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Is SharePoint Going To Die?

I get asked this question a lot, I generally suspect it is because at first glance with SharePoint it takes a fair amount of resources to run a well-architected, organized, and maintained portal for an arbitrary organization, which I think is partially accurate. However, I don’t consider that is a fault of SharePoint as a product, rather I just believe that it is collaborative software as a whole breed being introduced to virgin organizations. As the breed continues to grow and evolve, becoming more of an arm of the enterprise body, I think that is bound to become even more complex and involved, demanding more resources form the organization. Quite honestly, I would not be surprised if larger companies started to dedicate more committed personnel into their communication and collaboration initiatives by the creation of entirely new positions that are responsible for those types of tasks.

Anyways, back to the question. To be honest, it usually just isn’t that one, it is usually a twofold one.

The first question is:

1) If and when do you think SharePoint is going to die?

Shortly followed by the second:

2) What are we going to do if SharePoint dies?

My first answer is I don’t think SharePoint is going anywhere for quite some time. The reasons for this are kind of disjointed, long, and numerous, so I will keep it to what I consider being one of an important three.

I think at the current moment a lot of people are buying into SharePoint as a secondary piece of software; however it is slowly engraining itself into corporations as becoming more of an operating system or some other type of central nexus for Office clients. So whereas you say Some Portal Thing, some might say the Beginning The Web Enablement of Office. You say it’s just a floating piece of software, I say it is a platform bringing important business concepts, and important business initiatives, (i.e. we can just say simply collaboration as an example of this), to a company. I don’t consider it to simply by a tool, I believe it brings more to the table then that. It breeds ideas and concepts, it doesn’t just simply provide some piece of functionality.

Familiarity I also think is a big portion. I think that following its proper deployment, it sort of builds dependencies from users, once people really start to become intertwined in it, taking that functionality away would be nothing but detrimental to a company. While I think this is mainly because of the familiarity talked about in the above, I believe that in a lot of the ways SharePoint tends to force business process creation within a company where they might not have existed previously. Familiarity too also spawns from the administration standpoint. I mean, you get WSS with Server 2003, and you already know Server 2003, so why not expand that knowledge to engrained products?

While these are kind of an abstract reasons, we can also look at it empirically as simply a sunk investment in Office, organizations already have a high familiarity and usage rate of Office versus other client office suites, and therefore it only make sense to harness that experience against more radical technologies that improve the overall information worker experience. I mean, nuff said right?

Lastly, I think that it is becoming much easier to develop (arg) in comparisons to past versions (2003 was torrential even though that was partly the fault of Visual Studio at the time). While the portability of WebParts against the new framework is consistent so movement between CMS framework assuming it is .NET would be minimal, I think that SharePoint handling a lot of the things I normally hate as a developer such as site design, etc. is kind of nice (even though I don’t think this makes up for the lack of a visual design surface in some type of IDE). Because there is some cost associated with developing against SharePoint (since you might be using SPList’s for data storage etc.) and familiarity has been grown while the application is housed in the company portal, this also makes SharePoint a rather permanent addition to a companies IT organization.

There are a bunch of other reasons, I am sure; however these were the big three that I could think of off the top of my head. I think the big thing to consider is either software dies, or it improves. The best mentality to take away from this is a platform, not typically secondary application software, tends to have a high chance of survival, meaning it tends to continue to innovate. We have seen this leaps and bounds between the versions of SharePoint.

As a side note, in my opinion it often makes sense for a lot of organizations to buy into the stack of a company as well, sometimes it is just easier and makes better business sense from an upgrade, maintenance, and support standpoint (I am not saying it is for all organizations since some seem to do fine with a combination of OpenOffice and LifeRay or JBoss Portal).

Anyways, I might expand on this post later, I am tired of writing this now though.

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