SharePoint - Your Next (Current) Business App Platform

And how Microsoft sold SharePoint to end users right under the noses of IT.

SharePoint. $1.3B revenue rate. 130 million user base. Even if you doubt the user and license counts (though not everyone thinks they are inflated) , SharePoint is a very successful product. If there's a success at Microsoft, it's definitely SharePoint. While there isn't any one big announcement about SharePoint at this week's SharePoint 2009 conference, that's kind of the point - Microsoft is raising that bar across the board for SharePoint by beefing up weak areas such as social colloaboration and cryptic admin pages, and bringing in new capabilities, much of it center around the integration with Office and analysis of data. (I'll leave listing all of the announced features to the plethora of articles that have already done that.)

But if I told you Microsoft has a new application server product and you should consider installing it in your company, that would invoke all kinds of product evaluation and IT processes. I seriously doubt you would have seen the same growth rate SharePoint has experienced since its introduction, and it wouldn't be the powerhouse it has become today. SharePoint's an integral part of Windows Small Business Server (SBS) and comes for free (WSS does) with Windows Server 2003/2008. But more than just tagalong software, SharePoint's usage has surged for multiple compelling reasons.

SharePoint adoption and usage has grown not just because SharePoint "is there", already installed. I have my own views about why SharePoint is succeeding with customers and what's propelling SharePoint to become integral to Microsoft customers.

SharePoint - The Next Spreadsheet App. Business users understand it. IT usually struggles with communicating the value the business will receive from many IT projects. Why do we need to upgrade our routers? What's the difference between Windows Server 2008 vs. 2003? Why do you need to re-architect that application? How much more security do we really need?

Despite SharePoint 2010's improvements in the admin UI and server management, the audience for SharePoint's value prop is the end user, not IT. Because of its low barrier to entry (which can be a blessing and a curse) business users can start building small and sometimes sophisticated apps. No IT entanglements, fewer developers, quick hit projects, netting a shorter time to value. That's how many users see it. Users understand the value SharePoint can bring just like they do with spreadsheets.

Office integration. With cloud services and web apps, many have argued (Google) that client installed apps are going the way of the dinosaur. (I have an alternative view about something I call micro apps, btw.) I find that hard to believe after spending 5 hours last night installing Final Cut Studio on my Mac from 7 DVDs, but I digress. Look at where Microsoft is moving the Office suite. Into SharePoint 2010. It's collocating Office apps where app data increasingly lives - SharePoint. From a Microsoft user's perspective, the apps aren't moving into the cloud, they are moving into SharePoint, whether that be an internal SharePoint server, at a SharePoint hosting service or from Microsoft Online services.

With SharePoint 2010, you can create increasingly sophisticated apps that integrate the display, modification and creation of data all without leaving the SharePoint browser experience. Add in SharePoint Mobile Workspace mobile device viewer, and integrating in Groove as SharePoint Workspace for off-net, and you can take much of the SharePoint experience with you. To prove the point further, Microsoft's effective nixed PerformancePoint as standalone products and integrated them into SharePoint and Microsoft Project now syncs up with SharePoint.

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