Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Let me first say that I like SharePoint. We use it here at TraceLink for internal document sharing and it works pretty well. Let me also say that it is an absolute failure for external collaboration. Time and time again we meet companies who were convinced to use SharePoint for external collaboration and the topic evokes very strong emotions. Everyone hates it! Yes, the emotions are that strong.
Our discussions are primarily with Quality, External Manufacturing, Contract Manufacturing and Contract Packaging organizations. The users were told that SharePoint would address the need to collaborate across companies for Batch Record Reviews, Events and Deviations, Change Control, Forecast Collaboration and many other supply chain processes between partner companies. The harsh reality of using SharePoint for these purposes is a loss of productivity and more error-prone processes at greater costs.
Here are the top 5 statements/feelings customers share about SharePoint:
“SharePoint is a Graveyard for Documents.” This statement cuts to the heart of the problem. It is not enough to just share documents, but users need to engage in shared supply chain processes. Right now documents are placed in folders and forgotten. Then there is the mess of trying to organize folders and versions of documents in a manner that aligns with the process state (“where am I in the Batch Record approval process and which are the right documents?”) as well as managing multiple processes (“which batches are still open for approval and which ones are historical”). Due to all of these issues documents go to SharePoint and die!
“SharePoint is a Nightmare to Manage.” No IT person wants the thankless job of managing the on-going security and administration issues created by SharePoint. It is a pointless effort to try to manage user access for individuals who are NOT your company’s employees. Not only do people join and leave your partner’s companies but the members of the teams are changing. So managing credentials and access control is a constant headache. Not to mention the issue of sending a physical security token to all the users at your partner companies. Security policies require these physical tokens to be accounted for on a quarterly or annual basis, requiring IT to verify that employees not at your company still need access to your SharePoint server. What an administrative nightmare!
“SharePoint is Less Productive than Email.” The main issue for business users is that they are working with multiple partners simultaneously. Every time they need to share documents they need to use a different security token and log into a different SharePoint server at the host partner company. As if that wasn’t bad enough, then file upload takes a very long time since the servers are hosted inside your partner’s firewall. This is the equivalent of logging into a different email system and waiting until the file arrives at their company server before you can “send” a document to the next company. Every person loses hours of valuable time every day!
“SharePoint is Expensive.” SharePoint has the same financial traps as most large client-server applications. While the base license seems reasonable, it is the tractor trailer that comes with it that drives the price way up. In order to deploy SharePoint for external collaboration an installation will need SQL Server database licenses, multiple servers to host the core system, additional servers for disaster recovery and even more servers for your partners to use outside of the core IT infrastructure. So not only are the base deployment costs high but the cash register keeps ringing because of the performance issues. SharePoint requires large recurring IT budgets!
“SharePoint Projects take Forever to Complete.” In order to address all the feature and architecture shortcomings there is now a sub-market of Value Added Resellers and Systems Integrators ready to deploy, customize and integrate SharePoint. These projects add to the cost and time to realize any value. Unfortunately most of these projects cannot produce the value sought by the users. SharePoint is just not the right starting point for meeting the user’s needs!
At TraceLink we took an approach to leverage the Cloud and create a solution for external collaboration that enables the supply chain to collaborate on processes within minutes with full security and exactly the functionality needed for the business. We provide live business processes, with team-based user management, a single login for all your external party collaboration, very-low subscription pricing and no customization or deployment costs required.
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