Blogger: Craig Roth
At the 2008 SharePoint Conference Bill Gates said that the SharePoint business has now surpassed $1B in sales and 100M licenses sold. While I believe those numbers are overstated (Michael Sampson does a good job of explaining the difference between sold seats and bundled licenses and a platform play), my own ongoing conversations with our clients confirms great interest in SharePoint, even among those who are already dedicated to other platforms. Why such interest? Is it, as Mr. Gates says, "the result of the great combination of collaboration and information management capabilities it delivers"?
I've been digging a bit deeper into why people at these clients are so interested in SharePoint. Mr. Gates is partially right, as many users I talked to like its Office integration and quick improvement over shared drives and emailing files around. Still, I find it interesting how many of them already have products in house that do what they want Sharepoint to do. This includes collaboration products like Lotus Notes or eRoom, content management products like EMC Documentum or Interwoven TeamSite, or portal products like IBM WebSphere Portal Server or BEA Aqualogic Interaction. So why do they still want SharePoint?
The general answer these clients give me is that the products they currently use are overly complex (often limiting the departments that can use them to those with budgets for IT support) or so expensive to license that only users with high levels of need get access and training for them.
To a certain extent, the excitement about SharePoint has really been a reflection of disillusionment with existing collaboration, content management, and portal products. The people that are interested in SharePoint - despite already having incumbent alternatives - see at first glance a product that may finally provide easy-to-use, inexpensive, web-based collaborative solutions. But that doesn't guarantee they won't be just as disillusioned with SharePoint once they get into it. SharePoint is still new and it will take another year or more before we start collecting enough data points on enterprise-class installations to tell if SharePoint is the real deal. "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence", and there are often more consultants, developers, support staff, and 3rd party add-on vendors grazing on the SharePoint side of the fence than expected.