one that gets thrown around a lot – largely because of rumors and suppositions. One of the most ill informed arguments I’ve heard is that SharePoint is expensive and open source is free! This final point is one that I could spend entire days discussing. Here are a couple of high level points. First, SharePoint Foundation is free. If you are running Windows Server 2008, you can download SharePoint and use it for … wait for it … FREE! Okay, but let’s be realistic. I know that you’ve heard this before – nothing is free. You have to pay for servers, bandwidth, resources, skills, education, support – regardless of the technology. If you run any technology platform – you pay for it. Every preceding item in this blog post also influence ROI. Availability of information, stability, education costs, capabilities, stability, recurring investments. Also, what happens when angry IT guy that put in the LAMP solution quits or goes out of business. Who, where, how are you going to get support? Is the community and ecosystem big enough to support you in a year? What about in 5 years?
Technology decisions are complex. Do I think SharePoint is a good fit for every organization? Yes! (just kidding). I think we can all agree that there is no single technology that is a perfect fit for every organization for every solution. I think every organization should give serious consideration to the big picture when selecting technology platforms. Do you want a single platform or individual niche applications? Do you want commercially supported tools or open source (or a hybrid)? While I don’t work for Microsoft, I’ve never heard of an IT manager getting fired for choosing Microsoft as a technology platform.