A lot of information exists in small chunks. Collaboration could be said to be putting small chunks of information from different people together to create new information. E-mail, SMS and Instant Messaging reflect the power of the small chunk of information, or "message". Microsoft Office SharePoint Server is one way to handle this in the large structured organisation, but third-party wikis and blogs are a more cost-effective way in the less structured organisation.
- What are you doing tonight?
- Nothing, why?
- Do you want to see a movie?
- What’s on?
- OK, let’s go. What time is it?
- 8:30. I’ll book.
- See you there.
- No, roger, Roger.
This is clearly not the same sort of information that you put into a Word document, an Excel spreadsheet or a Powerpoint presentation. I think there is a case that it is more important. In most interviews with important people I read they tell me either that they don’t use computers, or they love their Blackberry. The Word document is a kind of bureaucratic necessity. When did your FD or CEO last produce a Word document themselves?
Microsoft tried to structure messages into folders, in Exchange. But it didn’t really work and now public folders are gone and replaced by SharePoint. SharePoint Server offers a window into the conventional document store but also a place for less structured communication, with personal web sites, blogs and wikis. With SharePoint Server Microsoft are trying to turn their dominant Document franchise into a more informal Collaboration franchise.
The problem with Office SharePoint Server is that you need a license for Windows Server, plus a license for SharePoint Server, plus a license for Office if that’s the editor you use. Microsoft want to bind more informal methods of communication into a sort of Platform license.
That’s fine for large structured organisations like multi-nationals and the public sector where they can use an Enterprise volume license agreement. But it is a lot of overhead for a distributed informal organisation.
The alternative is to put up an industrial strength wiki like Confluence from Atlassian, and a blog server like Movable Type. You have an unlimited user license in the enterprise and you don’t need an Office, a Windows or a SharePoint Server license to use it.