Last week I helped my colleague Tony Byrne host the SharePoint Symposium in Washington DC. We ran many of sessions there and had a good turnout at each, hardly surprising of course as SharePoint remains a very hot topic.
What was a bit surprising though, at least to me, was how attitudes have started to change. A year or two ago, SharePoint aficionados seemed to be able to take no constructive criticism of the product without virtually launching an all out war against the critic. SharePoint was unique, brilliant, and sacrosanct. When we wrote about the viral growth of SharePoint in 2007 we were lambasted left right and center for our (my) "inaccurate analysis."
This year though, the SharePoint cognoscenti talked much more than I did about SharePoint sprawl and the challenges it levels at organizations. Several panelists talked at length about the best way to deal with the problem, and conversation even extended to open criticism of elements of the SharePoint offering. The common theme was a recognition, albeit grudgingly at times, that SharePoint is not the be-all and end-all of the content management marketplace. Overall, I find this to be is really solid sign that the SharePoint ecosystem is maturing to find a healthy and vibrant place in the larger ECM and Content Management world.
What is clear to all now is that, particularly in larger deployments of SharePoint, that third party expertise and products are often required. Be that for archiving and disaster recovery, or for more advanced capture and workflow. This is a situation that is likely to remain unchanged in the future, for SharePoint is a very successful platform product for Microsoft, and it is in turn an even more successful revenue generator for Microsoft's partner channel, with one estimate putting a figure of $6 to $9 for every $1 spent on SharePoint licenses. So if $2 Billion is earned each year by Microsoft from SharePoint, that puts the total figure for SharePoint related revenue conservatively at $14 Billion globally.
Frankly that figure seems a bit high to my mind; then again it comes directly from Microsoft's own Arpan Shah, so maybe he knows things I don't. He also states that between 60-80% of all SharePoint projects involve a third party partner.
So it's pretty much a given that if you buy SharePoint you will be buying much more on top. Hence the growing interest in partners and add-on modules and hence our own critical evaluations of the SharePoint ecosystem. Even if the numbers are a little hazy, one thing for sure is that, as ecosystems go, the SharePoint one is the gift that keeps on giving.