There has been some commentary about SharePoint over the past couple weeks that helps mark the path we are taking with Acrobat.com, so I thought I would weigh in.
To some extent, Acrobat.com owes its success so far to the SharePoint story. No, we don’t use SharePoint, and we don’t directly integrate with it either (maybe someday). But SharePoint has introduced people to the promise of better collaboration, or as Thomas Vander Wal said, it is acting as the “gateway drug to enterprise social tools.” And at the same time it has opened up an opportunity for Acrobat.com to actually deliver on the promise of better social collaboration at work without the pitfalls that Dion Hinchcliffe recently described as “the issues and challenges of using SharePoint for Enterprise 2.0.”
A recent survey we did of Acrobat.com users highlighted the gap between the big promises and meager payoffs of Enterprise 2.0 so far. I think this is the most interesting statistic:
There are as many people who have stopped using SharePoint for sharing and collaborating on documents as there are people currently using it.
In a way, that is a huge testament to the success of SharePoint; it is so widely deployed that the Acrobat.com user base has as many former users as current users (yes, I am aware of the irony in that statement, but please read on).
The awareness of SharePoint is truly impressive. For instance, over two-thirds of all managers in our user base are aware of the SharePoint solution; only Google Docs and WebEx had higher awareness results among collaboration products. I imagine the awareness of SharePoint among people who work in IT is near 100%, and with greater than 85 million SharePoint licenses out there, it is clearly a successful business with a huge percentage of people who have access to it at work.
Yet despite SharePoint’s massive penetration into the market (perhaps that market penetration is thanks to a rash of accidental IT purchases?…yes, I know, more irony…I’ll get back to my earnest Midwestern roots in a sec), only about 10% of people in our very large and growing user base actually use SharePoint for document sharing and storage.
Looking a little deeper, it turns out that people in companies larger than 10,000 employees are roughly twice as likely to use SharePoint as those in companies with fewer than 1,000 employees. I suspect this is because larger companies are more likely to take advantage of the impressive application development capabilities of SharePoint to build custom business process solutions that meet their specific needs (though perhaps small companies do less “accidental” IT purchasing ).
I often think that collaboration software must have the highest rate of ‘shelfware’ of any software category. Why? First, there are a lot of collaboration products out there since everyone has problems working together (a good subject for a future posting). Second, collaboration software is purchased and deployed frequently in an effort by IT to ‘empower’ people to collaborate better, i.e. solve a big business problem with big technology. And third, collaboration software is abandoned all the time because it is inconvenient, restrictive and boring.
As I said in my first posting, we think we’re on the right track to solve the collaboration headache, not with a bitter vitamin, but with a candy-covered chewable aspirin in the form of Acrobat.com.
We’re building Acrobat.com in the cloud so everyone can work together on the same system with access from anywhere. We’re building social metaphors into the applications so people can control their own identities and work together naturally with others. And we’re making Acrobat.com simple, beautiful, fun and available for free or purchase directly by business people looking for a better way to collaborate.
We call it the cloudification, socialization and consumerization of collaboration. We believe that technology has to be used to be useful, that people will use the collaboration services that work best for them, and that as a result people with collaboration needs won’t just use what is given to them but will instead choose the best service available.
Or to go back to Dion Hinchcliffe’s critique of SharePoint, Acrobat.com will:
* advance the state of the art of Web 2.0
* fit the business needs of people with collaboration problems
* work well across firewalls and operating systems (and devices…)
* let people serve and organize themselves
* give purchasers a choice that is simple, affordable, and instant-on
I am acutely aware that we’re not there yet. But our users are excited about what we’ve started, and there’s much more in store for Acrobat.com this year.
Next time, more on who our Acrobat.com users are, and then maybe more about what is missing from Acrobat.com (we hear you loud and clear). For past and future updates you can follow me on Twitter (@erikdlarson).