Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sharepoint and the “Others”

If you watch the TV show “Lost” you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say that Sharepoint is one of the survivors of Oceanic flight 815 and Documentum, Open Text, IBM, Oracle are the “Others”: the ones who are indigenous in the ECM space, the island. The Others are adept at moving around on the island. They know the lay of the land and the dangers that lurk at every turn on the trail.

Sharepoint is poised to set up camp on the easy to reach, safe locations like the nice beaches, or in the collaboration and project oriented areas of the enterprise. The Others will lurk in the deep jungle holding onto their strongholds. As Sharepoint becomes more equipped to fight the Others and outsmart them, the old patterns of ECM will evolve; Sharepoint propogates and splits into factions; there is no central goal or common standards in the way Sharepoint is used and spread.

This Sharepoint scenario is very similar to the internet boom. Remember what happened when the first wave of intranets hit? Individual business units spun their own websites overnight and they catered to their own unit’s requirements. Everyone was happy among themselves in their own insulated groups until the Others took out their sticks and started asking questions like, “what’s your metadata model?”, or “does this site scale?”, and “Can you search this thing”, “do you have a review and publishing process?”, and so on.

These “shadow IT” groups were slowly consolidated, shunned, taken off island, until at last a centralized ECM solution was implemented. The ECM solution was great for IT, with its centralized support and architectures. The problem was it took an act of god to add new functionality and it was expensive. The more centralized the ECM solution got, the more business units wanted to break away and fulfill their own needs. Enter Sharepoint: small and uncoordinated at first. But now with SP 2010 the Others are no longer that dangerous. The Others needed to evolve, but did not morph fast enough. The Others now are hiding in the strong holds of records management, index/search, business and forms processing, case management, scanning, and license agreements. The Others will be forced out eventually to face Sharepoint. Google and open source will follow in pursuit as well.

Meanwhile as business units go wild with Sharepoint and architects run behind them trying to put RM, metadata standards, storage in place, Sharepoint will be dealing with its own issues. The silos of information will not be fixed by technology, by search. Info silos will only be fixed by continuously evolving and releasing easier ways to institute standards and conventions around organizing/normalizing data and content. As soon as the structure of lists in Sharepoint is deployed, the structure will have to change. Sharepoint may well go the way of individual intranets. Getting the business as a whole to agreed on certain rules and policies and to comply with best practices is the real issue and IT can't do it alone.

Let’s hope the user’s obsession with the UI will go away and a new vision of usefulness and knowledge building and sharing will arise. Knowledge Management of the 90’s is just morphing into collaboration and search. Who knows what, where, when, how, and why is the framework to design to. Integration of desperate services by common interoperable factors (CMIS) is one of the keys. The Others have known this, but have been driven to distraction by profits and the friuts of the jungle. Now, as the island is rumbling for change, the Others will have to change their tactics and listen to the island for future instructions.


Andrew B said...

Nice piece, although I lost track of "Lost" ages ago ...

In the second last paragraph, last sentence "compile" should be "comply" and "along" should be "alone.

Keaaa said...

Thanks for this piece I haven't finished it yet but wanted to mention that you may want to fix the references in the first paragraph. There seems to be confusion between product names and product makers. In the "OTHERS" list, Documentum is a product owned by EMC. Separately SharePoint is owned by Microsoft. Where as Open Text, Oracle, IBM are vendors. Could you indicate the comparable product names instead?