How SharePoint stole my heart

By Dave Martin posted 08-30-2010 09:46


I remember fondly when the romance began; it was the fall of 2001. I was an analyst and I had just been asked to review a white paper on Microsoft’s first portal solution, or at least that’s how we referred to them back then.  The product itself was called SharePoint Portal Server 2001, and it used a browser as an interface… and of course supported Netscape, which I think was the last time I saw that name in a white paper.

Suffice to say I was pretty impressed.  I liked the way it leveraged (at the time) some pretty cool technologies like WebDAV and Dynamic HTML (DHTML) and even more so, I liked the way it tied into Office.  And with that tie-in I saw a big new value, which was long overdue for the crowned king of office productivity. This new value was the concept of content collaboration – drawing people, content and technology together in a way that would add untold business value and dramatically increase productivity.

Productivity… really that’s where it all starts with Microsoft doesn’t it? A rhetorical question obviously, but it was two years later when I realized what Microsoft was actually setting up for itself with SharePoint 2001.  This wasn’t earth shattering, ground breaking, or revolutionary technology; rather it was an idea to drive new business at a time when the current foundation was showing some cracks.

My moment of revelation occurred one morning in October of 2003.  I was undertaking my daily review of a few favorite electronic news publications and there, like a glimmering light, on C/net I saw the article.  The first line is the one that really caught my eye and it read, “While Microsoft Office System is the most complete suite on the block, there's no compelling reason for everyone to upgrade.” ( And I thought to myself, you couldn’t be any more wrong.

It was a stroke of genius, or at least I thought so.  I mean, come on!  This is Microsoft Office we’re talking about here, and we’re ten versions deep into this product at this point. This isn’t revolutionary… this is evolutionary!!!

So let me explain what I mean.  At this point in time the office productivity market was fully saturated.  Like the fine journalist from C/Net stated, there really wasn’t a compelling reason to upgrade to the next version of Office as it really had reached a resounding state of good enough. By the numbers Microsoft owned over 95% of the office productivity market, people were pretty happy with Office XP and Microsoft found itself competing with, well… itself.  With Office revenues plateauing due to declining upgrades Microsoft needed to figure out how it would get its business applications group out of a potentially deepening rut.  

And then it happened, the Office System was born.  As I stated, it was a stroke of genius, because what most people saw as another version of the same old thing, some people saw as one of Microsoft’s shrewdest moves ever.  Microsoft pretty much controlled the office productivity market, and in doing so controlled the most ubiquitously used set of applications. Ultimately, they owned the end-user and content creation.

Enter SharePoint.  If you control the thing that creates the content why not build something that integrates seamlessly with it that also helps users manage and share that same content!  Basically Microsoft needed to leverage a market that it had control of and expand into an area where there was no one with more than 20% market share.  They owned the front-end and now they had figured out how to connect that to a new and possibly bigger market – the back-end.  This would help them sell more Windows Server, more SQL Server and a bevy of other back-end products and solutions.  Brilliant.

Now, 9 years and four generations since the SharePoint moniker was announced it has become the fastest Microsoft solution ever to reach a billion dollars in revenue and supports over 120 million users. You have to have respect, admiration, and in my case adoration, for a strategy and execution like that.

#sharepoint #productivity #SharePoint #portal #microsoft