We are using SharePoint (MOSS 2007) as the collaborative platform for our professional development / innovation programs. Getting permission to use a platform outside the corporate firewall just isn’t realistic in this context where teams are developing new products, services and lines of business. And our clients are invested in SharePoint and want to see it successfully used. Often they see our programs as an opportunity to demonstrate the value of a collaborative platform and a way to test adoption strategies.
Last year we used SharePoint 2003 with a main site for the program and a subsite for each team. We found a template that would give us blogging capabilities (on http://www.collutions.com/default.aspx) but under SPS 2003 using that template required testing and approval by IT. That turned out to be a prohibitively long process and, since implementation of MOSS 2007 was around the corner, they weren’t inclined to devote resources to improving SPS 2003. So we lived with out-of-the-box functionality and made do with discussion lists.
Using the lists would have worked much better if there had been post-by-email functionality, but that was also missing from SPS 2003. Users could subscribe to receive notifications of a new message or file but then they had to visit the site to reply. For a very busy very mobile group of users who are used to doing everything by email on their BlackBerrys, this is a big impediment to usage. Because they couldn’t use their BlackBerrys to contribute to the site, they stuck with sending email within their team. Inter-team communication was minimal. A couple years ago, when I used Movable Type (outside the firewall) for another program I had the same obstacle. Third party developers had built some post-by-email plugins but they didn’t work reliably for a group of 50 users.
This year we are going to use SharePoint 2007. The addition of blogs, wikis, and post-by-email functionality, as well as an administrative structure that gives much more control to site administrators is very promising and I will write more as we implement the sites.