I have been working with SharePoint for the past decade and have seen it transform from the basic SharePoint Teams Services 1.0 through to the advanced SharePoint Online as part of Office 365.
During this transformation I have seen it move from a basic intranet in a box through to a comprehensive business intelligence and collaboration platform.
Previously, a customer requiring SharePoint involved an extensive consultation and planning phase, hardware/ software procurement, and a large amount of professional services for deployment and customisation.
In recent times with Microsoft Office 365 (and its precursor BPOS) the journey to SharePoint has become much shorter – with the ability to simply subscribe to the service, create a site and begin using it.
This is a fantastic solution for SMBs where implementing SharePoint can very quickly improve their day to day operations. I am, however, regularly pained when I hear people refer to SharePoint as a document management system or a way to simply share files.
Quite often SharePoint is positioned based on its document library functionality and left as such. This has become even more so the case recently with customers and partners seeing SharePoint Online as simply a way to store files in the Cloud.
This brings us to the title of this piece: SharePoint is not a file system.
I personally believe that the file storage functionality really only equates to one per cent of its true potential.
If you as a partner are positioning SharePoint Online as document management in the cloud – you are short-selling your customer. You are also dismissing the opportunity to generate more revenue by providing consultancy and customisation services to your customer. And you are robbing your customer of being able to fully harness the power to improve their productivity by using the solution to its fullest.
Let’s sidestep for a moment.
Cars are amazing things – they allow us to get from A to B far quicker than ever before, more efficiently, and safer. Most cars also have a radio in them. But would you sell them as just a radio? No. You also wouldn’t sell it to be used as a wheelbarrow, although it can do that too. And whilst they’re easy to use, you wouldn’t get your local mechanic to build you one either.
Like a car, customers buy SharePoint for its full capabilities, not just for the radio.
And they need an expert to build it.
As a partner there are several key areas of expertise you need to have when offering SharePoint solutions or building a practice within your business.
Firstly, your sales team really need to understand the platform – its feature sets, its capabilities, its ins and outs. You also need to have some real world examples of SharePoint in production – to relate the solution to your prospective customer.
Once you know how to sell it, there are numerous other roles behind the scenes to analyse requirements, install servers, customise the environment, and train end users. The list of technologies involved in a SharePoint solution is even longer!