This is intended to cover a couple of topics that come up frequently when talking with people that are either not experienced with SharePoint or have been having trouble getting it to work for them.
“What does it do?”
A common question I get when I talk to somebody not familiar with SharePoint is “What does it do?” I normally throw out a canned answer about it being a collaboration or knowledge exchange platform but the truth is it can be used for dozens of different things for very different groups.
I think this is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it can be leveraged for Knowledge/Content/Document Management within groups both large and small, but a curse because it doesn’t have the focus of something like a Business Intelligence product. Oh yeah, SharePoint can do that too.
My recommendation is almost always to focus the efforts on a few quick wins with some long term goals in place. By focusing on a few efforts it will give the group a chance to understand how the system can work for them it greatly reduces the need to rework a large number of sites later when the decision points like Site Layout and Security is better understood.
“Who should install it?”
The next common topic I hear with small companies is around implementing it themselves versus working with an outside expert or consultant. SharePoint Services (WSS) is extremely easy to install. Just about anyone can do it in a matter of minutes, but depending on the size of the group and purpose of the install deployments can vary quite a bit. There are 1000s of pages published with regards to deployment models, sizing, and site layouts. The deployment for a five person workgroup is dramatically different than a 1000 or 50000 user organization.
My recommendation is to seek expert advice if you expect to use it for anything other than a small workgroup solution. Early decisions can make or break a deployment and managers typically don’t want to hear about having to reinstall everything.
While SharePoint is not the only system in this space, I believe that it has a strong foothold. The number of experienced consultants, developers, and third party tool makers is ever expanding and the community resources like the MSDN Forums, CodePlex, etc are well developed.