Reflecting on the Winding Path of SharePoint

October 20, 2009 at 12:25 pm | Posted in collaboration, Microsoft SharePoint, portals | Leave a comment

At his keynote address at the SharePoint Conference, Steve Ballmer acknowledged that 10 years ago, if they had written up a list of what SharePoint is supposed to be on paper, that wouldn’t be what it is today.  “Your feedback and input … the way you’ve driven us” has made SharePoint what it is today, thank you very much.  For example, Internet-facing sites were not an original design point.  In the same vein, Tom Rizzo said that SharePoint has been such a success that Microsoft has been overwhelmed.

Why? 

Why is it the case that something far beyond a shared folder replacement couldn’t be envisioned in 1999 when Lotus Notes had already been around for years?  Why did that feedback take ten years to result in better top down management and control that every serious portal product mostly had in 2003 and certainly in 2007?  Why weren’t internet sites a design point, particularly when many of the stopping blocks (like limits on list sizes, farm management, and scalability) were also hassles for large intranet deployments as well?  And why wasn’t Microsoft more optimistic ( = prepared) for SharePoint’s success given the history of Notes and early Plumtree success?  This lack of optimism probably resulted in the 2003 and 2007 releases of SharePoint getting less R&D effort and sales attention than they deserved.

It’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback, but I was in the press box for the 2001, 2003, and 2007 seasons and most of my fellow analysts were calling the same plays back then.  I don’t recall anyone saying SharePoint wasn’t going to go anywhere, or that IBM would stomp it out, or that they shouldn’t make the product appropriate for business-to-consumer (B2C) deployments. All these things should not have been a surprise and absent from SharePoint planning.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m pretty happy with what I’ve seen of SharePoint so far.  And it’s grown even faster than I personally thought it would.  But I don’t look back at the winding path with nostalgia either.  If I’m teary eyed thinking of what it took to get here, it’s not necessarily for the same reasons as Steve Ballmer and Tom Rizzo.

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