Tony Byrne, founder, CMS Watch

You've been commenting on interest in content management coming from structured data workers. What's going on there?

It's true even in areas where technologies aren't necessarily converging. The interest among structured data people seems to be due to the fact that they're being asked to look into things like SharePoint and even document management. They're also interested for the practical reason that their employers assume that they know about it, which can be pretty anxiety provoking. You'd never go to a librarian or a document management expert and assume they could handle the work of a DBA or a business intelligence analyst. But there seems to be a perception the other way around.

What about the intersection between enterprise content management, the portal and the workspace generally?

You can't talk about those topics without talking about SharePoint, which in some ways made it easier for customers to sort out. For example, we've seen that SharePoint has become a dominant workgroup portal and collaboration portal, not the only one, but it has forced IBM and to some extent Oracle to focus on enterprise integration scenarios. The way they're trying to get back into collaboration is through social computing, where everyone is much stronger than Microsoft right now. That's a weak leg of SharePoint, so you see Oracle and IBM suggesting they have better social software services for the enterprise. The little secret behind that is once you dig too deeply, they'll push for you to license their portal along with the other stuff. You want to be careful because those are very heavyweight applications.

Five or six years ago, Microsoft said the big portal apps were going away, that the market was already moving toward productivity without much IT intervention.

The reality is that there are some use cases where you do need heavy-duty enterprise portals, but they're not so prevalent, and some portal vendors were selling into situations where people really didn't need it. The thing that's confusing is that Microsoft sees SharePoint as much more than a portal and doesn't even call it that anymore. They see it as an omnibus information management platform. To the extent that lightweight document management was really file-based collaboration, they've certainly found that niche. Where the product falls down is when you want to do something richer or more formalized with more intelligent workflows or heavy-duty volumes or transaction processing. SharePoint's not really going to work for that.

The compliance aspect is going to make people nervous, too, with so many millions of SharePoint users already out there.

That's right. Out of the box, anyone can set up their own team spaces. Microsoft, like many other vendors, has helped people create all these repositories very easily but has not put much work into lifecycle management. So you end up with all these orphaned team spaces and no native administrative facility to manage multiple site collections. You have to go in individually and sort it out and archive and delete it, which is a mess.

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