It is always interesting to answer the question, “What is SharePoint?” Whenever I answer this, I find myself tailoring the answer to the person to whom I am speaking, although I always use the word “platform.”

I do this because SharePoint is not the answer to business problems, such as a need for centralized document management, lack of process or absence of a central point of internal communications. SharePoint is a set of tools that, when implemented correctly, can be used to address all these problems, but it is not a complete answer.

Soon after the release of SharePoint 2007, we saw many companies rolling out SharePoint as an infrastructure project—building servers, creating team sites and then training users. More often than not this has created a new problem within businesses: SharePoint sprawl. The ease of use of the product can also be its downfall, as users can create sites, and off they go without the required planning or governance.

When you take on SharePoint, you are investing in a platform with a huge set of capabilities. The SharePoint pie is the perfect picture to show what is possible. When dealing with any major project in a business, we always follow a standard approach, including gathering requirements, building a business case, defining functionality, and most importantly, defining success. Success paints the picture of how things will be better at the end of the project.

SharePoint itself, however, isn’t a project. The rich feature set available gives you the capability to address so many needs in business today that you can’t take it on as a single piece of work. Some of these needs can be addressed in a matter of hours with a simple project site, and some may take weeks or months, such as enterprise-wide document management. Take the time to define your requirements, bite off each slice of the pie one at a time, and make the most of everything SharePoint can be to your organization. When you take a staged approach, you can deliver outcomes again and again across the organization.

At SPTechCon in Boston, I will be covering this topic in more detail in a session called “Rolling Out SharePoint—Where to Start.” This is another great reason to attend the conference and hear from many of the experts in the SharePoint community.

Joshua Haebets is the Principal SharePoint Consultant at Evolve Information Services in Australia. He can be contacted at