Monday, October 29, 2007

Don't Panic! The MOSS Market Opportunity

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 was released nearly a year ago now, and over the last few months I've started to hear people in the industry say things like "there is a 6-month window of opportunity for us to become leaders in SharePoint adoption!" or "the SharePoint wave is starting to crest and we need to ride it!". I find this attitude a bit puzzling.

It might arise because MOSS 2007 looks like any other packaged software product: you can double-click the .exe file and point and click your way to a portal that seems powerful and flexible enough to keep your end users happy. If someone thinks of it as just a product, it's easy for them to imagine that their competitors are scouring all the finite nooks and crannies of its feature-set and will corner the market "mindshare" on SharePoint work if they don't get there first. Hence the perceived urgency of early innovation.

However the real power of SharePoint is not as a packaged product, but as a platform. SharePoint-as-a-platform is the reason there won't be a cresting wave of adoption, but rather a rising tide that will lift all boats.

What makes the SharePoint platform most interesting, apart from its infinite scaling potential, is that the problems it addresses are enterprise problems. By this I mean the solution focus is on "30,000-ft level" concerns such as knowledge sharing, federated search, document and records management, team collaboration, and Line-of-Business application integration.

If you need a website, blog, or application built, then a thousand different software products or technologies could fit the bill. If you want any or all of those things plus a technology stack that abstracts away most low-level "plumbing issues" and allows you to address your enterprise problems, then the list of software you can standardize on becomes very small indeed.

The SharePoint platform is huge, and is only becoming more so, as Microsoft and third parties build upon it as quickly as they can. As one example, take a look at any of Microsoft's product line roadmaps, and see how many will be rerouted from standalone applications into SharePoint integration points and modules within the next few years. Over the short- to medium-term the platform will only become bigger and more complex, and the value-add potential will grow correspondingly.

There are an infinite number of ways a contractor or company can add value to a SharePoint deployment. Just to name a few:

  • Document and Records management solutions
  • Capacity, Performance planning and Disaster Recovery planning
  • Portal branding and Look-and-Feel work
  • Custom web part or feature development
  • Custom workflows and electronic forms
  • High-end consulting around building and maintaining a portal
  • Portal migration and maintenance processes and tools
  • Training for end users, administrators and developers
  • LOB application integration
  • Business reporting tools

Any one of these solution areas presents vast market opportunities in its own right. Each is also challenging and complicated because delving into it requires an equal-parts blend of domain expertise and an understanding of complex technologies. The enterprise issues that are raised require deep thought and effort to grapple with. Of course there is no requirement to concentrate on just one area, and therefore by working across these areas there is an unlimited number of potential combinations of SharePoint services and products.

Because no individual or organization can provide all of the pieces for a successful deployment, everyone is forced to share opportunities to some extent and can even choose to integrate some of their competitor's offerings without risking their profits or market mindshare.

I therefore believe that one of the consequences of competing on a platform rather than on a product is the creation of a surprisingly cooperative ecosystem. An economist would call this a virtuous cycle.

This is why I'm not worried about artificial "first mover" timelines in the SharePoint arena. Instead I foresee a long, upward trend of community growth as more and more SharePoint adoptions occur and the tools and knowledge to manage them increase.

So if you're worried about missing the SharePoint ride, just follow the Hitchhiker's advice, and "Don't Panic!"


  1. I certainly agree with using MOSS as a development platform is the ideal way to look at MOSS 07. This perspective opens up opportunities for both enterprises and ISV's.
    Seperately, One of the main issues i have seen / heard from the market with sharepoint adoption by software product companies is the high licensing costs when comparing that with an open source alternative. This again becomes a cost when viewed as a product and not as a platform for development.

  2. Hi dhruva, I agree with you 100% - when it comes to a direct compete situation, feature for feature, against a specific product SharePoint might not win. Where it wins hands down is in meeting most of the requirements on the compete PLUS the other business requirements it can address...thus reducing the total cost of ownership to the business as a whole.

    I'd love to see hard and fast numbers on the productivity savings because anecdotally they are there...the time saved saving and finding files, tagging with metadata, creating electronic forms and workflows, quick creation of sites, blogs and wikis.

    We've seen a specific case where custom internal development was quoted at around $50k and 6 months by Java and ColdFusion teams, while the SharePoint team quoted (and delivered) the solution at $10k in 3 weeks.

    May I ask, how do you pitch SharePoint to your clients / company?


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