Is Sharepoint 2013 enough to challenge other enterprise social networks ?

In July Ballmer announced Sharepoint 2013 to an eager audience and gave access to the preview. New Social features, improved MySite interface, Skydrive for document storage, improved collaboration, Azure workflow, newsfeeds, improved records management and compliance….it’s a bucket list that seems to tick all the right boxes for an enterprise social platform. But the bucket has holes, Dear Liza….

The problem with Sharepoint compared to other tools like Chatter/ Chatterbox, Box, Tibbr and now Oracle trying it’s luck after OpenWorld, is that it’s notorious to deploy out of the box and requires a lot of development and admin investment. Sharepoint is really just a development platform that allows businesses to create specific solutions but for those who have invested heavily in 2010 (and even 2007) versions will find it a hard pill to swallow to move to 2013 unless they have deep pockets right now. For a lot of people they can’t shake the perception of a dry company intranet poorly realised and under-developed and with all the noise of enterprise social networks the last thing Microsoft needs is an intranet image. Intranets are dead.

It’s fair to point out that companies like NewsGator has been creating solutions based on Sharepoint for years and are pushing the social angle hard right now but the fact remains that Microsoft’s Partner strategy is strangling its own innovation and ability to satisfy a rapid business need out of the box. It’s the main reason companies like Salesforce, Box and TIBCO are winning in the enterprise social network stakes because you don’t need dedicated resources to build, tweak and develop, to borrow a phrase from Apple ‘they just work’. What’s more is that with recent announcements from TUCON with a tie-in with Box, other vendors are getting the social enterprise picture a lot easier than Microsoft seems to be. Like another clunky IBM M&A news alert, acquiring Yammer thinking it can just bolt it on and make good things happen is a strategy stuck in the 90s. It also doesn’t help that it’s mobile functionality it somewhat clunky as well and in this current aggressive and fast paced software economy it’s unforgivable.

Sharepoint 2013 isn’t actually available yet and it’s already looking outdated. Add to that the development cost to actually eke out the functionality to its best ability and you’re adding on more time and money when there are easier, faster and cheaper ways to reach enterprise collaboration.

Unfortunately there’s another cloud in the silver Sharepoint lining and it was generated by Microsoft itself.

Jeff Teper, Microsoft Corporate Vice President for SharePoint said “We designed the new SharePoint UI to be clean, simple and fast and work great out-of-box. We encourage you not to modify it…We encourage you to review the new features and guidance to reduce the amount of custom work you need to do. …we encourage you to validate your design early in your development cycle….”

If you read between the lines, Jeff has alienated the development community by saying ‘look, don’t touch’. Whether it’s a deliberate move or not will unfold in time but Microsoft might just have given Salesforce, TIBCO and others their chance to wrestle Sharepoint from the corporate purchase order.

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