I heard someone say that Microsoft has announced SharePoint hit US$2 billion dollars in sales last year. I haven’t seen that confirmed in writing yet, but let’s just pretend it’s true for a few minutes. What does that milestone mean?
I compare it to something close to home. In San Antonio today, there is no bigger tech story than Rackspace, where I’m working. But when I moved here in 1997, Rackspace hadn’t started yet. The biggest software company I could find was GlobalSCAPE, maker of CuteFTP. I think we might have gotten close to 20 employees while I was there. It had decent growth. I guess it has hundreds of employees by now. Not bad, but SharePoint’s growth has been closer to Rackspace’s story. Crazy-big growth.
Rackspace was started by three local college students in 1998, and it now employees more than 5,000. SharePoint Server 2001 development was probably started around the same time. In the 15 years since, both have had huge growth. Rackspace had $1.3 billion in revenue last year. If SharePoint sold $2 billion, it sold more as a single product than the whole company of Rackspace, but the growth curve on both is pretty amazing!
To me, comparing the biggest tech story in town to just the SharePoint part of Microsoft’s business really paints the picture of the growth of the product. I can look around my desk at work and see new renovations completed every few months to accommodate our growth. I work in a former shopping mall that had 1.2 million square feet to grow into, and each renovation added more workstations. That’s physical growth of a company that I can feel.
I can picture that SharePoint, as a product, is growing at the same rate, maybe even faster! That really drives the story home to me. I don’t know how many employees at Microsoft are dedicated to SharePoint or where they sit, but I can only imagine the growth inside the two companies is comparable.
But what does that mean to you? As a SharePoint enthusiast, you are riding the wave, too. SharePoint is becoming more and more pervasive. With SharePoint Online, Microsoft is making a huge push into the small-business area with Exchange and SharePoint. Your years of SharePoint experience become more valuable as more people look to learn about it. At the same time, new experts are coming into the space, bringing years of experience in other spaces into the product. Overall, the SharePoint World is growing and maturing.
The physical signs of SharePoint’s growth go beyond Microsoft’s own revenue numbers. One sign is how SharePoint is doing in the book market. There are many examples, but I’ve heard one book stands out as the bestselling SharePoint book of all time. It’s written by my friends Chris Beckett and Johnathan Lightfoot. I look at the sales ranking on Amazon and I think, Wow! That book outsells a lot of mainstream books. SharePoint is becoming mainstream.
As SharePoint grows, we need to continue to grow, too. How did Chris and Johnathan tap in to that new broad appeal so well? We can look to them as a model. These two Microsoft outsiders collaborated to show SharePoint to readers trying to understand the product for the first time. I don’t exactly know what they did right, but if I did, I’d probably be writing books that sold like theirs! But I do see some signs pointing us in the right direction.
This bestselling SharePoint book is titled “Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Plain & Simple.” It’s mostly screenshots. It’s a full-color, visually appealing book, and it costs less than $14 on Amazon today. As SharePoint grows, there are more and more people who need this. They need plain and simple. They need appealing content aimed at newbies. They’ll buy it in droves if it doesn’t cost a lot. The title ranks No. 3,452 in Books at Amazon. By comparison, “The Return of the King,” the third book in the hugely popular Lord of the Rings series, currently ranks No. 4,926. This is significant.
For those of us who aren’t new to SharePoint, part of our success in this growing world, like the success of Chris and Johnathan, will be how well we tell the story to the others who are new to SharePoint. What part of SharePoint can you explain in a plain, simple and appealing way? SharePoint is huge and growing crazy-fast. If we’re going to ride the wave, we have to keep moving forward. If not, the wave will just pass right over our heads.
Tom Resing is a SharePoint consultant with Rackspace.