Would you like to quickly find information that you know your company has in its files... somewhere? You can do that with Microsoft® SharePoint®.
Would you like to work closely with teams in different locations, always keeping on top of who’s doing what? You can do that with SharePoint.
Would you like to set up an extranet to securely share documents with major customers? You can do that with SharePoint.
If you’re thinking of adopting SharePoint in your enterprise, here are six key concepts that every manager should know.
Microsoft says SharePoint is one of the fastest-growing applications in the company’s history. In 2009, SharePoint generated $1.3 billion in revenues from an installed base of 100+ million users.
Microsoft no longer breaks out SharePoint sales, but analysts say it has continued to surge. For example, a recent Gartner report calls SharePoint “the most widely used document- and collaboration-centered platform.”
“Last year, Microsoft leapfrogged Oracle and moved ahead of IBM, so they’re now leading that space decisively,” says Jeff DeVerter, SharePoint Architect at Rackspace® Hosting. “Many vendors that were competitors in the past are now expecting SharePoint to be there in every enterprise.”
In other words, SharePoint has won the battle for the enterprise.
What this means for managers: SharePoint is a top-rated product that will be around for many years to come. If you’re thinking of adopting it, you’re backing the right horse.
Far beyond one application, SharePoint is a full-featured suite of many different apps. These include:
• content management
• enterprise social networking
• intranet, extranet and portal creation
• collaboration tools
• project and workflow management
• business intelligence
• enterprise search
Companies use SharePoint to do many different things, or to do the same thing in many different ways. For example, one team may set up an online portal with SharePoint’s out-of-the-box look and feel, while another puts the effort into making that portal match the rest of the company’s web presence.
What this means for managers: SharePoint contains many applications that can be set up in many ways. Managers need to define how the platform will be used.
Before jumping into SharePoint, it makes sense to develop a plan for how your team can best use it.
As a minimum, this plan should cover:
• A “taxonomy” (set of classes and naming conventions) for data stored in SharePoint
• Which pieces of SharePoint will be used and by whom
• Who will support each group of SharePoint users
“In the end, SharePoint is a tool, and tools alone don’t solve problems,” says DeVerter. “A tool should be used as part of a plan to solve a problem.”
What this means for managers: Managers must ensure that a sensible plan is in place for setting up SharePoint and storing information with it.
“The biggest challenge in troubleshooting SharePoint problems,” says Shane Young, – SharePoint MVP, “is you have to be an expert with both the underlying technologies and SharePoint itself because the problem is rarely very clear. Finding people with both skill sets has proven to be very challenging.”
For SharePoint to work properly, all these other technologies must be running perfectly:
• Structured Query Language (SQL) database(s)
• Internet Information Server (IIS)
• Active Directory
• Domain Name System (DNS)
• enterprise networking
• incoming and outgoing e-mail servers
• and more
Any misconfiguration, glitch or failure in any of these components can cause SharePoint to fail. When that happens, all that an end user may see is that a portal they want to access has gone offline. The actual cause will likely be hidden deep in the company’s IT infrastructure.
What this means for managers: SharePoint technical support and system administration cannot be an afterthought; these should be part of the initial planning.
It’s no surprise that SharePoint system administration is a big challenge.
“SharePoint has frequently been deployed in a bottom-up or distributed fashion, often outside of the scrutiny or guidance of strategic IT. This is changing as companies realize its potential and its risks,” reports Gartner.
For example, business users can install the software piecemeal, choosing only the bits and pieces they plan to start with. Years later, IT may have to “clean up” the platform by re-installing and reconfiguring SharePoint in a more organized, enterprise way.
Business users can draw on SharePoint’s tools to develop mini-apps for team members. But these users are not likely trained in best practices in software development, so these homegrown apps may be riddled with unpredictable bugs.
Troubleshooting any SharePoint outage takes time. And meanwhile, mission-critical work may grind to a halt. Without SharePoint, users may not be able to finish proposals, send out invoices, or interact with customers.
It’s fair to say that maintaining SharePoint takes special expertise. But not every IT team has this expertise or can keep up-to-date with such a sprawling application.
“By the time a system engineer in an enterprise has to go back and do something in a SharePoint environment, three, six or nine months may have gone by since they last touched it,” says DeVerter. “What you don’t use, you lose—whether it’s SharePoint or anything else.”
What this means for managers: It may not be realistic to expect your IT team to support such a major application by themselves. In fact, analysts say these unrealistic expectations create a considerable amount of pain among enterprises using SharePoint.
An alternative to ad hoc installs, questionable configuration and drawn-out troubleshooting can be to outsource your SharePoint hosting to a trusted third party.
A world leader in hosting, Rackspace has acknowledged expertise in Windows and has been named Microsoft Partner of the Year three times. Our team is extremely well versed in every layer of Windows technologies.
Rackspace hosts hundreds of SharePoint systems for enterprise customers, with teams of experts on hand to handle SharePoint system administration 24/7.
Rackspace executives like DeVerter regularly blog and speak to industry groups about SharePoint. And for consulting, design and development projects that aren’t our specialty, Rackspace can direct you to a trusted partner hand-picked from our growing list of SharePoint experts.
What this means for managers: Hosting SharePoint at Rackspace gives you a winning combination: the power and flexibility of this enterprise platform supported by an acknowledged leader with end-to-end expertise in Microsoft technologies.
Ironworks Consulting implements SharePoint solutions for clients of all shapes and sizes. “When we partner with Rackspace for hosting services, we know we have the support of a dedicated team of technical specialists, both during the implementation and throughout the life of the client engagement,” commented Keith Long, Director and Microsoft Practice Manager.
SharePoint brings a unique set of considerations to the implementation process, including security, network integration, and compliance if the client is a government agency or falls under regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley or HIPAA.
Rackspace specialists in SQL, Active Directory, SharePoint customization, and systems networking are a regular part of the support teams for SharePoint projects.
In 2008, Ironworks joined the Rackspace Partner Program to provide a turnkey SharePoint solution for a Fortune 500 distributor of medical supplies and healthcare supply-chain ,Management cCompany. Because of the size and complexity of the project, Ironworks was confident when recommending Rackspace as hosting partner. In addition to general support, the Rackspace team provided upfront planning, capacity planning, and issue resolution to ensure a seamless launch. Since that time, Rackspace has been providing consistent and reliable service tailored specifically to the needs of the hosted SharePoint applications.
Long went on to say, Rackspace provides the technical expertise and active engagement we need to deliver a hosted SharePoint solution.
About Ironworks Consulting
Ironworks Consulting combines strategy, technology and design services to assist clients in the development of large-scale, complex technology projects. Ironworks offers three core services: Business and IT Alignment -- developing practical strategies to help clients improve business performance; Portal and Content Management building Internet-based systems to share content, knowledge and data; and Interactive -- developing creative ideas and engaging audiences through web, mobile, and social media. Headquartered in Richmond, Va., Ironworks serves national and global clients from offices in the Washington, D.C. area, Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C., and Minneapolis, Minn. For more information, please visit http://www.ironworks.com.
If you’d like to hear from the author, please contact the Rackspace Enterprise team and we will happily schedule some time to discuss this topic further with you.
: Mary Jo Foley, “Microsoft: We’re adding 20,000 new SharePoint users a day,” All About Microsoft blog, ZDNet, 24 March 2011
: Toby Bell, Karen M. Shegda, Mark R. Gilbert, Kenneth Chin, “Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Content Management,” Gartner, 16 November 2010
: Jim Murphy, Gene Phifer, Ray Valdes, Eric Knipp, “Magic Quadrant for Horizontal Portals,” Gartner, 3 September 2010
: Shane Young, SharePoint MVP, He is the President and lead consultant of www.SharePoint911.com
: Keith Long, Director and Microsoft Practice Manager at IronWorks Consulting
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