SharePoint Alternative for Enterprises?

 


We can't help but feel the slight self satisfaction of the "I told you so" feeling at the recent debate raging between corporate technology pundits. The moot point is "SharePoint in Enterprise 2.0" and it seems like almost every who's who in the space has something to say.

The general verdict is in the direction "Sharepoint has serious shortcomings as an enterprise 2.0 tool". What especially pleases us is that we have been making the same arguments for years now for growing businesses. We have long seen that Sharepoint has serious shortcomings as a collaboration solution for growing businesses, which is why we have positioned ourselves strongly as a "Sharepoint Alternative", and have gained a high relevance in the arena (high ranking in  Google results for "SharePoint alternative" shall testify).

Now enterprises seem to be learning the same lessons. As Dion Hinchcliffe from ZDNet lists out "The issues and challenges of using SharePoint for Enterprise 2.0" in his recent much discussed article "Sharepoint - The Good, the Bad and The Ugly", it feels like we're speaking from his lips. Thomas Vander Wal echoes the sentiments in "SharePoint 2007: Gateway Drug to Enterprise Social Tools", where he concludes decisively "SharePoint is not Enterprise 2.0".

Here's Dion's list with my elaborations, and of course, our baby HyperOffice in comaprison on each count:-


1.    Complexity. No matter how Sharepoint's marketers market it, it is not a user friendly tool. It is powerful no doubt, but its wasted power in many cases, as the complexity leads to many of the features just lying waste. A recent study from AIIM found that Sharepoint is primarily used for file sharing. As Dion puts it,  SharePoint needs "highly trained implementors, administrators, and technical support staff are required to deploy and run it, which all add to the total cost of ownership." and adds "inherent sophistication can also mean slow adoption and low engagement by users". According to the above quoted study 75% of the respondents said "implementation of SharePoint took one year or less". That is almost unimaginable in a growing business which need solutions to be up and running within days.

HyperOffice in Comparison - HyperOffice can be deployed in less than a day and almost anyone can set it up. The features are completely "out of the box", and designed for end users. The onus is on using features - online document management, portals and workspaces, customization, forums, task management, shared calendars, polls etc - rather than the backend technology.


2.    Cost. SharePoint was always developed for enterprises and is also priced thus. It can be "very expensive" (Dion's words) for a large installation.  Last year CMSWire did an analysis on the SharePoint cost structure which it termed as "very confusing" and came up with some whopping figures.

For a company to have web content management for their public site only they are looking at roughly US$ 40-80,000 (2 servers) for licenses alone. Now if they also want to have web content management for their intranet add another US$ 4500 minimum (1 license). That's a total of $85,000 for something they previously paid between $6 to $48k for (1-2 servers).


HyperOffice in Comparison - HyperOffice costs $10 per user, and users can scale up and down as per your needs and number of users.


3.    SharePoint is not a Web 2.0 native. The internet is essential to businesses as a medium of communication and collaboration today. The company can no longer be content to interact only inside the company firewall with new business realities - traveling employees, telecommuting, outsourced vendors often in another corner of the world, the emergence of powerful mobile platforms and the associated demand of users for corporate information on their mobiles, and the greater need to collaborate with partners and customers outside the firewall. This requires that your applications be effective in diverse environments - web browsers, operating systems, computing devices etc. Sharepoint certainly falls short on this count.

 

HyperOffice in Comparison - Since its earliest days (way back in 1998) the HyperOffice Collaboration Suite was always developed as a web native application. In fact HyperOffice was one of the first companies to offer applications under the web based, software-as-a-service model, which is so much the rage today.


4.    The technology landscape of the enterprise environment fits SharePoint well; the business requirements to a lesser extent. Admittedly SharePoint does suit hierarchical organizations, which have great security needs and do not want to encourage horizontal and diagonal communication across the organization. But this does not define many organizations of today as the movement is towards greater openness and communication. As Thomas Vander Val says "The new approach is toward embracing the shift toward horizontal organizations, open sharing, self-organizing groups around subjects that matter to individuals as well as the organization."


HyperOffice in Comparison - HyperOffice's ease of use allows it to be used at the department or team level without the need for IT intermediation. This fosters an open "self service" culture where communication can flow across the organization based on needs. At the same time HyperOffice offers administrative tools and security at different such as the portal, workspace or folder, which allows for implementation of security policies.


5.    The wilds of the open network can be a challenge for Sharepoint. As mentioned before in point 3, SharePoint is not the best "internet facing" solution when it comes to functioning on the browser side and on mobiles. According to Dion "this makes opening up SharePoint environments to work with partners, customers, and even the general public.....to be more difficult than with other platforms which were designed to function in highly diverse environments." I highly recommend you check out this chart which lists out SharePoint effectiveness on different environments.


HyperOffice in Comparison - HyperOffice was designed for deployment over the internet from day one, and supports all major browsers on PC and Mac. In addition we have optimized it and added features for access from most popular mobile platforms like iPhone and Blackberry.


6.    Self-service capabilities are lacking or not emphasized. Due to its inherent sophistication, Sharepoint discourages end users from taking control of their solution, and customize it to local needs. According to Dion "SharePoint installations consist of....smaller sites, each of which must be made consistent in terms of layout and navigation if centralized administration and governance is to be effective". Users "should be able to create sites within SharePoint, customize them over time to meet the local requirements, and let them evolve and improve through shared contributions." which SharePoint does not easily allow. 

HyperOffice in Comparison - Due to HyperOffice's ease of use, users can easily create sites at the at the departmental and team level, customize them to local needs and fine tune them over time. Minimal possible intermediation between the content owners and collaboration solutions leads to effective teams.

Not to take the credit from SharePoint, it has seen massive adoption in its early days. As Thomas Vander Val says in his article "SharePoint 2007: Gateway Drug to Enterprise Social Tools", in spite of falling short of its promise SharePoint has whetted the appetite of enterprises for easy to use communication and collaboration applications that allow for free flowing interaction where end users are in control. But now that the customers are looking for better answers, and SaaS solutions might be it for them.

Did I mention we are noticing that more and more large organizations coming on board at HyperOffice?
Founded in 1998, HyperOffice is a market leader in cloud collaboration and communication software for small and medium sized businesses. We provide the most comprehensive suite of solutions developed over more than 12 years of understanding your growing business needs. HyperOffice's capabilities include customer portal & intranet software, online document management, online project management, shared calendars, contact management software, business email, Outlook sharing and synchronization, push email and mobile collaboration, online database software and web forms and much more - offered as an integrated, easy to use solution accessible over any web connected PC, Mac, or mobile device. HyperOffice is also a viable Microsoft Sharepoint alternative and Microsoft Exchange alternative for growing companies looking for the power of enterprise class messaging and collaboration - but without the associated costs and hassles.
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