When SharePoint's own partners won't use it as Web CMS

  • 3-May-2010

Microsoft's closest software partners whose core competency lies in knowing the innards of SharePoint have largely rejected the platform as an internet publishing service.

SharePoint's web content management capabilities have always been controversial, especially for public website environments. Although Redmond can point to more than a thousand customers using SharePoint's WCM services, many systems integrators and consultancies -- including those close to Microsoft -- tell us privately that they recommend competing alternatives for their clients' public websites in all but the most trivial scenarios.

Of course, most integrators have relationships with multiple Web CMS vendors, to be able to match different customer needs.

This got me wondering about Microsoft's software partners, often labelled "the ISV (Independent Software Vendor) channel." They build tools that run on top of or alongside SharePoint, and are traditionally very loyal to Microsoft. Do they use SharePoint for their own websites?

I decided to find out, starting with a list of ISVs that we evaluate in our SharePoint "ecosystem" research, and adding nearly a dozen more to create a representative list. I looked only at partners who exclusively or primarily develop software to work with SharePoint. In other words, I left out the likes of EMC, Open Text, and other vendors who compete as well as cooperate with Redmond (and have their own WCM tools).

Let's look at thirty SharePoint ISVs across six categories.

1) Several SharePoint partners employ Dreamweaver templates, presumably with static or semi-static pages:

2) Some go with SharePoint competitors:

3) Others run on PHP-based, open source software:

4) Some run on pre-.NET, ASP-driven code -- or possibly Microsoft's old MCMS product:

5) Some partners' sites look more like custom .NET applications or some unidentifiable .NET-based CMS. To be fair, they could theoretically be SharePoint-delivered; if so, they were heavily customized (replacement master pages, URL-rewriting, killing extraneous JS and CSS, etc.), and somehow suppressed the tell-tale SharePoint response-header entry. In other words: extremely unlikely.

6) I found just four ISV partners whose sites definitely get served up by SharePoint:

Recall again that this is a list of ISVs and not integrators. Among the thousands of SharePoint services firms worldwide, surely many of them publish their websites using SharePoint, and some will no doubt leave comments to that effect below. I imagine they're more willing to invest energy in the same sorts of customizations they're pitching to client companies. Redmond will also more readily give integrators free licenses for external sites.

I think the profile of ISVs more closely matches that of you the customer: they have Microsoft expertise, interest in SharePoint, but don't want to over-invest in website customization if they can get more productized solutions elsewhere.

There are many potential explanations for why a substantial majority of Redmond's software partners eschew SharePoint for their public sites. Perhaps their website platforms predated MOSS 2007 and they didn't see the need to migrate. Perhaps SharePoint's eye-popping external licensing fees proved too steep, even for the loyal faithful (though some ISV partners can get free external licenses).

Or perhaps SharePoint's manifold shortcomings for public site management lay behind these decisions. Microsoft has addressed those shortcomings more in degree than kind within SharePoint 2010.

If you'd like to investigate how SharePoint's web content management capabilities stack up against forty-four competitors across twelve scenarios, check out our Web CMS evaluation research here. If you're interested to learn more about SharePoint's broader strengths and weaknesses, consult our Evaluating SharePoint research.