SharePoint Magic

Every now and then I stumble upon a piece of software that – after a few months of using it – I wonder how I ever lived without it.  My latest instance of this is SharePoint and it surprised even me.

I used to make fun of SharePoint when it was merely Microsoft’s Portal product (going back to 2000–ish.)  Folks I knew at Microsoft talked about the incredible number of seats they had sold, but I knew that they bundled it for free as part of their EA program.  Whenever it came up, I asked about the number of people that actually used SharePoint and often got blank stares.

In 2005, I first started hearing about Microsoft’s efforts to make Office a platform rather than just a set of desktop applications. There were lots of different names for the various technologies that Microsoft was going to incorporate into this platform – plenty of stuff ending in “Server” or “Platform Technology.”  In typical Microsoft fashion, they massaged and massaged and massaged this until they came up with MOSS (Microsoft Office SharePoint Services.)

MOSS is great.  We’ve been using a variety of web-based apps, including one for our Wiki.  We tried a few CRM approaches (including the incredibly disappointing Microsoft CRM – as happy as we are with SharePoint, we are equally unhappy with Microsoft CRM.)  For the hell of it we tossed up a SharePoint server and started playing with it – we’ve never looked back.

Interestingly, we are still only scratching the surface of SharePoint.  The Wiki functionality works great, we’ve got a number of databases built, and we are starting to use it for internal document management.  Exchange integration works nicely and we’ve actually managed to create the level of CRM system we need with it with zero outside consulting help.

That said, there are interesting weaknesses in the product which several of our portfolio companies can help with.  NewsGator has had simple integration with SharePoint around RSS for a while – look for a much deeper integration with MOSS coming soon.  Microsoft promises a “Hosted SharePoint” (um – SharePoint Live?) product (expect an announcement at Mix in a few weeks), and there is an opportunity for cleaner integration with non-Microsoft APIs, especially around blogging and user-generated content.

I love finding a gem where I wasn’t expecting it.

  • Niels

    Hey Brad,

    reading you blog (in)frequently and even-though I dont know your exact needs let me share my 2 cents as I have been interested in and working with this collaboration topic as an end user for a while:

    I’ve been using Sharepoint/STS/SPS on/off since back in 2000ish and have not found it to be working that well. Through various companies me/our primary needs were around collaboration and some level of task/project management with minimum overhead for participants. Our/my main complaints around S:
    – The doc share only works (partially) well on win clients with office apps.
    – WebDav issues for non win clients
    – Version control not easy to use
    – To-do lists,etc not user-friendly – just takes too much effort to work with them

    So what’s the alternative: Since mid-2006 I’ve been using basecamp ( and I must say this is exactly what we were looking for:
    – No fancy features, just “bare-bones” functions but still meeting to 80/20- rule.
    – Focus on productivity instead of fanciness (layout however is still clean and effective)
    – online doc share: Forget heavy office docs – simple markup-text files with built-in version control,etc (and if you need it still can share files)
    – RSS feeds.
    – APIs for those who need to do fancy stuff.

    I am in no way associated with 37signals beyond being a paying customer but I would recommend anybody who need online collaboration to evaluate the solutions. Its not big and fancy but it makes your distributed teams much more productive.

    Thanks for a informative blog – will continue to check back as often as time allows..


    (PS: make the edit comment box larger – it is too painful to re-read and fix typos… 🙂

  • I’m fairly sure that Microsoft Office Live Basic is already a hosted version of Sharepoint Services 2007.

  • We have built a lightweight workflow system that integrates with Microsoft Sharepoint Portal using their web parts integration interfaces. As far as API’s go SPS seems to be working just fine!

    We found a need for simple solution that combined simple workflow with simple document management and other features like Discussions with replies for globally distributed colloborative work. Companies seemed to be struggling with heavy workflow solutions + heavy document management solutions but what they needed was a simpler smaller hammer for a smaller sized nail.

    So far we have not been disappointed! For API’s to work properly is no small feat and SPS seems to be there almost!

  • Hi Brad,
    keep us updated on your experiences..its always interesting to read hands on articles. You might want to read Jennifer Neumanns articles on SharePoint at

  • I am in no way associated with 37signals beyond being a paying customer but I would recommend anybody who need online collaboration to evaluate the solutions. Its not big and fancy but it makes your distributed teams much more productive