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SharePoint 2010 for Web Content Management, Pros and Cons

19 November 2010

image A couple of years ago, I attended a discussion on using SharePoint/MOSS 2007 for Web Content Management and wrote a well visited post, SP for WCM, The Movie.  Well, as you may have noticed, Microsoft released a new version this year and they are starting to market it heavily with SharePoint Solutions for Internet Sites.

Well, this week I participated in the SharePoint Symposium 2010 as part of KM World.  Specifically I was part of the panel discussing the question of whether or not you can use SharePoint for WCM.

I’ll give a simple answer at the bottom, but I’m going to share the thoughts and opinions that were shared by others and myself.

Setting the Baseline…

My fellow panelists were Richard Harbridge and Shannon Ryan.  We were the second pro/con discussion of the day, so we had a few helpful points made prior to our session (notes below).  We each had about 8 minutes to make our point before a general discussion

Richard went first.  He is a full-fledge Microsoft junkie.  That said, he isn’t blind to the flaws of SharePoint.  Richard was well prepared and summed his argument up by saying that if it is a large and complex website, and you are part of the Microsoft ecosystem, then go for it.

During his talk, Richard did say that using SharePoint 2007 for WCM was a no-go.  That is an important point to remember. [Note: Since posting, Richard has posted his slides. They are good, but are much better when Richard presents them.]

Shannon spoke, focusing on the features you would be looking for in your website.  With his slides destroyed by a bowl of food, he talked us through his points.  Shannon’s focus was definitely on the website purpose before technology, though he did not neglect the technology angle.  He dismissed the internationalization features of SharePoint, saying that they required too much work for something that was out-of-the-box with other products.

Shannon concluded that if you had a large website with a lot of “static” content, it might be a good fit.  He also said that if you were a true-blood Microsoft shop, it might also be an option.

My Discussion

I was invited to present the Con argument, which wasn’t hard to make.  I started with the definition of SharePoint taken from Microsoft’s own SharePoint home page.  Take a gander:

Microsoft SharePoint 2010 makes it easier for people to work together. Using SharePoint 2010, your people can set up Web sites to share information with others, manage documents from start to finish, and publish reports to help everyone make better decisions.

- November 16, 2010

You’ll notice that the focus seems to be collaboration.  My first point really was taking a look at what SharePoint was designed to accomplish.  It does a fair job at collaboration and tends to be good enough for a large number of people.

The problem is that SharePoint wasn’t designed to be a WCM system.  You can use it as such, but that doesn’t make it a WCM.  I can hammer a nail into a board with a wrench, but it doesn’t make that wrench a hammer and doesn’t mean that it will work  well for that purpose.

I then discussed the changes from 2007 to 2010.  Starting from the basis that 2007 didn’t do WCM well, I focused on the improvements that had been made.  Most of the core infrastructure issues that I discussed in my previous post still apply.  What is easier is creating content.  Great! I can create and modify content easier which will increase the headache of keeping the website up-to-date in a managed fashion.

Let’s not forget video.  SharePoint can stream it, but if you want to do anything with that video aside from storing and streaming, start looking for another product.

My favorite argument is the Browser question.  SharePoint now supports Firefox.  Great, but be sure you use it on a Windows platform because it isn’t fully supported for SharePoint on other operating systems.  If you want to access SharePoint from other platforms, now you can use Safari, but it doesn’t come with full functionality.

image So I am going to have a public website that doesn’t support all of the browsers that my users might have?  Where is the Chrome support?  Where is support for the next cool browser that will likely be released before SP2013 is released?  That doesn’t sound appealing.

I then went into the whole is it a WCM or a Website Management System (complete with WordPress reference)?  When you get down to it, SP is more of a portal product.  I can have a website running on a portal, but that doesn’t make it a Web CMS.  There is nothing wrong with not being a Web CMS, but that was the key question in the debate.

I then warned against making a lot of customizations because they might have to be all re-done with the next SharePoint release.  While on that topic, I mentioned that we were probably three years away from the next major release.  How outdated will SharePoint look-and-feel at the end of that time?

The long release cycle is a common problem with large platform vendors.  The web is releasing new things every few months.  The multi-year release cycle just isn’t going to cut it in the world of Web Platforms.

My closing thought….Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should.

Other Opinions

During and before the session, many great thoughts were shared.  Most of these thoughts are from the SharePoint Pros and Cons session with Tony Byrne and Rob Koplowitz.  The rest are here because I didn’t remember who said them and don’t want to get anyone in trouble.

  • Most of those really large corporate websites running on SharePoint had Microsoft help build them.  If you aren’t really large with lots of money and visibility, Microsoft isn’t going to be helping you.
  • WCM should be driven by marketing.  SharePoint is typically run by IT and is too technical to not have IT playing an essential role. (My random thought)
  • SharePoint competes with different players in different markets, but there is no one solution that is a direct competitor to SharePoint.
  • SharePoint’s best fit is file-oriented collaboration.  Integration with Office on Windows makes it very useful. (Tony Byrne thought)
  • Using SP just for workspaces is overkill, take advantage of other aspects in order gain full value of investment in time and money.
  • SharePoint is marketed to Business as product, IT and channel partners as a platform.
  • For every $1 for licenses, you will likely spend $6-9 in services (IT and business services), similar to portal ratios.  (My experience shows that ECM tends to be a $2-3 ratio and specialized collaboration tends to be $1-2).
  • SharePoint has a complex interface versus pure collaboration tools.  Training is needed.
  • When asked SharePoint was weak in: WCM, DAM, and Social Computing
  • The 3 year update cycle limits innovation.  On the flip side, do you want to have significant upgrades to core business systems every 6 months?
  • Open Text has done the best co-existing with SP, all larger traditional vendors are doing okay, Oracle, IBM, EMC.
  • “Cost, usability, and functionality” are reasons people aren’t using SP for external sites. (not credited on purpose, but it wasn’t me)

It was a fun session and a great event.

image Oh, and in case you were wondering, the conclusion wasn’t very positive.  In a later session, Shawn Shell said very forceful and succinct manner, No (but in better terms).

So until 2013, use SharePoint for what it does best, collaboration and as a platform for .NET apps.  Remember, it is a very useful tool and is “Good enough” for most people and problems.  Just know its limits and let yourself be driven by the business problem, not by the presence of a Swiss Army Knife in your pocket.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. 19 November 2010 6:06 pm

    Great summary though it is a little negative oriented. There are pros as well! :)

    I just wanted to carefully summarize what I meant around SharePoint 2007. For future projects (starting now and onwards) I would not use SharePoint 2007. Especially since most WCM implementations are almost stand alone in the way they are implemented from a SharePoint and Security perspective.

    I also want to highlight I did state that in an Extranet scenario where heavy content (non web content) is exchanging hands and being managed SharePoint shines like a beautiful star (perhaps in slightly different words).

    The overall picture is still accurate that it really depends on what your organization currently is using and has familiarity with. If you have SharePoint expertise in the organization, if you have Adoption of SharePoint in the org, or you have other SharePoint implementations (where content, processes, or people are related) then it further gives credibility and encouragement to build the website in SharePoint.

    I have done a number of WCM implementations on 2007 – With all it’s ‘costs’ and other impacts I still 100% believe it was the right choice for each client.

    Hopefully this adds further context. :)

    Like this

    • 19 November 2010 7:07 pm

      Thanks for the context. I wasn’t taking notes when you were speaking, so I tried to make sure you knew about this post fairly quickly to fix/update. There are pros for every option and I do want them fairly presented, even if I am for the other side. :)

      For those who don’t know Richard, the man has a lot of experience with SharePoint.

      Like this

  2. 19 November 2010 6:59 pm

    Pie – Typo alert, you might want to change Shawn Snell to Shell as in sea……..

    I too can often be extremely negative about SharePoint, not because I am a died in the wool, beardy Linux nerd or anything (ok, well I do have a beard, and an affinity for open source….) but because I have used MOSS2007 day in and day out for the last 2 years.

    And it sucks, bigs style……

    I know Richard would come back with the “ahh but, what are you using it for, and how” questions, and he would be right to. He would also be right to point out that many of my issues in 2007 have been fixed in 2010. I am happy to accept all of that. However in the end it is still a “jack of all trades, master of non” type platform, which is marketed heavily for the “out of the box experience” whereas, as you rightly point out in your article, it can pretty much do whatever you want, as long as you can afford to pay for talented people like Richard, and for various 3rd party add on’s.

    Despite what MS marketing tell us, it is NOT the right tool for every job. I currently manage a global portal from Toronto, the data centre is in Amsterdam, the users are all over the world. For the past 3 weeks the system has been almost unusable, apparently due to Service Pack 2 running into issues with some custom code !

    Portal – I prefer the product formally known as BEA Aqualogic, or WebSphere at a pinch.
    Collaboration – I love eRoom personally, but I can think of many other tools
    Doc and record management – anything other than SP really.
    WCM – Not a chance…….
    Business Intelligence – well its not really in 2007 is it

    I am not a developer, I don’t care if its an excellent .Net development platform. In the role of “business power user” (with a heavy IT background) I am the type of person SP has always been marketed at, and my sad experience is that it has failed me a lot more often than it has delightfully surprised me.

    Anyone with lots of hands on 2010 experience, please feel free to comment and tell us how much better it is.

    Like this

  3. 22 November 2010 11:56 am

    Superb article Laurence, quite possibly the definitive word on an important subject.

    I doth my cap to you sir – definitely an article I wish I’d had the opportunity to write as you have here.

    Cheers,

    Ian

    @iantruscott

    Like this

  4. 22 November 2010 4:43 pm

    I’m a SharePoint fan, I also work in the WCM space. I agree with pretty much with all the points made above.

    My summary:

    i. use SP to build an intranet, it is good for collaboration and for *finding stuff*
    ii. don’t use it to build a website

    Like this

    • 10 April 2012 8:09 am

      Same here, experienced in SP, agree totally with this post.

      Like this

  5. Raghav permalink
    24 January 2011 6:51 am

    Thanks you for this article & all your comments. Our organization have WCM built on .NET and would like to migrate the same to any good vendor product good at Enterprise Content(ECM) & Web Content Management(WCM). The application has all the features as that of general WCM. Kindly let me know if SharePoint 2010 will be a best suit for around contribute yours count as 7000.

    Like this

  6. 15 June 2011 11:51 am

    Thanks for this post. I have been talking with a large city in my state about updating their website which was originally setup using Sharepoint. The site is a mess — terribly disorganized with just pages and pages of disorganized “reports” and “public notices” (these are links to documents in SP, not much text actually on the website. To make it worse, the content is fed in through frames which aren’t readable by search engines). And, no one knows how to update it. The original provider is MIA and the city is very disgruntled.

    What organizations need for publishing content on the web is easy to use content management systems. We can always sync website content to internal databases but if the Mayor’s secretary can’t update the home page with today’s information, then what’s the point?

    As a software industry ex-patriot and as an internet marketing strategist today, the cons of Sharepoint as a web CMS far outweigh any value gained by document management or internal collaboration.

    Like this

  7. 7 December 2011 2:56 pm

    Thank you for this blog posting. Lately more companies have been asking us about utilizing SharePoint as a CMS. Your post clearly states on why not to, thank you!

    Like this

  8. tim permalink
    27 February 2013 10:04 pm

    Wonderful post! This was written a couple of years ago now and was wondering if you feel if anything has changed?

    Like this

    • 27 February 2013 10:51 pm

      Haven’t really assessed SharePoint 2013 yet. I haven’t heard or seen anything dramatic. SharePoint is still okay for an external portal for shared work, but as an externally facing website, unless you get a firm that specializes in doing it and get a firm-fixed price with a well-defined scope, I’d pass.

      Like this

  9. 25 June 2013 1:18 pm

    Keep in mind that if you execute with SharePoint, it really is a long-term process which will not really complete.

    Like this

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