[As is the case with our 8 things series, the opinions expressed in the 5 myths guest columns are those of the guest contributor and not necessarily mine or AIIM's. This guest post is by Northern Light's CEO C. David Seuss. As usual, contra perspectives welcome.]
Myth #1 -- SharePoint was not developed by a secret team of Microsoft Tribbles.
Reality -- Actually, I believe it was. Many companies today are discovering that SharePoint has led to a rapid and uncontrolled spawning of user-created portals, just like that cute but pesky first pair of tribbles that spawned so many offspring so quickly that they almost overwhelmed the starship Enterprise. I have heard many companies report to their astonishment that after deploying SharePoint they had thousands of SharePoint sites thrown up by employees. One company recently told me, as they tried to work through a degree of shock that suggested the need for professional therapeutic intervention, that they had determined just that morning that there were 30,000 SharePoint sites on their network. Surely a team of programming tribbles produced such an application.
Myth #2 -- You can share stuff with SharePoint.
Reality -- You cry out, “How can this be a myth?” Before SharePoint, there was the option of central document repositories focused on tasks like market research, competitive intelligence, or technology research. Everyone would know where to go to find the company's material in the relevant domain. Now, with SharePoint sites being created by every department, geographic division, functional area, project team, committee, brand team, company softball team, and even individual staff members worldwide, there might be scores, hundreds, or thousands of places on the company intranet with just a little bitty piece of the puzzle. The easiest way to not share something is to obscure its location from people that might want it by scattering it against a giant backdrop of other material. Presto, hidden in "plain site!"
Myth #3 -- You can find the stuff you need with SharePoint Search.
Reality -- Who thought of this one? Once again, the easiest way to keep people from finding what they need is to put it in the middle of a lot of stuff they don't. If there are hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of sites posting content mentioning products, organizational units, competitors, marketing programs, development projects, employees, job titles, and everything else with no versioning, aging, quality control, strategic focus, or semblance of overall organization, the high quality material fades to obscurity on search results, diluted way down by the mass of material, no matter how good the search technology.
Myth #4 -- SharePoint won't share inappropriately.
Reality -- Yes, dear reader, SharePoint can implement traditional enterprise security models that are often effective for securing file directories, applications, and entire document repositories. But there are whole categories of content that do not easily fit into standard enterprise security constructs. For example, consider licensed external research reports from industry experts and analysts. Such reports and content feeds often carry severe restrictions on who can seem them. For example, a particular Gartner research report might be licensed only to one person, while another report from Gartner might have been purchased with the rights to share it internally. Or one Forrester content collection might be restricted to a department, while another is enterprise wide. SharePoint is totally uninformed on third-party licensed and purchased content usage restrictions. Make SharePoint your collaboration platform for licensed external content and kiss your business rules goodbye on who can see what. I have been told of multiple cases of invoices for hundreds of thousands of dollars being delivered to companies by third-party information providers for single reports purchased with seat restrictions and then posted by well meaning but clueless employees on generally-available internal SharePoint sites.
Myth #5 -- SharePoint is a user-level tool, so it won't break the IT department.
Reality -- This is my favorite myth about SharePoint. SharePoint is supposedly easy enough to use that anyone can create a personal, team, or department portal. And that is maybe true for a rudimentary portal that posts some documents and does light-weight RSS reading. But if a user with average computer skills decides to do anything more -- like install a Web Part, create a vertical content feed, or set security levels for documents -- the likelihood of success drops to roughly the equivalent of trying to hike Death Valley in the summer without a map. Rescue by experts will be required. So get yourself 5,000 SharePoint installations on your intranet and you also get yourself 5,000 new applications that need IT support. But since IT budgets are unlimited and IT staff is sitting around all day reading gear-head magazines because there is no IT backlog to work on, that shouldn't be a problem.
About the Author - C. David Seuss joined Northern Light in July of 1996, as employee number 18. He describes that time period as when “there were 17 engineers and me in a basement.” Several years later, it was David who led an employee group in purchasing Northern Light from its corporate parent in 2003. David is the inventor of Northern Light’s technology for the automated extraction of meaning from research documents, for which Northern Light received a patent in January 2011. He is the author of “Teaching Search Engines To Interpret Meaning,” Published in the Proceedings of the IEEE in April 2011. David has an industrial engineering degree from Georgia Tech (from which he received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2002) and an MBA with High Distinction from the Harvard Business School. Check out David’s blog, In-Depth Understanding.
Other guest posts in the "5 myths" series...