Saturday, December 22, 2007

Under the radar

Had occasion to be in a bookshop today and was drawn to the computer section. Great, I thought, I'll see if I can find a good book on Sharepoint 2007. Suffice to say that sadly, there wasn't one.
There were two very ordinary books on Sharepoint 2003 and the third on Sharepoint 2007 was actually more about programming Sharepoint 2007 using .ASP and dotNet.
As the year draws to close I am asking myself more and more why small to medium businesses don't user Sharepoint. Firstly, I think most SMB businesses don't even know that Sharepoint exists, that if they have Small Business Server 2003 they probably alreday have Sharepoint and if not then it is free to download! Reason number two is simply tha fact that Microsoft don't market it very well at all. All their marketing is aimed at the enterprise end of town which kinda understands intranets and portals. Thirdly, most businesses are not willing to invest the time to learn the product. I hear it all the time, "Ah yes, that looks great but I'd rather stick with my three known menu items in Word thank you very much. That looks far too complicated to me".
So Sharepoint 2007 continues to fly under the radar. Maybe one day it will be seen as they immensely helpful tool that it is. I wonder whether the spreadsheet had this much trouble getting off the ground? "Ah yes, that looks all well and good but I really prefer writing things down with my trusty pencil and paper. Look I can even erase the data if I need. Can your fancy SPREADSHEET do that?"
It is immensely frustrating to try and get people to understand a tool that will really lead to major productivity benefits in their business. I can't begin to tell you how much time and effort Sharepoint saves in my business. A good example was this week when a client asked me to reconfigure a complex email fowarding setup in Exchange server. Now I didn't intially set this up so trying to work out what the hell was going on was very time consuming. However, once I had it all worked out I added all the details of the configuration to our customer specific knowledge base in Sharepoint 2007 so that when this configuration needs to be altered in thre future at least it will be much easier to work out where to start.
I know that the take up of Sharepoint 2007 isn't really going to pick up until Microsoft puts some more marketing effort behind the product. But, thinking out it, why should they as Windows Sharepoint Services is free? Why would Microsoft spend marketing dollars in promoting a free piece of software?
So it looks like a battle on all fronts. Firstly, to make customers aware of the product. Secondly, to make them actually understand the product and finally to encourage Microsoft to put some marketing muscle behind the product.
Hopefully as a great man once said - It always looks darkest before the dawn.