A few days ago I posted three reasons why SharePoint is better than Notes/Domino. Unfortunately there was a technical glitch on my blog which prevented comments from being posted. However there was some good discussion on this over at Erik Brook’s blog.
My original idea had been to follow up with a post the next day detailing three advantages that Notes/Domino had over SharePoint, with the punchline being that the three features in each blog post would be the same. However workload and travel have delayed the time in getting the second post out so instead I’ll just cut to the chase.
As some have rightfully pointed out, my arguments in the first post may not have been the most rigorous that I’ve ever put forward. And in retrospect I could have also put some more thought into the product features that I chose. I’m happy to take both those comments on board.
I have a philosophy that in the many cases strengths and weaknesses are largely a matter of context rather than some absolute quality. My intention was to show that there are several different perspectives and that the perspectives of the vendor, the business partner, the developer and the end-user all differ wildly. What one group might consider a weakness may easily be viewed as a strength by another group. To be honest there are any number of features that I could have selected, rather than the three I did choose, and quite easily find pros and cons for each from the different perspectives.
As I travel into the world of SharePoint I find many things different from the world of Notes/Domino. I am also curious as to how Microsoft have managed to successfully market a product that from a Notes/Domino perspective still seems quite inferior in many ways.
Comparing Notes/Domino to SharePoint
One point that is raised over and over again is that you can’t compare SharePoint to Notes/Domino because you are comparing apples to oranges, and that you are not doing a fair comparison I hate to rain on anyone’s parade but many companies have done just this comparison whether or not you consider it appropriate or fair, and a number of them have chosen Sharepoint over Notes/Domino.
Notes/Domino is in mind legendary for its backwards compatibility I was speaking with a colleague just two days ago and he mentioned how a Notes/Domino app he had written in the late 1990′s is still in use today.
So it was a huge surprise to see that SharePoint does not enjoy the same history. Someone asked how this can be an advantage? Well I see this is an advantage for Microsoft in that they are not necessarily bound to previous decisions and they have a broader scope for making changes in each subsequent version. But what about the customers? To my mind I thought that customers would really hate this aspect of SharePoint. Instead what I’ve found is that they acknowledge it as a pain, but not a big a pain as I would have expected.
A SharePoint developer I talked to last week was of the opinion that although having to redo SharePoint apps and sites was a pain, it was outweighed by the features and benefits of SharePoint as a whole.
SharePoint as an Application Development platform
This is something that I’ve found quite confusing to date. I’ve had a SharePoint MVP tell me basically not to use SharePoint for anything else than what it does out of the box. I’ve also has a colleague tell me not to alter the UI otherwise you are almost guaranteed to be creating something that will not be upgradable. But the contrast to this is a SharePoint developer I met who loved SharePoint because of the built in framework that SharePoint provides and how it makes it so easy to develop applications. (Sound familiar?).
What I’ve also found is that a lot of the people looking at Sharepoint, or working with Sharepoint, are not geeky technical types. They are business users and are easily impressed by features that might make a developer yawn. So while I think that SharePoint certainly is a development platform, it isn’t necessarily portrayed this way to customers, and this leads to a simple story which appeals to business users.
It’s been rightly pointed out that there are clients for SharePoint so I stand corrected on this point. However I still contend that Notes/Domino was never designed as a web development platform and that prior to Xpages developing fully featured web apps required some really strange stuff from a development point of view.
So what do I really think of SharePoint?
I’m learning that SharePoint comes from a very different perspective than Notes/Domino, it had a different starting point and different philosophy. It does some things amazingly well and a lot of customers are very happy with it.
Some aspects of SharePoint are still a little mind-boggling such as the continual bemoaning and laughter at presentations when people talk about how poor previous versions of SharePoint were. The acceptance of this, coupled with the lack of backwards-compatibility, still make me think at time that I’m in parallel universe.
But SharePoint is also a simple story to tell and comes from a starting place of something that most users are familiar with; Microsoft Office documents. These factors shouldn’t be underestimated when assessing SharePoint’s popularity nor should Microsoft’s tenacity and marketing ability.
At this point in my SharePoint journey I’ve never been more convinced of the continued growth of SharePoint over Notes/Domino, nor of the opportunity that IBM wasted from around 2000 onward. For the time being, however, I may just have to live in the twilight zone a little bit longer.