What is SharePoint? It is a question, seriously. Even if you ask folks who have been working with SharePoint for a long time, fact is that their answers cover a large spectrum of possibilities. Some of them may even scratch their head and say they do not know. Do not believe it, read on!
In order to prove the case, let’s take a look at one of the hottest communities where a lot of developers share their thoughts and see what their responses to this question are.
Stack Overflow is the de facto community hub for developers. From 2008 up to now, there are literally 16.138 questions about SharePoint. And there are lots of enthusiastic discussions following the questions.
Fortunately, someone has asked directly what is SharePoint. This question is the inspiration for this post and is quite interesting. Let’s take a look at this question, shall we?
The exact question is asked in these terms: “I hear the name Microsoft SharePoint being thrown around a lot yet I am still not sure what it is for and why I hear a lot of bid companies use it. In short, the question is what is SharePoint and why is it popular?”. In this post, I will focus on the first part of the question. Maybe in the future I will write another post adressing the second part though.
There are 12 answers to this question and the best answer, according to rating by readers, is the one posted by Tom Resing (Stake Overflow ID17063). His answer is truly great, and here is the quote (hopefully I am not breaking any law by copy/pasting it here and if so, plz contact me).
What is SharePoint?
The latest version of Microsoft SharePoint software is really two different products:
- Windows SharePoint Services is a free download for Windows Server. In the latest version, known as WSS v3, collaborative web sites templates include basic blog and wiki services along with list templates for Image Libraries, Document Libraries, Contact lists, Calendars, Tasks and much more.
- Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 or MOSS for short is built on Windows SharePoint Services. As a member of the Office Server product platform, it leverages the Microsoft Office client software to provide content on the web. Integration with Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Access and InfoPath provide rich web content from familiar content creation tools.”
This answer resolves the question on the perspective of technology. What is, then, the shorter answer? In analogy to humans, we can say that we are an animal with two eyes, on mouth etc. or we can say we are human beings.
So what is SharePoint? The most precise and concise answer that I encountered is SharePoint is an Enterprise Content Management System (ECMS) and Business Procedure Management (BPM) Platform.
We are going to dissect the answer provided by Stack Overflow to illustrate this.
In the first part of the answer is the mention of “collaborative web site template”. Collaborative can be categorized into BPM while web site template belongs to content management. More specifically, blogs, wiki, libraries, lists, and calendars are core concepts of content management system. Also be reminded that SharePoint has another powerful feature called workflow, one of the core functions of BPM. The second part of the answer mentions more content management related features.
Suffice to say that SharePoint is one of the leading content management systems. In order to further validate this conclusion let’s take a look at what is BPM.
According to Wikipedia, Business Process Management is a holistic management approach focused on aligning all aspects of an organization with the wants and needs of clients. It promotes business effectiveness and efficiency while striving for innovation, flexibility and integration with technology. BPM attempts to improve processes continuously. It can therefore be described as a “process optimization”.
Due to different perspectives, the relationship between workflow and PBM are “nothing or everything”. According to CIO magazine, in one sense, there is no difference at all. Workflow is the basis of business process management as well as business re-engineering. From this perspective, BPM is simply workflow with a lot of bells and whistles. In one sense, there is no difference at all. Of course, workflow is the one of the essential components of SharePoint. In this perspective, we can say SharePoint is a BPM platform.
Now, do you agree that SharePoint is an ECMS and BPM platform?