Users claim six month wait for SharePoint support

Canadian and U.S. companies are sometimes waiting up to six months to resolve support issues associated with Microsoft’s Sharepoint portal product, according to a market research firm.

According to London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group, customers expressed satisfaction rates in the 92 per cent range around the functionality and total cost of ownership of SharePoint, but nearly one quarter said they were disappointed with how well the world’s largest software company was able to assist them with it. SharePoint is Microsoft’s Office SharePoint Server is a tool that companies can use to create an internal portal to collaborate, share ideas, and manage documents.

Info-Tech published a sample comment from one of the 258 respondents to its survey, who said: “I don’t think they (Microsoft) knew what to expect, and they were the first ones to admit it because they didn’t expect that SharePoint was going to reach this kind of demand. They are just overwhelmed with calls.”

Tom Rizzo, director of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, took the Info-Tech survey in stride.

“I would agree with the report in terms of the demand and the deployments,” he said. “From a support standpoint, there’s always the flip side of having a very popular product. You do get overwhelmed.”

Fen Yik, the research analyst who wrote the report, said Info-Tech has been in contact with Microsoft, which he said is aware of the support problems around SharePoint. “They’ve been very up front with us in acknowledging that adoption has exceeded their expectations,” he said. “Right now it’s really a question of how they’ll be able to adapt.”

Yik said the support problems varied by respondent, but some were more severe than others. If there was a common theme, he said, it was around the level of customization that a specific SharePoint deployment required.

“Part of the problem is because of the wide range of functionality, the degree of customization really is an unanticipated issues,” he said, adding that it was survey respondents to cited the half-year wait time for help. “As of today, there are still outstanding issues that have not been resolved.” Rizzo said some issues were more likely to get pushed to the top of the support priority list than others.

“If any customer comes in with a critical situation – the server’s down and not responding and it’s running line of business systems, we go through and try to fix that immediately. That has a complete escalation. It goes all the way to Steve Ballmer if it’s not fixed in 24, 48 hours,” he said.

One of the largest consulting firms focused on Microsoft technologies said SharePoint sometimes leads to management as well as technical challenges. Larry LeSueur, vice-president of infrastructure technology solutions at Avanade Canada, said many companies are looking at the Microsoft product as a collaboration aid without knowing what they’re getting into.

“The No. 1 question I get from CIOs about SharePoint is how to get it back under control because it’s been implemented at a departmental level,” he said. “You need that manageability to handle the global SharePoint infrastructure. That’s why we create own solutions that help customers better provide users self-service so they’re not taking on a big management overhead.”

Yik said the technical hurdles could come down to having Microsoft throw more bodies at SharePoint.

“There was a noticeable lack of knowledge and training in tier-support staff (according to the survey respondents),” he said, adding that Microsoft will likely get better at SharePoint requests over time. “This is still a fairly young product.”

Rizzo said Microsoft has doubled the number of support staff working on SharePoint over the last year.

Industry observers have suggested that Microsoft may add enterprise search capabilities to products such as SharePoint following its recent acquisition of FAST Search & Transfer.

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