Great starting point and all things Windows SharePoint Services (WSS)

Capacity planning for Windows SharePoint Services (WSS)

Another great resource on the visual design of sites



This content details how we would draw comparisons between the competitive product sets for collaboration environments between ourselves and IBM – SharePoint has become the de-facto Enterprise Collaboration tool in this, the ‘digital decade’ to coin a Bill Gates phrase. It’s by no coincidence that there are over 45 million current SharePoint licenses the world over, capitalising on the familiar and extensible Microsoft user interface. This particular area, the user interface is traditionally where Microsoft has excelled and we continue to see unbelievable adoption of collaboration tools because of the familiarity aspect and the modular approach we have taken to market.

I also included information for you on integration and open standards in the section titled ‘Team Integration,” specifically in section 2 of this posting

For clarity; Workplace Team Collaboration is comparable to Microsoft’s Windows SharePoint Services for team workspaces, Live Communications Server for Presence Awareness and Instant Messaging, and Live Meeting for web conferencing.

Comparing the TechnologiesLotus Team Spaces (formerly called QuickPlace)Lotus Team Spaces (also/formerly known as QuickPlace) has been listed as a leader in the Gartner Team Collaboration Magic Quadrant as well as in the visionary quadrant in the Smart Enterprise Suite Magic Quadrant.  It is positioned as a “self-service web tool for team collaboration.”  Product strengths include Portability through the browser, Offline support via DOLS (Domino Offline Services); and Ease of use since IT doesn’t need to intervene and create new sites.  Weaknesses include Outlook Integration, Survey or Poll Support, Data Views, Office Integration, Windows Integration, Scalability, and Lack of integration with information worker tools.  It requires Domino Server install, e.g. Domino Clustering, an added barrier and expense to adoption.  QuickPlace server is a Domino server.  It lacks native Notes client support and only support Notes from a browser.  Workflow support is lightweight.  QuickPlace is a pure team collaboration play; there is no document management support. Microsoft’s Approach:  Windows SharePoint ServicesWindows SharePoint Services delivers a team workspace for the purpose of enhanced collaboration, desktop application integration and enhanced communication with Web-based information sharing, discussions and subscriptions, roles-based security, document publishing, and tight integration with the Microsoft Office System.  Key selling points are price (substantially more inexpensive than IBM), personalization and customization, ease of use, great integration with Office 2003, and setup.  Weaknesses include offline functionality (our partner Groove provides this) and workflow support. 

Using Office 2003 with Windows SharePoint Services “lights up” several additional benefits for team collaboration, including document workspaces, meeting workspaces and the ability to send email to all members of a team site with the click of a button, allowing individual and team productivity come together seamlessly for the user.  Users can easily create document workspaces and/or meeting workspaces from Microsoft Outlook 2003; they can also create a document workspace directly from a Word, Excel or PPT document.  Using Information Rights Management, they can control exactly who has the ability to make edits to specific sections within a document in their document workspace.  Additionally, the seamless integration of Live Communications Server 2003 with Windows SharePoint Services enables presence awareness within a team site so that users can easily see the online/busy status among their teammates for a particular project at any given moment.  2.     Lotus Instant Messaging and Web Conferencing (formerly called SameTime)Lotus Instant Messaging and Web Conferencing include three core components and three optional components: Core components(1) The Instant Messaging and Web Conferencing Server provides the platform that manages the flow of information between their IM clients; including text messaging, streaming audio and video, a shared whiteboard and shared applications. (2) The Lotus IM client (previously referred to as “SameTime Connect”) to resides on the user side and (3), the Developer toolkit provides for extensibility of presence, awareness & conferencing into any custom/packaged applications.  Optional componentsThese fall into the category of expanding the reach of the Instant Messaging and Web Conferencing Server by allowing it to scale and connect with Instant Messaging users outside the firewall. (1) The Lotus IM Gateway provides for secure inter-connection with other instant messaging communities using the SIMPLE protocol (SIP variant for IM & presence). (2) The Lotus Enterprise Meeting Server which allows companies to host and administer enterprise-wide Web conference environments by providing fail-over and load-balancing. And lastly, (3) Lotus Instant Messaging Everyplace which is their mobility story and the way for Lotus to extend presence awareness and instant messaging capabilities to users with any mobile phones or wireless PDAs.  Microsoft’s approach: Office Live Communications Server and Office Live Meeting Office Live Communications Server literally “lights up” and enables real-time collaboration from within familiar enterprise-wide applications such as Outlook, SharePoint and Windows Messenger; providing employees with secure Instant Messaging, Application Sharing, Whiteboarding and real-time Voice or Video conversations based on the industry standard SIP (same as IBM).  Office Live Communication Server or LiveCommSvr is the successor to Exchange Instant Messaging.  LiveCommSvr also complements the targeted audience for Windows NetMeeting users which also had focused on behind the firewall collaboration amongst the IT inclined work force.  Instead, LiveCommSvr extends these capabilities to the rest of the enterprise.  Key selling points: Presence enablement and IM capabilities offered at a true platform level.   Office Live Meeting enables scheduled and impromptu real-time web conferencing amongst potential customers, partners & employees.  As a Microsoft hosted service, Live Meeting is much better positioned than Lotus web-conferencing for cross-firewall web conferences.  The Lotus offering is primarily a premises-based offering which limits its target audience to fellow co-workers within any given enterprise. Key selling points:  The ability to launch Live Meeting seamlessly from within familiar applications such as Outlook, PowerPoint, Windows Messenger, MSN Messenger. Team Collaboration:  Key issuesWe believe there are three primary areas of consideration for customers looking at Team Collaboration solutions: 

End-User Experience: Does the Team Collaboration experience provide information workers with all the tools they need to share information and interact with colleagues as well as outside parties like suppliers, partners and customers?  Many portal deployments fail due to low user acceptance.  Missing functionality, extra steps and unfamiliar tools that affect work habits can all drive down anticipated productivity benefits. Integration: Team Collaboration is part of a larger set of information worker services, and the Team Collaboration solution should fit seamlessly into an infrastructure that can support those services across the entire enterprise and beyond.  Integration is almost always possible with the help of expensive services organizations.  But to get maximum value, customers should look for solutions that are well-integrated out of the box, deploy quickly and reach broadly. Customization:  The most productive Team Collaboration environments are those that give users the flexibility to customize their experience and add the capabilities and features they need to rapidly adapt to changing business requirements.  Customers should examine how competing vendors implement customization: is it a fast, easy user-centric process, or one dependent on IT and external services? End User Experience

In Workplace Team Collaboration, IBM offers a portal-based environment that lets users manage membership in team sites, share documents, perform enterprise search for people and data, and participate in instant messaging (IM) sessions or meetings with team members. While all of these capabilities are integrated in a single view, there is no inherent connection between the Workplace Team Collaboration portal environment and the primary information worker productivity applications that enable users to deliver the high-value content and analysis organizations require to stay competitive.

Workplace does provide portlet-based applications for text editing, basic spreadsheets and presentations, but these do not come close to the richness, integration and familiarity of Microsoft Office. IBM seems to expect customers to disrupt the work habits of their highest-value information workers (introducing a high risk of failure) and substitute a lower level of functionality and usability of a portlet-based application just to gain the advantages of collaboration. Fortunately, customers have a better choice.

Microsoft’s Approach: “Rich and Reach”Rather than sending information workers to the portal to collaborate using bare-bones tools, Microsoft brings the integrated portal environment directly and seamlessly into the rich productivity suite.  Here, users have access to the full palette of communication and collaboration services: document libraries, team members, instant messaging, Web conferences, email, and search – alongside the familiar and productive Office applications they use every day to create, consume and analyze content. In the words of PC Magazine: “Fortunately, Office 2003 users don't need to run to their browsers every time they need to work on documents stored within a workspace. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint now contain a Shared Workspace task pane.” 

Microsoft makes it easy for users to create a collaborative document workspace without leaving the document authoring environment (for example, Microsoft Word in the figure below).  This benefits users by extending the familiar productivity environment rather than creating a new set of work habits and skills, and it reduces the time spent switching screens, cutting and pasting, and looking for documents and information by combining information work and collaboration in a single experience. 

Of course, Microsoft also makes the collaboration experience available via a browser for workers who do not require the full Microsoft Office environment (such as call center workers or others in structured workflow processes), or where hardware limitations require a thin-client experience (e.g., terminal services or mobile devices), as well as parties outside the enterprise with whom collaboration is critical — customers, partners and suppliers — that may not use the full Microsoft Office environment. But the key difference between Microsoft’s approach and that of IBM is that Microsoft gives you the choice of “rich or reach,” while Workplace requires customers to adapt their work processes to the limitations of a portal-based environment. 

Some Early ResultsEarly adopters of Microsoft communication and collaboration technology in Office 2003 have already experienced measurable improvements in productivity. Research conducted for Microsoft by Navigant Consulting Inc. (NYSE “NCI”), showed that information workers using the solutions gained an average of two hours in productive time each week without working longer hours, that the companies realized a median net present value of $4,000 per worker, and that the solutions paid for themselves in an average of just eight months.

IBM Workplace Team Collaboration claims broad cross-platform integration, including integration with the Microsoft Windows server family. However, for customers who use Microsoft Office for productivity, Windows SharePoint Services has the richest integration available.  SharePoint Portal Server, when combined with Microsoft’s other communication and collaboration technology, offers a seamlessly integrated system of programs, servers, services and solutions for information. It includes a powerful search engine that can crawl information in Microsoft Exchange Server, web sites, file stores, Team Sites, and is extensible to any relational database.  IBM sells its advanced search technology as an add-on product, whereas, advanced search is included with SharePoint Portal Server.  Customers can realize additional integration value when using SharePoint Portal Server when combined with Microsoft’s rich product suite.   

Microsoft’s Approach: Integrated Innovation; A key elements based on the content from today’s callWith Microsoft, collaboration is enabled through a set of centrally-managed web services based on the XML standard and the Microsoft .NET framework. By tightly integrating collaboration with the Windows Server System platform, Microsoft empowers IT to manage security, rights management, identity management and other core functions across the enterprise, leveraging customers’ current investments in hardware, software and expertise while augmenting them with rich collaborative capabilities. Microsoft collaboration is also readily interoperable in heterogeneous environments through industry standards such as SOAP, XML, LDAP, ODBC, plus Voice-over-IP and other real-time protocols based on SIP and SIMPLE to leverage customers’ current investments and allow for rapid development of new integrated applications in the future. 

The partial list below is provided to emphasize that choosing Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server and Windows SharePoint Services not only unlocks a rich platform and development environment, but allows integration with many other line of business programs and servers: Integration with Microsoft Office 2003 applications: Team workspaces, team members (via presence, instant messaging, group calendaring, contact information, email and integrated telephony), document libraries and enterprise search are all available contextually through the Microsoft Office task pane. This new feature in Office 2003 allows users to collaborate without leaving the application where they are creating, reviewing or analyzing information. It also automatically links documents to team workspaces to seamlessly invoke collaboration services when documents are opened in Office.  Integration with Microsoft Office Live Communications Server: Microsoft’s collaborative platform integrates with Live Communications Server providing presence-based awareness.  Site users can see that other team members are “online”, “busy”, or “away” if they are logged into the instant messaging client and can choose to collaborate in the mode of their choice – e.g. IM or phone if a team member is “online”, but using email, a portal or with scheduling if the colleague is “busy” or “away”. Actions can be initiated directly from a team site as well including change alerts and emails to team members.  The integrated communications builds on enterprise-grade security, encryption, logging and manageability.  Integration with Outlook: SharePoint Portal Server allows users to add team sites to the cc line in emails, and the ability to create meeting workspaces directly from Outlook.  

Integration with Microsoft Project Server:  Windows SharePoint Services is tightly integrated with Microsoft Project Server.  A collection of Project Server web parts provides visibility into key areas of the project management process, allowing team members to participate and collaborate via the portal or team sites and monitor consistent business metrics through a customizable, scorecard view of projects across your portfolio and drill into the details as needed via web parts.   Integration with Microsoft Content Management Server: Microsoft Content Management Server 2002 connector for SharePoint Products and Technologies enables workers to assemble and publish content to internal and/or external Web sites through a formal process. In other words, when a user edits a document in a SharePoint collaborative workspace and that document is approved, the document will automatically be updated on an external Content Management Server.  This integration helps users to avoid leaving stale content on their web sites and helps to avoid publishing duplication, while enabling basic workflow capabilities.  3.   Customization Team workspaces are most useful and productive when they can be quickly and easily adapted to the needs of each individual user. The ease and richness of customization features can have a significant impact on the successful adoption and usage of team workspaces, and the requirement for additional technologies and support can impact total cost of ownership. IBM Lotus Team Workplace has a wizard-driven form-creation system that enables simple data collection from team members, but the data that's collected from forms is stored in a Notes database file and is inaccessible outside the platform unless a developer ties it to a database.  IBM has been moving applications to DB2 and this strategy will likely result in a costly data migration at a later date. 

IBM makes no mention of how developers and end users will be able to customize this environment in their existing literature, but since this solution is a combination of both recent acquisitions and existing technologies like Quickplace and Sametime, it is likely that developers will have to employ multiple tools, interfaces and SDKs to customize applications.   
Microsoft’s Approach: Multiple Customization ToolsMicrosoft solutions offer rich drag and drop customization functionality to end users out of the box and tiered customization options across the platform from FrontPage to Visual Studio.NET.  Workplace appears to offer no comparable alternative here.  
Microsoft’s modular portfolio of collaboration products gives customers a cost-effective solution to gradually implement advanced communication and collaboration capabilities in their organization with fast out-of-the-box productivity, improved ROI, and increased value with each additional investment. We believe customers are better served by an approach that augments and extends their existing, proven information worker productivity infrastructure rather than introducing new and complex technologies into the data center, as Workplace does.  

SummaryIBM Lotus Workplace Team Collaboration offers a single model for collaboration in portal environments that does not meet all the needs of information workers, and lacks the ready integration and customization to make it valuable as a complete solution. Microsoft’s approach to team collaboration combines the richness of Microsoft Office with the reach of portals and real-time communications to enable productive collaboration for the entire enterprise.

IBM Lotus Workplace Team Collaboration offers a single model for collaboration in portal environments that does not meet all the needs of information workers, and lacks the ready integration and customization to make it valuable as a complete solution. Microsoft’s approach to team collaboration combines the richness of Microsoft Office with the reach of portals and real-time communications to enable productive collaboration for the entire enterprise.

Gold Certified Partners represent the highest level of competence and expertise with Microsoft technologies, and have the closest working relationship with Microsoft. At this level they  have access to the resources and support they need to stand out in the marketplace, including a Technical Services Coordinator, access to the Partner Knowledge Base, priority listing in Microsoft Directories, and other top-level benefits. More detail can be found here;

As you can see from the page listed here; partners only have to have competence in one area to gain Gold certification. That’s not to say it is not an achievement to attain this level of certification and it does take a financial and resource commitment too. It is also necessary to appreciate that the one area might be 'Informtion Worker' for example that comprises of 36 products in 7 product groups.

Hope this helps

Last week the beta version of Microsoft Office Live was launched.

A milestone for the software services previewed last winter, Microsoft Office Live helps lower the barriers to doing business online by offering small companies a set of Internet-based business services. Microsoft Office Live has already created tremendous excitement, with more than 100,000 customers registered on the beta waiting list.

This initial set of services from Microsoft Office Live is aimed at businesses with 10 or fewer employees. It will include both ad-funded services to enable small businesses to establish an online Internet presence and subscription-based services to help automate daily business tasks such as customer, project, and sales management, and collaborating both inside the company and with partners.

Microsoft Office Live will be free during the U.S.-only beta period in three versions:

  • Microsoft Office Live Basics: advertising-supported, free offer.
  • Microsoft Office Live Collaboration: a subscription-based offer, free during beta.
  • Microsoft Office Live Essentials: a subscription-based offer, free during beta.

We expect to release the final public versions in late 2006 and plan to offer beta programs later this year in additional international markets.

  • Find just the right word in Word. Press Shift+F7 to bring up synonyms, antonyms, or alternative choices using the thesaurus.
  • Not sharing would make your mother proud. Control the dissemination of sensitive data by limiting viewing, printing, and e-mail forwarding privileges. On the File menu, point to Permission, and click Do Not Distribute. Select authorized users, and apply your permission settings.
  • Copy and paste without the mess. Seamlessly import text from the Web without tables or other elements that can inadvertently altar your document's formatting by highlighting the text on the Web page and pressing Ctrl+C to copy; paste it into your Word document by clicking the Edit menu, pointing to Paste Special, and selecting Unformatted Text.
  • Trends wise, IBM is still responding to the announcement of new Microsoft Exchange migration tools.  Early defensive comments from IBM’s Ken Bisconti suggest there were 1,800 migrations to Lotus from Microsoft and other platforms, although no specifics have been provided as to the actual number of seats or drivers that influenced these migrations.  InformationWeek mentions Lotus Notes’ continuing loss of market share to Microsoft Exchange, in keeping with the trend documented by Forbes in Q2 2005. A series of acquisitions continues with IBM’s purchase of Bowstreet: “…Bowstreet will be integrated into IBM’s portfolio of collaboration technology, including IBM Workplace Technology and offerings from IBM WebSphere Portal…Bowstreet will also add strategic value to IBM’s broader portfolio of On Demand software solutions through tight alignment with IBM’s WebSphere and IBM Rational Software offerings.”This acquisition may have reshaped IBM’s approach to its codenamed project, “Hannover”, although it is not clear based on the lack of chatter about this future Notes product.  IBM’s Ed Brill only recently posts about Hannover, commenting in relation to a “Lotus Sucks” blog (1/05/06) and again in regards to an internal presentation (1/18/06).  The “Lotus Sucks” blog is worthwhile reading as it gives a user’s perspective on SWOT; Brill appears concerned about the points made by the anonymous user.  IBM has apparently approached the same user with surveys to help improve Lotus Notes.LotusSphere 2006, scheduled soon should generate more competitive information in regards to current and future collaborative solutions plans.I would like to offer some detail on what you need to know about Microsoft’s platform for Communication & CollaborationMicrosoft’s ViewWe agree with IBM’s assessment of the strategic value of collaboration as an enabler of productivity, and we agree that customers are well-served by considering a single integrated suite of software and services to enable collaboration across the enterprise, rather than making tactical investments in single-point solutions.However, we believe that Microsoft offers a better overall approach for delivering the benefits of integrated collaboration than IBM for a number of sound business and Technology reasons. These include:

    • Superior product functionality and integration to enable rich information-worker collaboration as well as portal-based business process collaboration.
    • Better out-of-the-box productivity, faster integration and deployment
    • Simpler environment and better tools to manage, integrate and extend
    • Better reach to customers, suppliers and partners
    • Better overall value and a better way to leverage current IT investment

    In answer to some of the points raised today; Microsoft’s platform for C&C  (Communication & Collaboration)`is branded Office System and Windows Server System.  The essential components of the platform include the following products.  Deployed together or incrementally, this integrated platform provides out-of-the-box improvements in team productivity and business responsiveness.

    · Windows Server 2003: delivering core networking, directory, security and application platform services

    ·Windows SharePoint Services: delivering core team collaboration services

    ·SharePoint Portal Server 2003: delivering core content aggregation and search services (of the WSS sites and the MySite capability)

    · Microsoft Content Management Server: delivering content management capabilities

    · Exchange Server 2003: delivering the core collaboration services of e-mail and calendaring

    · Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2003: delivering core collaboration services of instant messaging, presence awareness, real-time video/voice conversations, white boarding and application sharing

    ·Microsoft Office Live Meeting: delivering core web conferencing capabilities for intra and inter company needs both cross and behind enterprise firewalls

    ·Microsoft Office Editions: delivering the individual productivity tools that are “lit up” with team collaboration capabilities by this infrastructure.

    C&C– Sales Messages

    • Microsoft empowers the IT PRO to deliver new business value by providing an effective collaboration infrastructure using an integrated platform that is less expensive to deploy and easier to manage and extend.

    C&C – Competitive Differentiators

    • “Rich and Reach”: Better Value Proposition for Information Workers

    Workplace 1.1 delivers collaboration in a portal environment, with lightweight content authoring tools available in portlets. Microsoft can deliver collaboration functionality directly integrated within a user’s rich desktop environment (Office) or in a portal, giving customers the best mix of “rich” and “reach.”  IBM does not offer desktop integration at this time.

    • “Reach”: Better Solutions to Collaborate with Customers, Partners and Suppliers

    Workplace 1.1 delivers collaboration capabilities intended for use behind the firewall primarily. Its capabilities do not traverse firewalls easily or reliably for business development collaboration with customers, channels and prospects or for sourcing collaboration with suppliers. Microsoft lets enterprises collaborate across their entire ecosystem with a cohesive server-services solution. Microsoft services here refers to enterprise grade hosted application services — Office Live Meeting (previously Placeware) and MSN Messenger Connect for Enterprises — not consulting or integration services in the manner offered by IGS. Microsoft’s collaboration services extend requisite security, scalability, manageability, ease of use and other internal standards of internal collaboration to external parties, with minimal to no incremental investment required by the external party.

    • Integrated Innovation
      Microsoft products are designed to work together and build on top of investments many customers have already made in Windows and Office.  The integration costs are relatively low.  IBM, on the other hand, has a much more complex and difficult integration story.
    • Functionality, Integration, Manageability

    Microsoft collaboration technologies offer many more features and benefits to help users be more productive with less need for support and IT intervention. In messaging, team collaboration and web content management, the Microsoft offering is consistently richer in capabilities, easier and more intuitive, and better integrated than the IBM alternative. Microsoft has also built its products to enable users and organizations to customize and rapidly develop new applications using common tools, rather than foster dependency on a revenue-generating services organization.

    • Better Value

    Early adopters of Microsoft collaboration tools are already realizing measurable benefits and rapid ROI. In most cases, both the acquisition cost and the deployed cost of Microsoft solutions are significantly lower than those of IBM.  It is important to note that because Lotus Workplace is so new, it may be difficult to verify IBM’s TCO claims.

    The New World of Work: The New World of Work is an aggregation of the future challenges of the workplace based on global trends, first articulated by Bill Gates in May, 2005. The vision looks at the challenges facing businesses, workers and government over the next 10 years, and how investments in technology and practices to empower information workers can lead to better outcomes. The New World of Work is a combination of trends affecting the workplace, not something Microsoft will deliver. Microsoft will deliver technology to support the Digital Workstyle that people will use to take advantage of opportunities presented in the New World of Work, and to overcome challenges presented by it.

    As we've added more and more features and functionality to the applications, it has become more challenging for people to find the software capabilities. For example, Word 1.0 only had about 100 commands, and by using the menus you could see everything you could do. In comparison, Office Word 2007 has more than 1,500 commands, many of which can be difficult to find because they are buried in layers of menus. That element of discoverability is just one of the key issues addressed by the new menus and toolbars.