What’s Wrong with SharePoint?


So, I am watching Twitter updates go by (as I always do, even on a Saturday night), including my search that shows me all the tweets with “sharepoint” in them. As anyone knows who watches any amount of SharePoint commentary go by, there is a fairly constant flow of comments of the “SharePoint sucks” variety.

So this evening this led me to ask the question “What is wrong with SharePoint?” No, I do not mean I want a list of every nit picking, annoying little defect – every platform has defects and annoyances. I also do not want to know why SharePoint is note good for everything – no platform is good for everything. I also do not give a crap if your opinion is “it comes from Microsoft therefore it MUST suck” – it that is as deep as your analysis can go, well, you’re a moron.

What I want to see from SOMEONE is an intelligent, well thought out description of why SharePoint sucks. Why is it a bad choice for anything? Why should you perform an exorcism on all servers running any version of SharePoint?

I did a web search (notice I did not say “google” – contrary to popular usage, google is not a verb) for “what is wrong with SharePoint?” The only relevant results I found on either Google or Bing were written in 2005 or before, and hence are not particularly relevant at this point. For example, the post Five Things Wrong with SharePoint from back in 2005 tries to talk about what is actually wrong  with SharePoint. Even though I disagree with a lot of what it says, I will not refute it since it is so old.

So – if SharePoint is so bad…if all the otherwise intelligent people implementing solutions over SharePoint are wrong – where the heck are the statements as to what is wrong with it. So tell me – WHAT IS WRONG WITH SHAREPOINT? I really want to know, and to share it with others.

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About

I have been working in the world of technology for 25-odd years. I am an entrepreneur and consultant, focused on software solutions, social networking, and innovation processes. Currently, I am a Principal Consultant with T4G Limited, specializing in Portal Technologies (including SharePoint), software/systems development, service oriented architectures, and many other things which I will probably not remember until I need to use them. Prior to that, I was VP of Technology at Whitehill Technologies, Inc., where I spent almost 9 years helping to grow the company from a start-up to one of the most successful private software companies in Canada. Prior to that I worked on internet conferencing using early VoIP, and on large military communications projects. Before even that, I worked in satellite control, and remote sensing. Going way back to university, my focus was on theoretical physics and astrophysics. Currently my interests revolve around most aspects of software development, from technologies to management, and in the area of defining sustainable, repeatable processes for innovation within technology organizations. I also have a particular interest in Tablet PC technologies – I have been using one for several years, and I love it. On the personal side, I still have a strong interest in all aspects of science, especially physical sciences, as well as philosophy and comparative religion. In addition, I am into music, playing guitar (badly, I am sorry to say), and reading almost anything I can lay my hands on. I am also a member of the IEEE/IEEE Computer Society, and of the Association for Computing Machinery.

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Posted in MOSS, My Menu, SharePoint
11 comments on “What’s Wrong with SharePoint?
  1. Mike Drips says:

    I’m the guy who wrote that article back in 2005. I make my living as a SharePoint consultant, and now that I have worked with the 2010 version for a year (in beta mostly, duh) I can safely pronounce that it is STILL A CLUSTERFUCK!

    I love SharePoint. It is so screwy in so many areas that I will make lots of money helping enterprises with this product until I die.

    • pierreten says:

      Your post from 2005 is hilariously wrong in so many ways. For example, this little tidbit was quite interesting:

      “When you start to dig into the inner workings of SharePoint, you find a great many of the core files are written in JavaScript! Hello? Does Microsoft support JavaScript? Sort of, as Jscript supposedly is a supported .Net language, but if you actually go to MSDN for Jscript support, you won’t find much content. ”

      What exactly are you talking about? Yes, Microsoft “supports javascript” by IE having a javascript interpreter built in (a pretty common feature for browsers, lol) I’m not sure what your angle with JScript and .net was…

  2. Tony says:

    I have been developing enterprise applications for large corporations for over 25 years. Throughout those years I have used many tools and methodologies. I have used an extremely productive and nice CASE tool to produce high quality code on the AS/400 (System i) and have been using ASP then ASP.NET forever. I love ASP.NET and Visual Studio 2008 although it is still know where near the productivity we enjoy using the CASE tool. MVC will be closer to the productivity success enjoyed on the AS/400 for enterprise applications.
    I absolutely hate SharePoint. It boggles my mind to see that this thing is the rage in the marketplace. My development effort has been two steps forward and one step backward every day. Literally, I have never seen such a cluster of a development environment. Typing XML? Are you serious? WTF? The MSDN/SDK documentation is horrible, the examples are few, and the books are elementary or simply a dump of the SDK, development environment takes a day to setup and configure a slew of mismatch tools. Don’t get me wrong, SharePoint is a great end-user tool. But for development, I would rather have a red hot ice pick plunged into my eye. This thing is nothing but a huge money pit with no end in sight.
    My main beef is with development and deployment. I have had so many problems in development I doubt that I will ever have the courage to roll my project into production. My ability to patch and maintain once in production would be a pure crap shoot. Thank goodness for Virtual PC’s undo disks!!! That is the only way I can resolve most of the development problems. Two steps forward, one back… day after day.
    Why does something so simple have to be so difficult. It really seems like the development environment was an afterthought on Microsoft’s part.
    Oh I have learned a lot over the months. Unfortunately what I have learned is what I like to call bit twiddling. It’s all low level stuff that I prefer not to have to deal with ever. There is no productivity in flipping flags and bits and trying and trying and trying until something works then moving on to the next step and breaking everything.
    I am learning the tool for one reason. Money. Customers pay big money for SharePoint development. So like a whore, I guess that is what I am selling. There will never be a return on their investment if they choose to customize too much.
    Oh I don’t have the helicopter beanie cap, nor have I drunk the Kool-Aid. I am the best at what I do. I can pound out business applications faster than a team of many. I can spot a money pit a mile away. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, then it is SharePoint.
    Yeah there are many bit twiddlers who have had great success. Sorry but I have better things to do with my time than spin in circles with SharePoint.

  3. Share Pointless says:

    Since 2004 or so I have participated in 5 installations of various version of Sharepoint and related services.

    I have never seen an installation go cleanly. Each one had it’s own unique problem.

    Management (I mean the pointy haired upper managers) have been disappointed that its capabilities did not live up to the marketing hype once installed. They seem surprised that you have to spend more time or money to do what they want to do.

    Developers hate developing for it. Sure you can find some who have drunk the MS Kool-Aid and good for them, but most developers don’t like the framework.

    I avoid having to work with it based on these experiences. I’m always surprised there are people who seem enamored with it. Somebody must get it to work.

  4. Pankaj says:

    A recent debate around SharePoint listed out quite a few things.

    http://blogs.zdnet.com/Hinchcliffe/?p=280 (Dion Hinchcliffe – SharePoint – The good, the bad, the ugly)
    http://www.personalinfocloud.com/2009/03/sharepoint-2007-gateway-drug-to-enterprise-social-tools.html (Thomas Vander Wal – SharePoint – gateway drug to enterprise tools)

  5. Jed says:

    What sucks about SharePoint ? It’s marketing, or rather I should say the Microsoft marketing of SharePoint, which has at one time or another presented it as the silver bullet, the tool to solve all problems etc. It has been marketed as ‘Enterprise content management’ and yet Sharepoint is no peer of Documentum, FileNet or LiveLink. It is marketed as “BI for the masses” and although this is not my area of specialism I am not sure Excel Services, BDC and KPI webparts adds up to a serious competitor to SAS or whatever.

    As noted by Stephen above, it is this element of people falling for the “plug and play” argument that is often the problem. Web searching for SharePoint and ‘fail’ will I am sure generate plenty of hits discussing lack of governance, uncontrolled deployments of thousands of team sites etc.

    So in answer to your question, what really, deeply technically sucks about SharePoint – possibly nothing, its more about the way people fall for the marketing BS and about how they apply it in a specific context.

    One small caveat to that actually, I don’t like the architecture whereby content items are all BLOBS in a database, I believe this leads to scalability and disaster recover issues, but I come from a sys admin background, I have never been a developer or a DBA, so my humble opinion that its the underlying architecture of SharePoint that really sucks might not be worth a great deal of consideration. Hope this helps, and I would be interested to know what you think Fred ?

  6. Hi Fred,

    Alright, I’ll bite. The question is a bit of a strawman, because no-one other than the most diehard of Microsoft haters could say that SharePoint sucks at “everything”.

    In my view, when people say “SharePoint sucks”, it’s generally more to do with circumstances that arise during and after going into production rather than the intrinsic capabilities of the software itself. (These comments are based on MOSS 2007, they may have been fixed in 2010.)

    Problems can be divided into three basic categories:

    (1) Development: Trying to customise SharePoint in ways that Microsoft didn’t expect
    (2) User experience: Lack of cross-site interaction and half-baked Office integration
    (3) Deployment: Not putting SharePoint governance arrangements into place

    Going into some more detail:

    (1) The SharePoint platform promises customisation in so many ways: Rearrange web parts! Write your own web parts! Do custom site themes! Run any kind of data query you like!

    Then when you get excited and try to put these customisations into practice, you find that SharePoint fails to work in many ways that you would expect. The “site” template is very different from the “meeting” template, and you can’t migrate functionality between them. The inability to save a site template with an associated theme was one of the simplest things that failed under MOSS 2007 — in the end I rolled out vanilla themes for my deployment because it was the only way I could guarantee a corporate image. And the lack of documentation really hurts as well, because it leads to fumbling around and guessing despite seeming to have Microsoft’s blessing to tinker.

    My advice to people for SharePoint these days is to either: not customise at all beyond rearranging web parts and saving site templates, or plan for a full customisation team including ongoing .NET developers. Anything in-between is asking for trouble.

    (2) The lack of cross-site functionality is definitely the biggest problem in MOSS 2007. Something as simple as a linked document is too hard, let alone something useful like a shared task list.

    The main other issue I had was with the seamless creation of meeting workspaces from Outlook but that is a usability and governance nightmare unless your users are all unusually IT-savvy. Recurring appointments? Changed times? Changed invitees? Good luck with those.

    The end result is that you have to explain to users all of these seemingly arbitrary restrictions and/or steer them away from “useful” functionality that doesn’t work in practice.

    (3) Failure to plan site structures and user training before deployment is one of the biggest causes of trouble. Site proliferation leads to document silos, lost documents, user management problems, orphan sites, archiving and recordkeeping issues, etc etc.

    Many of these can be avoided just by having decent policies and governance arrangements but it’s amazing how many organisations seem to think that SharePoint is just plug-and-play. Yes, technically SharePoint can be up and running in 2 hours but you’ll pay for that thriftiness down the track if you are storing anything of importance on there.

    Put together, these three things detract from the ease of use and installation which makes SharePoint so attractive in the first place.

    If Microsoft had chosen to just expose those features things which worked really well in SharePoint, and made clear to developers which things should be customized and which should not, then people would spend a lot less time banging their head on brick wall — which would in turn reduce the number of cries of “SharePoint sucks!”

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Please keep in mind that any opinions, points-of-view, comments, or other content which I post to this site are mine and mine alone. They in no way reflect the views of my employer, my country, my dog, my cat, or anyone else you can think of. To paraphrase Monty Python, "That is the theory that I have and which is mine, and what it is, too."

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