By Bill Robinson
Raise your hand if you’re frustrated, sickened or being slowly driven insane by SharePoint.
I see a lot of raised hands out there.
Acclaimed by Gartner and the reported 78% of Fortune 500 companies that use it, SharePoint is sure to raise a few eyebrows (or moisten a few eyes) anytime it’s mentioned in a casual business conversation with the people who have to actually use it. The poor, lost souls using it in their daily routine–loathe it.
This deep-seated disgust SharePoint users feel is almost a metaphor for the broad customer posture toward Microsoft in general.
But there are little-known alternatives to SharePoint in spite of its market dominance.
Farzin Arsanjani came to America in 1981 from Iran. Iranian tech entrepreneurs, I’ve found, can be very prolific and very successful here in America and Arsanjani was no different.
In 1987, Arsanjani started a company called HTR. “I wanted to build a viable product in a hot market,” Arsanjani remembered, “we wanted to help software companies like Autodesk train their channel, train their customers.”
Scaling HTR rapidly to 10 offices around the US and more than 200 employees, Arsanjani sold HTR in 1997 and then did what many entrepreneurs do: stayed with the acquiring company for a couple of years.
“Right around the time I was selling HTR, I became very intrigued with groupware applications like Lotus Notes and Novell Groupware,” Arsanjani said smiling broadly. “Then, two guys approached me with an idea about starting a Lotus Notes-type software for a browser collaborative product.” This must’ve been a determining moment for Arsanjani.
According to Arsanjani, after he seeded them with his personal money, the small company “got tons of VC money in the period of 1999 to 2000.” Of course when the Tech Wreck began around April of 2000, they began a slow period of decline into their “no money” final phase. Arsanjani then bought the assets of the strapped enterprise.
This begot the birth of HyperOffice. This company says it has a product that is not just better than SharePoint but much better. Based in a DC/Maryland suburb, this 20-person company has put together a product that a giant, global, multi-billion dollar software company would be proud of … had Microsoft created such a piece of software.
The HyperOffice product is best described with the dated term ‘groupware.’ I’m not sure why this term is dated as it’s never really come to fruition despite the hype of Lotus Notes and Novell Groupware. Now, a company finally might deliver on all the promise these two words put together implied.
HyperOffice is a broad product and covers a lot of enterprise activity. Shared documents, email, project management, intranet/extranet publishing, wikis, contacts, calendars, database apps, web forms, mobile sync, security and permissioning are offered in a unified cloud solution across all desktop, mobile and tablet operating systems. According to Arsanjani, “HyperOffice is very integrated; Microsoft (SharePoint) and Google (Google Docs) can never catch up because it’s very scalable.”
Though the enterprise market is what every software player seeks, HyperOffice not only wants the corporate customers but also the small businesses and professionals. As we all know, the SMB market is one, that if cracked, leads to the golden road of unlimited devotion.
And though they have a comprehensive collaboration software product, HyperOffice isn’t standing pat. According to the company, “HyperOffice will soon also add ‘social business’ tools like activity streams, user profiles, following and tagging to allow companies to use the latest ways to consume information and spur sharing in the organization.”
Not to whip a dead horse, but back to the main motivator behind the rise of HyperOffice: real collaborative software for business that is not SharePoint.
Why does SharePoint suck? Here are some supporting opinions, of which there is no shortage:
And this TechRepublic piece tries to deconstruct and understand better why SharePoint has such an appalling reputation.
In Google ads entitled, “Why Pay For SharePoint?,” HyperOffice tries to position itself as a clear SharePoint agony alternative.
To try and see it from the customers’ (end users’) viewpoint, it seems to be manna from heaven that any alternative to SharePoint exists. If HyperOffice proves to be that alternative, then a rather small company in Rockville, Maryland should be experiencing some unusual growth sometime soon. If it does, watch out Microsoft; one of your big revenue streams is in jeopardy.
When humans are forced to use one aggravating technology simply because there is nothing better, the resulting customer migration when one does finally come along can be swift and devastating to the former incumbent. In this case, that’s Microsoft’s SharePoint.