What will NOT be in the next version of SharePoint

I might catch a lot of readers with that title, but of course I don’t really know for sure what will and won’t be in the next version of SharePoint.  Microsoft is still mum on the topic and I suspect will remain so until the SharePoint Conference slated for October.  This event was held in March last year; it seems logical it has been delayed this year to time the event with Office 14 announcements specific to SharePoint.

I read Guy Creese’s post last week on what he thinks will be in the next version of SharePoint and like Guy, I get a lot of questions in this vein.  I agree with Guy that SharePoint.next will have search improvements (we already know that one) and more sophisticated administration (we all hope). I’ll be surprised to see dramatic improvements in the transition between hosted and on-premise SharePoint in this version, I think the marketing is likely to lead the reality in this area for sometime to come, but perhaps I’ll be surprised.

I often get questions more specifically (from vendors) around what Microsoft isn’t going to do and reading Guy’s post, I thought it would be interesting to comment on what’s left out.

On the social software front…

There’s been some debate of late about whether or not SharePoint is an “Enterprise 2.0” tool at all (or what, in fact, that even means, if anything). But anyone who saw Lawrence Liu pitch SharePoint versus IBM Lotus Connections to a packed room at Enterprise 2.0 last year, would certainly assume Microsoft has ambitions in this area.  It’s worth noting however that Liu left Microsoft not long after that for Telligent Systems, which sells community software as an adjunct to SharePoint.  Liu presumably knows more about the SharePoint roadmap than we do, so looking at Telligent’s roadmap (limited version here) is probably a good indication of where Microsoft won’t go in social software in this next release (think community analytics, bridging internal and external communities, and feed aggregation).

It’s not about WCM.

Making SharePoint ubiquitous for content-based collaboration is Microsoft’s number one goal and this means improved admin, search and social software, to my mind.   So what will get left out?   I don’t think we’ll see any major changes on the WCM front.  Microsoft marketed the WCM capabilities in MOSS 2007 when it first came out, as it stopped development on its stand-alone WCM product, Microsoft CMS (which came from its 2001 acquisition of nCompass) in favor of Sharepoint.  But this seems to have died down and vendors like Sitecore are doing well selling more sophisticated WCM with SharePoint integrations, apparently with cooperation from Microsoft.  WCM for large, customer-facing sites, is really not where SharePoint strengths lie and Microsoft will likely let this one stand much as it is as it invests in other areas (Sitecore even sells a bundle for intranets, showing some market opportunity for WCM even in SharePoint’s sweet spot).

What about records management and archiving?

There’s some records management today in SharePoint, but it’s limited to SharePoint environments.  Improved admin across server farms could help here but it doesn’t seem likely Microsoft is going to go far beyond this and this doesn’t address the archiving issue at all.  Vendors like Open Text, Symantec and EMC are banking on their products’ abilities to manage and archive content (including email) from multiple repositories including SharePoint.  And this seems like a market that will be relatively immune to changes in SharePoint.next — indeed, changes that make SharePoint more popular are likely only good news to these vendors, at least in the short term.

I’m sure there are other gaps vendors are filling where they may be some continued opportunity after SharePoint.next, but those are the big ones that jump to my  mind.

Thoughts on WCM spending

I commented in late January that there seem to be two schools of thought at the moment on spending in ECM — in that post, I was talking about downturns in ECM spending overall versus serious investment in information governance-related technologies, like archiving, records management and eDiscovery.

The same dichotomy seems to exist in specifically WCM at the moment as well, though for different reasons.

On one side of the WCM coin, we have Vignette, which turned in an ugly Q4, with revenue down 29.4% year over year and license revenue totalling just $7.3m or 19.5% of revenue.   And we have the Autonomy acquisition of Interwoven, which was not primarily driven by Autonomy’s desire to be in the WCM business (here’s Nick’s take on Autonomy’s drivers).  We’re not saying Autonomy won’t invest in WCM, it’s too early to make any kind of judgement on that.  But nobody is pretending Autonomy would have bought Interwoven if it didn’t have the WorkSite and Discovery Mining businesses and expertise in the legal industry.

On the other side of the coin, we have FatWire, which yesterday announced 40% year-over-year revenue growth in 2008 taking it to $44m.  This is the first time FatWire has publicly announced a revenue number, clearly it thought it had something worth bragging about (I was pegging FatWire’s 2008 revenue at about $40m, so it beat my not-entirely-informed estimate).

Obviously FatWire is a good deal smaller than Interwoven and Vignette and is growing from a smaller base.  Still, it reports an overall strength in the market domestically and internationally that is intriguing.  And it’s not alone in noting strength in the sector — Sitecore made a similar announcement back in November.

Is WCM a strategic investment you have to make when IT budgets are tight?   More and more business is certainly done on the Web, customers spend more time researching buying decisions on the web, a lot of Web sites are in need of update, it’s a less expensive marketing channel, and so many companies can’t afford not to invest.

The counter argument to this was articulated, ironically, by Open Text CEO John Shackleton on the quarterly earnings call when he was asked about the Interwoven transaction.  He said:

…one of the concern areas would be in the web content management where like most managers if someone came to me and said our website is looking a little old. We need to spend $1 million to clean it up. I wouldn’t see that as a must-have. So what we’re seeing is it’s not critical, people are putting off those decisions to upgrade their websites. I would see that Interwoven like our web content products is seeing some softness in the market.

That from a vendor with WCM in its portfolio, though it’s hardly the company’s focus.

So what do you think?  Is FatWire simply absorbing some of the business that would have gone to Vignette and that’s enough to support the growth it needs as a smaller company?  Or does WCM have some legs in a tough 2009?