SharePoint and Connectors


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If you have SharePoint, I don’t see any reason why an organization would have a connector between MOSS and Lotus Quickr/connections or eRoom/CenterStage or Oracle’s Beehive. They are all really competitors to each other. My recommendation to any client is to standardize on 1 platform from 1 vendor (where possible) for the following reasons:

1. If you don’t standardize, it’s almost like an organization having multiple email systems — it just doesn’t make sense.

2. It also doesn’t make sense from a cost perspective — as you’d be paying for multiple licenses for the same people.

3. Learning curve – multiple systems means learning how to do the same stuff in different web interfaces. It’s confusing.

4. The big challenge is information governance or information management — and that’s why you want to standardize on 1 platform from 1 vendor.

However, the reality is that many organizations have different lines of businesses, business needs, budgets, and politics — and you wind up with multiple silos of information. There is a trend to consolidate/standardize because of SharePoint. Microsoft as you know has the largest community of developers and there are so many SharePoint tools (built on top of SharePoint) that make it easier to administer or migrate data to SharePoint or manage workflows, etc….   IBM/Lotus, Oracle, and EMC all need to do more to compete with Microsoft and expand/open up their developer community to gain adoption (at least in my opinion).

So if you’re comparing SharePoint against competitors and you are thinking about opportunities for connectors/integration, first understand what the SharePoint “eco-system” includes. Microsoft has the pie-chart which I’m sure you’ve seen.

 Untitled

                          Pie chart courtesy if Microsoft

I tend to view SharePoint as follows — and my diagram below allows you to compare the competition better and see where there might be potential for integration/connectors:

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· Communication: Oracle(beehive), Microsoft(SharePoint/exchange/live communications), IBM(notes/websphere) all have technology that address Communication — with portals, instant messaging, email, enterprise messaging and unified communications. EMC has no technology for communications.

· Collaboration: Oracle (beehive), Microsoft (SharePoint), IBM(quickr), and EMC (eroom/centerstage) all have technology that address collaboration. You can even include Alfresco, Opentext, and others smaller traditional content management players all who have collaborative features now.

· Community: all the web 2.0 stuff — social computing, blogs, wikis, communities, profiles/expertise location, social networking, etc.. Again, Oracle, Microsoft (SharePoint), IBM (connections), and EMC (centerstage) all have technology that address web 2.0. You might even include smaller players like Jive Software.

· Content: This is your traditional content management and records management. Oracle, Microsoft (Content Svr/SharePoint), IBM(filenet), EMC(documentum), OpenText, Alfresco, etc…

Vendors like Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle all have solutions that address all 4 Cs in the diagram — but they don’t address all 4 Cs very well. SharePoint doesn’t address content or records management well and SharePoint web 2.0 functionality is okay out of the box — you really need to customize it. IBM/Lotus Connections is good for social computing/web 2.0 — but Quickr is poor for team collaboration (in my opinion). EMC addresses 3 out of 4 Cs very very well with CenterStage and Documentum. As for Oracle, from what I’ve seen of beehive it looks impressive and the integration with Oracle ERP/CRM systems might drive sales for beehive — but I don’t know what Beehive costs or how Oracle will foster user adoption of beehive.

The bottom line is that no matter where the digital information lives (in an email, or blog, or team space, or instant message, etc…) — at the end of the day, it all needs to become an official corporate record. And that is where the biggest business driver lies for a connector/integration — e-discovery and records management. This challenge is the same in every client I’ve worked with in both the private and public/government sectors. EMC’s new product SourceOne focuses on email and records archiving (with or w/o Documentum for retention policies). EMC also has their own “SharePoint connector” for Documentum. In the IBM eco-system — the integration between Quickr/connections and Filenet will become tighter over time. I’m not familiar with integration between SharePoint and Filenet (but I’m sure it exists if you Google it). Opentext has made many recent announcements about their integration with SharePoint.

Beyond records management, other business drivers for connectors might be very “business process” specific. For example, in Pharma, they have Documentum used as a “validated” environment for regulatory submissions and digital signatures. Or maybe contract management where all the sales is done on SharePoint and then the contract is pushed to a more robust content management system sitting in Legal. Or perhaps you collaborate on content in SharePoint and need to “publish” to a more robust and structured web content management system outside of SharePoint. The only other place I could see a connector/integration is with portals. If a company uses IBM websphere portal and decides to use CenterStage/Documentum for community/collaboration/content management. Lastly, there’s the ability to search across any and all silos of information — which presents an opportunity for connectors. And EMC has a product for that and so does IBM.

So when you think of connectors for SharePoint — think in terms of solutions or business processes: global search, regulatory submissions, contract management, mortgage applications, portal integration, and of course records management and e-discovery.    Also, make sure you understand the one problem with any connector is that you are connecting 2 different systems with 2 different object models and potentially 2 different UIs and 2 different memberships/security structures.  

The fact is that SharePoint can effectively eliminate the need for any of this type of integration (because it has features for global search, portals, workflows, web publishing etc…).    Again, SharePoint may just not scale enough or be robust enough for large organizations who have relied on traditional search/document/content/records management systems for heavy lifting.  However, over time Microsoft will improve as they have in the past with MS Office, MS SQL Server and almost all the products they release. Microsoft may not always be the best at first, but they are so focused on gaining 80% marketshare over time.  (Of course whether MSFT can overtake ipod or rimm is questionable and remains to be seen…I’m not sure I could live w/o my ipod or blackberry).

 

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4 Responses to “SharePoint and Connectors”

  1. Some very interesting points raised here, which has got me thinking!

  2. all good questions.

    As far as I know there will be social computing enhancements in SP 14 some time in 2010.

    As for offline support — it’s limited with Outlook. I’m guessing SP14 and enhancements to Groove integration might address that. But that’s just speculative.

    As for mobile support – I’ve already seen sharepoint on mobile devices. This will get better overtime. All vendors including IBM, Oracle, and EMC are focused on mobile support with their E2.0 products.

  3. When will sharepoint have enterprise scalability and robustness? Social bookmarking? a better blog engine? A better wiki engine? offline support ? mobile support ? Is it coming in Sharepoint 14? If so, great! But when is that going to be released?

    Thanks!

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