Podcast

Microsoft SharePoint 2010 features for midsized organizations

Microsoft's SharePoint 2010 is coming soon -- possibly this June. This new version of the well-known portal will offer enhanced social networking, a robust online option and improved search and application development features. However, for some midmarket companies, particularly those not currently using SharePoint, the 2010 version may be overkill.

Rob Koplowitz
Rob Koplowitz

In this podcast, SearchCIO-Midmarket.com interviews Forrester Research Inc. analyst Rob Koplowitz to learn more about what's included in SharePoint 2010, and where it might save you some time and money. From online vs. on-premise deployments to new ways to leverage the platform, find out what a midmarket IT manager should know about SharePoint 2010. Koplowitz tackles the following questions:

  • What are some of the new features in SharePoint 2010 that will be particularly useful for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs)?
  • If you aren't currently using SharePoint, should you start with SharePoint 2010?
  • If you do decide to take the plunge, what are some of the barriers to adoption?
  • It the online version of SharePoint a good fit for SMBs that don't want the hassle of an on-premise implementation?
  • What about security concerns? What should you keep in mind as you're evaluating these online options?
  • If you already have SharePoint deployed on-premise, does it make sense to bring in some of the online capabilities?
  • With these new features and changes, how do you think businesses and IT departments will use SharePoint in some unexpected ways -- really stretching the platform to fit their needs?

BIOGRAPHY: Koplowitz is a principal analyst at Forrester. He serves information and knowledge management professionals and is an expert on how basic content management, instant messaging, blogs and wikis relate to enterprise usage. Koplowitz is also an expert on the emerging trend of using Microsoft Office as a front end for line-of-business information and processes. Koplowitz focuses his research on collaboration strategy, enterprise collaboration, information and knowledge management, the information workplace, instant messaging and messaging.

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Transcript

Hello. I'm Kristen Caretta, site editor for SearchCIO-Midmarket.com, and I'd like to welcome you to today's expert podcast on how a midmarket organization can get the most out of SharePoint 2010.

I'm joined today by Rob Koplowitz, a principal analyst at Forrester Research. In his current role, he serves information and knowledge management professionals and is a leading expert on how basic content management, instant messaging, blogs and wikis relate to enterprise usage and the emerging trend of using Microsoft Office as a front end for line-of-business information and processes. Rob focuses his research on collaboration strategy, enterprise collaboration, information and knowledge management, information workplace, instant messaging and messaging.

Welcome, Rob.


Koplowitz: Thanks for having me, Kristen.

As I mentioned earlier, we're here today to talk about how midmarket organizations can get the most out of SharePoint 2010. So, let's get started.

What are some of the new features in SharePoint 2010 that should be particularly useful for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs)?
Koplowitz: Well, there are a number of new things that come in with SharePoint 2010, and I don't think that any one of them is really as important as they are in the aggregate. If you look at SharePoint 2010, it is really an evolution from MOSS 2007.

MOSS 2007 came to market with a broad suite of capabilities -- some of which were quite mature, some of which were in the process of maturing. But for some SMBs, the idea of being able to have a large number of analogous capabilities available from a single system is really interesting -- less licenses, less hardware, less administrators required to run the system. So the issue becomes, how much more of these features become good enough with the new version?

The ones where we're seeing where there are a great deal of interest across the market would be in areas such as social networking -- very strong collaboration in MOSS 2007, but social networking, social technologies, really not as strong.

With SharePoint 2010, we see a very large investment on the part of Microsoft in things like social networking, blogs, wikis, activity feeds, microblogs and profiling capabilities. So, a lot of organizations are looking to move into social anyway; the fact that SharePoint 2010 comes out with a stronger offering around social -- as an area that they're interested in and as something that they can consume out of the SharePoint stack -- is it going to be good enough?

Areas like search have improved dramatically, with the SaaS acquisition becoming more highly integrated into the SharePoint stack. Content management capabilities get better. And, really, a big one that is a little less apparent because it's more of a platform capability and less of an application capability, is around application development. So, whereas MOSS 2007 had strong application development capabilities, they were really SharePoint application capabilities. You had to be a SharePoint designer. With the new version, really a good, strong studio developer, of which there are many, will be able to design for the SharePoint platform directly. So that should actually garner a lot of interest as well.

If you aren't currently using SharePoint, should you start with SharePoint 2010?
Koplowitz: SharePoint 2010 is an extension of the existing MOSS 2007 value proposition, and that was really around a broad suite of capabilities. A broad suite of capabilities are the right answer for some organizations and not the right answer for other organizations.

The fact that they are all together, that they are highly integrated, has the potential to lower costs if you can make use of a lot of the capabilities in the box. If you are looking for very rapid innovation or best-of-breed features, or you have investments in existing technologies that are already part of the SharePoint stack, another solution may be better for you. A more modular solution might be the right answer for you.

I think the … net in this, is that more things in SharePoint 2010 have become better, and some of them will become good enough. And for some organizations, the fact that there are more capabilities that are good enough will push them to the tipping point that says this is the right answer for our organization.

If you do decide to take the plunge, what are some of the barriers to adoption that you should be aware of? 
Koplowitz: I think there's a flip side to this value proposition of the broad suite. The broad suite can bring in a lot of capabilities and could potentially lower cost, but the broad suite means that you are placing a very large part of your IT strategy on a single product, on a single vendor.

Now, for some organizations that's fine. For other organizations, there might be hesitancy to do that. But the thing that is going to be true for any organization, whether it's an SMB or a large enterprise, is that if you're really going to consume a lot of the capabilities out of the SharePoint box, you're going to have to do it very strategically. You have to plan very carefully, you have to implement very carefully, you have to consider how it will integrate with existing technologies, existing processes that you might already have in place within your organization.

The one thing I would say is that organizations that look at a product like SharePoint 2010 and think it's going to be a quick-hit, quick-win, tactical-type solution, really need to take a step back and say, "This is actually a pretty broad strategy that I'm embarking on."

You can start out small, and you can start out with a quick win, but you should really have a vision towards doing this strategically over the long term.

You can start out small, and you can start out with a quick win, but you should really have a vision towards doing this strategically over the long term. If that's not something that you're interested in -- if you have point solutions that can take care of some needs or you really want to have a very targeted, best-of-breed solution for one of the workloads -- that could be a better answer for you than SharePoint.

Let's talk a little bit about the online version of SharePoint. Is the online version of SharePoint a good fit for SMBs that don't want the hassle of an on-premise implementation?
Koplowitz: If you consider the dynamic that I just mentioned, which is, it's a pretty broad strategy to undertake, then you have to look at it from the other perspective if you're looking at it as an online capability.

Online takes a lot of the issues off the table. Someone else is going to run the servers for me, somebody else is going to sign up for the service-level agreement that the servers will be up and running, somebody else is going to make sure that all the modules and all the functionality are properly implemented. For a lot of organizations, particularly in the SMB space, online could be a very attractive option.

Now, it's not necessarily the right answer for everyone. I think it's going to be the right answer for more folks than the existing online service because with SharePoint 2010, when that codebase comes online, there's going to be new capabilities in the online environment that weren't actually part of the existing online environment.

But the core dynamic is going to remain, I think, relatively the same -- which is, if you're looking for fairly basic capabilities and you want to be able to lower cost and lower risk associated with the implementation, than online could be a good option for you.

You have to keep in mind that there are two versions of online. There's dedicated online, which tends to skew towards larger organizations -- generally, Microsoft will give you guidance of about 5000 users and above. Then there's the standard version, which is the multi-tenant architecture. And they're not exactly the same.

In the standard version, you're going to be more constrained in terms of your ability to customize the environment, in terms of your ability to introduce custom code, in terms of your ability to provide integration back to on-premise systems that you still have within your organization.

Even in the dedicated environment, it's not exactly the same as running it on-premise within your organization. You're still going to be constrained in terms of introduction of custom code, ability to configure the environment exactly to your needs. But if those aren't things that you require and the economics make sense, then online is increasingly a good option.

What about security concerns? What should you keep in mind as you're evaluating some of these online options?
Koplowitz: I think the general consideration around security in any Software as a Service environment is that systems can be deployed in the cloud that are pretty secure. Now, I apologize for using the term pretty secure, but the truth of the matter is that security is not binary. It's not a question of it's secure or it's not secure -- it has to be secure. And not only secure, it has to be private and it has to be compliant. And all of these things vary organization by organization.

So one of the things that we will talk about very early on in the process when it comes to evaluating SaaS as an option, whether it's SharePoint online or any other system, is you need to bring your security people in, you need to bring your legal people in, you need to bring your HR people in. And evaluate whether or not a., the security is good enough for your organization and b., whether a cloud option is actually appropriate for your organization.

For those organizations that already have SharePoint deployed on-premise, does it make sense to bring in some of the online capabilities?
Koplowitz: I think that we're going to see a lot of organizations that end up with a hybrid model. Not all organizations, but a fair amount. And I think the way it will work will be that use case that I described -- where I really want a highly customized application and I want to integrate it with existing systems that I have within my organization. I might have a footprint of SharePoint on-premise to handle that type of use case. I might even segregate data and say, "You know what? I'm not going to put any HR data in the cloud for issues around privacy. I'm going to keep that in my data center."

But then you might have another instance, which is pretty highly interactive with the on-premise implementation where I have workspaces and basic capabilities -- and perhaps portal capabilities. And I might set up some extranet capabilities up in the cloud if I have a large, variable workforce where at some point in the year I bring in a lot of workers that are going to require access to this for some period of time, but not for an extensive period of time.

An example might be for some folks in the tax preparation business where they bring on many, many employees early in the year, but they don't maintain that workforce throughout the course of the year. Then provisioning that data up in the cloud could be a very viable option.

With these new features and changes, how do you think businesses and IT departments will use SharePoint in some unexpected ways?
Koplowitz: Well, I think that what we have yet to really discover is, what's really exciting about any new technology is, "Boy, I never expected them to use this in this way."

And I think that as folks begin to mature their SharePoint implementation, the fact that you have this suite of capabilities that's highly integrated, will start to come to the forefront as opportunity. What can I do if I potentially have business intelligence information and robust search and the ability to model processes and access expertise and access large amounts of unstructured data and access content management stores -- and I bring those things together -- what type of new processes can I create? What type of new efficiencies can I drive?

This is really the hope of this whole movement around collaboration: How can it become more deeply entwined and an enabler of core business processes? This is really the core hope of things like social networking coming into the enterprise, and SharePoint might be in an interesting position just given the breadth of capabilities and the number of things that you can integrate with directly out of the box, where some of these new processes can really emerge and be surprisingly efficient.


This was first published in April 2010

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