SharePoint More Popular With IT Managers Than Users: Forrester

SharePoint is popular with IT departments, but yawn-inducing mobile and social features are turning off a growing number of business managers and users. To win them over, Microsoft is willing to spend big.

SharePoint gets the job done for the majority of businesses that have adopted Microsoft's document-sharing and collaboration platform, according to a new report from Forrester titled "SharePoint Enters Its Awkward Teenage Years."

While the research firm expects the product to continue to do brisk business, the data points to a troubling disconnect between users and IT that could turn into a big problem for Redmond if left unaddressed.

In a survey of 153 IT professionals involved in the deployment and management of SharePoint environments, 62 percent of respondents said that the software met the needs of business management. In contrast, satisfaction rates among IT departments stand at 73 percent.

Why the disparity?

As the enterprise software market shifts toward more mobile, social and cloud-enabled experiences, Microsoft is falling behind. And that's adding up to dissatisfied business users. Currently, enterprises are underwhelmed by Microsoft's support for mobile devices.

One of the report's authors, Rob Koplowitz, told eWEEK that there's "room for Microsoft to provide a better user experience." He noted that users, seeking simplicity, ease of use and on-the-go access, are turning to other solutions. One example he offered is the popular—and to the dismay of IT administrators—"self-provisioned Dropbox."

There are signs that SharePoint's shortcomings are keeping users from leveraging the platform's capabilities and crimping user adoption. Among those that dinged SharePoint for failing to meeting business expectations, 54 percent cited poor adoption as a major factor. Over 40 percent said that they just don't see the business value.

SharePoint remains firmly rooted in the realm of on-premise software. Only 4 percent of those surveyed said that they deployed the software exclusively on Microsoft's cloud. Considering that SharePoint has an immense user base of more than 100 million licenses, it's not necessarily a discouraging statistic, said Koplowitz.

On the social enterprise front, Microsoft is betting on Yammer integration to catapult it to the top. Microsoft acquired Yammer in June for $1.2 billion in cash. The company grew at a blistering pace, attracting 200,000 customers, including 80 percent of Fortune 100 companies, in four short years.

The company's platform adopts many of the hallmarks of the consumer social media experience—Facebook and Twitter, primarily—and gives them a business-friendly spin, according to Yammer founder and CEO David Sacks.

"The purpose is to allow co-workers to share status updates. You post updates on what you are working on. You can post news, links, ask questions and get answers for people in your company. You can see the most prolific people and the most followed people. It is a good way to discover who is the most influential in your company," stated Sacks before his company was snapped up by Microsoft.

Forrester expects that Microsoft will be leaning on the technology from that big budget acquisition to fashion SharePoint into a platform that better reflects the realities of today's social workplaces. "Microsoft needs to be more responsive to this trend," concluded Koplowitz.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...