Everybody knows about Office, but SharePoint is in many ways a more revolutionary product. The less well known offspring of Microsoft was also the fastest to earn over $1 billion in sales. Its success rests on its ability to foster and streamline collaboration in companies and organizations. It’s massive success and customizable framework have placed it at the top of the ERP and CRM industries, but have also brought on competition from companies like Salesforce and Google.

Companies use SharePoint to build internal websites for their companies. They use it to share Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files so that the can be edited by teams of people, without the need to send files back and forth through email. A search engine sifts through the files so that they can be more easily discovered.

An analyst from Goldman Sachs, Sarah Friar, recently told the Seattle Times that when you talk to Chief Information Officers, the vast majority of them will tell you they’re biggest struggle is with collaboration. “People are coming to me constantly saying they want to collaborate better…they want to find data in a more structured fashion,” she said. She added that SharePoint has largely found it’s place in the market by helping resolve some of those issues.

After the release of SharePoint 2007, Microsoft began to realize that the web was moving toward social networking and cloud computing. They adjusted to adapt for the 2010 release, and are planning to take things even further for the 2013 edition.

Borrowing bits and pieces from Facebook and LinkedIn, SharePoint intranets increasingly resemble a social networking sites. The next version will allow users to “follow” subjects, projects, and people. They will interact with information in a “stream” or “wall” format, so that the most relevant information is closest at hand as the traditional email interface becomes a less useful tool.

SharePoint currently faces threats from Google and Salesforce. Google Drive attempts to be a free alternative, while Salesforce’s Chatter acts as an intranet’s social network. The main criticism of Chatter is that it doesn’t serve as a file sharing application. Businesses have been asking why enterprise software doesn’t look more like Facebook, but they don’t want it in isolation. They want those features in programs like Office. This is what SharePoint is currently aiming to accomplish.

By Mike Marcin, DynamicPoint a Microsoft SharePoint Expert in California (CA)