The Year that SharePoint Died?

I’m in a bit of a sad place right now because I’ve realized some of my fears are coming true. Since February 2012, I’ve been following SharePoint 2013 with great interest. I’ve had great hopes that SharePoint 2013 would turn out to be the one version to rule them all; that would bring peace to the collaborative world and unify all the business platform kingdoms under one benevolent ruler.

I’ll break the news to you right now. That isn’t what SharePoint 2013 has done or will do.

And that’s a good thing because if SharePoint 2013 had succeeded, it would have killed SharePoint.

Why SharePoint 2013 Will Fail

Despite the massive hype around the new versions of virtually everything Microsoft, SharePoint 2013 has failed to live up to the expectations in a vast number of areas. The Apps platform hasn’t caught on, the move to cloud first isn’t comfortable for a lot of businesses and is riddled with issues, and the community doesn’t see the major benefits that the new version offers.

Combine this with the uncertainty of features, with SharePoint Online changing and taking choice away from users (You will use Yammer or you will be in pain! We’ve killed what you loved in SharePoint 2013 social because we can! We’ll roll out new features to your employees any day we damn well please!), and quite frankly, a bit of a roadmap nightmare for SharePoint developers in all tiers, and SharePoint 2013 has ended up in a very bad place.

These issues come on top of the issues that any new version of software has, with undiscovered bugs, new features or ways of working that users need to understand, lack of vendor support, and so on. These problems aren’t unique in any way to SharePoint, but they add to the burden that SharePoint 2013 must carry and hopefully resolve.

Microsoft isn’t helping with the situation, but looks like they treat this as some sort of experiment. As SharePoint users start to love and use the new and improved social features, Microsoft announces that it will take them away and replace them with Yammer, forcibly with SharePoint online shortly and likely at least in the next version of SharePoint on-premises too.

Developers and vendors are left bewildered. When SharePoint 2010 came out, we were asked to rush to the sandbox development method, and a lot of vendors and professionals went down that path. Three years later and Microsoft announces that it was all just a joke and that sandbox development really isn’t cool at all.

This time, we’re going to rush to the promise of HTML+JavaScript Apps, which apparently is a new thing. We should do all our development in Apps now, despite Apps technically not offering anything new that cannot already be done in earlier versions or even in SharePoint 2013 without the bonds of the App engine.

Am I the only one that has a trust issue with these kinds of reversals and promises about the glorious future of a new development method? Look at how Microsoft is handling the Windows 8 Start button and boot-to-desktop situation; they can’t seem to make up their minds either way.

Further, and this may or may not be a good thing, Microsoft has left thousands of SharePoint Designer users in the dark by removing Design view from the program. These users have no incentive to upgrade or push their organizations to upgrade. Staying with SharePoint 2010 means they still have a job; upgrading to SharePoint 2013 means they need to retrain significantly, and with training budgets apparently at a all-time low, they’ll probably need to pay for that training themselves.

Ask yourself, would you really sacrifice evenings and weekends for the next maybe six months to learn something completely new that offers no real benefit to you, or would you prefer to just stay with what you already know and hope the issues goes away in the future? I commend those that choose the former, but fully understand those that simply don’t see learning SharePoint as a goal in their lives.

At the same time, many businesses realize that the investments they have made in SharePoint 2010 based solutions still work very well! SharePoint 2013 doesn’t offer any significant improvements in solving business problems, and that’s what businesses want. Technically, sure, SharePoint 2013 may have benefits, but Mark in HR doesn’t really care because his vacation tracker solution works just the same today as tomorrow. It may very well break if he upgrades to 2013, though, and in the very best of situations, he’ll have to learn how to do his work with a new interface.

I’ve previously written that I believe SharePoint 2010 may be the Windows XP of SharePoint, a platform so good that it becomes virtually impossible to get users to upgrade. I’m even more convinced now.

Why SharePoint Will Succeed

You may think this is all doom and gloom, but it’s actually quite the opposite. You see, SharePoint is still alive and kicking, and it’s kicking hard. No, it won’t be the Facebook of the enterprise, and no, it won’t compete or should even try to compete with Google Docs. It won’t be the App platform (and I mean App in the 2013 sense, not in the generic sense) that Microsoft wants.

What SharePoint will be, though, and this is why it will succeed, is an efficient money-making platform for organizations. That’s right, SharePoint gives organizations money, and organizations like that, just as much as they dislike money being taken away from them.

SharePoint’s main advantage is its ability to solve people’s problems. For organizations, this can be as simple as replacing antiquated file servers and providing better search, but it can be as complex as you can imagine.

SharePoint does this with an efficiency that no other platforms can match. In some of the private presentations I do, I’ve set up vacation tracking for HR departments, I’ve set up time sheet reporting with HTML app access for road warriors, I’ve set up CRM systems that track and suggest sales opportunities, and I’ve usually done this to a fairly complete concept within the space of roughly 75 minutes. If I have 90 minutes, I usually end up adding some workflow automation too, to get every single jaw in the room down to floor level.

This is where SharePoint truly shines; not in its ability to be everything else, but in its ability to actually help people with the problems they have, right now, that are causing them pain every day. Throw in a couple of days of getting used to working with SharePoint, and people start solving their own problems, without the need for external consultants. Sure, they’ll more often than not fall on their faces, but they’ll learn, they’ll evolve, and they’ll be happier, with fewer problems than they had without SharePoint.

In more complex scenarios, SharePoint developers can come in and provide guidance. If those those SharePoint developers know how to tie their own shoelaces, they’ll know how to build solutions that take changing needs into account so that the solution can grow and adapt with the organization. They’ll protect the vital parts of a critical solution and allow flexibility of experimentation in more casual applications. That’s not because those developers are so brilliant, it is because SharePoint has the ability to support all those scenarios and thus support a much wider range of solutions than any other platform.

Notice anything in particular about this description?

It doesn’t mention SharePoint version once.

That’s right, campers, SharePoint isn’t about versions any more than astronomy is about telescopes, to paraphrase the late Edsger Dijkstra. You can do all these things with virtually any version of SharePoint. That is good news for new users because they can jump on the SharePoint 2013 wagon and be perfectly comfortable for years to come, but it’s bad news for Microsoft because existing users have very few or no reason to upgrade.

Just a few months ago, Microsoft stated that 40% of all SharePoint installations were still SharePoint 2007 or older! That’s a statement from its users; we have no need for a new interface, we have a need to solve our problems, and we can do that with our existing version.

I’ve said this before and I don’t mind saying it again: Business problems do not change when Microsoft decides to ship a new version of their software.

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Bjørn Furuknap

I previously did SharePoint. These days, I try new things to see where I can find the passion. If you have great ideas, cool projects, or is in general an awesome person, get in touch and we might find out together.

26 thoughts on “The Year that SharePoint Died?”

  1. I know you’ve already read it yourself, Bjorn, but for your readers, I explored some of the issues and opportunities of the latest SharePoint version here: http://www.buckleyplanet.com/2013/04/a-perspective-on-sharepoint-yammer-and-microsoft.html

    I think your most tweetable comments, and that perfectly encapsulate your comments here, are:

    “SharePoint 2010 may be the Windows XP of SharePoint” and
    “Business problems do not change when Microsoft decides to ship a new version of their software”

  2. “No, it won’t be the Facebook of the enterprise, and no, it won’t compete or should even try to compete with Google Docs.”

    I agree, but if you listen to what Microsoft is promoting with Office web apps and Yammer, a customer might think that is the goal.

  3. Another great article Bjorn. I am on 2010 currently and that is unlikely to change for some years. As for something like Yammer, that is not even on the radar. Indeed at an internal presentation recently, I mentioned about putting Note board web part for comments and the look of discomfort and concern was very strong! But we have business problems and SP 2010 by and large, does a decent job of solving them.

    Microsoft’s big play is 365 and getting organisations on that platform. SharePoint and Yammer are just a non branded part of that working in the background now as a (somewhat affordable) online collaboration platform. For on-premises versions, MS know that companies are not going to upgrade quickly and will take their time to do so. If companies want social intranets, they would prefer it is on premises for security and business protection reasons. So where does Yammer fit in then if it is still in the cloud? No simple answer to that one.

  4. Great article – one thing before I comment is that anyone who has read and espouses or disruptive change and then complains about windows 8 or SP2013 has missed the point of disruptive change :-).

    Having said that, this article is precisely why I wasn’t in a mad rush with SP2013. Although after reading this I really should dust off that SharePoint Fatigue Syndrome article for 2013…

    Paul

    1. I wouldn’t chalk up all of the channel noise to people feeling uncomfortable with disruptive change. Having a tire explode while driving down the freeway could be construed as disruptive change to my drive home, but its not a good thing.

      Having said that, there are certain indisputable changes happening here: mobile is displacing all other formats, agile is the new norm, cloud will become the primary delivery model, and social will become as pervasive as VoIP has quickly become. Whether or not people like these things, they are happening. But *how* companies make this transition is open to critique.

      I think people just need to ask themselves — am I complaining about the inevitable, or providing feedback on how Microsoft is making this transition?

      1. Christian,

        I’m not sure I agree that this change is inevitable. Unless there is a value being added that organizations can not reap using other means, then I don’t see SharePoint as fitting into the profile of “what must come” in terms of more modern ways of working on the web.

        SharePoint has always failed when it tries to be everything. It has taken 6 years to get SharePoint web content management to the state it is now, for example, and already it is looking old and clumsy compared to other frameworks. The app model may be cool if you have a mobile device and needs to find the weather reports or local taxi numbers when you land in a new country, but in terms of companies building mission critical solutions around $9 ‘apps’ I don’t see the benefit. If there was a need, it would have been filled already, and the lack of adoption of Apps from the community and from customers indicate that the need is mostly that of Microsoft, not its users.

        I have no problems adopting change. I have no problems looking at new ideas favorably. I push hard when new technology or methods make sense. I do have a problem with Microsoft having huge problems and trying to divert attention from those problems by giving us new shiny things to distract us.

        .b

        1. And I wasn’t talking about Microsoft in the terms of what is inevitable — those things I point out ARE happening. How Microsoft reacts and adapts is more or less what people are churning about. That was my point.

  5. Very good reading. There are those of us that are full-time SharePoint professionals who are wondering if the horse we backed is trying to buck us now, but it’s important to remember the XP factor – businesses that have adopted these systems will be holding on to them for at least five years. Hell, there are still some folks out there running 2003. We’re primarily upgrading to 2013 this year for the better searching and branding, as well as long-term maintenance goals. Hope v16 recovers some lost ground here.

  6. Björn,
    Very well put. What amazes me is that the mistakes being made by Microsoft management are below software business 101 level. As a 30+ year veteran of software (3 start-ups to public offerings), it is unbelievable the basic mistakes that are being made! Many of us in the vender world are repeatably “stunned” at the basic missteps being made with the upgrade process, especially in the Office 365 SharePoint Online area. Whatever happened to backward compatibility?

    There are several instances of Microsoft being quoted as saying that “upgrades will work as long as you use SharePoint in its basic form with no customizations”. “Customizations” are using things like Workflows, custom lists etc! Does Microsoft ever talk to their customers? SharePoint in it most basic form is not usable by end-users.

    It seems to me that the company was taken over by the Gee Wiz we need to be Apple crowd, and forgot that their primary customerbase (and strength) is not consumers sitting at home surfing the web and facebook, but rather businesses running real operations. We all want to use the latest offerings, but not at the cost of rewriting everything we have built over the last 5-10 years.

    What worries me most as a parter who loves SharePoint and the Microsoft platform is that despite it being a great platform, it may lose credibility due to poor business decisions from its owners.

  7. The SharePoint platform has turn into an integral tool and has turn out to be a important a part of organization processes of various enterprise enterprises all over the world nowadays.

    1. Yeah, that is about as meaningful as hiring your spam company Tatvasoft to do anything even remotely connected with SharePoint. You and your company are idiots and any client that hires you must be stupid. What does it say about “SharePoint experts” that have to spam blog comments, souring the community, in order to get work when you can’t spit on the street without hitting a client begging to have you work for them?

      You are the epitome of what’s wrong with the SharePoint community.

  8. Sharepoint is a monstrosity of multi server infrastructure that mimics what lotus notes does with just one of the many templates you get out if the box in one simple install with just one server. Sharepoint was a Frankenstein experiement

  9. Microsoft is evil and they lie a lot like they promised in case of VISTA operating system..made so many promises to customers to bring this and that in upcoming updates but at the end they simply apologized and rolled back Vista but didn’t facilitate those vista customers when they released windows 7. Microsoft sux really back bad.

  10. I’m a full-time SharePoint Admin/Site Developer. I’d like to say that people love SharePoint once they get used to it, but that’s just not true. The vast majority of people use SharePoint for only one reason: THEY ARE FORCED TO USE IT.

    People are extremely adaptable and can become accustomed to using SharePoint and workflows, but please don’t kid yourselves – THEY DON’T LIKE IT.

    Low SharePoint adoption rates are nearly universal. They save files on their desktops until they are forced to check in/check out files in SharePoint. They prefer email over ANY SharePoint workflow. Yes, I earn my living with SharePoint, but I’m still convinced that SharePoint is NOT READY for ANY business application.

    * Its flaws are too numerous to mention.
    * Its difficulty level reduces the average employee to tears.

    When our CIO (in his mid-thirties) needs a document, he instructs his secretary to retrieve it for him. He simply refuses to use SharePoint 2010. Now, you might say that my CIO is an ass, and I would likely agree, but that’s not going to change his mind. He has no intention of ever using SharePoint although it is deployed throughout the enterprize and has been since 2003.

    As a SharePoint Administrator and Site Developer, I wish the product was truly ready for prime time.

  11. I’m so sick of working with ScarePoint, I don’t even want to live any longer. Does that sound bad? Good. 2013 is a nightmare. Workflow Manager? Give me a break. Customizing anything is a horrific waste of time.

  12. We have a simple integration need to save files produced by our software into SP and the grief, THE GRIEF, it causes …..
    In despair , we’ve told whoever wanted this feature to go away .
    they came back.
    One consultant (fired) later it was still not done.
    We went to another – a room full of them, they said: ” we won’t do it for you. we started trying to use SP as a document management system, but after weeks of trying to basic things, we just wrote our own DMS in c# “.
    and still the client asks for this!
    but their full-time SP admin cannot admin the SP back-end (nobody can), so any client-side work cannot be integrated.
    and the admin screens change and change with each release.

    …spinning plates on top of spinning plates ……

    THE example of how MS cannot organise data and so will die

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