Here are 10 criteria that you should be watching out for and Vendors should be paying attention to... Otherwise it's... 3 strikes and you're out!
1. Their site looks like it was built in FrontPage 98
2. When you ask the vendor if they are deployed in the Sandbox or packaged in a server solution and you ask… “What’s a solution?” or “What’s a sandbox”
3. Vendor has never sponsored a SharePoint Saturday... What's that?
4. Vendor missed the last 2 SharePoint Conferences
5. When I tweet about your product, no one responds as having used it, and no one in your company reaches out to say hi. Can I help you? (Within 24 hrs)
6. When I or anyone tweets about the vendor product we get 4-5 replies of people saying they didn’t like it.
7. They say they recently got into SharePoint, but are still trying to figure it out.
8. Vendor doesn't know the SharePoint Influencers in their own city
9. They haven’t sponsored a SharePoint User Group this quarter (Really you should be sponsoring one a month)
10. When we ask the vendor about cross browser compatibility they say it doesn’t really matter, cause you can control that. Mobile? We'll get to that eventually. Macs, iPads? Is anyone really using that?
(This is a little tongue in cheek and on the fly. I’ll put some thought into a real list as my own project on supporting and evaluating third party products gets under way.)
Can this blog be SharePoint Switzerland?
I have essentially created a side business out of SharePoint Joel where I’ve been openly communicating with SharePoint Vendors after hours, before and after work. It’s been very valuable to me in my position at work to better understand the functionality of our rich ecosystem, but also in better understanding the marketing initiatives of each of the vendors and understanding their go to market strategy for reaching out to the SharePoint Community. In my unique position I’ve been able to help them better reach out to you as well, by sharing what I’ve learned from my conversations with them and with my testing and demos I’ve been getting in each of these products. With each review I’ve found that there is a very rich ecosystem around SharePoint with over a thousand SharePoint vendors most of them small. There are those as well that are very important in addressing issues with gaps in the SharePoint offering. Microsoft is well aware of these gaps and highly encourages vendors to fill them. That’s the Microsoft way. These crumbs add up to 12 Billion according to Analysts. I think 10 Billion of it is systems integrators, while 2 Billion is available for the ISVs (Independent Software Vendors AKA software company). I could be wrong. I think some ISVs come into the SharePoint space understanding that there are 10’s of millions of seats and wonder why their software doesn’t sell like hot cakes.
What I wanted to communicate with you is the fact that I believe that this relationship I’ve been building and in sharing this platform of SharePointJoel.com that I’ve built over the last number of years is worth doing. I believe it’s a WIN – WIN – WIN. I think it’s a win for me, a win for the vendor and a win for the customer. I’ve also been trying to be earnest in sharing when it’s a sponsored blog post, or review, or announcement like a webcast. You’ll have to let me know when you think it’s getting too commercial. I think it’s important to have balance, and keeping my voice in all this is also very important.
In my mind the biggest problem is tying the problem or gap to the solution, and understanding how the solution works, seeing a bit of it, and understanding the context including limitations or downsides. Those are the areas I’ve been focusing on.
I’ve shared in the past that I think there is room for a blogging network, but not everyone is as comfortable working with vendors in the blogging space as I am. I think part of this came from spending time both at Microsoft and at Quest hearing and seeing customers in pain, and knowing there was a vendor that had an answer to their problem. I also know there may be 5 solutions to their problem, and I may also know the differences between those 5 and that’s how I’m in a unique place. I’m hoping as more and more of these reviews surface there will be opportunities to put posts together that share these differences in an agnostic way. I am really not trying to push any one product especially now. I’m Swiss SharePoint! I have no agenda. I really do see a place for everyone, and if I don’t I want to understand how each are unique in their own way. Same with AvePoint, Metalogix, Quest, Axceler, Nintex, K2 and Bamboo. I love a good horserace. Just by listing those names I will be questioned why one is before another, and questioned why I left someone out and so on. I’m making myself available to do reviews for a flat fee. I've noticed others doing reviews as well. Hopefully this will mean knowledge in the community about all of the different soutions out there. SharePointReviews.com will continue to get more content and we'll all benefit as a result. I'm pushing any review I do, to that site after my inital post.
Would it be great if we could all know what the latest and greatest of all of the SharePoint vendors offerings? How much time is spent in bake offs? Bake offs will continue to happen, but hopefully the reviews I’ve done and will continue to do will make the selection process easier.
I welcome your feedback. I know the comments on my blog are a pain. I seriously have been considering moving to another blogging platform as Microsoft hasn’t really done anything to support external blogs in quite a LONG time. I’m interested in your thoughts on this one as well.
Cheers! Love you guys. Thanks for your support. Looking forward to Sharing the Point Africa. That’s my next big trip. You’ll hear about that one soon… stay tuned.