Is SharePoint 2010 Social Ready For Prime Time?

This morning Microsoft launched SharePoint 2010, the follow-up to the very successful Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007. As the morning progresses, I receive more and more notifications from vendors that are announcing integration strategies for the new offering. Meanwhile, other vendors announce strategies to compete. The social computing vendors are no exception. No matter the strategy, it's clear that SharePoint is creating a market disruption that not only vendors but clients need to address in creating and updating broad collaboration strategies. Many Forrester clients have already begun this assessment process, as evidenced by my inquiry load over the past several months. One question has surfaced repeatedly:

Does SharePoint 2010 affect my plans for social in the enterprise?

Well, yes and no. Here's the 100,000 foot view. If you are committed to SharePoint you really need to take a look at what Microsoft delivers as part of 2010. For many, this release will reach the proverbial "good enough" bar.  MySites, already a decent profiling service, continues to improve. Blogs and wikis, which were pretty dismal in MOSS 2007, are quite well done. Key missing elements like tags, tag clouds, community sites and activity streams are now part of the offering. Microblogs, a hot top of mind topic at the moment, are not quite there yet. Interesting. As Twitter explodes and Yammer continues to gain ground in the enterprise, SharePoint comes up short in microblogging. The reason? At least for the time being, SharePoint is dependent on a pretty traditional development cycle and microblogging exploded pretty late in the product development cycle. In other words, SharePoint is now clearly in the social game, but will play the role of fast follower for the time being.

So is that a bad thing? A good thing? That's for you to decide. It's  a product strategy with potential upside and downside depending upon your organizational goals. The fact that SharePoint is highly integrated across multiple functional areas like collaboration, content, portal, business intelligence, search, records management and application development can create some very interesting opportunities to drive down costs and create interesting applications. If you already own SharePoint licenses, all the more interesting.

When is SharePoint not the right answer for social? When your organization wants to be on the cutting edge of new functionality. Collaboration archrival IBM/Lotus has taken a very different approach with their Connections offering with a more modular approach that allows their development team to be more aggressive in pushing out new releases. The lack of dependencies on a much larger product offering allows Lotus to be more nimble. Other vendors like Jive, Telligent, and SocialText (for a more complete list see Enterprise Social Networking 2010 Market Overview ), all pure-play social vendors, have taken similar approaches. They are making a big bet on being faster than Microsoft in an area that changes and grows rapidly. For organizations that are nor pursuing SharePoint, or want to stay on that cutting edge, the good news is that the vendor landscape is very rich.

Want to have your cake and eat it too? Well, you can do that, but it will cost you extra. Many of the pure-play enterprise social vendors have built integration strategies for SharePoint (including all of the vendors mentioned above). Newsgator has built cutting edge social capabilities right on top of SharePoint. Other vendors offer side-by-side offerings that integrate with SharePoint anywhere from the user interface out to the ability to store and manage content artifacts directly in the native SharePoint repository. Remember I mentioned that SharePoint 2010 microblogging fell a bit short? Well, SocialText will be happy to sell you Signals, their enterprise microblogging solution, integrated with SharePoint. Many of the key vendors in the space are well along the path to building compelling integration points.

At the end of the day, Forrester clients seem to be falling into one of three buckets:

  • Those that are committed to SharePoint and are planning to take the native social capabilities, even if it means being a bit behind the cutting edge.
  • Those that want the latest and greatest in social technology in their enterprise and will pursue a pure social technology offering.
  • Those that want both and will look for a pure social offering with deep integration with SharePoint.

Want to know more about Microsoft's Office and SharePoint 2010 announcements? Join us for a webinar on the topic:

Microsoft Launches SharePoint and Office 2010: What You Need To Know

Friday, May 14, 2010, 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Eastern time (16:00-17:00 UK time)