It's Deja Vu All Over Again

By Rich Blank posted 01-19-2011 17:05


For those who've have been around the world of technology the last 2 decades, there are times SharePoint seems like déjà vu all over again.   The other day, I came across a Fortune article entitled "Why Microsoft Can't Stop Lotus Notes" from 1994 discussing the hype of Lotus Notes with millions of licenses and the birth of the "groupware" category. The Fortune article quoted Ray Ozzie discussing Notes: 

"The intention," says Ray Ozzie, the program's inventor, is to enable "people in business to collaborate with one another and to share knowledge or expertise unbounded by factors such as distance or time zone differences." That's a pretty good description of a product so multifaceted and versatile that it defies precise definition....

The 1996 Fortune article went on to say:

..."For customers, Lotus Notes is in a sense addictive. Notes becomes the repository for much of an organization's corporate memory; to remove vital data once it has spent a few years accumulating in Notes would be costly and disruptive"...

Fast forward and SharePoint has slowly but surely taken over and been hyped very much the same way.  I think you could easily remove Lotus Notes and insert Microsoft SharePoint into the statements above.   Interestingly enough in 1995, Larry Ellison predicted that Notes would be the "Visicalc of groupware'' (referring to the once dominant PC spreadsheet that was killed off by Lotus 1-2-3).  Well, no one talks about groupware anymore and Notes has indeed not only become Visicalc, but Lotus 1-2-3 as well.  Or perhaps there a handful of people in the world who don't use Microsoft Office....

My interest and passion in this space began working on Notes and I followed the waves into eRoom, Documentum and eventually SharePoint like many.   More and more each enterprise deployment or solution development project have similar concerns as they did 15 years ago.  From the Fortune article: "The first challenge to rolling out a Notes system is cultural".   Sounds familiar.  Technically, beyond understanding the business requirements, it's still about provisioning repositories, sites, governance, backups, taxonomy, content types, etc...  As far as solution development --- remember in the 90's when people were also talking about "component software" with service based characteristics?   That's what Notes was all about...."Notes makes such homegrown applications and the data they contain accessible throughout an organization".   Except today it's about composite applications, sites, communities and content all packaged into an "enterprise collaboration platform" called SharePoint (collaboration being an even broader term compared to its groupware relative).  The more consultants I talk to whose careers span 1 or more decades all tell me they're doing the same thing they did 10-15 years ago.   Except today, we do it all on SharePoint.

On a final note, I had an interesting conversation over the weekend with someone who said Microsoft is becoming irrelevant by the day with so much hype around iPad/iPhone-like devices and Android smart phones.  My response was just the opposite.  Microsoft has actually seemed irrelevant for a number of years....and they're now finally becoming more relevant (slowly) once again.  

"I would be insane to say that Microsoft won't be competitive....It is an awesome force in American capitalism."  -- former CEO of Lotus, Fortune Magazine 1994

#eroom #sharepoint #Documentum #SharePoint #notes