What is SharePoint?

by Richard Harbridge on June 7, 2011

Last week at SPTechCon Ruven Gotz and I delivered a full day Practical SharePoint Information Architecture workshop. One of the questions we asked (and then answered) was “What is SharePoint?”. This is an exploration into the responses we received and we thought would be worth sharing.

What sounds deceivingly simple can lead to exhaustive minutes or even hour long explanations. When I ask “What is SharePoint?” the answer I receive from every client, colleague, or audience member is always slightly unique.

I have received a huge variety of answers. Some held negative sentiment such as people saying “SharePoint was frustrating.”, “SharePoint is the devil.”, “SharePoint is like a disease.” etc. I have also heard positive sentiment such as “SharePoint is a career builder.”, “SharePoint is my best friend.” etc. I have even had one person spend a good 10 minutes explaining how SharePoint is a browser to me (it isn’t).

This is a big reason why many of us say “Don’t talk about SharePoint!” or “Don’t use the word SharePoint” and instead encourage people to use the real thing being discussed such as “Intranet”, “Employee Center”, “InSite (or some other branded name)”, “RFP Response Center” or whatever name clearly identifies what it is you are discussing.

What is your answer? Share it with the community and compare it against others!

To kick off our Practical Tools and Techniques for the SharePoint Information Architect all of the workshop participants gave their own responses of what they believe SharePoint ‘is’. They then shared this with someone sitting close by. The purpose of the exercise was to help everyone understand that we all have different interpretations of what SharePoint is and subsequently what we should use it for.

Does your answer to the “What is SharePoint” question contain the word “Collaboration”? 50% of the answers we received in our workshop did. What about the word Platform? Only 25% of our classroom respondents included the word Platform with their answer. (Though it shows up 100% of the time in my responses. :))

The “What is SharePoint” Project

The more responses we can collect; the more extensive our analysis can be. So I encourage you to take part and provide your answer in the Poll above and to share it with colleagues and other community members.

I will take all of these answers and make them available in a public listing soon and even promise to do a half hour of analysis, development, and/or number crunching for every 200 responses I receive. (That means if we can get 1000 responses I will work for 2.5 hours and can probably build a couple cool applications, a public database of the data, and some really fancy excel reports that analyze the results.)

Hope this helps and looking forward to reviewing more responses,
Richard Harbridge

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