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Who’s in charge?

Way back IBM was the big chief because we had all our business (at least the vital economic data) in IBM mainframes. And it was good (mostly), we had (better) control, accounting, invoicing, planning etc. could be more automated (and effective?). At any rate the business was totally dependent on its IT system. It needed to be absolute reliable – the best. Big investments went into expensive mainframes, infrastructure and facilities. It was all architected around IBM mainframes, no other open/independent platform/archiecture were considered or necessary. IBM ruled.

Later personal computing fumbled its way into the IT landscape of the corporate world. Or rather before the PC was accepted as a serious business tool, we had the distributed computing era, where big, chunky, rigid mainframes were complemented and sometimes replaced by more agile mini machines. Now a corporate (independent, perhaps) architecture was necessary.  However eventually the personal computing space became the norm. We accessed/shared files and programs on file servers. Microsoft ruled the PC OS space and for awhile Novel Netware ruled the file server OS space until Microsoft made a decent enough OS (questionable) to also take over the file server OS domain. Microsoft also captured the office app space. Even though Lotus/IBM and others were there, Microsoft became the new norm, everybody had to be compatible with Microsoft document formats to  cooperate/communicate with partners, etc. Data production in Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, Powerpoint presentations with its accompanying support systems of file server infrastructure and document management systems became big issue, and email to communicate and send information around.  Microsoft ruled(s).

Now Microsoft still rules the office space while essential corporate data are handled by big ERP vemdors like SAP and others. Microsoft has increased its stronghold by appealing to the developer community (the .NET efforts, C#, Visual studio, TFS, etc.) and to corporate IT (comprehensive platforms) to the point that competition is almost non-existent.

When the promises of web2.0 comes along, unleashing the real power and vision of web technology inside the corporate network, connecting people, connecting information, mirroring the way people actually think and work, Microsoft still holds on to its print-centric document focus, and fail to capitalize on this. Why?  Please tell me. Is it because Microsoft Office has been by far the biggest part of their revenue stream. And why change if we earn money here and the people are obviously not asking for or ready for a change. We have lots of documents and data and work habits buried in the Microsoft application world. The focus is on integrating all of this stuff, and we fail to lift our eyes, free ourselves and exploit the  wonderful opportunities in a simple and powerful web technology world.

Microsoft has brought Sharepoint into the corporate world. Again Sharepoint appeals to the developer community with its strong and rich programmatic capabilities and to corporate IT with its well defined and comprehensive infrastructure of server platforms. For the user community Sharepoint has brought web links to documents and files and made it easier (perhaps) to share documents across borders. There’s lots of Sharepoint projects going on to exploit other possibilities with the vision that Sharepoint will be the big hub connecting all of this functionality. This is now the corporate platform and we can almost hear the strategy reading “Sharepoint is the answer, what was the question”. However when it comes to web2.0 and  “exploring the power of web technology” Sharepoint/Micrososft is only half there or its more of a side thing

Where are we now? From Web2.0 / Enterprise2.0 standpoint Sharepoint has not delivered. See f.ex Enterprise 2.0 nov 2011 conference, where Tony Byrne (President, the Real Story Group) and Rob Koplowitz (VP and Principal Analyst, Forrester Research) were joined for the SharePoint Analyst Panel. David Carr’s Information Week column Does SharePoint Have Future As A Social Platform frames the debate as lopsided with a simple conclusion: No.  And a very honest webinar “Rethink your Sharepoint strategy” in the dawn of Sharepoint 2013 where the conclusion/question now is more “Why Sharepoint?”

Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate who really needs to be in charge and free ourselves from big Sharepoint/Microsoft investments and come back to real use cases: What can give real user benefits? Realizing the combination of high user productivity and company revenues. For example, the use case described in “To make the knowledge worker productive” can only be realized in a fully connected 2.0 world.  To connect people and information on a case level becomes prime priority and architecture adapts accordingly.

Comments welcome – supportive, corrective – whatever. Let’s get the truth surfaced.

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  1. 2012-09-19 at 15:28

    I remember the lecture I got in the early 90s when I used email (specifically, IBM’s PROFS) as a mechanism for sharing (reply all). Today Twitter serves the same purpose (I was sending inspirational quotes).

    You are spot on when you suggest that we need to rethink where we are. The problem is, thinkers are shot on the firing lines. IT doesn’t even have real architects on their teams (if they have them at all). There’s just a lot of shuffling going on with one fundamental focus: Are the systems up and running?

    It’s all about checking off the boxes, not about the quality thereof.

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