2012 Channel Champions: Collaboration Software

Microsoft is this year's Channel Champion in the Collaboration Software category, and it won by outscoring rival IBM in nearly every technical, support and financial criteria. That marked a repeat performance from 2011, when Microsoft scored highest in every single criterion. The one difference this year is that IBM received a higher grade than Microsoft for product margins, SPIFs and rebates in the financial factors subcategory.

Microsoft performed particularly well in the technical satisfaction rating, especially in the product quality and reliability criteria. It also earned high scores in the usability, scalability and security criteria in the same subcategory. In the support satisfaction subcategory, Microsoft received a high mark for general availability of technical training, and in financial factors, it beat IBM's score in competitive pricing, and in two other criteria: services attached and increase in sales.

SharePoint, Microsoft's collaboration platform, has been one of the company's biggest-selling products since it debuted in 2001. Offering a number of capabilities, including document and Web content management, the server is also the core of Microsoft's collaboration and social networking offerings.

"Social is hot right now," said Jared Spataro, senior director of SharePoint product management, citing a recent Harris Interactive survey that found that 59 percent of businesses believe it's necessary to integrate social networking with corporate IT networks. And while implementing social networking technology is a growing business for solution providers, Spataro said the real opportunity is developing change management services to handle the cultural and business process shifts.

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For example, Perficient, a leading Microsoft solution provider partner, relies on SharePoint for a number of collaboration and analytical solutions for the health-care industry. Perficient's Health BI Solution combines SharePoint with Microsoft's SQL Server database to create its Health BI software, an analytics system that helps hospitals and other health-care organizations track performance metrics.