After reading the article Google+ and the Enterprise, and the experience I’ve had, I tend to agree with the statement
“if Google+ can create an effective toolset for businesses internally – marrying email, with news streams, with video conferencing, with screensharing, with whiteboarding – it could be a huge win”
I just came off a project for a customer where we stood up a proof of concept solution using SharePoint. It was a real fun project. This customer got me on Google+ and at first it was just for fun, I invited my friends and uploaded my pictures. Got it to post updates to my Twitter and Facebook, it was yet another social network.
Before we knew it, Google+ became a method for us to connect with each other about the project. Using circles, I was able to send notes, links and status updates to my team, and not to my friends. I checked it out, I looked on my wife’s computer and saw that she couldn’t see anything I posted to my colleagues, therefore not bogging down her stream with stuff she could care less about.
One of our team members was halfway across the country, using Google+ hangout capabilities proved easier than some of the video conferencing industry leaders. We were connected and chatting in less than 5 seconds, 5 SECONDS! It normally takes 30 seconds just to get the video conferencing app installed, then you wait for the other user to figure out how to get video to connect. With the Google+ app for Android, I was able to take pictures of whiteboards which had schedules and diagrams and get them shared with the team in about a minute (I had bad cell signal in the room, no 4G was available). Google+ truly stream lined a lot for us.
The one thing that wasn’t available easily in Google+ was document sharing. Google has their Google Docs service, but at the time it was not integrated with Google+. If we could’ve uploaded documents and simply specified which circles to share with, I don’t think I would’ve sent one email during the entire engagement!
Where does this leave SharePoint? Some might say in the dust, but I would say that SharePoint is still a vital piece for the enterprise. Google+ is feeling a lot like Yammer, a collaborative space for chatting, news feeds, and sharing. SharePoint is so much more. As an internet or extranet solution, SharePoint provides awesome capabilities for companies to connect with and serve their customers and potential customers. As an enterprise content management system on steroids, SharePoint can not only provide a simple website or portal, but a real robust tool for providing customers a self-service tool for getting what they want when they want it.
As an intranet, SharePoint provides an endless world of possibilities. Some of the coolness of Google+ isn’t there (like instant video chat and mobile app), yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see open source applications or 3rd party vendors to fill some of these gaps. What SharePoint does well, it does better than most others. Calendaring (that actually links to Outlook), ad-hoc list creation (go ahead, make a list, any list you want: tasks, contacts, calendars, meeting agendas, product info, HR resources, etc.), document management (with workflows, permissions, metadata, retention, versioning, etc.) which tightly integrates with the Microsoft Office suite, wiki pages (quite easily throw together pages and pages of content like marketing info, knowledge base, etc), integration with other Microsoft applications like SQL Server Analysis Services, SQL Server Reporting Services, PowerPivot, Excel and so much more. SharePoint isn’t a simple file share.
Unlike the cloud, a locally deployed SharePoint provides something really important: peace of mind your sensitive data isn’t floating in cyber space. This is a big concern for some industries like finance and government. Your data isn’t sitting on someone else’s server, its on your own local servers behind your security. This is a huge factor and one that is slowing the jump to the cloud.
The second biggest reason to stay local instead of cloudifying your solution is integration with other existing systems. On the cloud, integration is near impossible. Displaying and interacting with information, reports and KPIs from your other systems like your CRM, your ERP, your email, your data warehouses, your business intelligence solutions, your reporting tools, your… is virtually impossible on the cloud and exceptionally easy on SharePoint. Out of the box tools are available to integrate your other systems with SharePoint, without needing to know code or how to write an application.
It’ll be a trip to watch Google+ expand and see how it will be accepted and adapted into the enterprise. Possibly the best fit for Google+ is to assimilate into existing enterprise solutions and enhance what others are already doing really well, instead of reinventing the wheel. Provide SharePoint users with the space they need for instant collaboration, video chatting, shared whiteboards, etc through Google+, but keep your information safe and organized in SharePoint.