SharePoint for web site
October 6, 2010 5:59 AM   Subscribe

The corporation I work for is investigating using SharePoint 2010 for both intranet and website/extranet. The business case for the intranet is pretty sound, and we have identified many applications that can and should be replaced by a tool like SharePoint 2010. We have been asked to look at a website refresh, and we’re actively putting together a business case to use SharePoint for the website.

We’ve given the marketing department a preview of the CMS and content approvals/workflow process and they are on board. Here’s my question.

Has anyone had bad experiences in using SharePoint as a web site? I would like to provide the business with a good list of cons to match the many pro’s.

Not interested in recommendations of other CMS applications – just if you’ve had relevant SharePoint experience and have encountered some “gotchas” or road blocks, I need a devil's advocate.
posted by the noob to Technology (12 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
SharePoint - at least in my experiences, can have glitches that are hard for users to track down the causes of. I've had a ticket in this week with my IT department regarding a Team Site (my own team's actually) that was no longer appearing on my list of team sites that I had access to, even though nothing had changed to my access rights. Now, maybe its my IT department more than SP itself, but it seems hard to track down a clear answer as to what happened. Today its showing back up again on my list - but they didn't even do anything.

Another complaint I've had with SP is that if somebody's not careful it can be pretty easy to delete large swaths of knowledge housed there when they are deleting something, and as far as my experiences go, there aren't a lot of great recovery protocols (i.e. forcing location of deleted data on a user's machine for a set period of time or something like that). Maybe some kind of required admin approval for deleting content could help out here.

If you do migrate to SP, for the love of your own corporation please invest in more than adequate training for anyone who even MIGHT use the system at any point so they clearly understand what it is and how best they can interact with it.

Just a couple thoughts from a pretty basic user, no SysAdmin or anything like that - maybe newer versions of SP that I haven't worked with already address all of this...
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:17 AM on October 6, 2010

Ugh, really? I've had nothing but terrible experiences with SP. Every single user requires training, the hardware requirements for anything above a simple site are killer, nothing really works as advertised.

Perhaps we just had a bad installation, but the company spent big bucks on implementation and no one uses it.
posted by unixrat at 6:31 AM on October 6, 2010

I hate Sharepoint 2007 as a developer. Every little piece of functionality that we want to add or modify to what comes out of the box turns out to be much harder to do than it should. We futilely shake our fists often at Microsoft in my group.

What are your biggest complaints about Sharepoint?

How good/bad is sharepoint programming?

If it were up to me, I'd use an alternative. And I say that without knowing much about any of the alternatives.
posted by callmejay at 6:43 AM on October 6, 2010

SharePoint is a pretty flexible tool that can be made to do all sorts of different things and there is lots of misuse of it out there as well. As for reading about the CMS capabilities of it, check out Andrew Connell and Heather Solomon. Both are widely recognized as some of the best consultants/educators/writers on SharePoint as CMS.
posted by mmascolino at 6:46 AM on October 6, 2010

SharePoint, or at least the SharePoint I've used, 2007, is a corporate intranet tool. It is primarily for small document storage and a few automated flows of tasks. Attempts to make SharePoint into things other than that become painful, fast. It is not a place where you can make Infopath forms comfortably uploading 60mb files. It isn't a replacement for a well-organized filesystem. People make sites and then completely neglect them, one Potemkin village after another of disused content. Moving sites from one server to another is ... interesting. There's backup and then there's backup; learn to look for the phrase "full-fidelity." Managing user accounts, especially as people come and go, is frustrating. Microsoft plays this little game with CodePlex where you are kind of on your own with all of this neat functionality which is out there, which is also troubling.

If you want to do anything unusual with SharePoint, you will swiftly realize you need someone who knows quite a lot about SharePoint, to the extent that you simply cannot grab some random IT person and make her The SharePoint Person. That person will need an understanding of HTML, CSS, some Javascript, as well as IIS (and generally how the web works), ASP.NET, a language like C#, and then on to the parts that are actually specific to SharePoint. This is not a part-time role. Plan into the budget, if you want to do anything even a little bit out of the ordinary, hiring someone. Marketing will probably say things like "can't you just make the server do that for us?" You must be super-clear with them and get things in writing about this, because a lot of market people become very enthusiastic about SharePoint and things they read about SharePoint without understanding what they are buying.
posted by adipocere at 7:03 AM on October 6, 2010

I work for a small organization and we put up a SharePoint 2007 site for internal use. I'm not an expert in it so probably a lot of my daily headaches would go away if I could just bring myself to read a book. Here are some of my daily headaches.

Almost every problem that SharePoint solves will have already been solved. Organizational inertia has been strong even when the existing solution is "obviously" bad.

We've discovered some surprising hidden dependencies in some processes. Workflows can lock out people who used to be informed and needed to know what was going on (workflows are pretty flexible but people aren't). Also, if you've have pretty well established "separation of concerns" with people "minding their own business" before with existing processes, Sharepoint will blow that right up. It's kind of the point, one reason for it, is to prevent duplication of work, but chances are, the duplicate work was doing different things

People need permission for everything. This is to say that SharePoint can create a whole bunch of new dependencies. This is like the above, but in that, once people see what's going on with it, they'll want to become involved. Maybe they should be, maybe they shouldn't, you'll have to figure that out.

Training users to make and use simple lists is ... non-trivial.

Lists have weird limitations. Maybe they fixed this in 2010 (maybe we don't know how): Lists made in one site aren't available in others. The first thing I was tempted to do, was to break down some of the big weird spreadsheets that had evolved over the years into something quasi-normalized. Turns out I couldn't just share the list collection across all the departmental sites I had to move it into the big all-staff site. But it also seems that people can't just work on their little bit of it either. Moral-of-the-story: We shouldn't have organized SharePoint like the rest of the organization.

Also we can't seem to get it to talk to Active Directory and any kind of generally useful way.

How do you get out of SharePoint once you're in? As a side project, I'm preparing a low-level SQL client to talk to the SharePoint DB so I can look into it's innards and prepare a transition plan to whatever will inevitably come to replace it.

If you want a picture of the future, imagine an Excel spreadsheet enumerating the human condition—forever.
posted by wobh at 7:21 AM on October 6, 2010

Check out any single Sharepoint question here on ask and they're all snapshots of human misery.

Of course marketing is on board. What do they care? They're the ones going to be holding the whips.
posted by unixrat at 8:10 AM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Another voice here to tell you that Sharepoint is an awful, awful product. Callmejay basically nails it - even very small cosmetic changes require days or even weeks of work, trying to navigate a truly boggling and byzantine API where nothing does what it sounds like it should.

If you really want to use the Microsoft stack to power your intranet/extranet, write your applications from the bottom up in C# or VB.NET, and leave Sharepoint out of it. You'll save yourself a LOT of money and man-hours that way.
posted by Citrus at 8:14 AM on October 6, 2010

I am currently using Sharepoint to manage 3000+ plus test cases across a group of about 40 people. It is a great tool to quickly throw together some quick forms and create some different views of that form data and then export it to Excel and report progress.

Outside of that though.....meh. Lotus Notes had all of this stuff sorted out a decade ago, but got slagged because of its non-Outlook interface for email. Say what you want but Lotus Notes is the shiz-nit for workflow and intranet type applications.

As far as hosting your external website, I have no idea.
posted by jasondigitized at 9:00 AM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'll add another voice of hatred towards sharepoint. The wiki library is pretty lame and you can't attach a document to a page. Instead, you have to upload to a document library, copy the link to the document, then paste it into the wiki page you want to reference it from. They could totally make that transparent to the user. But instead, it's frustrating.

Our sharepoint installation was sold as being able to do all sorts of custom stuff, but the company hasn't spent any money on development or training. So, basically, we use it for the wiki and document library features.

It would be really sweet if you could integrate it with MS project w/o buying a project server.
posted by reddot at 9:15 AM on October 6, 2010

I've had the displeasure of using Sharepoint 2007 and the sharepoint services in Project Server 2007. Unless the proposal includes generous budget support for consulting services and technical training for the staff do whatever you can to diplomatically kill the initiative.
posted by dgran at 1:44 PM on October 6, 2010

Nthing what has been said above: if you value your sanity, steer well clear of SharePoint.

If there is a particular set of use cases for which SharePoint will be useful using only out-of-the-box functionality (I've seen it used adequately for document sharing in teams) then perhaps it worthy of consideration.

For projects such as a more traditional web site it will be a source of constant and inexplicable frustration. In my experience it takes more effort to work around the shortcomings and intricacies of the SharePoint environment than it would to code the entire thing from scratch.

(My experience is with MOSS 2007 and SPS 2010)
posted by Five O'Clock at 2:48 AM on October 7, 2010

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