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Free Yourself from the Tyranny of Sharepoint

Sharepoint is a plague upon the American workforce. This ubiquitous piece of collaboration software has taught millions of people that Intranets are destined to be places where you can’t find anything.

It doesn’t have to be this way, despite what Microsoft may have you believe. There are alternatives to Sharepoint that actually work in ways that ordinary humans can understand.

One of these alternatives is WordPress. You can set up your own Intranet using WordPress with a minimum of technical knowhow.

It’s certainly better than learning the maddening intricacies of Sharepoint, as developer Ben Balter discovered. Given the dreaded task of updating the Sharepoint site, he instead decided to spend three hours to see if he could come up with an alternative.

The result was WP Document Revisions. This is a WordPress plugin that allows teams of any size to collaboratively edit files and manage their workflow. In other words, the core of what you probably would use Sharepoint for if it was actually usable.

Ben wasn’t done. He’s since gone on to craft additional plugins, as he described in WordPress as a Collaboration Tool, a talk he gave at the monthly WordPress DC meetup. The tools he created essentially improve upon all the functions of Sharepoint, but in WordPress, so you don’t need expensive licenses or pricey database experts to keep the whole thing from crashing.

By using WordPress, you turn “add this information to the Intranet” from a frustrating task into something as simple as blogging. And just think how good your Intranet could be if people actually wanted to contribute to it.

Improving internal communication does more than just lead to happier employees. It contributes to the bottom line by saving the time of staff. Do you want people spending hours trying to figure where their document disappeared to on Sharepoint or do you want them to do, well, something productive?

Most of us, however, have no control over what software we use at work. I asked Ben what to do in this case. He replied with the truism that it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. He also demonstrated what WordPress could do and developed internal support for it. When presented with a credible alternative, rational decision-makers will make the right choice, if they can.

There’s a lot of caveats in that last sentence. I know. Big organizations choose big software for reasons that defy reason.

Life’s too short to use bad software. Investigate the alternatives. Anticipate objections. Present your case. Just something is ubiquitous doesn’t meant it’s right or destined to last forever. The way we work is changing, and software should change with it.

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Tags: Sharepoint, WordPress, cms, communications, intranet, tech

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Comment by Jay Collier on June 1, 2012 at 3:51pm

What matters is defining your organization's true needs and evaluating each platform against them. For example, here is the 9-sheet list of evaluation criteria we created last year:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AnN5FWMlt7YEdFRXaHBaUT...

Even without BuddyPress and WP-Document-Revisions, WordPress was a contender, especially since user experience and 508 accessibility were top criteria.

Unless you conduct an evaluation against prioritized criteria, you'll be in the middle of a religious debate with no winner.

Comment by Vanessa Vogel on May 21, 2012 at 9:26am

I am have never used Sharepoint but I agree 100% that Wordpress is just as simple as blogging. 

Comment by Chris Cairns on May 17, 2012 at 2:35pm

Amen.  Fantastic post.

Comment by Stephen Christiansen on May 17, 2012 at 12:04pm

Great advice, Chuck. I'd also add, if you're a small team trying to manage this, take baby steps. Implement only a few features and disable the others. Train yourself and your users on how to best use those few features (say, document libraries), and once you've got the hang of it, look at what other features might make sense (like form automation). There's a lot of low hanging fruit... but too much of anything can be overwhelming for anyone.

Comment by Chuck Georgo on May 17, 2012 at 11:44am

Ok folks, here is the secret to a successful MS SharePoint implementation...and you r-e-a-l-l-y have to take this to heart, don't just give it lip service....

    "MS SharePoint is to an agency, what MS Windows is to a computer."

SharePoint is/can be the "operating system" or operating environment in which an agency conducts its business. To do this though, an agency has to have a pretty clear idea of:

  1. What it's business processes are, and document them; 
  2. The input info it needs to conduct its business, to support the business processes;
  3. Who needs to share the output info that they produce, it is knowledgework; and
  4. The IT capabilities it needs to execute the business processes - NOT products, but capabilities.

If an agency is serious about implementing SharePoint, they must go through the process of documenting all of this...if they don't, they're proabbaly wasting their time, will get very frustrated, and should probably give up. 

 

 

Comment by Savannah Brehmer on May 17, 2012 at 11:21am

So I am in the process of moving all our content to a new SharePoint site, and I'm ready to pull my hair out. I teeter between trying to tell people it's a good thing, and fully understanding why, when we started using it years ago (when most of the files we have on there are from), no one is using it now.

Comment by Dannielle Blumenthal on May 16, 2012 at 8:29pm
And how many times did I try to learn Vocus???? (public affairs management software)
Comment by Dannielle Blumenthal on May 16, 2012 at 8:28pm
What is interesting to me is that we can't easily admit when a popular program is not useful. I used to defend Android till got an iPhone. Also took hits over Google+ which is completely useless and annoying.
Comment by Megan on May 16, 2012 at 6:36pm

Or how about "Free yourself of the tyranny of email?"

Comment by Stephen Christiansen on May 16, 2012 at 4:04pm

SharePoint Foundation is free (with a Windows Server license) and SharePoint thru Office365 is "free" (bundled with the monthly subscription cost) and gives it a very simple set of capabilities. The problem I've always had with open source is the support model. The true TCO on any software product lies in management and support. The Microsoft ecosystem of vendor support and partner support is unparelled.

Aside from support in the case of each and every component of SharePoint functionality I can find a better niche product, either open source or enterprise. So if you only need one or two capabilities... go with a WordPress or Yammer and you'll be world's happier. But as soon as you start needing more... and they try to start integrating... then managing... the value proposition starts swinging back to a single, packaged product like SharePoint. Or the offerings from IBM or Oracle. Or, *shudder*, Salesforce.com.

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