Two faces of SharePoint [clarification]

In my last post, I stated why I think SharePoint should not be considered “enterprise 2.0.” I specifically did not say it should never be used, just that it should not be considered the foundation platform upon which a transformational collaborative tool suite (and culture-shifting initiative) is built. However, some colleagues of mine educated me on the difference between SharePoint and “SharePoint.”

Which of the following sites would you guess was built with SharePoint?

forgemil (DoD version of SourceForge)


Dell Computer's Ideastorm


Accenture consulting

If my sources are correct, all of these sites are built on Microsoft’s SharePoint.

The difference is that SharePoint is used to refer to both the out-of-the-box implementation that many organizations deploy and a highly customizable content management system that can be made to do almost anything. The out-of-the-box version is the one Microsoft tends to sell as the panacea to all collaboration needs. It is typically deployed on an intranet and offered as a way for teams to quickly create a site to share documents and create conversations. Often, they can also create sub-sites with unique levels of access control.

It’s not fair to compare these two. One of the goals of social software – web 2.0 and it’s cousin enterprise 2.0 – is to put content creation and distribution in the hands of the masses (leveraging the “wisdom of crowds”). In an organizational context, this ability (or perhaps even responsibility) should be distributed to the widest possible audience.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, SharePoint is inherently designed to restrict who can participate and contribute in a site. And my observations of the functional limitations of the typical SharePoint site still stand. Designing a custom SharePoint site requires a level of technical expertise that is rare even within the realms of technologists. On the other hand, creating wiki pages (with whatever wiki software you choose) or setting up a WordPress-MU (multiuser) blog gives you complete control within the range of what the tool can do. Better yet, these platforms are designed to be open by default and users can easily create interlinkages between them.

One comment

  1. Raq · September 9, 2009

    I just read Groundswell’s criteria for evaluating new technologies. They are:
    1. Does it enable people to connect with each other in new ways?
    2. Is it effortless to sign up for?
    3. Does it shift power from institutions to people?
    4. Does the community generate enough content to sustain itself?
    5. Is it an open platform that invites partnerships?

    Seems like SharePoint, either flavor, is a big FAIL.


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