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Study Takes Aim At SharePoint's Shortcomings

It's not often you hear someone talking about the limitations of SharePoint, but a new report from an independent researcher does exactly that.

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According to a recent report by Michael Sampson, a New Zealand-based independent consultant, SharePoint suffers from a number of fundamental limitations that underscore the immaturity of the product and keep it from being a truly pervasive collaboration tool.

For example, SharePoint's collaboration features are too Web browser-centric, which makes it difficult for teams to access shared information through Outlook, Groove, and Windows Mobile 6 devices, according to Sampson.

"I don't believe it's enough for a collaboration tool to work perfectly in the office when in the office and connected to the Net," said Sampson. "If there is only one place we can access shared information, and we can't make it work outside the office, then that system is doomed to failure."

While team calendaring in SharePoint is one of the application's strong points, the lack of full integration with Exchange and Outlook renders the calendaring features "essentially useless," said Sampson.

Sampson says the same problem exists with SharePoint's ability to manage action lists. "There is no way in Sharepoint to get overall consolidated view of everything you are required to do. And that means there's a lot of manual processing involved for each task," he said.

Unsurprisingly, solution providers who've built healthy SharePoint businesses were incredulous when informed of Sampson's study, with many scoffing at the limitations that Sampson described.

"SharePoint's popularity is growing so fast that we literally cannot serve all the opportunities we find out there," said Andrew Brust, chief of new technology at twentysix New York, a New York-based IT consultancy.

Brust says SharePoint's key advantage is that it's part of a full stack, which means its feature set is complemented by that of the Office Suite and server products like BizTalk and PerformancePoint, which mitigates the impact of any perceived limitations in its feature set.

For example, users can tap Outlook to connect to SharePoint, work offline with SharePoint documents and data, and sync once back online. Groove, which offers similar offline capabilities, has its own set of collaboration features for distributed teams, notes Brust.

Microsoft says the success of SharePoint, which recently became a billion dollar business, speaks for itself.

"Actually you'll find that people in the industry, along with our 17,000 customers, are in agreement that Microsoft Office SharePoint Server has taken off like wildfire, not only because it's easy to use, but because our customers are finding value in it," said Tom Rizzo, director for SharePoint at Microsoft, in an email to ChannelWeb.

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