Back in August, I wrote a Blog on the subject of Building a Microsoft SharePoint practice. I was amazed to see the number of Google hits on this Blog – which is tied with my SharePoint Backup and Restore Blog.

Since writing Part 1 I’ve had numerous discussions with colleagues and management regarding SharePoint and what it takes to build a solid practice. An interesting subject indeed since it touches on several skill sets and technologies.

For those who know what Tahoe is, you don’t need a review of the impact of SharePoint. The 500 pound Gorilla has shaken the market with its functionality and price. For those who play in the Microsoft space, you understand what I mean about commoditization. Just about everyone in the space is a “me to” player differentiated by resumes, sales relationships and possibly IP (If you’re smart). It’s a tough go to build a new practice to say the least and many will get it wrong.

With the current economy, projects such as those involving SharePoint will most likely be cut unless they can be associated with cost reduction or some sort of ROI. For example, helping to reduce travel costs, knowledge capture and succession planning. Combine SharePoint with OCS and LiveMeeting and you have a solution that can help reduce travel costs in some cases. For example, an energy company wanted to reduce their travel budget by 25% or $10mil. I created a profile based on their travel information and created a model for assessing the impact of SharePoint and related collaboration technologies. We calculated the number of trips, costs per trip, lost productivity due to travel and the results showed the technology would pay for itself in less than a year.

So if you want to enter this space, what do you need to do and when can you expect results? Here are some points to think about before making the move:

  • You have someone experienced in running the SharePoint practice – have done it before
  • You will need talent – very strong talent – can you afford it? Can you retain it?
  • Diverse skillets are required such as experience design, user interface design, information architecture,  system architecture, database(s) and development to name a few
  • You will need to assess your competition – is there to many “Me to’s” in your area?
  • Sales compensation plan – metrics drive your sales teams behavior.
  • Do you have IP you can leverage? Reaching out within the organization will help, having IP will change the discussion from a commodity one – think margins!
  • You will need partnerships with Graphic Design companies for branding especially for external sites – developers are not creatives
  • You will need strong technical sales people to scope business and manage delivery
  • How to align with other business units such as storage, servers and software – to drive leads, build leverage and get the word out
  • It is recommended you have a strong relationship with Microsoft for referrals – their model is regional
  • Getting on sales calls to share pipeline – get leads and get others working for you
  • Strong manager to rally the troops and motivate them – poor management will destroy the team
  • You will need to invest, be committed and be patient for about two years

From a maturity model perspective, SharePoint is deployed in many organizations and the rudimentary functions (Libraries and lists) are in use. The next opportunity is building on the foundation, integrate applications, simplify business processes and retire overlapping toolsets to simplify user experience (Less and better tools) and reduce IT cost structures.

If you want to get beyond the small $20-50k engagements you will need to win deployments of farms, help the client develop strategies, help with application integration to support business process simplification and tap into key applications and corprate information systems – to create a seamless user experience, that enables staff and delivers business results. In addition you will help with cultural change required to facilitate user adoption, mobility, collaboration, sharing, records management and knowledge management to name a few.

One area that really needs attention is EDRM, SharePoint has shaken up the Records Management office and the Document Management market. Yes, the Records and Document Management aspects of the platform lack a middle tier and therefore it does not scale like Tower, Documentum and OpenText to name a few – rumors are that the Records Center Site won’t be refreshed until 2012 – what a shame. Microsoft should have purchased Merido. The unstructured data opportunity represents a huge market and will remain at the forefront of managements agenda as compliance, bloated operational/hardware/software costs force the issue. It will be interesting to look back in two years to see how this space has evolved.

Part 3 will be published soon.

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