Myth: SharePoint is for Casual Users

There’s this perception that SharePoint is for casual users versus other Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solutions that tend to cater to the power user. This is a myth propagated by the other ECM providers who try to focus everyone on the features lacking in SharePoint.

Prior to SharePoint 2007 you’d be hard pressed to call SharePoint an ECM platform. SharePoint was positioned as a collaboration platform, but really it wasn’t much more than a glorified file share, and it didn’t have anywhere near the traction of what we’ve seen post 2007. In 2007 Microsoft added some basic document management capabilities and SharePoint just took off.

 

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SharePoint 2001/2003

Document Libraries

Document Versioning

Metadata

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[one_third]

SharePoint 2007

Content Types

Information Management Policies

Records Center

Apply Holds

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[one_third_last]

SharePoint 2010

Managed Metadata

Multi-stage Retention

Records Libraries

Document Sets

Document IDs

Content Organizer

In-Place Records Mgmt

Email and File Routing

Remote Storage

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I’ve been in the business for a long time, and I always found myself wondering how the industry sustained its price points. When I ran Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies in the mid-90’s we developed our own web based document management solution from the ground up with a couple of developers. We often competed with solutions built by the big guys where the customer just needed basic document management.  Customers would look at our price as too good to be true and many just chose to pay more out of fear.

When Microsoft offered similar capabilities with SharePoint they opened the door to many people who simply couldn’t afford mainstream ECM offerings. The reality is that this casual user versus power user discussion has more to do with economics. I assure you casual users find SharePoint harder to use than many other ECM offerings. That’s a big part of the issue we’re addressing at Vizit.

I’ve heard Microsoft employees position SharePoint as providing the plumbing on which you build your house. Over the last ten years we have seen ECM gradually move from being an application to being considered infrastructure. Microsoft has the advantage of having considered it infrastructure from day one versus FileNet (IBM) or Documentum (EMC). Power users love this approach as it is very developer friendly. Casual users find SharePoint intimidating and unless you have a skilled partner (or Vizit) they struggle to embrace it.

This isn’t an issue of casual versus power user. Power users are the strongest advocates of SharePoint, and casual users are the skeptics. This is an issue of how much you pay to achieve a goal. The economics are so skewed in Microsoft’s favor that the other guys simply want to fight a different fight. If we do a little work to cater to the casual user (which is what we’ve done at Vizit) it will be game up with SharePoint the clear winner. Many people think we are already there.