When IT "Gets" it

By Marc Solomon posted 10-05-2010 21:00

The 900 pound gorilla cuts a fat two way profile in our community of SharePoint users. Mention obesity in a crowded server farm and that usually means that Microsoft has layered more arterial-clogging goopiness than your WAN can possibly carry. It's true. This one's going out to all you bandwidth-starved users stuck behind the proxy settings of a client or agency-based firewall. The other difficult conversation is around the sometimes reluctant embrace that our network IT custodians hold. And they are holding back to be sure. Why? Because they are tentative dance partners with an application that threatens not only to hijack the network but cut out the fleshy middleware of custom applications and high-priced code jockeys (the safe landing haven for IT managers who farm out their development dollars). SharePoint is a threat not only because it empowers users to build their own apps. It also exposes all the lose wires and unclosed loops that once lay dormant. But the cross-unit connectedness of a unified enterprise makes a mighty noise. So loud that even when those silos sleep through their wake-up calls the rest of the gang is wondering why the lifeblood of the organization is only pumping in one direction. In this time of austere budgets and turf battles, it helps to consider the role of IT as a critical enabler, not a necessary placeholder. This means functioning as a service organization, not an auto body shop that swaps out office machines to the rhythm of the depreciation cycle. Most importantly IT and the business can mesh once IT and cost are no longer joined at the procurement hip. For a glimpse into what this could mean operationally for SharePoint I interviewed Meint Post, Infrastructure Architect of Dutch-based Rabobank. Post doesn't suffer the perennial fate of IT departments that confuse technology as a destination instead of a process. He operates a kind of service bureau to the bank's business units. Post doesn't have an IT budget to defend. He asks each unit he supports to pony up in exchange for a structure, a development environment, collaboration tools and an extended community of power users. This includes content management, shared hosting, web analytics, and streaming media to support video-based training programs. Where is SharePoint in all this? As Post puts it, "Anything that falls outside paradigm is an isolated solution." In turn, Post's team has been able to reduce prices by 30-40% for the last 3 years through: (1) the growth of SharePoint; and (2) the use of a shared allocation model, i.e. the more customers the lower the price. Now that's a Microsoft Office gorilla that's fighting trim -- one that leaves enterprises free to pursue many types of SharePoint road maps in all but the most uncertain of climates. In these tightwad times, the timing may still be off for adding that extra help desk manager. But a set of internal software services that can pay its own way? That's a guaranteed seat around the table most enterprises call their 2011 priorities.

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