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SharePoint's "Cloud" of Discontent - Why Companies are Looking at Alternatives

Written by Andy Steggles | on October 11, 2013 at 9:00 AM

I recently read this article that poses the question, "Should Microsoft kill SharePoint?" I personally think the answer is yes. My experience with Sharepoint is just one example of why.

When I was at RIMS, about six years ago I made what I consider the biggest professional mistake of my career. I selected SharePoint as the content management system (CMS) for the RIMS website, intranet and also the chapter websites (using SharePoint's "My Sites").

The project was pretty well spec'ed out and I had two great programmers on hand who were slowly migrating from cold fusion to C# .Net programming. Microsoft had recently put out it's latest release of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) and everyone was talking about it. After comparing a number of platforms, I eventually chose to go with the MOSS platform and selected a vendor to help with the project. The first phase of the project was to create a new website and migrate all our content over to the new design which was to be put on the SharePoint platform.

About a year later, the website was launched. My concern at this point was that I had our vendor create very little custom code (just one relatively small piece surrounding a FAQ system I had them build) at that point we were still at phase one which was simply to leverage SharePoint as a CMS. Unfortunately the price tag at that point had reached approx. $250k in professional service fees due to the complexity of cutting the design and setting up the system. We constantly faced performance issues which cost a small fortune to troubleshoot. At the time, I was furious with my vendor and eventually swapped to a different company but things only improved a little, not a lot.

Due to what happened in phase one, I decided to look for other options for the chapter websites. I ended up using Higher Logic's cloud based CMS and, for about $5k, we were able to offer all our chapters a fully AMS/CRM integrated website with their choice of carefully branded designs and a full CMS, member directory, library and discussions feature. I tried to estimate how much it would have cost if I had not gone this "cloud" route and my best estimate was between $200k to $400k and anywhere in that range would just not have been an option (not to mention the training costs due to the "clunkiness" and general poor usability for non-techs).

I learned a lot from that experience and I often reflect on the saying, "Nobody got fired for buying IBM." It's fair to say that a little bit of that went into my purchasing decision. Probably the most important takeaway for me was the value one can get from cloud solutions (a little bit of self-interest here as Higher Logic is a cloud provider).

I recently worked with an organization (the Air Force Association) who had a similar experience as I did at RIMS. When we spoke to them, their primary goal was to get away from SharePoint for their memorial, because of the "cost of flexibility", and of course, produce a better looking experience for their visitors. It took them a couple of months to complete the Memorial project and the total cost for all the integration into their CRM and their configuration and setup (not counting the design) was about $5k (ah, the beauty of cloud solutions!). Also, unlike Sharepoint, nothing was "customized" - it was all simply "configured" (which means they never leave an upgrade path). Needless to say, after their SharePoint experience, they were extremely pleased with their end result. Check out the new Air Force Memorial website.

The memorial site was incredibly well received as so they decided to go the whole way and migrate their main website onto the Higher Logic platform also. Instead of spending about $300k to build out these two sites, the entire setup and integration costs just $5k (plus the cost of the design which they took care of themselves, using Personify Interactive) and a nominal monthly fee which takes care of all the upgrades, maintenance and support. I'm happy to report they launched www.afa.org a month or so ago and last week were told they'd won an amazing award for the new site.

As far as I'm concerned, these days companies are becoming a lot smarter when making IT purchasing decisions, and with today's economy, companies are less willing to spend a fortune on SharePoint when there are much better, cheaper alternatives (Higher Logic's "SocialCMS" of course being just one of them).

What's your experience been with SharePoint? Are you happy with it?

Topics: Community Platforms & Updates, Customer Experience

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