When Microsoft launched sharepoint, little did the company know that what will be its feedback from the users. Though the new technology has helped the enterprises yet it failed at some level to please SMB. Bhawna Satsangi talks to the end users to find out how did the technology helped them to modernize their business.
With a vision to streamline the work of enterprise sector, Microsoft launched Sharepoint targeting enterprises and SMB’s. It was first launched in 2001 and the recent versions have broader capabilities. However, it failed to embrace SMB due to the complexities it involved and the lack of control of features.
Gartner analyst Jeffery Mann in his report on Sharepoint suggests that companies who rely heavily on sharepoint ought to start preparing for a cloud based future. At the 2013 Gartner Symposium he informed that there are only 28% companies using sharepoint across their entire network and 70% of companies where at least half the staff use sharepoint only once a week or more.
He believes that hardly anybody like sharepoint when it comes to user experience. Mann informs that sharepoint scores low on ease of use, the amount of ongoing management it requires, and the fact that content isn’t easy to migrate between systems.
On the contrary Alok Ranjan, Global Lead, Marketing Strategy, Avasant LLC and user of Microsoft sharepoint opines that Microsoft sharepoint is an enterprise-wide collaborative tool, which is helping enterprise to structure their knowledge management, increase collaboration, and provide measurable insights into business processes. As part of the Office 365 suite, sharepoint in itself caters to the need of the Indian consumers. IT service providers, retail, and SMB’s in the Indian market are increasingly adopting the suite. Both the on-premise model for large enterprise as well as cloud-based solutions for SMBs is adopted in India.
Where Mann believes that sharepoint is a failure when it comes to user experience, Suresh Ramani, Director, Techgyan and one of the user of sharepoint feels, “SharePoint is positioned as a Platform of Collaboration whether in SMB space or Enterprise space . What differs is the Collaborative needs in SMB space and Enterprise space. One difference in Enterprise space is that it is positioned as a portal to integrate other applications like SAP, Oracle, etc. This need is not there in SMB space.”
Amit Talwar, Manager, Business Solutions, Amway India Enterprises Pvt Ltd. feels that sharepoint is a boon for the large enterprises. He believes that MOSS has got huge capabilities and has got huge potential in Enterprise Segment. Various organisations are leveraging this technology as per their requirement. SharePoint has very strong capability of Content Management and Organisations are using SharePoint to build their websites. Apart from Internet facing websites, corporate are also using SharePoint for Intranet sites, where in they are using this platform for Business Process Automation, Collaboration and Document Repository.
While users believe that the sharepoint is an embracing technology, Gartner analyst Mann sees sharepoint as a victim of its own success. On Agreeing with Mann, Alok explains, “With the legacy user interface, and browser restrictions MS sharepoint needs to do much to catch up with the competition, especially the products designed on open-source platforms. It is still easier for an SMB to collaborate on Google platforms than sharepoint. Recently, Microsoft has launched the much-needed facelift to the interface with sharepoint 2013, which is quiet intuitive and easier to operate. However, large enterprise view it as a secure and stable collaborative platform compared to other competitors such as Google, Jive, and Box.
The technology has become too complex and hard to manage and upgrade when it is highly customised in many organizations. There are other competitive players in the market that are garnering huge response from competitive products. One such example could be cloud-based technology.
On agreeing the point that sharepoint is not fitting on to enterprise social communication eco system and they face huge issues, Alok feels, “Sharepoint is closed platform and does not allow integration with any social platform. However, it allows organizations to develop customized applications on top of it. Many large enterprises are utilizing this to develop their own social communication suite on sharepoint. With the acquisition of Yammer, Microsoft offers an enterprise social communications suite but there is a constant overlap of features offered by both the platforms. This is quiet confusing for an enterprise caught between sharepoint and yammer. Besides, in a market like India with more than 60 million SMBs, it presents an impossible case for adoption as compared to most commonly used Google product suites, which are easy to operate and plugs-in with most freely available software.”
While dismissing the view of Mann and Alok, Amit sees sharepoint to be a better product as compared to other platforms. He reasons, “The biggest plus point is its integration with other Microsoft Products like Exchange, Dynamics, MS Office etc. It is easy to implement and requires very less education since most of the corporate staff is familiar with MS Office.”
Supporting Amit’s view on sharepoint being a better product from its counterparts, Suresh agrees, “SharePoint is by far the leading Collaboration Platform in the World. No other Platform offers the breadth of Collaboration capabilities as is offered by SharePoint. And features go on increasing. Recently we have had SkyDrive Pro and Yammer being added to SharePoint. Both are wonderful features. SharePoint competes head to head with dedicated Document Management Systems. But it is much more than just a Document Management System. It’s also an Internet Portal, Enterprise Social, Team Sites, etc. So while other Solutions offer single point collaboration, SharePoint offers suite of features.”
Sharepoint might have been a fastest growing product and has done lot of things for lot of people however, its future seems to be less rosy. Its multiple personalities frustrate both IT managers and users.
According to CIO, sharepoint has two versions the online called sharepoint online and Office 365 and there is traditional on premises version called sharepoint 2013. Consider what this dual edition means for end users, Microsoft has stated that its cloud services are where new features and functionality are first rolled out.
CIO also points out that there is lack of control over new features or even changes to the interface or to existing features when they are made by Microsoft in the sharepoint online environment. You basically have to accept the fact the cloud service is the testing ground.
Sharepoint might have been compatible for the cloud but the performance with large documents failed badly. Alok also feels the same and informs, “Many sharepoint users faced this issue, mainly due to the disconnected systems in the cloud without appropriate access to the corporate data center. However, with the launch of cloud connecter as a windows service, users can connect to push/ pull data to the cloud from any data source.”
Suresh feels, “In fact, with addition of SkyDrive Pro into SharePoint in ver. 2013, working with large documents is easier as you can actually work offline and are thus not limited to the bandwidth of your Internet.”
Sharepoint might not have been successful as a platform for line of business applications but as a pure collaborative platform it works. Sharepoint should not be counted as a failed product from Microsoft’s perspective. Over a period, it is generating more than a billion dollars in revenue. Though its acceptability in emerging markets may be less as compared to a developed market, the product suite is a hit with large enterprises. Some attributes for non-acceptability of the suite by SMBs can be factored due to the ease of collaborating on Google platforms that sharepoint.
India is a large market where consumers are exposed to a variety of software as an alternative to sharepoint (both free and paid versions). While for a large enterprise, security plays an important role when deciding on the implementation of suite like sharepoint as compared to numerous small businesses, which cannot scale their investments in CAPEX IT model.
As a business user of sharepoint for a long time, Alok have experienced sharepoint evolve from its legacy MS templates and restrictions to the intuitive 2013 version. With more competition, Microsoft is being pushed to transform its interface into an easy to use version. However, still many users across organizations would still prefer platforms other than sharepoint for their easy navigation and versatility.
The crux of the issue is that sharepoint has got a mixed reaction from the IT community as a whole.