While I am writing this I am on my way to Cebit to attend a podium discussion on intranets. I am following the friendly invitation of Bjoern Negelmann, who, according to his words, perceives me as an “intranet expert”. Aside from all the consultants who actively sell Microsoft SharePoint, we are more likely to suffer from it.
Yes, we lose projects to companies that roll out SharePoint. But that’s not what I mean. That’s ok. It’s more our customers who suffer and that affects us in the end. SharePoint creates the following problems in our business:
Users often find it to be useless and thus don’t use it.
The best example would be a big German bank that ordered us to get rid of Confluence in their company:
“You know Atlassian tools like no other. We have over 18.000 employees that use Confluence internally. They are not supposed to. We are set on SharePoint. During our internal revision we continue to find cases where teams use Confluence. We need to change that and want your help.”
We are asked to participate in a comparison of functionalities to illustrate to users that SharePoint can just as easily be used as a collaboration tool and intranet system as Confluence. Initially, users are invited and asked. They are frustrated with SharePoint and refuse to work with it. They explain why they use Confluence. Since this doesn’t appear to take the right direction, discussions with users are stopped.
We begin to start a comparison with the SharePoint specialists in the bank. Simple things, such as publishing and collaborating on information or data. We take the time and the required clicks and check the simplicity of the process.
After four months we are kicked out of the project. The results are not suitable to get rid of Confluence. The users had gained access to the tables with the comparison to argue against SharePoint.
It is often rolled out by the IT to other parts of the organization
An introduction of SharePoint is most commonly “top-down” by management or IT. While the decision is made at the “top”, the benefit that is to be expected at the “base” of the organization is often part of the reasoning. Projects, however, are oft drafted at the core and then rolled out to the periphery. Users are often not involved in the decision making process.
Arguments like these are most frustrating for me: “Our company follows a Microsoft strategy”. Or: “Our employees work with Microsoft Office. That’s why we use Microsoft SharePoint.” Or: “It is easier for us to operate Microsoft systems”. I can relate to all these arguments, but they are simply wrong.
Microsoft strategy with cheap gas prices
It is remarkable how Microsoft has managed to inspire companies to state that they would only use Microsoft solutions. That appears just as useful as a strategy to only get gas from Shell. If Shell offers a cheap gas price, I am easily convinced to ask all my drivers to get gas there. It’s profitable. However, it quickly loses it’s appeal when the closest BP station is right down the street, while Shell is 20 minutes away. How much cheaper does the gas need to be to justify the 40 minute drive?
But back to the Microsoft strategy. It works in the same way. My company wants to use Office & Co. by Microsoft. It costs <a shitload > of money. The friendly Microsoft consultant offers the carefree-Microsoft-strategy-enterprise-license. Only costs <a shitload> of money. Now I can just start using SharePoint. No extra costs. Just pay <a shitload> of money once ayear and then everything is free.
Do I need to build my intranet with SharePoint then? Not at all. Is SharePoint the best solution for my employees? Most likely not. If I find out another system works better than SharePoint, it’s just like the Shell station that is too far away. It makes sense to choose a solution that works for the requirements, and not fixate on generalizations.
Our employees work with Microsoft Office and that’s why we use Microsoft SharePoint.
Yes, that’s a good point. The world lives in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. If those are my tools today, a fully integrated product like SharePoint is a suitable addition. And that’s probably why SharePoint is so successful. The problem is, that even the status quo is a problem.
Your employees use files. Files are already out of date. They exist in various versions and are in the way of quick and good collaboration. Even Microsoft has noticed and now fully uses Cloud and web interfaces. That’s where everyone works in the same version that is always available to everyone in it’s current version.
Microsoft has already changed course so strongly, that they have almost lost the SharePoint community. No “behind the firewall” version will be offered for SharePoint in the future, it was said in the circles. The organization later announced that that is not the case. A new version is planned for three years from now. And at Microsoft they have not planned for time spans larger than that. We shall see.
It’s a fact that files as we know them today will no longer exist five to 15 years from today. So it’s not a sustainable argument that Excel and Word is better integrated in SharePoint. And even if that is a concern, there are systems that also offer great and strong integration of files.
It appears that Microsoft will do that well. But we hear from our Confluence users that they prefer the integration of Office documents in Confluence. I can’t judge that. The quick reasoning only works at the surface.
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