SharePoint Enters Its Awkward Teenage Years

Rob Koplowitz and I collaborated on this research. Forrester clients can access the full report here. The research uses data from Forrester’s August 2012 Global SharePoint Usage Online Survey to analyze the current and likely future state of SharePoint adoption in enterprises. Selected results from the survey are available here.

Microsoft SharePoint is the centerpiece of many enterprises’ collaboration and content strategies, but it isn’t clear to us that enterprises will continue to invest in SharePoint to provide a broad range of social, web content, and content delivery functions.

Our latest Global SharePoint Usage Online Survey (2012) suggests that customers struggle to adopt SharePoint’s full range of features, hurting the product’s long-term business value.  Many business managers (as opposed to IT managers) aren’t satisfied that SharePoint delivers good business value to their companies, citing uninspired user experiences, technical complexity, and other factors.

IT management is more satisfied with SharePoint than business management, and this satisfaction is driving aggressive adoption of new SharePoint releases. Plans to adopt the latest release (SharePoint 2013) are very strong.

In addition to challenging satisfaction levels with SharePoint among business managers, SharePoint faces three other barriers to its continued domination of enterprise collaboration and Intranet platforms:

  • Adoption of SharePoint Online, the cloud edition of SharePoint, is very low. Our data suggests impending growth, but not dramatic growth. This factor opens the door cloud-based SharePoint competitors including Google, Box, and (for individuals) Dropbox.
  • Social is one of the least successful SharePoint workloads. This despite the fact that social adoption in enterprises is in full swing. Again, this gap opens the door to SharePoint competitors, including IBM and Jive.
  • Very few SharePoint installations are accessible from mobile devices except through standard HTML pages. Mobile is also hot in enterprises, and Microsoft’s lack of mobile support for SharePoint opens doors for competitors as well.

It’s not clear to us that the many enterprises that have made SharePoint the centerpiece of their collaboration and content strategies will continue to invest in the product to provide a broader range of social, web content, and content delivery functionality. These companies may choose to supplement SharePoint with a partner product to meet these new needs, but they may also turn to cloud-based third-party products or services. The alternatives that we see clients consider most often are from IBM, Google, Jive Software, and Box.

Despite its rousing success in enterprises, circumstances have changed and SharePoint must prove its value all over again. Microsoft is good at managing these kinds of transitions. Microsoft acquired Yammer to fill SharePoint’s social gap. Microsoft plans to provide native applications for mobile devices to access SharePoint. And Office 365’s usability improvements should help increase SharePoint Online adoption. These strategies must succeed but this time it must succeed if SharePoint is to continue as a dominant platform for information workplaces, content and collaboration, the Web, and mobile applications.