According to the 2011-2012 TSS Java Trends Survey, TheServerSide.com readers are more likely to use Microsoft collaboration tools than any other option. When TSS readers were asked if they used any tools for collaboration, not only did 58% say yes, but 53% said they use Microsoft products as their collaboration tools of choice. Despite being a largely non-Microsoft crowd, survey respondents overwhelmingly use Microsoft SharePoint as a collaboration platform to make working with fellow employees easier. Why is this? What exactly is a collaboration platform anyway?
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A collaboration platform is a category of business software that adds broad social networking capabilities to work processes. The goal of a collaboration platform is to foster innovation by incorporating knowledge management into business processes so employees can share information and solve business problems more efficiently.
Other options include IBM Lotus (15% of respondents chose Lotus) and Atlassian (31% of respondents went with Atlassian). So why do more than half of the Java development shops choose Microsoft SharePoint, specifically? I believe the answer is simple. The majority of companies use Windows as the desktop operating system of choice, which carries over into collaboration tools.
With large deployments of Windows desktops comes economy of scale. Companies leverage licensing discounts by bundling other vendor products, such as Microsoft Exchange and the Microsoft Office Suite, to get a better price. Not surprisingly, SharePoint integrates very well with Office so companies take the path of least resistance and go with what is cheapest and easiest to support as a whole.
Fortunately for the Java developer, SharePoint exposes an API via Web services which makes SharePoint functionality easy to integrate into internal or external enterprise apps. In fact, I wrote a JEE app that returned internal documents stored in SharePoint to specific external customers via an insurance agent portal. This project proved that SharePoint can also be used for other things besides collaboration.
Another interesting data point coming out of the survey is that 19% of TheServerSide.com readers said they use no collaboration tools at all. The lack of tooling raises questions about how team collaboration can be managed offline. Perhaps all the collaboration is done face-to-face, either informally or in daily stand-up meetings. Perhaps the teams are small and consider a collaboration tool to involve too much overhead. Perhaps Java developers prefer not to collaborate. The question remains open.
Like it or not, Sharepoint is here to stay. It proliferates deep within company departments like HR, accounting and legal as well as IT. Embrace it and leverage it. Use it to your advantage. Show your fellow developers what can be done with it. Remember that you can also use it to collaborate among your peers. That’s why TheServerSide.com readers actually embrace Microsoft.