Saturday, April 9, 2011

Happy Birthday SharePoint

This month, SharePoint turned 10 years old. Where has the time gone? Aside from making me feel old, it makes me excited about what is next. Having been involved with SharePoint since SharePoint Services 2/SharePoint Portal Server 2003, I have seen countless improvements with each release. With SharePoint 2010, the improvements have been seemingly exponential in terms of customization, administration, and integration.

If we compare SharePoint to a child, as Dan Holmes points out, SharePoint is now a “tweener”. In my experience as a father, that means that SharePoint now has a personality that clearly sets it apart from others. And now SharePoint, like a teenager, has some tough decisions to make that will shape the rest of its life. SharePoint has the full support of its parent (Microsoft) and has a solid support structure (the community). It is selling at a reported rate of 20,000 licenses per day for the last five years without enjoying all of the mainstream advertising that Windows, Office and Xbox enjoy.

But ultimately, it is going to be up to SharePoint (the product team) to determine its own success. Businesses are definitely adopting the product – probably even faster than what the product team can support. The documentation is starting to catch up and more training is becoming available, but from my vantage point it is the community that is responsible for the success SharePoint has had to date. When faced with technical challenges to business problems, SharePoint professionals often have to turn to each other to solve them – and thankfully they are usually willing and able to help.

As businesses continue to invest in SharePoint and start to leverage it in ways they were not before, it is going to be key for the product team to stay on top of that. It is a shame that some of the limitations I noticed my first week with SharePoint almost seven years ago are still limitations. For example, parent-child data relationships are a fundamental need in developing business applications. SharePoint 2010 introduced a few new features in this regard, but there is much work still to be done. I would hope that in the next release, one would still not need to use SharePoint Designer and XSL coding to develop forms that relate. I would hope that in the near future InfoPath would be able to do simple things like write to two related SharePoint lists without the need for code-behind or third party components.

More and more functionality has been added to SharePoint over the years (CMS, Performance Point, etc.), but more emphasis needs to be placed on making that functionality align with business needs. In my opinion, there are two critical success factors for the future of SharePoint:

1) The product team needs to continue to understand the fundamental needs of its customers and respond to them.

2) Training needs to go deeper than the surface level and deeper into solving problems that are more like those businesses face.

We will do what we can about the latter. Until then, Happy Birthday SharePoint!!!

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