Have we lost the SharePoint vision?

First and foremost, I have a lot of respect and regard for the SharePoint blogging community.  Wow, what a bunch of highly intellectual, effective and generous people who are willing to share their knowledge for the greater good of all developers having to work with SharePoint.  Hats off to you. 

But, have we, the SharePoint community, lost the vision?

SharePoint is all about collaboration. About empowering the end user to manage content, files, meetings, projects, lists and whatever other content they challenge us to provide a way to manage. It is about taking the HTML coder out of the daily support grind of updating web pages.  It is about providing an online store for project, meeting and document information that the end user can manage and maintain themselves.  It is about the users.  Project managers, business analysts, sales guys, HR reps, and all the other employees in positions in areas other than development.  These people do their jobs, but that doesn’t mean they are web savvy or spend their entire day working with the World Wide Web.

And yet we hand them a tool for collaboration, that while has many great features, like all products has room for improvement. We hand them this tool and shove them off into the deep end.  We then get a support call from some guy in accounting that needs some weird data call from a list that he and three other people will use.  Or a request to add a time stamp for some action in a document library.  We toil away, triumph by providing a solution, then happily blog about it and share it with the community.  And that is cool!  I am sure someone else will be able to use that unique code for that unique requirement somewhere.

But where are all the great web parts, tools and add-ins for SharePoint end users? Why is there not a huge store of independently created web parts that greatly improve existing SharePoint functionality to help out that end user?  Or that provide a solid use that could be used by hundreds of installs? Seems like we have admin tools out the whazoo to help us, the administrators, but what about tools to help the end users?  I mean, they way outnumber us.  Plus they are less web savvy and need the help more than we do.

It is easy for me to sit back and say hey we need more web parts to help the end user experience for SharePoint.  But I can’t walk the walk. I am not a developer. I can’t build stuff, I only make things pretty and usable.  And I don’t have a great treasure trove of ideas for custom web parts or tools for SharePoint either.  But as I watch the days go by, I see all this custom code created for SharePoint for a specific odd issue or task, and so rarely see something come out for the greater good of SharePoint and its end users.  So I ask myself, have we lost the vision of SharePoint? Have we forgotten that it is a collaboration tool, and is targeted for people who aren’t as web savvy as we… so then should we not work towards making it a better and easier tool to use for the end user?  Are we too caught up with the day to day to see the big picture?

I don’t know the answers for sure, but it seems like there is a lot of focus on ‘here is my exact problem, how do I get my exact solution’. I don’t see a lot of ‘here is an area in SharePoint that needs improvement, how can we make it better?’ Is this mentality even being exercised in-house with our own SharePoint environments? I think if it were, we would see more additions for SharePoint to help the end user experience.

I have no great closure for this long spell on my soapbox, this is just my opinion and something that has been bothering me for awhile.  I know what I need to go do is quit flapping my lips and go start thinking of ways to make SharePoint better.

5 thoughts on “Have we lost the SharePoint vision?”

  1. Nice post Heather. I felt the same way when I posted about what Web Parts people need. Like you said, there are admin tools coming out our ying-yang, but for end users theres only a few key Web Parts that people can use for any good purpose, the others represent the equivalent of the dancing Java guy. I see two problems.

    First is that we, as developers and architects, are out there building custom solutions for customers and twisting and expanding the SharePoint taffy in any way we can however we’re doing it for a sole purpose. A point solution for a customer. In the last project I put together we have about 100,000 lines of custom code spread amongst 40 or so Web Parts. However none of it could be used for any purpose other than what it was made for, a specific contract management system for a specific process. I think there needs to be more generic offererings in order to fill this gap but for that to happen, we need some kind of direction. Much like a team needs a goal and a PM to organize it, you can’t expect 50 SharePoint developers to self-organize and come up with solutions that will make SharePoint an easier tool to use. That vision is there and I don’t think we’ve lost it, it’s just a question of how do we apply it? I asked the question before of what’s a Web Part for. There are many people like me that sit around with all this SharePoint knowledge in our heads about how to build things but nothing to build that anyone wants that hasn’t already been built. Or maybe we’re missing it.

    The second problem is more around the collaboration. We (the SharePoint community) need one place to aggregate all this good stuff. It’s great that I know there are 20 places I can go and get custom Web Parts but it’s too dispursed. The Web Component gallery at Microsoft is a good start, but we need a SharePoint for SharePoint. A collaboration space where you can a) easily find things based on your needs b) easily contribute or sign up for something and c) easily collaborate and communicate with others about things and be open about your issues. GotDotNet is another attempt at this but I find it awkward. Sure there are 50+ SharePoint workspaces, but I can’t make any heads or tails around how they’re organized so I generally only use it for going to those point sites I know about. We need something like a SourceForge (SharePointForge anyone?) combined with a community oriented system that will help us all benefit from the fruits of each other, without tearing our hair out finding this stuff.

  2. Hehe. Well, I can tell you where the developers are – they are busy fulfilling business requirement no. 1:
    All of the sharepoint/intranet solution *has* to have the corporate branding. The sheer effort of doing this (and redoing it to reflect corporate focus changes) locks up plenty of talent.

    There also is a lack of a support base @ MS. Iagree about the above commenters views; There is a lack of a good "developer center" from MS. I’m getting all the latest information about the inner workings of sharepoint from blogs, for christ sake!

    Until the template issues are solved, I personally would (and this is what I work with) never recommend SPS to any sort of dynamic organisation.

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