Tag Archives: microsoft

Big Web CMS vendors in 2007 and 2012

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What a difference 5 years can make! Much has happened in the crowded and still young CMS marketplace since 2007, but contrary to what most analysts expected, the number of CMS vendors has not gone down. New vendors have emerged, local vendors have successfully gone international and on top of that, many of the large software companies that were largely uninterested in CMS back in 2007 are now investing heavily in the market.

As a buyer it can be confusing and difficult to stay updated on the rapid market developments, so I made a slide showing who the big vendors were in 2007 and what the picture looks like today for a recent J. Boye group meeting.

Large, global and complex organisations tend to gravitate towards the big vendors. As one of our members put it:

Elephants buy from elephants

The elephants: The big CMS vendors in 2007 and 2012. Click for a larger version

The elephants: The big CMS vendors in 2007 and 2012. Click for a larger version

Consolidation has only happened to the extent that vendors have bought other vendors. With just a few exceptions all the products have been kept alive, so today several of the above have more than one Web CMS as a part of their offering.

Finally, a look at the big vendor websites won't get you far in terms of figuring out more about their CMS offerings. They may be big vendors, but they also offer many other solutions and CMS is apparently not on top of their list. Here's the CMS products from each:

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Untangling SharePoint pricing & licensing for WCM

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SharePoint pricing & licensing for web content management is not exactly straight-forwardSharePoint is a complex product with a complex pricing model. In an attempt to try to clear things up, I talked to Microsoft’s Subsidiary Product Marketing Manager for SharePoint, Åren Ekelund about how much SharePoint 2010 will cost in a web content management scenario.

Products such as Windows, Office and SharePoint are typically bundled, the different products have different license models and prices depend on your organisation's license agreement with Microsoft. Customers can always contact a Licensing Specialist to figure out how much they actually pay for their Microsoft solutions. For web managers however, it can still be a challenge to figure out how big a part WCM is of the total bill. This is also the case for the recently released SharePoint 2010.

As with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS 2007), many believe they have the licenses already as a part of their existing license agreement. If your organisation has a so-called Enterprise Agreement with Microsoft, Client Access Licenses (CALs) to SharePoint are indeed included. This means that internal users have access to SharePoint.

However, when it comes to web content management, you will have to buy additional licenses for the external facing servers. These vary widely in price depending on many factors, but here a few realistic indications:

  • Standard Internet Server: The price for a SharePoint 2010 Standard Internet server lies around EUR 5.500 – 9.500.
  • Enterprise Internet Server: The prise for a SharePoint 2010 Enterprise Internet server lies around EUR 20.000 – 32.000. The major extra features in the enterprise version include Access services, FAST search enhancements (note these also require a FAST server license), business intelligence, InfoPath Services & web analytics. You can see a detailed comparison of the editions here.

These prices are one-time expenses which you need to pay up-front for each server. If you choose to get an optional - but recommended by Microsoft - Software Assurance (SA), you will have to pay around 25% annually of the initial license price. Most significantly an SA will allow you to upgrade to new versions as they come out.

Note that many organisations will need several servers if they have significant web requirements (e.g. 2 front-end servers and a search server). UK SharePoint expert Ari Bakker has made some useful pricing examples for SharePoint 2010, which illustrate how much it will cost in both internal end external scenarios. As an example, Bakker writes that a large website on SharePoint with FAST search would cost EUR 82.000 (for 2 Enterprise servers and a FAST search server).

The best advice from Microsoft is to talk to your existing license partner in order to figure out how much your SharePoint projects will cost. Microsoft themselves will also be happy to answer any questions on pricing. As Åren said:

"SharePoint 2010 pricing can be hard to explain, but actual price quotes are easy to get via Microsoft or a licensing partner. We are always happy to help"

My advice is to contact Microsoft early on in any large project, before you decide on one system or license model over another. Many have burnt their fingers on SharePoint having thought that they didn’t need additional licenses. As a comparison, licenses for other .NET based systems such as Ektron, EPiServer and Sitecore start around EUR 30.000 - 40.000 for enterprise projects (see our CMS shortlist from 2009). So even if you have an Enterprise Agreement with Microsoft including SharePoint CALs, SharePoint might not be the cheapest option, if your WCM requirements are significant.

Join our SharePoint conference in Copenhagen on 22 March 2011 and learn how to handle crucial SharePoint challenges – within the contexts of both web and intranet

Thanks to Søren Laurits Nielsen, Kristoffer Munch, Niels Højdahl (@hoejdahl), Shawn Shell (@shawnshell) & Åren Ekelund for constructive input.

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Open source doesn’t always represent best value

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Despite much hype we did not see a breakthrough for open source CMS last year. When I launched the discussion last year, we  received some great comments, e.g. on intellectual property and warranty, suggesting that in some cases open source is not the right decision.

In the past decade, several governments have issued statements with strong support for open source, e.g. UK government backs open source and Denmark's endorsement of Plone. Often these statements were driven by an underlying desire to save money and drum up competition for Microsoft and the de-facto Windows & Office monopoly.

Our usual advice is not to start by deciding on open source or not. However, in our community of practice, many technology selection projects often start with a debate around whether open source is good or bad. Many members report that they have experienced quite expensive open source projects, indicating that open source is not always cheaper.

open-source-cartoon

The open source debate is often based around emotions, eg. the very strong urge to avoid Microsoft. Cartoon by Hugh MacLeod

A significant factor in terms of value is the cost and quality of the implementation. If you've selected an open source system, say Drupal, WordPress or Umbraco, for your new website, but cannot find any experienced implementation partner, then you may be forced to take a step back and rethink your selection process. You might have enough resources to do the implementation yourself, but I don't recommend doing it without proper training and expert assistance. Most open source projects have really weak documentation.

Also, if you don't have any resources to engage in a vibrant open source community, you are missing out on one of the big advantages of open source. Except for the really big vendors, e.g. IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, which have decent communities for developers, most commercial vendors don't have communities where you can meet other practitioners and share experiences.

If you are concerned about risk, it is worth noting that some relatively well-known open source projects, e.g. Mambo got in trouble back in 2005 when most of the developers associated with it decided to start Joomla. HyperContent, another open source CMS, was announced dead in 2008. Commercial systems don't live forever either, but typically you can continue to buy support from the vendor.

Your requirements may deflate the value of open source. Those with strong requirements for Microsoft Office integration, e.g. seamless Word integration, might struggle to find an open source solution that support the requirement, while many commercial alternatives have offered this for 5+ years.

The past decade saw the rise of the so-called "commercial open source vendors", e.g. Alfresco, eZ or Jahia. These vendors have open source solutions, but earn their money on selling enterprise licenses, training, and support agreements. Some even do consulting. In their own words, they provide the best of both worlds, although I'm yet to see any of these firms develop a serious community.

In your view, when does open source software not represent the best value?

I am presenting on Thursday 7th January in London at a free event run by BCS - The Chartered Institute for IT on Public Funds in the UK: Open Source for Document and Content Management. Whether you can make it to London or not, I invite you to participate in the discussion by posting a comment below.


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Major progress in SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint déjà-vu

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SharePoint 2010Last week I attended Microsoft’s SharePoint conference in Las Vegas with over 7,000 delegates where they released the first details of SharePoint 2010 (“Twenty-ten”).  The amount of changes on the platform is impressive - this release is by far the most ambitious SharePoint release yet and there was a lot of excitement around it from most system integrators, customers and Microsoft employees themselves. Some analysts, like Gartner, speak very positively of the improvements whereas others, like CMS Watch, give a more balanced account of the situation.

When I asked other attendees what they considered the most useful potential of SharePoint 2010, answers ranged from improvements in areas such as taxonomy and folksonomy, to social computing features, Visual Studio, SharePoint Designer, search, document management and mobility services. Had I spoken to others, they might well have cited other features.

While SharePoint 2010 may still not be best of breed in any of these areas, despite the improvements, it is strong for the simple reason that it covers such a wide suite.  Though it is still early days, the demos at the conference seemed to more than indicate that the product has moved up a level or two.

Nonetheless, in some respects I can’t help but having a déjà-vu:

  • First, let’s not forget SharePoint’s track record: MOSS 2007 promised a lot, too. Many people were delighted at the prospect of empowering business users with Excel services, Business Data Catalogue (renamed Business Connectivity Services in the 2010 version), offline synchronisation with Groove (renamed SharePoint Workspace), to name but a few. However, it turned out that migration was a pain, system integrators were too unfamiliar with the product, support of end-users took its toll and basic features were often not well worked out. Therefore it is common that project teams have ended up spending their time getting the basic things in order as well as doing business specific customisations - they simply haven’t gotten around to leveraging the advanced features of MOSS 2007 yet.
  • Second, SharePoint project managers have had to realise that MOSS 2007 is a highly complex product. In our communities of practice, members often talk about the need to get in-depth knowledge of the platform, its concepts and logic, even if you are on the business side. In this respect, SharePoint 2010 has not gotten easier due to the sky-high ambitions of Microsoft.

If you are already running SharePoint in your organisation, I strongly recommend that:

  • you allow yourself plenty of time for analysis and testing when the public beta is released in November as well as when the final version comes out next year.
  • you don’t underestimate the time needed for familiarisation with SharePoint 2010 at all levels: some terms have changed as I mentioned above and many new options and concepts have been introduced. Be ready to question your system integrator.
  • you consider whether you want to be first mover on upgrading (think: early mover disadvantage)

SharePoint as a product has certainly matured its feature set but remember that the Devil’s in the detail – a key question is: to what extent can SharePoint 2010 deliver on its promise come implementation day?

At this early stage, I have not been able to get in touch with SharePoint 2010 pilot customers who have had real life experiences with the platform, although I repeatedly asked Microsoft whether they could help me out. If you have such experiences, please don't hesitate to contact me - I would love to learn more.

Join SharePoint at Work 2011 in Copenhagen on 22 March and learn how to handle crucial SharePoint challenges – within the contexts of both web and intranet

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The real definition of a “key account”

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dream_graphBuyers who account for the majority of revenue for a given product are normally offered preferential treatment of some sort. This would seem fair, but to the surprise of many online professionals this is often not the case when it comes to software vendors or digital agencies.

Over the years I've talked to practitioners around the world from large and complex organisations who have been genuinely disappointed by how they have been treated by their vendors. Despite having been big spenders on licenses or in terms of consulting hours (or both), they still feel that the vendor is not listening to requirements and paying any real attention to their needs.

A good example is how Microsoft have treated their CMS customers in the past. The early adopters were left behind with Microsoft CMS 2002 without an upgrade option when Microsoft released SharePoint 2007. Large organisations, such as drinks giant Carlsberg, global manufacturer Danfoss and Royal Mail in the UK, did adopt CMS 2002 yet still Microsoft decided that it was best to ask customers to start all over again.

For smaller vendors, there are several worse examples of poor key account management that have left customers frustrated.

My usual advice is that it helps talking to vendors. It helps even more if you join up with other buyers. Even if you don't work in a large multinational or for a world-famous NGO, you can become a key account by using diplomatic skills and engaging in a dialogue with your vendors, so that your projects are visible inside the vendor organisation.

The real definition of a key account is not necessarily tied to revenue. You are a key account if the vendor listens to you, accepts your feedback, specifies appropriate actions and shares a timeline with you. You need to be patient, you need to be forgiving, you need to be reasonable, but the rewards in potential cost savings and ability to plan better should make it well worth it.

Thanks to @brendanquinn and @twentworth12 for valuable input.

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Who should be on your CMS shortlist?

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Selecting the right CMS is not an easy task with; there is in excess of 1,000 vendors in the very dynamic CMS marketplace. Unfortunately industry analysts tend to evaluate too many vendors for the needs of most buyers. Consider CMS Watch which has 42 systems in their Web CMS Report and Gartner with 18 vendors in their recently updated Magic Quadrant. How do you narrow it down even further, so you can get to a shortlist of vendors you should examine closer and potentially send your RFP to?

Based on our extensive experience with CMS selection, we have created the below Top 10 list with vendors you should always consider. This is geared towards buyers from large and complex organisations with significant web demands.

Web CMS Shortlist 2009

What it requires to be on the list:

  • Significant dedication to CMS. It does not have to be everything the vendor does, but to mitigate your risk, CMS has to be very important to them. This includes a history of relatively smooth upgrades combined with on-going technology investments in improving the system.
  • Global footprint. You can either find direct vendor representation or experienced partners in almost all parts of the world to help you with the implementation. There are also successful references around the world for you to learn from.
  • The vendor has something very significant to offer. This easily turns into yet another unhelpful long list, so we kept the list short and predict that the list will change in 2010. A vendor can only get on the list if we can remove another one. This means that many vendors, even though they might have interesting references, are not on this list.

You can reduce the list further by considering licensing and technology. Some on the list might also not have local partners in your region. If you feel troubled by suddenly having too few vendors, remember that you also need to find a good implementation partner to support you. To find the right one, you should send to more than one implementation partner for each vendor; this way you will easily end up with 10 - 12 qualified companies on your list.

Here a few comments about some of those missing from the list:

  • Microsoft is not on the list as neither SharePoint nor Oxite are good fits for Web CMS. Despite tremendous adoption, SharePoint is often chosen for the wrong reasons. Also, as mentioned on this blog, content management does not seem important to Microsoft. For additional details, you can consult our research on Best Practices for Using SharePoint for Public Websites.
  • Several other large vendors are absent, eg. Autonomy, IBM, Oracle, as they are often simply overkill for Web CMS. Not only are their products very expensive, but they are also very complex to implement and use. We challenge buyers who insist on adding them, that they carry additional risk due to the CMS being acquired from smaller vendors and their diminutive focus on WCM in the overall picture.
  • Many significant, but still regional vendors, eg. CoreMedia, e-Spirit and Terminalfour are left out as they do not yet have a global footprint. There are regional differences in the market, which we will cover in separate forthcoming blogs.
  • Alfresco has very good marketing, in particular for an open source vendor. The actual product is quite complex with weak usability and many on-going architectural changes.
  • Joomla lacks a few important features such as workflow, custom roles and custom content types. This combined with security concerns means that we do not always recommend Joomla.
  • WordPress is a very popular blogging platform, which might slowly be morphing into a CMS, but is still lacking in many enterprise features, including security. In too many regions it is also quite difficult to find any significant SI that offers WordPress implementation support.

Most CMS vendors are having a great time, c.f. recent earnings from Day Software, FatWire and Sitecore, but I'm hoping this list will help you save some time and confusion while navigating a still very crowded marketplace.

I welcome your feedback and stay tuned for regional shortlists soon!

Thanks to James Hoskins (@jameshoskins), John Goode (@johngoode), Jon Marks (@McBoof) and Mark Morell (@markmorrell) for valuable input.

UPDATE:  Aug 18 - In response to popular demand, I've released a wrap-up with additional background on the shortlist

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Is content management important to Microsoft?

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Microsoft logoMicrosoft used to have a product called Content Management Server 2002; the sole purpose of this was to be a content management system. This was followed by the popular SharePoint 2007, in which "Content Management" was reduced to only one of six pillars. With SharePoint 2010, the packaging has been changed once again and the emphasis on CMS additionally reduced to simply "Content", which is a pillar on its own. Is it wrong to interpret this as a sign that Microsoft is attaching even less importance to content management?

There are several additional indicators of this in the marketplace:

  • MCMS 2002 and SharePoint 2007 shared numerous weaknesses when used for public websites, notably around globalization, accessibility and standards support. In fact, CMS 2002 was far better than SharePoint 2007 concerning all of these areas. It was also superior when it came to building websites that worked in multiple browsers. It is too early to tell whether any of these will be improved or fixed for SharePoint 2010, but according to Microsoft they have been working on it.
  • As we detailed in Best Practices for Using SharePoint for Public Websites, many organisations did not carefully consider whether SharePoint 2007 was the best match for their requirements and many paid a significant price for this. Nobody enjoys having unhappy customers and Microsoft has collected quite a few.
  • Competing .NET-based CMS vendors, eg. Ektron, EPiServer, Sitecore and Umbraco have had good times as many decided to keep SharePoint behind the firewall and use something more appropriate for their public website.
  • CMS 2002 was a product in its own right and provided a full content management solution. SharePoint 2007 was the replacement which was sold and named as being a small part of the mighty Office package, even though public websites required additional licensing. The Office-bundling and joint marketing definitely helped drive SharePoint adoption. SharePoint 2007 also came with improved integration with Microsoft Word which showed some continued commitment to content management. With SharePoint 2010, Microsoft has not only changed "Content Management" to "Content" they have also come up with new terms for almost everything. Moreover, when SharePoint 2010 is released, it will be without the Office name. When examining the new Microsoft terminology, you won't find many words from the Content Management Bible.
  • Upgrading from CMS 2002 to SharePoint 2007 was a nightmare and according to experts upgrading to SharePoint 2010 will be even harder. At this time, very few details have actually been released about the actual upgrade process, but it seems like this upgrade will be more about governance than technology.
  • The product documentation for SharePoint 2007 is quite weak with regards to content management compared to the other 5 pillars.

Perhaps Oxite, Microsoft's open source Web CMS, which was originally released back in 2008, is the future of content management at Microsoft? A recent blog by Microsoft Software Design Engineer Erik Porter on Planning for the Next Oxite Release reveals some interesting details. I asked Porter for additional details and he said Oxite did not have any funding yet, but the side-project was gaining momentum, both inside and outside Microsoft.

Content management may not be as interesting and business-critical as other areas, such as business intelligence, but to me it seems as if Microsoft is communicating clearly that content management is not a high priority, at least not in SharePoint. What's your take?

Thanks to Mauro Cardarelli and Shawn Shell for constructive input!

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SharePoint 2010: On governance and upgrading

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SharePoint2010Earlier this week Microsoft released sneak peak videos of SharePoint 2010, which have created quite a buzz among the many working within the SharePoint goldmine. A blog post by US-based SharePoint expert Mauro Cardarelli, co-author of "Essential SharePoint 2007 - Delivering High Impact Collaboration", called Planning for SharePoint 2010, caught my attention as he called for more governance and predicted yet another difficult upgrade for existing customers. SharePoint 2010 is currently in a limited, invitation only Technical Preview program and expected out in a final release in early 2010.

I'll share two interesting quotes from the blog, which was a sobering read to me.

First on governance:

...this next version, more than any other product release I have ever seen, will demand governance

Then on upgrading:

...the upgrade from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010 will be harder than SharePoint 2003 to SharePoint 2007

Mainly due to the governance problems experienced by several organisations, e.g. viral proliferation, uncontrolled content and compliance risks, CMS Watch compared SharePoint to a virus. To be fair, problems are  far from always due to faults with the actual product and as we have previously shared on this blog, there are also many successful enterprise implementations of SharePoint. Customers can find much inspiration on Microsoft's Governance Resource Center for SharePoint Server 2007. Not surprisingly, the governance guidelines provided by Microsoft are of a highly technical nature. You will naturally also need to address non-technical facets of governance.

As some of you might remember, the upgrade from SharePoint 2003 to SharePoint 2007 was a nightmare. It is still early days with regards to the technical details on SharePoint 2010, but if the upgrade is anywhere near as hard, it will be a major source of frustration for many practitioners. Microsoft is known for making their partners happy and this would certainly be very good news for any vendors earning money on upgrading customers - and of course for competing vendors like Ektron, EPiServer and Sitecore. I asked Cardarelli for more details on his bold statement and he clarified that in his view the upgrade will be technologically easier, but require more effort in planning.

My colleague Dorthe R. Jespersen urged caution with SharePoint in April this year, when she advised existing SharePoint customers to carefully plan for the future. Dorthe recommended that the best way to minimize risks is to stay in touch with other practitioners and the SharePoint community at large.

I strongly recommend that all buyers keep addressing questions directly to Microsoft, as they may be willing to share further details, potentially under a non-disclosure agreement. I hope the combined advice from Mauro, this blog, from Microsoft and from peers, together with the internal dynamics in your organisation, will enable you to avoid any first-mover disadvantages.

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DIY SharePoint

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Aalborg Kommune did SharePoint with the do-it-yourself approach. Niels Højdahl Pedersen shares lessons learned in this articleThe municipality of Aalborg; Denmark’s fourth largest city, recently relaunched their website using SharePoint 2007. They chose the unusual route of running the project in-house with minimal involvement from third party system integrators. I talked to the responsible project manager, Niels Højdahl Pedersen, about the lessons learned.

Accessibility for SharePoint 2007 will cost you
Q: Did the relaunch of the website on 18 June go according to the original plan?

A: "In the short term, yes, but in the longer term the project was delayed significantly, because of an ongoing expansion of the project scope.

The project started about 18 months ago with the ambition of revitalising the website by optimizing content and structure. We soon realised, that it needed a significant amount of work, so we decided that a new information architecture and design were needed. Unfortunately, our former platform; Microsoft CMS 2002, was not meeting our requirements and Microsoft furthermore proclaimed that their support would expire in April 2009. So we decided to upgrade to SharePoint 2007 with a plan to use it for our intranet as well later on.

When we asked system integrators for prices, they nearly doubled their quotes when we mentioned accessibility and standards compliance, which is legally required by public organisations in Denmark. So we decided to mostly do the project internally with our IT department, who had .NET experience but had never worked with SharePoint 2007. It was a major challenge to get the technical organisation up and running. We also soon learned that development and adjustments in SharePoint requires huge effort.

Throughout the process we kept a third party system integrator on the sideline for when our own people got stuck. They also did a quality review of the technical setup, which they actually complimented - particularly the speed with which the process had been completed."

Aalborg Kommune website as of 26. june 2009

Educate your users well
Q: Has it been necessary to make organisational changes during the project?

A: "First of all we have adjusted the number of content contributors from 200 to 60 [not a bad idea according to Janus Boye: Few web editors is better for your website]. These have been trained to write better for the web. Still, strange things happened when we opened up the system to them. We have also set up an informal network of about 10 people, who track changes and guide the editors. Another thing we are working on is an integration of Compliance Sheriff from HiSoftware to the editorial workflow to ensure that the editors comply with the rules we set up.

In the future we might want to get a more tight governance structure in place if we are to stick to our ambitions when it comes to quality and accessibility. This could also help us realise our digital strategy of making the website the preferred entrance point to the public sector for citizens and organisations in our municipality."

Don't underestimate the technical challenges
Q: What is your best advice to others using SharePoint 2007 for a public website?

A: "Do not underestimate technical maintenance of the platform. SharePoint is a cumbersome and complicated platform to work with and things take time – especially if you want to focus on accessibility and compliance.

You also need to educate your users well, because most things are not particularly obvious in MOSS. And even if you educate you users well you have to set up strict technical limitations to prevent undermining the accessibility rules."

Caveats when choosing a system integrator
I would stress, that even if you want to run your SharePoint project by yourself like Aalborg Kommune, you should still find an experienced system integrator. When choosing a partner, there are several caveats you’ll need to be aware of. My colleague Janus Boye has also recently shared a list of overlooked SharePoint success factors, which you might want to take into account. Another good resource is our report Best Practices for Using SharePoint for Public Websites, which gathers experiences from early adopters and provides decision support for business users in all project phases.

Our best advice is as always to talk to other users of the system and learn from their experiences.

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Be careful with SharePoint integrators

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Traffic sign says be carefulLast week I chaired a discussion on "Working with integrators" at our annual practitioners-only SharePoint Day. The topic is relevant for other systems as well, but we quickly agreed that finding the right system integrator is an overlooked SharePoint success factor. Everybody around the table acknowledged that system integrator costs usually take most of the budget (a well-known phenomenon known as SITATM).

The delegates at the table each worked with very different types of system integrators and had very mixed outcomes. One had been very impressed until the contract was signed. After that, several team members from the system integrator were substituted for less experienced colleagues. This was quite disappointing and the project experienced delays and cost overruns. You may want to ensure that your contract somehow restricts how the system integrator can change their team. In return, any experienced system integrator would ask for reciprocation, meaning that they also have valid concerns when you change your team. You may not like it, but this would actually be quite fair.

One of the delegates had a good experience with a small boutique consultancy with less than 10 employees. Coincidentally, that same delegate was also quite experienced with SharePoint, which always plays an important role in the equation.

Another delegate had opted for a larger agency that offered much more than SharePoint integration. This delegate was far from impressed and felt that the integrator in particular was missing experience from related projects, at least when they started around 18 months ago. If the agency can produce no SharePoint references on the same version as they are offering you, you risk being exposed to first-mover disadvantage. If you want to avoid paying for training the integrator, you should make references from related projects an important evaluation criterion, when you identify the right system integrator.

In our discussion we also covered the question of when you should consider divorcing your system integrator. One customer had recently revoked their marriage with a system integrator and it was an expensive and unpleasant exercise. To get started with a new agency, they initially opted for a only a small scoping exercise with the integrator after which they had a go/no-go option. This is usually a good approach as it manages some of the risk involved in a web project and also encourages dialogue and understanding on both sides of the table.

Only one participant in the discussion had a direct relationship with Microsoft, which is something I have highlighted the benefits of for a long time. This can help you stay informed about roadmap, documentation, best practices, and other intangibles. In the big picture SharePoint is still pocket change to Microsoft, but several of our community of practice members have called Microsoft helpful and attentive to requests. Under a non-disclosure agreement, Microsoft has also been known to share several roadmap details, which is a positive move.

Finally, we covered geography. "Have them close by" as a participant said. Since SharePoint is more a framework than an out-of-the-box product, you will benefit immensely from face-to-face time with your system integrator. Dialogue is required to make a SharePoint project fly.

In short: If you don't build your own SharePoint skills and challenge the integrator to do better, SharePoint will remain their goldmine. Have you got any learnt lessons you can share?

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