Wednesday, 21 January 2009

So you are stuck with SharePont 2003?

Many companies installed Microsoft SharePoint 2003.  With SharePoint 2007 many managers are wondering if it is even worth working with 2003.  Often there are no plans to migrate to 2007 and many office workers have to make due with 2003.  I hope to show that 2003 is a very useful tool to establish collaboration and it is all you have by all means use it.

There is an unwritten law of Microsoft technology that the third release is the one that gets it right.

This is certainly the case with Microsoft Office SharePoint 2007.  Its a shinny star in what has been overall a poor performance of Microsoft to lead users with Vista and Office 2007.

But many very large firms that I have worked with have invested in SharePoint 2003 server farms.  So is it worth even trying to use it?

The answer is yes.  Though 2007 is better than 2003,  SharePoint 2003  provides tools to help get your teams to start collaborating better.  As long as you keep in mind what it can do and what are some of its limits.

It is my opinion that SharePoint 2003 does the following things well:

  1.  Broadcast a message: It does require a bit of HTML skill to get it to look good but a department can effectively communicate with it.
  2. Collect feedback:  You have chat groups. Chat groups can be very productive spaces for collecting feedback. 
  3. Document Collaboration: You get collaborate on making Office documents.  This is wonderful for producing team documents like bids or manuals.  I have also seen it used for annual reports.
2003 lacks some key features:

Effective Search.  SharePoint 2003 has 2 levels of search, I won't go in to details but it is confusing.   Make sure you test your search and get IT to insure its working.  I don't have space to go in to all the problems with 2003 Search but many firms decided to install other products.

Workflow: when I was first asked about 2003 workflow I could only say "there is nothing there that impresses me"

Web Content Publishing: Got to get 2007 for that.  Again you need to know some HTML to get it to look professional.

But still 2003 offers more features that most people not on a good Lotus Notes system will not have. It is my experience that even though Lotus Notes is a good system it is often implemented poorly and unpopular.  Many firms are using both systems, don't think that just because you have Lotus you can't use SharePoint.

Warning:  Make sure you delete sites when you don't need them any more. Be strict about this, make your users prove they still need their systems.  SharePoint 2003 can become a bloated collection of outdated text, pictures, and endless drafts of unnecessary or dated documents. Remember that everything needs to be stored in a database and that can get very expensive for the company.  Don't let using SharePoint 2003 create a new problem.  Set clear rules on how long people can have team sites for and delete them when no longer needed.  People can still use their own computers to share files.
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