SharePoint for social media, and alternatives

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SharePoint offers so many services, so many bells and whistles, it is a mile wide… but only an inch deep (possibly a foot deep). SharePoint is such an effective, all-encompassing, basic solution for so many challenges and opportunities that the bulk of the services, without expensive customization, leave much to be desired – the basics are there, but the real sizzle is missing.

SAS SharePoint Intranet

SAS SharePoint Intranet. Source: sharepointdazzle

Let me state for the record: our own intranet, at Prescient Digital Media, is SharePoint 2010; about half of our clients have SharePoint (one version or the other). So this is not a typical writer with a birds-eye view of a product, relying on third-party anecdotes and quotes, this is a hands-on super-user (but not yet a super administrator). But I’m not a SharePoint MVP or reseller, and Prescient Digital Media is purely technology neutral, so we’ve worked with SP, but also dozens of other platforms and CMS solutions, commercial and open-source. Nonetheless,SharePoint 2010 leaves me wanting – wanting more of everything.

SP 2010 is very good for document management and work group collaboration, and a very elementary web content management and social media solution, supported by a better than average search function, but it is very average in most respects. In most respects, for our organization, and most of our clients, it simply isn’t worth the money, without significant investments to customize and enhance the basic platform.

Firstly, SP is expensive, right out of the box. Secondly, when you roll-out SP, there are so many features that are turned-off or don’t work as promised that it’s shocking to think my phone is not ringing off the hook with complaints. When we launched SP 2010, Search was not working, neither was My Sites – as well as a boatload of other services that should be out-of-the-box. Several months in, we still can’t get the My Newsfeeds to work for My Sites – this is the hallmark of the native social networking feature set in SP 2010.

This is not a rant about SharePoint. SP 2010 is, as I stated, very good for document management and work group collaboration, and is a great .NET development platform for building so much more. But so much more often requires a lot of customization that can be tricky, and expensive. Of course,there is social media, there is web content management, and a plethora of other services you that the vast majority will never think to use, but no best-of-breed services (not even close).

This is a fantastic solution for some organizations; but many other organizations would be better served by alternatives. Oh, some may say that SP 2010 has so much that you never need to even think about other solutions. Well, my friends, there are hundreds – thousands perhaps – of vendors and contractors that make a living out of improving and augmenting SP 2010. If SP 2010 solved all problems (and Microsoft doesn’t claim that it will or should, but you have to admit their marketing is very effective), then this billion dollar augmentation industry would not exist.

I will review SharePoint 2010 for social media, and showcase some alternatives and some effective examples and case studies in next week’s IABC webinar, SharePoint & social media in the workplace. If you’re using SharePoint, or thinking of it, or thinking of any social media investment, you’d better reserve your spot on this webinar on May 11, 2011.

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  1. Jenay Sellers

    Hi Toby,

    Are you familiar with NewsGator?

    We’ve been improving SharePoint for a while now; we have solutions that integrate with SharePoint 2007 and 2010. We, like you, agree that it’s a great platform. However, the social features out of the box don’t tell the same story that many of the popular consumer social tools do. We realized this early on and decided to try and enrich the SharePoint social offering by developing Social Sites. Our product integrates directly with SharePoint and adds the social functionality, among other things, that you might be looking for, like improved microblogging, an aggregated activity stream, a full range of mobile clients, and rich social insights.

    And yes, even though its further customization, we feel that our product offers an extremely diverse range of capibilities that will greatly improve user experience, helping increase adoption and driving productivity. If you’re looking to improve the social capabilities of Microsoft SharePoint, I suggest you give NewsGator Social Sites a closer look. Thank you!

    • Toby Ward

      I’m very familiar with NewsGator, and have met with J.B. Though he has since “unfollowed” me on Twitter, I still consider NewsGator a viable solution.

  2. Eric Landry

    Hey Toby, A very sound perspective. It is not the be-all and end-all (and I make my living in this space as you may know).

    My first objective when working with customers is to get away from the features and gadgets and concentrate on the business problem. We can make the system do anything, with the right feature selection, and of course customization. But that expectation needs to be set from square one. Business analysis discussions should never begin with the technology and features (regardless if the enterprise has already made the tool selection).

    That said, a similar case of shortcomings/lack of depth could be made for other products such Livelink or Websphere. They are platforms that in reality need customization to perform within any business’ unique context.

    Cheers, Eric

  3. Toby Ward

    Yes, every technology, and every commercial and open source solution has pros and cons. Ultimately, most solutions have more cons than pros — but their pros are usually very specific to certain client requirements and are enough to win business and to be a viable solution (some not all).

  4. Marcelo Cavicchioli

    Hi Toby, good know your blog.

    I’m a General manager from Zyncro Brazil and we have a very good product to complement Sharepoint into organizations. we have one connector to do that. Maybe you can try it if you don’t know yet, it’s free for 5 users and 1Gb disk space. We work with SaaS model and on premise.

    Very good Blog. Congratulations.