In an informal poll in late 2013 to early 2014, we asked readers how they were using SharePoint. We gave them multiple-choice, multiple-selection options: document management, intranet, workflows, business intelligence features, social media features.
Document management was the most-used function of SharePoint, at 81% of votes, followed by 74% of votes for intranet use, with the remainder of uses being, in descending order, workflow features, BI, and social media.
Looking at the spate of articles in 2013 that dinged SharePoint for being in its adolescence, for not living up to its potential, we wondered how some of our readers viewed SharePoint 10 years ago-- in its infancy, so to speak.
SharePoint in 2004
Digging back into the SharePoint Pro and Windows IT Pro websites, we found a survey in 2004 that polled readers about how their users were using SharePoint back then (see “Collaborate with Us” at the Windows IT Pro site). The latest version at that time was SharePoint Portal Server 2003.
The survey asked readers what business issues or problems affecting users had SharePoint helped to solve.
The main problem solved 10 years ago, it turned out, was document management. And the need for an intranet. Here is a sampling of some of the responders’ own comments:
• Central repository for information, when someone asks where they can get a piece of information, the answer is always "Go to the portal"
• Document management, quick and easy website creation, team site creation short term collaboration
• Sharing of project/project team related information
• Virtual workspace.
• Keeping track of documents; using it as part of our internal web site; a central clearinghouse for ideas and contacts.
• Effective centralized, categorized and indexed file storage, potential improvements for shared content production coupled with Office 2003 (when we start using it)
• Tremendous capability to create a fully functional Web site with all the collaborative features in very little time at all. We were able to adapt SharePoint to tie together many of our dissimilar applications into a working database driven portal.
• We had a lot of intellectual capital to build on and needed a means of sharing and cataloging it.
Social features weren’t mentioned. No one was thinking “Microsoft’s going to put a Facebook-like feature called Yammer in SharePoint” or “Microsoft’s going to realize that making content easy to find for end users could transform adoption.” I’m going out on a limb about this, of course.
So it makes sense if you’re using SharePoint for document management today. And intranets. And collaboration, however you define that.
Then again, it also means you’re using it for what it was (roughly) intended to do 10 years ago.
But you could use it for more, too.
Look at the Swiss Army Knife
Even the maker of the Swiss Army knife, which is the tool SharePoint is constantly compared to, has evolved its product.
Ten years ago, some Swiss Army knives were as thick as hardcover books, they were so crammed with tools. Even then, though, the manufacturer didn’t pretend any one knife would meet everyone’s needs. So it had models for campers, anglers, boaters, and now, even, one for the office.
As luck would have it, 10 years ago, I wasn’t dealing with SharePoint. I was an advertising copywriter for a hunting and outdoors catalog. I was writing about Swiss Army knives.
And so it goes. Evolution? Who knows?