I’m somewhat surprised at the responses to the SharePoint Sucks series that I’ve been running. My first surprise was that this didn’t spark a flame war. Although that was not my intention, I had expected people to fire up and call me names my mother shouldn’t hear.
My second surprise was that most of the comments I got agreed, more or less, with the statements I made. Most of the comments, emails, tweets, and offline discussions I’ve had have so far said that this makes perfect sense, even if many people don’t want to use the word suck.
However, keep your comments flowing. If you hate me, fine, let me know. If you agree, well, let me know that as well. And if you don’t care, just skip on over to some other topic that interests you.
I’ve gotten a couple of community responses that I think deserves a better response, so in this meta-post, I’m going to respond to those comments before I post the third part of this series.
asked in a comment to the previous post what would be the alternative to letting users have the freedom to create their own solutions.
I don’t think there are general recommendations that can be applied to just any situation. Would you allow users to express their creativity with the company web site? How about the accounting system? Just add a few workflows to skip the payouts to managers is creative enough that you’d be thrown in the brig for years.
In a wiki site, of course users should express their creativity in adding and updating content. Does that mean they should express their creativity in modifying master pages so that your solution no longer follows company guidelines?
Even from a technical point of view, users can kill a SharePoint server very easily, for example through custom workflows in SharePoint Designer. So, you’re back to having to teach your users to design these in a safe manner, and suddenly it’s not that easy or cheap after all.
My point is that users are not competent enough to be given the freedom that SharePoint can provide. They need to learn a lot about application architecture, functional logic, be updated on company policy, learn about usability standards, and a lot of other topics.
Again, I want to point out, as I did in the previous post, that creating business solutions is not for the faint of heart, and the requirements for understanding both the business and the technical logic haven’t decreased even if the entry point is far lower than it used to be. If you want to empower your users to create their own business logic, you’d better tell them that it will take a whole lot of precautions, architecting, and development if they plan on maintaining a useable environment.
SharePoint gives the users freedom to cause even more havoc than they already can. Either bolt everything down or let go; it’s up to you, but it’s probably a more difficult choice than most people are aware.
Show Me Something Better!
Several comments, and I’m not going to single out any individual here, argues that SharePoint is the best there is, and that if I am to say that SharePoint sucks, I also need to give a better alternative.
Sure! Minesweeper is a better alternative. To be more precise, Minesweeper is better than SharePoint if your requirements are to have a good time for 5 minutes. Now, you’ll probably say that I’m talking rubbish, since it’s a stupid comparison, and you’d be correct. I may not be able to tell you which alternative is better without knowing the requirements.
However, the fact that perhaps no other alternative is better at exactly what SharePoint does means nothing. A serious sunburn is preferable to losing a limb or a heart attack, but it’s still not good.
So no, I’m not going to give you an alternative that’s better than SharePoint at what SharePoint does, because the question is constructed so that SharePoint would always be the best alternative.
Am I Lying?
Dave McMahon, one of the newly appointed MVPs, and congratulations and good luck with that, wrote a response in his blog that he doesn’t think SharePoint sucks and why he thinks I don’t think SharePoint sucks. If he were correct, however, it would make me a liar. I do think SharePoint sucks.
Dave points out that, compared to starting an ASP.NET application from scratch, SharePoint will save you tons of time, because it already has a lot of features for content management, collaboration, publishing, Office and workflow integration, etc.
However, why compare to starting an ASP.NET application from scratch? Of course it’s better than starting from scratch. Heck, if you need a word processor, SharePoint will save you tons of time compared starting with a blank class library and building your own. That doesn’t make SharePoint a good word processor.
Compare apples to apples, and SharePoint to competing products. Comparing SharePoint to junk and saying SharePoint’s better doesn’t do anyone any good.
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