A potent and meaningful incubation project with the Microsoft SharePoint product management team has achieved critical mass and it is one whose timing could not be better. It is titled the "Business Critical SharePoint Program" and it is intended for Microsoft partners focused on delivering business critical solutions for their clients using SharePoint. Mr. Gideon Bibliowicz presented the formal announcement of the program two weeks ago at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference and it was extremely well-received. Bibliowicz had been promoting this concept internally with Microsoft and after presenting it to Senior Director of SharePoint, Jared Spataro, the program was introduced in a limited capacity with a small incubation group of partners.
The first pass or interpretation of the program is focused on leveraging SharePoint's ability to connect to Line Of Business (LoB) systems for access to transactional data. Examples of LoB systems may include SAP, Oracle Financials, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, SalesForce.COM and of course, Microsoft's Dynamics offerings. SharePoint 2010 (and to a lesser degree, its predecessor, SharePoint 2007) offer a rich collection of capabilities to integrate into such systems. There is a specific emphasis in the program that is focused on the use of SharePoint's Business Connectivity Services (BCS) functionality. By employing BCS capabilities, organizations can access key LoB data for read and if desired, create/update/delete purposes. Collectively, these are referred to as CRUD (Create/Read/Update/Delete) operations. This first line of attack into Business Critical solutions is the integration with LoB systems. More broadly, I believe Microsoft envisions the premise of Business Critical SharePoint to be much broader.
In my opinion, the notion of "Business Critical" is really founded upon using SharePoint (or other applications) in key ways to solve mission critical business problems. Linking into LoB systems is one example. Alternatively, it may be that an organization leverages SharePoint through advanced workflow automation and business intelligence reporting/dash-boarding. In a nutshell...it is something that the business heavily depends upon to perform key functions.
Interestingly, a number of partners, including yours truly, have been focused on such efforts for a while. However, Microsoft's formality and might in shepherding this program to the market will only serve to heighten the visibility of SharePoint's truer value proposition. So long as people and companies think of SharePoint only as a team collaboration portal, it will at best achieve mediocre adoption. By properly positioning and demonstrating how SharePoint can be employed to solve more potent and pressing business problems, organizations will be able to better leverage its capabilities. This renewed emphasis only heightens the value proposition further for SharePoint as organizations embrace it more readily for its full potential.