Sharepoint 2010 has just been released and everyone is excited about the possibilities and the unique advantage it can lend to their business. Specifically, there has been a lot of talk about Sharepoint’s new web content management capabilities. A lot of folks are wondering if they could possibly use the new Sharepoint release as the technology stack to maintain both their enterprise collaboration needs and their corporate website. In this article, we will review the new Sharepoint 2010 web content management capabilities and how they may fit your organization’s strategic website objectives at this time.
Let’s begin our discussions by reviewing, at a very high level, what specific business problems Sharepoint was meant to solve.
Microsoft designed Sharepoint as a collaboration platform to address specific business needs, such as – Collaboration, Secure Portals, Data Integration, Document Management, Records Management, Search & Discovery…
Further to this, the platform offers robust APIs, which allow extension of the base platform to third party solutions that address specific business needs for corporations in the mid to enterprise markets.
Sharepoint is generally viewed in the market as an ECM (Enterprise Content Management) platform with enriched web editing capabilities. It has inbuilt support for collaboration, back office integration, secure role based access, workflows & business process automation, document indexing, search & discovery capabilities. Most of all it offers some capacity for consistent branding and layouts across the organization.
What’s New In Sharepoint 2010?
Sharepoint 2010 is being bundled with a lot of new features and capabilities. In this article we will focus on the capabilities that add value for an organization considering using Sharepoint 2010 for their web site. For the complete list of new capabilities please visit Microsoft’s Sharepoint portal site.
The Microsoft Sharepoint team has finally added the popular ribbon editing control to the platform. This makes content editing easy and more intuitive for end users. Sharepoint will also support inline editing with the new release. The AJAX enabled editing experience will be greatly enhancing the user experience on the Sharepoint platform.
Keeping in line with the growing need for well-structured taxonomy on a web site, Sharepoint 2010 now supports Managed Meta Data Services that allows creating & managing the Meta tags across multiple sites. Meta data tagged content can be further used to dynamically position content for the site audience, using the new Audience Object Model. Audience objects will allow us to target specific content to the target visitor segment thereby making their experience on your site more effective. We believe this is a great feature for content repurposing and will enhance usability experience, especially for e-Publication sites or resource section of any site.
A lot of organizations now manage multi-lingual content on their sites. This adds to complexity in business processes that struggle to maintain all sites up to date. Microsoft Sharepoint offers an elegant solution to the problem by introducing notification capabilities that tell you what has changed from the source page. This is done right in the AJAX ribbon control on the content page.
All content edited in the new Sharepoint HTML editor will be standard’s compliant and should greatly reduce the amount of effort required to enable viewing content across different browsers, operating systems and devices.
Inline with the regulatory and compliance needs, Sharepoint now offers reusable workflows. Choose between simple (serial) or sophisticated (parallel) workflows to suit your organizations content approval needs. Organizations can also build custom workflows, to suit their unique business needs, in Visio 2010 that can be imported into the Sharepoint Designer 2010. Using the new Visio Services, Sharepoint now offers workflow visualization allowing end users to visually track where they are in the workflow process.
Sharepoint also offers inbuilt web analytics to understand how your website may be performing. It shows the regular KPIs (key performance indicators) for web site monitoring - like number of unique visitors, total traffic on site, top destinations on your site, top referrers, etc… The most exciting feature includes search insights – it allows for monitoring what visitors are searching on your site, what your top search queries are, which search queries are failing etc… the search insight can be used to fine tune the content, meta tags on your site to enhance user discovery and experience.
All in all, the new Microsoft Sharepoint 2010 seems to offer everything a web content management platform should support to manage a public facing site.
Next, we will analyze some of the strategic website objectives that are driving web initiatives at organizations and see how Sharepoint compares against some of the leading CMS platforms in the market in helping you meet or exceed your business objectives.
Strategic Website Objectives
Websites have evolved over the years. Organizations are increasing using corporate websites as a strategic channel instead of a tactical brochure site it was for so many years!
Let’s review some of the strategic website objectives in the mid market segment that business (marketers) are trying to achieve.
For the sake of making a business case for web content management, I have divided the objectives into tangible (impacting revenue & cost savings) and intangible (impacting processes, regulation & compliance) categories.
- Enable the corporate website as a source of new sales leads.
- Allow customer self-service - thereby eliminating the need for elaborate customer service budget (resources + infrastructure).
- Centralize the content life cycle across all digital assets - allowing for a skeleton operating team to maintain multiple sites – typical across all organizations now.
- Optimize IT bandwidth (and budget) - by transferring website ownership to marketers. This move will allow organizations to focus IT & capital resources for other strategic initiatives.
- Use website to promote thought leadership with the target audience - This will help create sustainable strategic advantage that competition cannot copy easily.
- Enable content owners (marketers & subject matter experts) to own the complete lifecycle of the content - instead of relying on IT to rollout content on their schedule.
- Manage the complete life cycle of the content– creation, approval, updating & content repurposing - without any coding effort.
- Better serve and manage multi-lingual content across all digital assets.
- Adhere to complex regulatory and compliance needs without creating bottlenecks in the approval process.
Next, let’s compare Sharepoint against the leading CMS platforms to see how they compare to best address the above listed website objectives.
Sharepoint Vs. CMS Platforms
Not all CMS platforms are created equal. The capabilities differ across the spectrum. Some CMS platforms are more mature than others in certain capabilities. However, they all provide general CMS capabilities in one way or another.
For the purpose of this article, I am considering a generic set of capabilities across CMS platforms that have been identified by research firms as the best of breed in the mid market segment.
As illustrated in the above snapshots, Sharepoint 2010 platform provides a rich set of capabilities that competes with the leading content management platforms. In areas where it lacks out-of-the-box capability, Sharepoint will require varying degree of customization to fulfill the strategic objective.
For Sharepoint, one of the biggest challenges and in my opinion perhaps the most important one with respect to the web content management initiatives is the extensive dependency on IT resources. I expect Sharepoint 2010 to continue maintenance under the IT wing, post deployment, and that means longer time to market, slow enhancements resulting in slower penetration and adoption amongst the business users.
Next, let’s review some of the capabilities offered by the leading CMS platforms that enable them to differentiate themselves from Microsoft Sharepoint 2010.
CMS Platform’s edge in the web content management space
CMS Platforms have evolved over the years from a basic website editing tool to managing the day-to-day tasks that enable a strategic edge for an organization.
CMS platforms are best positioned in the marketer’s toolbox. They allow marketers to position the right message, to the right audience, in the right context, on all devices, in multiple languages, across multiple networks, in the shortest timeframe with limited or no IT involvement, both during and after initial implementation, at a low initial and total cost of ownership!
The leading CMS platforms provide all the necessary tools to enable marketer’s to do their job easily and efficiently. Capabilities like Multi-Variant Testing, Lead Scoring, Content Targeting, Multi-site & multi-device deployments, DAM (Digital Asset Management) capabilities, Ease of administration, Low upfront cost and even lower total cost of ownership set CMS platforms in the leader’s corner of the web content management space.
In my opinion, the real edge for CMS platforms is their success at end user adoption. In the web content management world, as is the case with the enterprise content management systems as well, ‘adoption = success’.
We have all seen our fair share of disappointments due to lack of end user adoptability in various implementations. The leading CMS platforms do a fabulous job in making their systems easy to use by end users. With little training, I have seen business users (marketers) use and manage the CMS platforms to manage big, complex websites. Given everyone’s experience with adoption failures in previous Sharepoint initiatives, we should be looking out for ease of adoption in the new Sharepoint 2010 platform.
Sharepoint 2010 Recap
Sharepoint 2010 bundles with great new capabilities that will allow for new ways to share documents and collaborate on corporate intranets and secure portals. The new web content management capabilities will offer an opportunity to employ Sharepoint capabilities for corporate web sites. The platform will offer exceptional integration with the corporate intranet site, especially for organizations that need to push intranet specific content out to the public sites – for example higher education vertical.
Sharepoint will continue to serve as a rich platform that can scale to serve organization objectives given we allocate enough time and budgetary resources for the initiative.
In closing, I would recommend the following if you are planning a new website initiative –
- List your strategic website objectives. Make sure you are considering both tangible and intangible objectives.
- Map your strategic objectives to the available technology platforms to determine which platform will get the job done –
- In a timely manner
- At a reasonable price point
- Is easy to adopt by the end user and easy to administer
- Will enable your business user (marketer) to manage website content to create sustainable strategic differentiator in your competitive landscape
- Do keep in mind the long term TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of your website initiative ‘cause your needs will change and evolve as you become more strategic and sophisticated with using your website as a strategic channel for your organization.
For more details on Microsoft Sharepoint Capabilities visit - http://sharepoint2010.microsoft.com/product/capabilities/Pages/default.aspx
For a complete list of Web Content Management capabilities in Sharepoint 2010 visit - http://blogs.msdn.com/ecm/archive/2010/03/12/introducing-web-content-management-in-sharepoint-2010.aspx