Behind the Curtains of the Solution Quadrant White Paper

Well the biggie is now out, the Solution Quadrant for SharePoint for 2009 White Paper. This was an ambitious undertaking, with a lot of content and feedback. Let me go behind the curtains and unveil some of the controversial topics people have been hot about and emerging solutions that people seem jazzed about.

The Quadrant includes 30 solutions broken down into 13 categories, fitting onto a single “plane”. That was the first overarching controversy – Why did you pick those 30 solutions and bunch them into your 13 categories? Well, we got a lot of input, and did our best; we have to have a bit of editorial license.

So, now lets get into the other 6 top Controversies about the meat of the white paper. There has been a great deal of spirited discussion, here are the top “debates”…

1. Centralized, content-based, information portals are passé – More of an “Emperors New Clothes” issue. Many just won’t give it up. Generation 1 Portals are prevalent, expensive, take a long time, are centrally designed. Adoption is low, little innovation, and they don’t serve business needs. Gartner predicted Portal evolution away from these Generation 1 models and they were right. It is time for different approaches…

2. SharePoint 2007 Drove a Wedge into Portal Evolution – Gartner thought Portals would evolve. We say SharePoint has bifurcated portal evolution with a new distributed, work environment paradigm. Are Gen 1 portals dead? Maybe; the distributed work environments of SharePoint are different beasts. And, the new portal-like creatures are also very different animals (see application portals below) – maybe these new work environments didn’t evolve; they were created…

3. Classic content-driven, passive Intranets transforming into application/activity-centric workplaces – They have the same departmental structure – end of similarity. People are jamming applications, business processes, user consoles, dashboards – all activity centric stuff into these new workplaces. They are dynamic, interactive, even transactional. There is nothing passive about these environments.

4. Community-of-purpose vs. Community-of-interest – Are communities-of-interest dead? No. But, increasingly we are seeing communities-of-purpose arising like a Quality Program for generating and implementing quality ideas in a consumer manufacturer, and, a disaster relief effort coordinating specific activities. These communities are there to accomplish specific objectives. They are designed differently, have different activity-centric processes, and, they produce measurable results.

5. Breaking up Social Computing into 3 separate solution categories – There is a lot of talk about Social Computing these days. While many vendors are working to create integrated “Social Computing” solution sets, in a SharePoint context, we see it diverging into the 3 different solution types that are serving 3 very different needs and going in different directions.

6. Front-end SharePointees meet Back-End SOAers – There are two big things happening in the enterprise. SOA on the back end is being understood for what is realistic and people are doing it. And, SharePoint is emerging as a great front end. But, are these groups talking. No, and it is a powerful constraint. It is a bit like the Reese’s peanut butter cup – some like chocolate, some like peanut butter – get these two groups together and you have something really sweet.

Okay, now for the top 8 Emerging Solutions and topics that seemed to grab people and get them excited about the potential for SharePoint in 2009 (many also somewhat controversial). It is a little longer, because, well, it is more fun…

1. Emerging Solution Sets for Departmental Workplaces – “Wow, we don’t have to figure it out on our own.” Not any more. In fact, the applications and processes are quite standard for given departments. There are standard design patterns that can be applied across applications and departments. In this modular world, they are easily, very easily, repeatable and reusable. There is order in the new world.

2. SharePoint for Internet sites – It is really happening. In fact, this was probably the biggest surprise to many in 2008. People are building Internet facing web sites that are cool and work. Definitely one to watch with the FAST acquisition by Microsoft.

3. Enterprise Shared Application Services – Roll over cloud lovers, the enterprise is here! Enterprises are creating their own, internal, web-based application services based upon SharePoint. These are big and broad. Our top 10 customers doing this have over 1m employees that will be using these services in 2009 to build applications and workspaces. To give you a sense, this amount equals the full subscriber base of Salesforce.com. And, IT is charging the business groups. AND, the business groups are happy because they can build their own apps using the service. One to really watch and follow.

4. Application portals ARE ready for SharePoint – There has been a bunch of innovation over the last year (like the CorasWorks Data Integration Toolset – hint). But, while many analysts and non-SharePoint platform pundits say that SharePoint doesn’t do Application Portals or is very custom and expensive – folks, the tables have turned. People are building complex, composite app portals, and, without custom dll coding.

5. Composite Business Processes – Business processes on SharePoint are not just about approving documents. A very large group of people are now designing and building robust, composite business processes, mashing up external data and services into the front-end business process in SharePoint. The limits are fading fast.

6. Who says SharePoint isn’t for Federation? – There are many non-SharePoint platform people who deride SharePoint for lack of Federation. Well, in fact you can Federate and quite painlessly (see my post about Lotus/SharePoint integration) . You just need to check out the 3rd party products, CorasWorks AND others. We see SharePoint as yes, providing information, not just a place to put information. The full ISV ecosystem backing SharePoint is really going after this one in 2009.

7. Social collaboration is the glue – Of the 3 social computing categories we see social collaboration as the strongest value driver. Through bookmarking, commenting, work sharing, tagging, and relating the siloed sites and piecemeal items are being glued together into their related business context. It is no longer about “proximity”, i.e., what site an item is in; it is about how it relates to other work and people. This is good stuff and will drive forward the idea of collaboration on SharePoint.

8. Getting Work Done: Work Consoles eclipsing Dashboards – Dashboards are great, you get to see good information in nice charts. But, how about taking action, making things happen, and, doing so without having to navigate all over the place. Hence, the rise of Work Consoles, the next gen dashboard. From one place, people can see, and contribute, and act on information across the distributed work environment of SharePoint. Work Consoles for individual users, role-based, or groups are a big crowd pleaser.

That’s what I’ve got on this years Solution Quadrant on SharePoint. Give it a read and weigh in with your comments.

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