All of those organisations trudging zombie-like towards implementation of Sharepoint as a social media solution might do well to read about the result of a â€˜face-off’ between IBM’s Lotus Connections and Microsoft’s Sharepoint (MOSS 2007) products, as reported by CIO Magazine.
According to the article, whereas both vendors showed their products could integrate with existing e-mail systems (especially e-mail systems that they sell, such as Notes and Exchange), IBM’s Lotus Connections looked, at minimum, a year or more ahead of SharePoint in its social computing capabilities out of the box.
The guidelines for the face-off presentation were that the vendors present what a customer gets â€˜out of the box’, i.e. without the third party plug-ins, or the extra products and professional services that (Sharepoint in particular) needs to make it a usable environment. The report states that as far as social computing goes, this wasn’t flattering for SharePoint.
The Sharepoint wiki was static and lacked robust version control and had sparse editing features. Microsoft’s MySites – social networking profiles for the enterprise – looked a little better but still left much to be desired in terms of design.
One example of the difference in presentation of the social computing tools was if someone wanted to examine their place within the hierarchy of an organization, it was presented textually like the inbox of an e-mail system. In IBM Connections, it was presented mostly with pictures of the people and big buttons in which to interact with them over e-mail, phone, or IM.
Clearly Microsoft realises it has to up its game if it is to be taken seriously in the social computing world, with partnerships with Atlassian and blueKiwi going some way to address the Sharepoint product limitations. Quite what this means in terms of providing the user with a fully integrated and seamless social computing environment I’m not sure. There is also the issue of cost, since presumably these partnerships will be licence-based and paid for by the customer on top of the Sharepoint licence. I just hope that the Finance Directors do the math before signing the contracts!
Personally, I’m doubtful that Sharepoint will ever be a pure social computing product. Its strengths are in task-based processes and information organisation, not community knowledge sharing and collaboration. However, and as always, I’m open to alternative views on this point!