Microsoft SharePoint: Three Deployment Challenges

Enterprise adoption of SharePoint is rapidly on the rise: A new survey from document management company Global 360 reveals that 90% of the survey's 886 respondents currently use SharePoint, with 8% using SharePoint 2010.

Moreover, 67% of those that use SharePoint spread it out enterprise-wide, indicating that SharePoint is not just for the IT department -- it's for all departments.

The survey also highlights how SharePoint is used at organizations. It commonly starts out as a content repository but then transitions to something more dynamic. Sixty-seven percent of survey respondents have extended SharePoint's use to manage document workflows; 66% use it for portal and web content management; and 56% use it to support business processes.

The idea of using content in SharePoint to improve the business is a major theme of the survey. Of the organizations surveyed, 27% say that over half of the documents stored in SharePoint are used to support mission-critical parts of the business.

But despite widespread adoption as well as improvements in search, workflow and social networking in SharePoint 2010, the SharePoint platform does come with its own set of challenges, according to the survey results.

Out-of-the-Box User Experience Not Great

Only 17.6% of survey respondents feel SharePoint delivers a great out-of-the-box user experience and adequately meets their needs. Conversely, 78% describe SharePoint as somewhat adequate to inadequate, and that it requires additional in-house design and development.

[ For complete coverage on Microsoft's SharePoint collaboration software -- including enterprise and cloud adoption trends and reviews of SharePoint 2010 -- see CIO.com's SharePoint Bible. ]

When asked what was the biggest challenge with their SharePoint implementations, 21% of survey respondents said, "lack of an intuitive, easy-to-use interface for business users."

And an inadequate user interface usually means trouble, according to the Global 360 report: "Generic user experiences often lead to slower user adoption, lower productivity by users seeking workarounds to applications that do not meet their needs, and higher costs to rollback and customize applications."

Building Business Applications Takes Time and Effort

SharePoint, particularly SharePoint 2010, has made advances in areas such as social media, offline access and better CRM and ERP integration. But according to the Global 360 report, "the gap between what has been delivered and what can be achieved is still dramatic."

Of the 60% of respondents who noted the SharePoint user experience as inadequate, 47% are building custom applications within their SharePoint environments. And this takes time. Thirty percent of survey respondents cited "development time and effort required to build business applications" as the top challenge when implementing SharePoint.

The report concludes that many organizations hoping to reduce the time, resources and expertise needed to integrate custom apps into SharePoint are considering third-party applications to add business process management, business intelligence and content management features to SharePoint.

Getting IT and Business Users on the Same Page

Employees are exposed to more and more interactive Web apps outside of work, such as Google's various apps and Facebook, and have come to expect more from their enterprise applications. For this reason, IT needs to involve users in the planning of SharePoint deployments, according to the Global 360 report.

This not always easy, since there can be a disconnect between IT and the business users of an organization. But early user feedback will ultimately speed adoption and reduce the costs of a SharePoint deployment, according to the Global 360 report.

"While planning, purchasing or customizing SharePoint business applications, IT organizations should make a concerted effort to liaison with the business users targeted for the application," notes the report. "Involving users upfront in the design of and experience delivered by SharePoint will improve user adoption, improve productivity and reduce maintenance costs."

Survey Methodology

The Global 360 survey was taken between March and August 2010 by 886 individuals representing 50 industries. The most common were services (24%), public sector (19%) and financial services (12%). Survey respondents represented organizations of all sizes, with 67% of individuals representing firms with over 1,000 employees. Seventy-two percent of the participants were based in North America, while most of the other participants came from Europe (17%).

Shane O'Neill covers Microsoft, Windows, Operating Systems, Productivity Apps and Online Services for CIO.com. Follow Shane on Twitter @smoneill. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Shane at soneill@cxo.com.

This story, "Microsoft SharePoint: Three Deployment Challenges" was originally published by CIO.

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