Why SharePoint? Part II

I am amazed at the popularity and the comments I have received from my original blog post Why SharePoint? I seemed to have hit a nerve with a number of people and I appreciate your feedback. I want to continue my original thoughts and elaborate further.

At the risk of getting lynched, let me say that the majority of people responding and vehemently protesting SharePoint are developers and technical administrators (The IT Crowd). You guys are very smart and talented but I think your focus is wrong and that’s why you don’t like SharePoint.

The IT crowd is used to working with ultimate control. I can’t do this exactly the way I want so the product is no good.

The IT crowd gets bored easily and is not interested in the easy solution. A wizard? Real developers code applications by hand. Besides, a wizard does not give me ultimate control.

The IT crowd are engineers who focus on speed and performance and are obsessed with stats. If it is not perfect, they are not happy. We can run the query 200 milliseconds faster if….

The IT crowd has no business deploying SharePoint to users! Traditionally, deployment is done by the IT crowd, because traditional systems required talented engineers to deploy applications. SharePoint does not.

The IT crowd needs to focus on SharePoint as a platform. Set up the platform so it works fast, scales, is maintainable and searchable. SharePoint is a platform for developing business applications.

The application development can be done without the IT crowd. SharePoint wizards, ready-made templates, and out-of-the-box functionality can satisfy the majority of the most common business requirements. Here lies the reason why SharePoint sucks. The IT crowd still wants to develop applications. “That’s the way it’s always been done, and we can make it faster and better!” But that is not what we need! A new breed of developers evolves with SharePoint. This group–let’s call them site owners, site collection owners–builds applications on the platform using less flexible tools but achieve incredible speed to market due to the limited flexibility. Websites can be created in seconds or days without code. Gasp! No code development? What’s this world coming to?

Development done without code changes everything! Applications that can be built in seconds require development of practices for managing these applications. That is called Governance, and the IT crowd does not care about governance because it has nothing to do with technology. SharePoint ultimately is more about content management and less about technology after the platform is deployed.

Arguing that users don’t need to be trained because it’s just a web site is rubbish. Users are savvy people and will find ways to build their own “applications”. I have seen entire divisions run on email, and Excel spreadsheets. That is wrong, for so many reasons. The users and IT crowd both know this. However, the users don’t have time or knowledge to build the platform, and the IT crowd is complaining about the platform because they don’t like the way it was built and they believe they can do a better job.

Not enough attention is paid to the business application of SharePoint even before the platform is created as well as afterwards to measure whether the platform was created as per the business needs. You can’t give users a platform and wish them luck. You have to give them a solution to a problem they are experiencing. You can’t just tell them to stop using email and the LAN drive without giving them a compelling reason to change.

I have yet to meet a user who complains when I give them an application that solves a problem they are having. They don’t care which version of the browser we are using. All they can see is “Wow! I don’t have do manage this anymore; the application manages it for me.” If the users are using a bicycle to move product and we give them a car to do the same thing, they will be happy. The IT crowd is arguing over the engine efficiency between car 1 or car 2. The user is just happy to get a car!

The problem is that not enough attention is paid to the business application of SharePoint after the platform is created.

There. I said it. Now let the arrows fly.

Gord Maric

SharePoint and Business Intelligence consultant

Note: The IT Crowd is a hilarious comedy about IT and Business.

13 Responses to “Why SharePoint? Part II”

  1. 1 Rob M October 25, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Great article! IT’s determination to dictate solutions is not user friendly. I understand some IT professional’s worries about the shrinking use of code for precise solutions, but concrete coded solutions are not always in the user’s best interests. Give users the tools and know-how and let them have some control! Educated (well trained) users are the most satisfied users.

  2. 2 dsdesc October 25, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Well said, particularly against the charge that anything done in a browser shouldn’t require training. It’s call an “application” – and the fact that it’s encompassed in a web browser instead of C++ or FORTRAN 66 is irrelevant. The complexity of the application and the experience of the user(s) may dictate the type and amount of training. But even a seasoned geek like me occasionally looks up “help” on my BlackBerry or iPad to figure out how to do something (or do it better).

    And SharePoint has allowed some really nifty business systems to be built by power users with just a bit of It mentoring. That’s called “leveraging limited resources” – which isn’t likely to happen in Python or Ruby or Java or Visual Studio or….

  3. 3 Terence Rabe October 26, 2011 at 5:24 am

    I couldn’t agree more. As a trainer I’m often in the firing line with students who’ve been put on a course to learn a solution to a problem the didn’t know they had… shoot the messenger and all that :-)

  4. 4 Eric Fang October 27, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    Nice post! It explained clearly how SharePoint get populated so quickly!

  5. 5 Alison October 28, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    I could not possibly agree more. I experience what you are saying on a day-to-day basis, touting the need for governance and site owner/end user involvement to the rest of the IT group team that I am on. SharePoint needs to have a strong-willed shephard to manage it within a company, guiding both the end users AND the IT gurus so that the implementation can ‘suck less’ :).

  6. 6 Chris Breitner November 9, 2011 at 10:41 am

    Great follow-up, thanks!

  7. 7 Code November 22, 2011 at 7:14 am

    I think it is awesome that these apps can be developed quickly with no or minimal need for IT staff. I would rather spend my time as a developer designing solutions that can’t be solved by Sharepoint.

    One thing to think about however is, what happens when something in Sharepoint does not work correctly? We are going to need the IT guys to fix the issues but since we have essentially taken them out of the loop they are going to get cocky have the bad IT attitude, since you know, they know everything, and say “I can’t support that”

    I agree that everyone should work as a team when rolling out any solution, however if we have users or department managers creating solutions on their own then things can get ugly very fast.

    Back in the day we used to let users create access databases, these databases would run on the users workstation without our knowledge. They then became an IT issue when the end user could no longer maintain the application / database. To prevent this from happening IT Managers put policy in place to prevent users from storing company data in MS Access.

    Yes me moved the data to SQL server and let the DBA’s and developers maintain the application and provide support. This essentially pissed off the department managers and end users because we took away control.

    Back to Sharepoint now, I personally don’t know a damn thing about the product. It looks interesting and I have browsed through the SDK docs, Some purist developers would say that it is typical MS garbage and poorly designed. Those purists are most likely correct, but remember we don’t need those idiots anymore because we can just create an application in a few days or hours even with no code.

    It will be interesting to see where all of this goes.

  8. 8 owen December 3, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    sharepoint is a blackhole. If you can’t get your IT guys to work on it in the beginning then they will NEVER work on it. The problem is if you put all your eggs in one basket you will never be able to keep up with your business processes – unless your business process is training people to use sharepoint.

    SP is a document management platform, trying to use it for anything will get you into alot of wasted time. Probably the next version will make it better.

  9. 9 Rod Parrish December 5, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    “The IT crowd has no business deploying SharePoint to users! Traditionally, deployment is done by the IT crowd, because traditional systems required talented engineers to deploy applications. SharePoint does not.”

    Awesome and profoundly true statement! As someone who has worked with SharePoint technologies on the front lines with end users full-time before it was even called SharePoint I couldn’t agree more. SharePoint should not be rolled out by the IT department like you do other software like Microsoft Office and expect it to be just another support “thing” that IT does in their “spare time”.

    What you is needed is someone who actually uses SharePoint and has some experience with it on the team. Let me ask this, would you want a nurse to take out your appendix? A nurse has a vast amount of knowledge with many health issues…… but she is not a specialist. She is not a doctor. As for me I’d rather have a doctor who has actually done the procedure operate on me. Sadly, many organizations and IT departments do just that. They are not themselves fully trained or experienced, and yet they deploy SharePoint with unrealistic expectations as if it were another software deployment.

    Major fail, and it’s not Microsoft or SharePoint’s fault. If you’re going to use a tool, get someone onboard who has actually used it!!

  10. 10 j February 7, 2012 at 9:23 am

    Sharepoint sucks for a variety of reasons:

    – saving .pdf files is impossible from an email, must first save on local machine and drag into drive folders
    – slowness in navigating through the system to acquire or save files, especially .ppt files

  11. 11 chris w February 13, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    The problem with share point is it over promises. As mentioned sharepoint is a platform that aims to let users develop solutions without going throuh a developer. Unfortunately, as you pointed out sahre point also greatly limits your control. In my experience the types of solutions that can be created with sharepoint out of the box are not adequate. In the end a traditional developer is needed to extend sahrepoint. Developing features to do this is far from simple, especially if you are dealing with sp2007. In the end I wind up writing as much code as i would have written for a traditional web app and rhe final product is slower and further from what the user invisioned. I dont see too many developers losing jobs to sharepoint. On the contrary the level of complexity it adds to a project just means youll need more developers of a more specialized nature.

  12. 12 Eric February 28, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    I loathe sharepoint because as a Graphic Designer / Developer, I cannot get it to do what I want it to do. What I can do in minutes with a helping of valid HTML/CSS/jQuery, I cannot do with sharepoint. It simply cannot be done in many cases.

    It’s even more frustrating when you have a client who likes to move things around.Sharepoint is for those who are happy with the default. When you want to significantly reorganize things, then you’ve outgrown Sharepoint.

  13. 13 Jeremy April 11, 2012 at 1:50 am

    I am a web developer and my opinion not withstanding (wouldn’t touch SharePoint with a 10 foot stick), the majority opinion I’ve heard from people who are average end users can’t stand using SharePoint. The most common problem is that SharePoint never works as intended and makes overall work collaboration harder and not easier. From the developers I’ve talked to, they have all said SharePoint is a hot mess and the big problem comes from getting SharePoint to work as intended or extending beyond its (very limited) out of the box capabilities, and not from mere performance issues.

    Sorry to say, but your assertation that most SharePoint criticisms that come from IT types who are merely unsatisfied with the performance is a bunch of hot air.

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