So how did we get here? What forces of nature combined to make SharePoint the "do everything", "installed everywhere" solution that it has become today. It is probably best to take a look at the vision behind the original SharePoint concept. In my opinion, Microsoft was trying to solve a seemingly simple, but complex problem. How do you balance the needs of the users with the control required by IT departments? At the time, stories of content management deployments were riddled with failures. Incredible solutions were reporting little use, departments discovered that they were disconnected from each other and end users were choosing to use mechanisms like email instead of the newly deployed products. Microsoft tackled this from two directions. They developed "Office Server" to handle simple, bottom up collaboration and "Tahoe" to support document management and top down portals. Once combined, the products became what we know today as SharePoint Portal Server 2001.
It may seem strange to discuss products that are 10 years old, but I would argue that this can provide a simplified way to approach evaluating a solution. Toss aside the fancy terms, the polished feature sets and the integrations. Instead, focus in on what the product was intended to solve:
"Bottom-up collaboration, Document Management and Top down Portals"
Bottom-up collaboration - The idea here is to promote employees with good ideas. Participation should be voluntary, reputations are earned over time and members maintain some control over the process.
Document Management – Simply put, this is a system used to track and store electronic documents of all kinds. This is the spring board to the more complex areas of digital asset management, document imaging, workflow and records management.
Top down Portals - Represents the concept of a single entry point or gateway for all employees (and sometimes customers) to access all information and applications within an organization.
Hopefully this has helped slim down the rationale for using SharePoint. I'd love to hear from others about the process they use to determine SharePoint's level of use within their organization.