SharePoint is a Car!

There is so much hype around SharePoint (the car) and the salesmen (the car dealerships) are doing a great job making SharePoint the “must have” of the decade.  However, just installing the product (buying the car) doesn’t make for a successful implementation.  High user adoption, leveraging the functionality correctly, having strong governance in place does, (driving the car without smashing it on the first corner).

SharePoint is like owning a sports car if you’re a small company; or a fleet of cars if you’re a big company.

In small companies, shopping for a new car your emotions take over.  You see the sexy convertibles, the monster 4×4’s, the 6 speed gear boxes on the Lamborghinis – you must have one, (single server installation with dashboards, BDC’s, KPI’s, Enterprise Search).

In big companies, same thing, you’ve seen everything SharePoint can do, you must have it.  But in your case, you need a whole fleet of cars (multiple server installation).  Do you buy everybody a Ferrari?  No.  Can you drive all the cars yourself?  No.  Can you teach everybody how to drive a car yourself?  No.  Can you maintain all the cars yourself?  No.

First you need to decide what you can afford to drive.  Ferrari’s are expensive to buy and maintain, do you really need one as your first car?  (WSS vs Standard SharePoint vs Enterprise SharePoint).  Do you buy an 18 year old a Testarossa as a first car?  No. (Don’t give your entire user base SSP and Site Collection Admin access). Where do you want to drive to?  Across Africa, at the Monaco Grand Prix or down the road to green grocer, (do you need a document storage / management system, or do you need to integrate into line of business systems and use SharePoint as the front-end for them all).

With stars in your eyes (pretty dashboards) you forget that you don’t even have a learner’s or driver’s license (either your own certification or any internal skills to implement this).  Is the car dealership going to give you a drivers license?  No.  Teach you how to drive?  No.  Their job is to sell you the dream, how you get there is your problem.  Do you rush out and drive a Ferrari when you’ve never driven before and don’t have a license?  No.  You’re going to do some specialized advanced driver training first.  Are you just going to Licenses-R-Us on some street corner?  No. (Choose your training vendor carefully).  When you get your driver’s license, there are various institutions you can get training, but only one place to write the license (you can train anywhere, but only Microsoft certification counts in SharePoint).

So you’ve decided on the BMW (Standard SharePoint) and earned the drivers license.  Do you rush out and put a towbar, sun roof, Old Man Emu shocks, 14 inch wheels, aircon, spotlights and a R15000 sound system into it, then hit peak hour traffic in Jhb before you’ve driven anywhere besides a parking lot?  No. (Customise your whole solution before you know what it can do, the BMW has lots of that already).

Does it drive itself to work?  No.  You need to put the key in the ignition and turn it on, (got the training, ready to go).  You need to have petrol in the car so it will move and get you from A to B, (user adoption).  You need to steer, change gears, indicate and follow the rules of the road, (governance).  Does it clean itself?  No. (Manage dormancy).  Does it check if you have a license to drive it?  No.  It’s going to move, but you risk burning out the gear box and having it arrived dented.

And if you have a fleet of cars (multiple web apps and site collections); will you license, get petrol, steer and clean them all yourself?  No.  You need to get all the drivers (Site Collection Administrators and Site Owners) trained and make sure they are fit to drive and maintain them or they will wreck your cars and cost you a fortune in repairs (choosing the wrong training then getting consultants in to fix the mess).   Can you get 100 people trained and licenses overnight to drive your cars?  No.  It takes time.  Are you even going to find 100 people overnight?  No.  Look inside your organisation if necessary.

If you have a fleet, you’ll need a Fleet Management System or you won’t have a clue what’s going on with your cars, (ControlPoint, AvePoint, Idera, SharePoint Analyser, Quest, etc).  And you’ll need a Fleet Manager to control all this (SharePoint Champion / Project Sponsor / Project Manager).  Are you just going to let every Site Owner put in mag wheels?  No.  You need to have rules about what you can and can’t do, (governance).  You need someone who is going to protect your investment and is able to make calls instantly when there’s an accident, (SharePoint is an operational system and needs to managed as such).  You’ll need to know who’s driving and who’s being a passenger; how many people and what goods are being transported and to where, (Active Directory integration, permissions management and site quotas).

Cars need to be insured (backups and DR) and serviced every 15000km, (install / update service packs, fix packs and anti-virus software).  Do you send your Ferrari to Services-R-Us on the corner?  No.   You go to a reputable dealer and make sure the mechanics know what they are doing (qualified Server Administrators).   Is your service going to be cheap?  No.  The more expensive the car, the higher the maintenance and running costs.  You can’t have one without the other.

Do you send your auto-mechanics to demo the car to the Directors?  No.  They fix cars; car salesmen need to demo it to business.  Are auto-mechanics responsible for the paint job?  No.  Are the car designers responsible for servicing the engines?  No. (Developers develop, trainers train, business analysts speak to business, consultants advise, salesmen sell, architects design the whole platform, etc  – don’t expect one person to do it all).

Your car license expires every year and your driver’s license every 5 years, (service account passwords need to expire depending on the ISO policies.  Your Microsoft certification is also only valid for a limited time.  You need to study again and re-apply for certification).

When you decide to put in sun roofs on every car in your fleet, do you go to Roofs-R-Us?  No.  You go a reputable body shop (choose your custom dev vendor carefully).   When you decide to paint all your cars red, do you buy cans of spray paint and do it yourself?  No.  (Choose your branding vendor carefully).

A SharePoint site is never ‘finished’.  Just like driving to work doesn’t finish the journey, you need to drive home again and repeat it the next day and continuously look for easier ways to get to work and avoid traffic, (ongoing research into best practices).

In closing – as a Business Decision Maker, remember that the purchase of the car is not the end of the transaction.  Whether you have a Golf, BMW, Ferrari or fleet of cars; there are ongoing costs in training, maintenance and management that will determine the life of the vehicles and the value you extract from them.  It takes an army of well trained people to successfully manage and adopt a large SharePoint implementation.


  1. Nice article Veronique. Although experienced SharePoint “humanoids” understand the importance of planning ahead of time, Microsoft almost made it too easy to get it all up and running thus allowing people to use the software without going through the very necessary steps of planning governance, scalability, permissions et al ahead of time. (Not forgetting all the shiny reports and cool features)

    In too many instances, SharePoint is owned and driven (excuse the pun) from within the IT department. They are the guys / gals that play with new technology and ultimately get it up and running because it came as part of their new shiny MSDN DVD package.

    The problem with driving it from IT is without business ownership you have no governance, and without governance the site will die a slow painful death.


  2. You hit the nail on the head! SharePoint is a wonderful tool but people go into it half cocked without any thought for what you need it for, governance, support teams, etc.

    Well done 🙂


  3. I think your analogy is almost completely spot-on on that SharePoint is like a car and that it is never finished.

    The only part I disagree with is the on paragraph about deciding what car to buy, regardless of what version of SharePoint you use you get the same thing (I always see it as a massive 18 wheeler).

    To me what you saying when you go Portal over WSS or Enterprise over Portal is that you would rather buy than build that functionality – cause remember that portal (std or enterprise) is just WSS + Extra’s.

    To fit it in your analogy I would go with you get your car and now you see the list of optional extra’s and you need to decide if you want a GPS or not, for instance. Now if you are a small bakery then it may be easier and cheaper to just buy the GPS optional extra but if you are say Garmin you can probably build your own cheaper.


  4. Fantastic analogy! for me who do not use sharepoint, but has seen it in action, it makes perfect sense.

    Well done! 😀

    Dave Coates
    QZ Creative IT, main sponsor the the Port Elizabeth.NET Software Developer Community


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