Surviving Microsoft SharePoint - Addressing Risks

I recently saw the deck from Mark Gilbert's presentation –”Can the CIO survive Microsoft SharePoint?” which evidently was a packed session.  I can identify this loud sucking sound for knowledge concerning SharePoint risk and deployment.  At the SharePoint Conference 08 in Bellevue, WA and at Tech Ed IT Forum in Orlando, FL we had to close the doors early in our "Governance Steps to Success" talks.

So many companies in the U.S. are starting to get that there is something they need to understand before deploying SharePoint.  It's these deployment risks and rewards that Mark tried to help the audience understand in his session.  I'll save the rewards for later, but  I want to share some solutions and resources for Mark Gilbert's 6 Key Risks.  I actually think he's got a great list here.  I don't see a lot of surprises, but if you're new, you may.  More at Gartner Video YouTube.

Figure Below: "Risks and Rewards" slide from Mark R. Gilbert, Research VP, Gartner

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The Risks

1. WSS Anarchy - this isn't new and I think we hear about this more than any of the rest.  The chaos that comes from a collaboration deployment that's a bit Web 2.0, where users are empowered and IT may not know what to do is a bit scary.  The solution is straightforward actually.  The answer is better IT governance and appropriate oversight.  The answer isn't to completely lock it down or make it overly burdensome.  It's about assurance (Culmsee) on the configuration management side, and about leveraging business processes for site and user provisioning on the end user side.  If you still haven't looked at the phases and processes outlined in MOF 4.0 you have to take a look.  Developer's life cycle is incorporated and IT configuration management practices from risk management to change advisory boards are addressed.  As far as products go, you should look at the products I recently outlined in a SharePoint site and user management suite post.  Going through the 10 Steps to Success (SharePoint Governance) deck might be worth your time.  I'd also recommend the SharePoint Deployment Essentials and checklist guide. 

Awareness of all of these points are addressed in nearly every SharePoint training company's "Governance" course.  I recently wrote modules in a "SharePoint Planning and Governance" SPG 301 (3 day) course for the Ted Pattison Group with Nicola Young and John Ross.  Any of us would be happy to come and teach your project management team/SharePoint team and executive team, or sign up for the next course on 12/10 in Tampa.  I could even do a condensed two-day course if you needed it packaged that way.  Otherwise look at Mindsharp's OnPath, and Bob Mixon's workshops too.

Did you know that Bamboo Solutions has a whole portal area designed around SharePoint Project Management?  Dux Raymond Sy, PMP and author of "SharePoint for Project Management" manages the SharePoint Project Management community.  They have an entire SharePoint Project Managment Suite designed to make project management inside of SharePoint a snap (from alerts, tasks, charting, various list enhancements, calendaring, etc...).  Find this list overwhelming? Sign up for a free SharePoint PM-focused webinar to get a close up view.

2. Creeping product dependencies - Can we say scope creep?  As businesses are required to do more with less, and migration and consolidation is on the mind, more with less means fewer platforms and services.  This essentially does detail that SharePoint be pushed to provide more and more requirements.  I outline in my deck that it's about having a set of services that scale.  One for site provisioning which can address the ever demanding requirements which can be addressed out of the box, and another for custom provisioning where IT gets the necessary resources from the business to build the necessary widgets and Web Parts.  With clear guidelines and resources, the budget constraints need to be discussed and, wherever possible, run on the out of the box scale deployment rather than provisioning in either a multi tennent or dedicated environment for large departments.  To really achieve economies of scale requires a common SharePoint infrastructure team and coordinated dev teams sharing best practices.  Many Bamboo products are designed to be added to a common platform to address common requirements that are supportable and provide software assurance for a price.  Whether it's auditing and reporting or specific rich column requirements in a list, where these requirements can be shared, the common scalable platform can be enhanced for a price, but don't let scope creep determine those requirements, and ensure testing is a solid part of the strategy.  For both point 3 and point 4, remember SharePoint is plastic and if there is No "mold," you WILL have scope creep and forget about fixed costs.

3. Escalating costs - Most costs come from not understanding the scope.  If people would plan like they plan for enterprise apps, not just Microsoft apps like Exchange or AD, but more a plan like a real fully fledged .NET app rollout with Dev, Test, Staging, and Production with a place for service packs, performance and integration testing, there'd be fewer surprises.  Most of these should be virtual environments these days and yes, it is more complicated than it sounds.  With as rich as SharePoint is, and the fact that Microsoft is it's daddy, it's important to understand it is only a simple install when you do the one-click setup, which by the way is the worst way to install it.  I think I'm digging a whole, but understand that understanding the cost and complexity can be much better understood if you work with people who've had experience with SharePoint, especially on the infrastructure and lead development, or with the help of a partner.  The free pricing tool is a noble stab at helping to bring transparency to server licensing in a SharePoint farm.  Look at HP's SharePoint capacity planning tool for server pricing combined with what you need.  When combined with the System Center Capacity Planner SharePoint Models, you can get a pretty good idea of where to start.  (Don't forget to consider the other environments for Dev, Testing, etc...  Costs escalate when you forget things.  Cost of servers isn't really going up, and neither is Microsoft licensing, especially when you look at going from a physical plan to a virtual one.

4. Functional Trade offs/Reliance on Partner - The SharePoint ecosystem is RICH.  The platform is wide, and the partner ecosystem is rich.  A year or two ago it was hard to find a solid SharePoint systems integrator to help you to rollout SharePoint or develop to address gaps.  Now you can both purchase fully fledged solutions off the shelf while using a partner to help you to deploy and train your staff.  Don't overlook the platform as for what it is.  You do get an application out of the box, that application is collaboration and a basic portal, and simple ECM.  For real document management and records management you're fooling yourself to think you can do these without the help of either ISV solutions or developing to address business processes or maybe with the help of workflows (like Nintex or K2), you likely don't want to limit yourself to SharePoint Designer.  This ecosystem has never been healthier and partners, both in the ISV and SI space are ready to serve.  Going with out of the box functionality is a tradeoff and a simple ROI calculation needs to be performed.  What else are you missing?

5. User Authentication/Better with AD, but not required. Supports LDAP connector - that's a mouthful.  Yes, the history of SharePoint has been AD and NT accounts, so it obviously works best there.  .NET brought to the table forms based authentication and pluggable membership providers, etc... This whole pluggable system didn't come out of the Office system, so there's some catchup and limited functionality when it comes to the "RICH" functionality you get out of the various Office clients.  They are still better than the alternative.  A lot of these challenges are also tough on the back-end.  Look at Mashpoint for bringing in external data in a simple and cheaper way.  For user provisioning and user management of these various LDAP compliant systems, or even basic SQL database, look at the User Management Accelerator to simplify the management.  Need password resets and easy to use delegated user provisioning?  Look at the IT Productivity Pack.

6. Server Replication is an issue - So in the notes of the talk, Mark discusses going centralized both as a service and with farms.  Not a bad suggestion.  As well, I say centralized is the utopia, and going with partner network accelerators in the long run may be much cheaper than any third party replication solution, or cheaper than eating your bandwidth with crawls and other pseudo replication strategies.  The answer to this question is really based on the customer requirements.  Silver bullets aren't cheap or free.  If you do go with multi farm and mixed WSS and MOSS deployments, look at the profile replication solution from Bamboo.  There are a lot of partners out there to help you get centralized and nearly as many that want to help you stay separate and help you replicate your data.  You don't need to look far... check out this SharePoint WAN Challenge and Partner list

Thanks Mark for the Insights!  I see your Succeeding with SharePoint session is full, and by the sounds of it, there must be an assumption that it is possible :)

Joel Oleson
SharePoint Joel


Posted Oct 13 2008, 08:19 PM by Joel Oleson

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Mirrored Blogs wrote Links for 2008-10-13 [del.icio.us]
on Tue, Oct 14 2008 1:19 AM

SharePoint Permissions... Part 1 What to do when Load Balanced MOSS Servers can't see each other

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About Joel Oleson

As Sr. Technical Product Manager for SharePoint Products and Technologies at Microsoft, I owned the technical messaging and product positioning for the IT Professional audience. With more than 12 years of experience in the Internet Industry, I have a vast background in Web technologies. First, starting out with Internet and intranet application web design including enterprise backend data storage. I later moved into design and infrastructure architecture, engineering, and operations. I'm now a community evangelist for SharePoint and working to help companies solve their IT issues related to deployment and governance.

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