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’. 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.

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