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Microsoft SharePoint popularity comes with issues

Analysts say software has holes, issues that need evaluation before rollouts

By , Network World
July 01, 2008 11:59 AM ET

Network World - Microsoft's SharePoint Server 2007 may be taking off in the enterprise, but the software doesn't come without holes, warts and a variety of other issues that need to be addressed in any corporate deployment.

Users will find weaknesses in all six areas that SharePoint focuses on -- collaboration, portal, search, enterprise content management, business process management and business intelligence -- along with custom coding needs, dependencies on other Microsoft products, a weak selection of social networking tools, a lack of offline support, challenges integrating identity management/provisioning, lack of centralized management tools for global operations and trouble finding qualified SharePoint developers and support staff. (Compare collaboration products.)

"Recognize that a really good SharePoint installation is as much organization as it is technology," said Burton Group vice president and research director Guy Creese, who participated in a four hour mini-conference last week. "Be clear what you are expecting from SharePoint -- it might be exactly what you need. But in some cases, SharePoint as shipped can leave huge holes."

The SharePoint evaluation was presented during the annual Burton Group Catalyst conference.

Craig Roth, Burton's vice president and services director for its collaboration and content division, added, "treating SharePoint as an enterprise solution is fundamentally different than treating it as a product, productivity tool or tactical solution."

Creese said it's all constructive criticism and users shouldn't feel compelled to abandon SharePoint, but they should be aware that custom work and additional software may be needed to bend SharePoint for specific needs.

"We have been finding that a highly tuned SharePoint installation needs custom coding and third-party add-ons," he said.

SharePoint evaluation
Microsoft slots the capabilities of its Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 into six pieces: search, portal, collaboration, business intelligence, business forms/process management and enterprise content management (ECM). Each has its strength and weaknesses, according to analysts at the Burton Group.

User case Strength Weakness
Search Unification of search features and consistent user experience Few case studies/examples of enterprise scale; business data search is cumbersome
Portal Close to best of breed, low-cost of entry No out-of-box enterprise application integration; not all portal standards supported
Collaboration New emphasis on content and collaboration Social networking tools weak; no out-of-box admin tools, utilities
Business Intelligence Gives Microsoft shops fewer moving parts; beginning of structured/unstructured data support Excel services read-only; Business Data Catalog immature
Forms Rich client in InfoPath 2007; Admins and users can deploy forms Not a complete workflow solution; ActiveX requirement doesn’t fit with non-IE users
Content management Handles everyday documents to complement other ECM systems; works well with Office Not compelling for users without Windows Server or Office; Large multimedia files not easily managed.
Click to see: Chart of SharePoint's strengths and weaknesses

Burton Group analysts said corporate management needs around content and records, and easy-to-use user tools, helped create a perfect storm for the sudden rise of the 7-year-old SharePoint product line.

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