January 23, 2010

SharePoint 2010: The New Employee Gateway?

Since 2001, Microsoft has sold well over 100 million licenses of SharePoint generating more than $1 billion / year in revenue. It’s quite amazing, in my opinion, considering the product is relatively archaic and institutionalized.

Enter SharePoint 2010, due to release in Q2 of 2010.

As customers begin to appreciate the delta between previous versions of SharePoint and the 2010 enhancements, it’s my belief that more and more organizations will utilize it as a basis for becoming the ‘employee gateway’, or, as I wrote earlier, a window into the organization. It could be that the social computing and learning capabilities outshine the other functions of the platform itself.


There are three reasons in particular found below, and one bonus reason at the conclusion of this rather long posting:

1)      Learning Management System Federation

2)      Facebookisation of the Enterprise (see Confused of Calcutta for more details)

3)      Content, Collateral and Community


 1)      Learning Management System (LMS) Federation

As we shift from ‘training is an event’ to ‘learning is continuous, collaborative and connected’ through formal, informal and social learning opportunities, there is less need for a stand-alone LMS and a greater need to connect the functions of an LMS (course registration, eLearning player, etc.) to a collaboration platform itself. SharePoint 2010 has better 2.0 collaboration potential than previous versions by a long-shot. We need to establish a new line of thinking; employees should parallel formal learning with informal and social learning opportunities, so embedding the LMS into the SharePoint 2010 platform begins this transformation.  David Mallon wrote about this integration potential last year.

There are a few companies providing integration of an LMS into the SharePoint 2007 platform, and I’m certain they are working on the next version of SharePoint 2010, but I’m not completely sold yet on any one company in particular in terms of a recommendation. (but I’m keeping options open)

  • Competentum– not as integrated into SharePoint as I would like to see
  • Operitel– an extension of SharePoint, not necessarily embedded into the core
  • ELearningForce – pretty well integrated, but their sales team requires some improvement
  • Intralearn – seems to be more of a web-part than complete integration
  • Lanteria– promising, but more of a traditional LMS baked into SharePoint

Microsoft itself has developed the SharePoint Learning Kit. It’s a noble start, but the company is missing the point. Turning SharePoint into Moodle may be somewhat advantageous for public schools and/or universities who utilize SharePoint, but corporations want something with a little more, well … integrated 2.0 rigour. I’ve approached Christian Finn of Microsoft to surface my thoughts and present my overarching argument to him later this quarter. In essence, Microsoft is missing out on a humongous opportunity by not having an out-of-the-box integrated LMS as part of SharePoint 2010.

(NOTE: Amanda Fenton pointed me in the direction of Rachel Fichter, who did exactly this for Credit Suisse – link to Amanda’s notes – thanks Amanda)

2)      Facebookisation of the Enterprise

JP Rangsawami coined this term in a recent blog posting of his, but I’m borrowing it to further my point around SharePoint 2010.

SharePoint is often referred to simply as a document management platform by those that don’t really understand its true intent. Granted, without proper governance, disparate SharePoint sites have infiltrated organizations and, sadly, given rise to the bad reputation.

If, however, SharePoint were to be a bit more like Facebook (and Twitter and LinkedIn and so on) perhaps it could further the argument of becoming the new employee gateway.

Perhaps I am naively oversimplifying things, but take a look at the SharePoint 2010 screenshot below:


This is the ‘out-of-the-box’ view an employee could see utilizing the vastly improved ‘my sites’ functionality. Imagine, if you can, how this could become the place in which the employee loops back into the organization in terms of displaying their skills, bio, what they’re working on, what they need help on, what communities they are a part of, etc. If you extend the thinking into the learning world … he/she could display how they could assist others (think mentor/coach/SME) as well as the place in which they register for formal courses, in addition to contributing back content & expertise through videos, comments, blogs, wikis, etc. (see below)

Imagine customizing this to the specific requirements of your organization.

This indeed could become the Facebookisation of the Enterprise and further validate the hypothesis of SharePoint 2010 becoming the new employee gateway. (NOTE: Electronic Arts really pioneered this type of thinking already on the SharePoint 2007 platform through the leadership of Bert Sandie – fellow 2.0 Adoption Council member and Canadian)

3)      Content, Collateral and Community

With Microsoft having woken up from the 1.0 slumber and realizing that 2.0 type of functionality had to be embedded into SharePoint 2010, we now have access to a collaboration platform that embeds end-user editing tools into the SharePoint navigation system itself allowing for ease-of-use editing on the fly when it concerns blogs, wikis, and content in general. It will be much easier now for end users to add documents, videos, audio and various pieces of social 2.0 collateral than ever before.

This is a good thing for several reasons:

  • Formal content can now be searched and referenced with informal and social content
  • Employees spend less time searching for any type of content, collateral and people/expertise
  • Employees also spend less time uploading and/or editing content
  • The aspect of ‘community’ should be easier to drive through better connections and access to content in a more timely manner (the use of ‘presence’ inside an all Microsoft environment is but one example)

4)      The Bonus Reason?

Microsoft has more than 100 million licenses of SharePoint out there … before SharePoint 2010 has even released. How many organizations are going to throw out this investment in favour of alternate social computing and learning platforms? A good question – no answers here though, only my personal speculation.

In Conclusion

Although I may come across as Microsoft-centric in this post, it’s merely my personal observation through the past couple of years as social collaboration platforms (and technologies) have surfaced to the forefront, that SharePoint 2010 is going to force organizations to rethink their LMS, Facebookisation and general Content strategy. Perhaps this is in fact Learnerprise.

Tony Karrer has stated he thinks there will be a lot of SharePoint related activity happening this year as well. There is an online discussion happening over at LearnTrends you might be interested in as well. If you are in fact utilizing the SharePoint Learning Kit, there is a forum entitled the Learning Gateway User Group that you might like to visit.

And finally, I believe Matt Asay said it best:

SharePoint (2010) is Microsoft’s best attempt to connect desktop applications like Office with centralized, cloud/cloud-like collaboration and storage. Yes, Microsoft has other initiatives like online Office, but none marries so well its legacy profit centers with future innovation. And, given that SharePoint is already a $1 billion and frenetically growing business, it has momentum that other initiatives don’t.

As an aside, I’m not entirely convinced Microsoft has sorted out the mobile strategy either, when it comes to SharePoint 2010. I hope I’m wrong.

10 Replies to “SharePoint 2010: The New Employee Gateway?”

  1. Hope the notes were helpful, Dan. This is a terrific post for anyone venturing into the “LMS – should we/shouldn’t we/should we switch” waters. Rachel’s talk shared Credit Suisse’s concept of running an LMS on the back-end, like an invisible database with the sort of functionality you might need, but with none of the terrible user experience we’re accustomed to with a typical LMS encounter.

    I do have a slightly different perspective on the governance and SharePoint view from above… or I may have misread this slightly and we’re on the same page (pun intended).

    “SharePoint is often referred to simply as a document management platform by those that don’t really understand its true intent. Granted, without proper governance, disparate SharePoint sites have infiltrated organizations and, sadly, given rise to the bad reputation.”

    I think that in some cases it is the very strict governance around document management that has given rise to the bad reputation. And that becomes a vicious spiral – corporate folks who hold purse-strings to resources and such aren’t interested in investing more in SharePoint due to the lack of love, and haven’t seen the potential of it being an organizational performance enhancer (with all-things-webby-like features we know can aid learning).

    So like a system archetype Sharepoint’s non-success in the organization leads further away from realizing it’s possibility. It’s wicked step-sister, holding project meeting minutes, grows stronger. And SharePoint Cinderella of the learnerprise & content, collateral and community world is left to sit in the cinders.

    Oh dear – it’s much too late to be clambering up on soapboxes!


  2. Well laid out. I think this is inevitable, but there’s going to be a lot of challenges for learning organizations in all sorts of ways. First challenge is that it’s rather hard to find / share experience around all of this.

  3. I’m just pulling together my own review of MS positioning papers and info sheets as I lead a project to roll Sharepoint 2010 out to BCIT, so a timely article for me and where my head’s at.

    While we’re not going into academic uses right away, I believe that the single most important feature to leverage is My Sites, provided the full release delivers as promised. In fact, strategically I’m hoping we can default to that when users log in to Sharepoint.

    So long as all sites the user belongs to are available from their landing page, this will deliver more value for the end user and, hopefully, encourage them to build the personal metadata on their profile which will, in turn, drive more value for the institution.

    I’m guardedly optimistic, but praying a lot of the rich media doesn’t have to depend on Silverlight because if that’s pushed too hard, it will make for a poor user experience in the end.

  4. Tony, you raise an interesting point about it being hard to find/share experiences around this. Sounds like an excellent topic to capture in a Google Wave discussion. I wonder how we could go about finding some SharePoint/learning revolutionaries to tell their stories?


  5. I think that the “Bonus Reason” is the key factor that will make SharePoint the major player in this area down the road. Realistically, how many different enterprise software solutions can an organization deploy and support? I haven’t had a chance to delve in the full features of SP 2010 but I have seen the Newsgator Social Sites modules and have to say that they appear to do a great job of “Facebookisation.” I’d be interested to hear what people think of Newsgator’s recent acquisition of Tomoye. Seems like this validates Tony’s recent prediction.

    The great thing about social media on SharePoint is that for many of us– that is where we do our work and collaborate with our teams. It takes a special effort to go out and keep up with all the Nings, wikis, blogs and etc. — too much for the average worker. Given the rogue skunk works adoption model that seems to be taking place in the absence of corporate initiatives I think that a portal solution that brings these all together will be alternate model to SP.

  6. @Andy: agreed, but customization is certainly still required

    @AmandaFenton: Great point – in fact, I think it’s both ways. Governance restrictions provide an incorrect perception that it’s “only” a doc mgt platform, and non-governance problems creates a “mess-o-pa-documents” scenario.

    @Tony: Exactly. SP (and collaboration platforms in general) have not been or don’t seem to be being pioneered or lead by the ‘learning/training’ team. I’m trying to get out in front of that, at least in my org. (and to @AmandaFenton’s point – how do we in fact get this dialogue going more so than the Ning thread)

    @James: MySites is but one part, but I see your point. To me, whatever front-end you create will be your front-end … from an SP2010 perspective, it could be MySites for certain, but you will want a navigation bar at the top (or side) that allows other rich features and functions to exist, such as TeamSites, Search, Intranet, LMS, etc.

    @Phil: Bingo. SP2010 (or frankly any other collaboration platform) could and should become a collated rested place of varying bits that are already out there, or about to surface. The ’employee’ is confused and they want simplication in their life – not myriad systems independent of one another

  7. Right you are, Dan – customization is necessary – not in the least because most of the SP business solutions from MS are weak. They’re selling a platform and. The Bonus Reason is one more reason why IT has zeroed in on it as a strategic platform.

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