SharePoint is not enterprise 2.0 [a zen moment]

Update 9 Sept: This post refers to the out of the box version of SharePoint. It does not apply to highly customized deployments which basically use SharePoint as the content management system backend.

That’s right. No bolding. No ALL CAPS. Just a simple statement of fact: SharePoint is not enterprise 2.0. I reached this zen moment and it only took six hours of exploring a test site alongside a SharePoint expert for me to get there. At hour six, I realized two things:

  1. The structure of SharePoint is based on the fact that people within an organization inherently do not trust one another.
  2. SharePoint plays by the Vegas mantra: What goes on in SharePoint stays in SharePoint.

While it is fine for some types of file management and communication, organizations wanting to evolve to more efficient knowledge management processes should not use SharePoint as the primary platform. “Enterprise 2.0” is supposed to be different from its “1.0” predecessor. It should help transform and evolve the way an organization’s approach to knowledge management and collaboration. Instead, SharePoint enables the old and broken ways of doing business.

It’s not that I don’t trust you…oh wait, yes it is.

It took two hours for me to fully explore and understand the convoluted permissions structure. I’m tech savvy and have worked with a number of platforms that include permissions management, but none have offered as robust a way to micromanage an individual’s every move in the space. There’s something wrong with the design of a supposed enterprise 2.0 application if that much time is devoted to teaching how to keep people out.

Back in March, Thomas Vander Wal wrote about how SharePoint is a “Gateway Drug to Enterprise Social Tools” in which he pointed out

SharePoint does some things rather well, but it is not a great tool (or even passable tool) for broad social interaction inside enterprise related to the focus of Enterprise 2.0. SharePoint works well for organization prescribed groups that live in hierarchies…this is not where organizations are moving to and trying to get to with Enterprise 2.0 mindsets and tools. The new approach is toward embracing the shift toward horizontal organizations, open sharing, self-organizing groups around subjects that matter to individuals as well as the organization.

SharePoint typifies the conundrum many organizations face when looking to improve their knowledge management sharing across groups: Do you want to harness the collective wisdom of your organization OR do you want to keep your information locked down? Logically, you can’t have both.

One size fits…none.

Dion Hinchcliff, in a 2007 post on the state of enterprise 2.0 states, “Enterprise 2.0 is more a state of mind than a product you can purchase” and emphasizes that a solid strategy can include but not be limited to the use of SharePoint.

Microsoft markets SharePoint as a “one stop shop”  for the social enterprise needs. Like other one stop shops, this one promises more than it can deliver. Far from being everything to everyone, the standard out-of-the-box SharePoint is nothing more than a file manager, calendar, workflow manager, and discussion board. Where’s the wiki? The blogs (yes, plural)? (Update 10 September: I have since re-discovered the suboptimal wiki and blog functionality that is prepackaged with SharePoint.) Since the plugins are expensive and cumbersome to integrate, you’d think it would be easy to create links to knowledge in other collaborative platforms. But no,  SharePoint…

penaltyDoesn’t play well with others.

Beyond this human approach to choosing and using a knowledge platform, however, is the technical limitations of SharePoint. Because it works only within its own ecosystem, SharePoint essentially keeps your data hostage. This alone can’t discredit it as being non-2.0 since other commercial platforms like Traction TeamPage do the same thing. Heck, even Facebook is an all-in-nothing-out kind of site, but there’s no way the Facebook isn’t 2.0, right? (right?)

This is antithetical to the way the web works and the way intranet should work. I should be allowed to create interdependencies between various social enterprise tools rather than have to only choose from a limited menu of plugins.

Again, Vander Wal pointed out that

…information is locked in SharePoint micro-silos and it is nearly impossible to easily reuse that information and share it. Not only is the information difficult to get at by people desiring to collaborate … it is not easily unlocked so that it can benefit from found in search.

As SP began as a web-based file manager, it shocked me to learn that when you edit or move a document loaded onto a SP site, the links are only updated from within SharePoint. Any links to documents from outside the SP site – say, from a blog, wiki page, or even an email – will be broken the first time the document is edited.

Microsoft – as is it’s style – even engages in monopolistic behavior since SharePoint is all but useless when using any web browser besides Internet Explorer. Gone are the days when proprietary standards were in vogue (were they ever, really?). Microsoft doesn’t seem to get that browser interoperability is what is needed and wanted, even at the enterprise level.

Let’s review, shall we?

To avoid seeming like I’m bashing poor SharePoint, let me quickly review what I’ve learned about the platform and compare it against what many still point to as the standards for judging enterprise 2.0 options: Andrew McAfee’s SLATES model:

  • Search. Good for local sites but fail enterprise-wide. Since SP excels at establishing (or maintaining) stovepipes, even discovering that the information exists is near to completely impossible.
  • Links. Nope, not from outside the SP site anyway.
  • Authorship. Nuh-uh. The key words here are “every” and “easy,” neither of which apply to working with SP.
  • Tags. Complete fail. SP is hierarchical and rigid when it comes to putting data in. And since the SP admins dictate the structure, if you’re a user, you’re stuck.
  • Extensions. Hmm, sort of, but only within your SP fiefdom.
  • Signals. Again, if you’re in, you’re in. Notifications are sent to other users of the same SP site.

So here’s your challenge: prove me wrong. Explain why SharePoint in your organization is the best thing since sliced bread. Tell me how it has transformed knowledge sharing, expert finding, reduced redundancy, increased creativity, and generally jazzes your workforce about using it.


I thought so.


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  11. Jorge Carvalho · September 10, 2009


    I’m sorry to say this is one of the poorest, and most miss-informed posts I’ve seen this far from the SharePoint bashing collection.

    Blogs, Wikis and forums, although far from being excelent tools, and even further from being SharePoint’s strongest points, still DO EXIST in MOSS unlike what you state.

    But let’s review:

    Search. Not very good indeed, and that’s one of the reasons why SP2010 is coming with a new search engine. Live Search was also recently replace by Bing. However, to say it doesn’t scale to enterprise is just not true. Configuration can be complex, but it’s there, OOB, no further developments necessary. Development will be needed if you want things like facelets, or a more dynamic way of displaying/Filtering results. You can always develop better UI and tune results relevance, and SP gives you all those possibilities.

    Links. Yes. From wherever you want, with or without Web Services Support, and if you don’t change the file name, links will not get broken. Actually, you can reach any element of a SP farm from wherever you want, if you build your infrastructure decently.

    Authorship. The first document on SharePoint architecture planning is: Plan your usergroups. you should be able to create supergroups for EASY integration, and still empower EVERY particular community to self-manage their own space. Too much granularity for some, not enough to others, It’s still up to your governance policy to manage it.

    Tags. Complete fail. Here we agree. Metadata is difficult to manage and too rigid in SharePoint.

    Extensions. During your 6 hours definitive analysis if this small tool, did you find anything about Business Data Catalog?

    Signals. Notifications are sent to any authenticated user.



    • mrmerlot · September 10, 2009

      @jorge, thanks for the comments, though it seems your “most miss-informed [sic]” comment is contradicted by the rest of your post. To contradict your contradiction, blogs and wikis do NOT exist in the standard offering of SharePoint. These are additional extensions, offered at additional cost, and require additional integration.

      As for extensions, I haven’t looked into this much. I will indeed try to find more information about the Business Data Catalog. However, you misunderstand that the six hours I mention in the post was formal training with an expert in the software. I have spent many more hours exploring SharePoint on my own. The formal training did not, unfortunately, improve my opinion of the tool as a technology capable of transforming businesses. Instead, it seems to be giving organizations who don’t wish to change “a faster horse” (in the words of Henry Ford who said that’s what people would have asked for instead of cars). This, by its very nature, should exclude it from anything labeled “2.0.”


  12. Jorge Carvalho · September 10, 2009


    If you still think you need to install some 3rd party package to have blogs and wikis I would suggest you take a look at

    I’ve made a few SharePoint deployments by now, and I must say it’s the first time I’ve seen this claim. Even the free WSS 3.0 version includes blogs and wikis.

    I don’t believe any tool can on it’s own perform the miracle of transforming a traditional company into a 2.0. It can however help smooth the transition.

    Only a blind man would claim SharePoint to be the ultimate 2.0 tool. However, in spite of it’s shortcomings, I believe it to be a very complete tool, and that it was a very important step towards bringing working habits out of the desktop.

    OOB wikis, although not as intersting as other offers in the market have a very user friendly WYSIWYG interface, clearly promoting it’s usage among less tech savy users.

    OOB Blogs exist attached with your MySite, and there is even some ad-hoc comunity creation capability, to link you with your co-workers, with people sharing common interests etc.

    It could be better. User always want more, which is good. But just because a 3y old tool does not meet all your current requirements it doesn’t really mean it should be excluded “from anything labeled 2.0”


  13. mrmerlot · September 10, 2009

    @Jorge, I stand correctly. This is the beauty of the blogosphere: continual learning. I took some time to experiment with the “blog” and “wiki” (uh-oh, quotations…) functionality in SharePoint and I realize now why I forgot these were part of the standard package: compared to “best of breed” wiki and blog software, they suck. But I will concede that the functionality does indeed exist…

    And there’s still the issue of encouraging stovepipes within organizations… My main point is that many folks seem to adopt SharePoint just to be able to say one or both of the following:
    1) “We tried that whole collaboration thing and it just didn’t work.” (translation: You only “collaborated” with the same ten folks you usually do since those are the only folks you allowed access to your site.)
    2) “We’re collaborating now!” (translation: No, you’re not. You’re just web-enabled. You’re not working any more effectively or efficiently than you were previously.)


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