Microsoft Dogged By Sharepoint Support Issues - Study

Office Sharepoint Server 2007 is a workflow and collaboration engine that integrates with the Office platform and features Web content management, enterprise content services, enterprise search, and business process and business intelligence tools. Increasingly, it's also being used as an application development platform.

This broad feature set has helped fuel Sharepoint's popularity, but according to a recent study by London, Ontario-based research firm Info-Tech, nearly a quarter of the 258 organizations surveyed were either 'dissatisfied' or 'very dissatisfied' with Microsoft's support for Sharepoint.

While Microsoft is pleased with the strong demand for SharePoint Server 2007, "the rapid adoption has caused some strain on our consulting and support services teams," a Microsoft spokesperson said via email.

As a result, Microsoft plans to train more partners, improve and intensify training programs for current and future Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS) and Premier Field Engineer (PFE) reps, hire additional specialists, and work individually with customers to resolve their issues, according to the spokesperson.

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One solution provider and Microsoft Gold partner says the support logjam is a direct result of Microsoft's approach to offering Sharepoint training to the channel, which involves plenty of low level instruction on how to install Sharepoint, but not enough higher level training.

"There is a dearth of higher level SharePoint education and advanced level training. Perhaps if Microsoft provided some higher level training, the support would not be necessary," said the source, who requested anonymity.

Sharepoint's broad range of functionality and high level of customizability are important selling points, but they also mean that Sharepoint issues that customers encounter are highly individualized and difficult for support staff to deal with, says Fen Yik, the research analyst who authored the Info-Tech report.

"Microsoft just wasn't prepared to meet the demand for Sharepoint support. But there's definitely an opportunity for channel partners to fill the gap until Microsoft catches up," Yik said.

Some solution providers have been getting a steady stream of business from companies looking for strategic help in Sharepoint design and implementation. Tyler Roye, senior executive officer at MindSHIFT, a Fairfax, Va.-based solution provider, believes this is an area of opportunity that will remain lucrative for the channel for years to come.

"Sharepoint allows you to do so many different things, and it's up to us to help organizations prioritize their goals," he said.