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Enterprise 2010?

June 14, 2010

In a previous post, I predicted that SharePoint would “own” ECM by becoming the dominant player in that space in the not too distant future. Shortly after the post, Ariel Roberge asked me whether I thought SharePoint might be poised to “own” Enterprise 2.0 as well. It’s a great question, because I think that the current E20 space is very similar to where ECM was a few years back: lots of vendors,  an emerging push for consolidation, with some vendors growing towards domination and others remaining niche, best-in-breed players (to maybe get gobbled up), a domain evolving amid/despite/because of tremendous amounts of corporate fear, uncertainty, and doubt–it all sounds familiar, right?

Given the similarities between how ECM matured as a domain and how E20 is currently developing, I think Microsoft is poised with SharePoint 2010 to move very successfully into the E20 space in a number of important areas:

  • Collaboration: SharePoint has been on the brink of owning this for a while now, and it’s not hard to see why. The beachhead for SharePoint at an organization is unstructured content, i.e., all the docs sitting on shared drives, hard drives, and in email attachments (as well as older systems like Lotus Notes, e-rooms, and so on). Given that this content is a primary locus of collaboration and that SharePoint does a pretty good job at facilitating collaboration, an organization needs a very compelling reason to pay for a best-in-breed collaboration application to sit on top of or integrate with SharePoint. And given that the close second for the locus of collaboration is project management, SharePoint gets more attractive: it’s pretty good at both document-centric and project-based collaboration, whereas the niche solutions tend to do one or the other, but not both.
  • Wikis, blogs, expertise management: MOSS definitely doesn’t really cut it for these applications, even though they’re more or less part of its core functionality. But in 2010, it’s a whole other story, especially for expertise management. The MySites function like a pretty good version of Facebook/LinkedIn for the enterprise, allowing you to connect with others who have the skills, expertise, and knowledge that you’re looking for. Unless some serious limitations emerge during the first few months after RTM, I think the end is near for general purpose, standalone, enterprise solutions for these three.
  • Microblogging, SCRM, community building: So SharePoint isn’t ready for prime time in any of these hot E20 areas…yet. But Microsoft could easily decide to work pretty good versions of any of these into future releases and instantly reach a market large enough to eclipse all the vendors out there.

You’ll notice that the phrase “pretty good” appears a lot in this post, and with good reason: SharePoint has never been a best-in-breed solution. Its success has come from the ability to meet the right combination of important business needs fairly well. It has never tried to be all things for all people or to do all the things that a best in class system should do. Hard to say if this has been through strategic design or serendipity or dumb luck (or a mix of all three), but the end result has been tremendous success in taking over the ECM space. And I think it’s likely some similar combination of these three factors could allow SharePoint to “own” E20 in the not too distant future as well.

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