Study: Watch Out For SharePoint Gaps

a recent report

Forrester says companies that use SharePoint's tools for building customized intranets, portals, electronic forms, workflows, and dashboards could potentially face management and support issues. "SharePoint is risky in external site, workplace, and dashboard scenarios because it has gaps that matter for those kinds of applications," Forrester says in the report.

Forrester identifies several areas of weakness in SharePoint that companies need to account for in developing policies around SharePoint usage. These include: a lack of application lifecycle management tools; incomplete application backup and restoration tools, the "primitive" state of enterprise data integration in SharePoint; and the dearth of skilled SharePoint developers and administrators.

SharePoint surpassed $1 billion in revenue in Microsoft's recently concluded fiscal year, and the software giant expects partners to reap a $5 billion SharePoint services revenue windfall in the coming year. So it's not surprising that some solution providers that work with SharePoint disagreed with Forrester's findings.

Ken Winell, CEO of Expertcollab, a SharePoint-focused solution provider in Florham Park, N.J., calls the report "misleading" and disagrees with Forrester's assertion that SharePoint "is a pure Microsoft server stack that closes off any opportunities to substitute third-party databases, Web servers, and other products for Microsoft components."

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"and#91;SharePointand#93; has one of the most open frameworks for third party tools and applications that Microsoft has ever delivered," said Winell. "Just take a look at some of the tools from K2.NET, CorasWorks, Knowledgelake, Tsunami. These ISVs are making serious enhancements to the SharePoint platform while maintaining their own identity."

Michael Cocanower, president of Phoenix-based solution provider ITSynergy, has had success in building intranets and portals in SharePoint for SMB customers, but allows that these projects could be more difficult to handle for enterprises. "By combining the native tools with the wide variety of extremely good third party tools out there, you can really do some amazing things with Sharepoint," he said.

However, SharePoint is not without its limitations, which include a lack of advanced workflow and true document management capabilities, says Kevin Baylor, principal at Aequus IT, a solution provider in Bradenton, Fla. These areas can be address with third party solutions, Baylor adds.

Likewise, redundancy in Sharepoint is also an obstacle, but one that partners can overcome by using third party solutions that permit cold-metal restore, according to Baylor. "Our deployments right now are primarily based on using SharePoint as a document library and storage solution, with little to no workflows built around it," he said.

SharePoint's growth has surpassed even Microsoft's own expectations, but that has created a shortage of SharePoint-savvy developers and administrators. Peters and Associates, an Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.-based solution provider, has had to get creative in order to find enough talent to meet the demand for SharePoint engagements.

"We're in the midst of several large-scale SharePoint deployments, and talent is an issue," said Ric Opal, vice president of Peters and Associates. "I'm hiring .NET computer science graduates and sending them to 'boot camps.' My ramp is better than I thought it would be."

The good news, according to Winell, is that the SharePoint talent shortage won't be an issue for much longer due to the fast growing level of sophistication that's developing around the platform.

"There is a ever-expanding universe of Sharepoint developers, who between Visual Studio and Sharepoint Designer, can solve most application needs relatively easily, and communities such as, that share code to speed the process," said Winell.