Explaining SharePoint to your Mom

A colleague just pointed me to a great new video produced by Common Craft called SharePoint in Plain English. This 3 minute video can be found here:  www.microsoft.com/video/en/us/details/76e8d3af-c2bd-42a6-bb12-befcbd041bf1  It’s also out on YouTube.

When I moved out to Seattle and joined Microsoft back in 1997 I’m pretty sure my parents thought my office was attached to a giant plant where CDs/floppy disks were loaded with Microsoft’s latest software and packaged for shipping out to retail stores. Growing up in the midwest, this is generally how it is with big companies (mostly manufacturing in Michigan too). They couldn’t really picture an entire campus of office buildings and no manufacturing facility so I think they were pretty surprised when they came out for a visit.

My job at the time was to “build” Microsoft Exchange (v5.0 SP and 5.5). Explaining Microsoft Exchange to my mom was a bit of a challenge. And I couldn’t find a nice way to describe what it meant to ‘build’ Exchange in plain English. How do you water down the process of syncing all the source code and compiling it, localizing it, and arranging the files into an installable software program. It was better to just say “I write code using a computer language to automate certain tasks.”

Twelve years later and back with Microsoft I still find it challenging to explain what I do to my mom. I think she understands my job a lot better and she knows I help to sell and provide technical guidance on SharePoint, but I’d bet a steak dinner that if someone were to ask her what SharePoint is, she wouldn’t have a good response.

All that to say, a huge THANKS to Common Craft for producing this easy-to-reference, easy-to-consume video. I’ve already sent a link to my mom and dad.

One additional comment: I definitely agree with the comment left on the YouTube site: the video really focuses on collaboration/document management but SharePoint is SO much more than that. What about social, BI, enterprise search, forms? And the ability to develop on top of SharePoint. The list could go on and on…

OK, so this isn’t the complete SharePoint picture but you need to start somewhere, right? If it were a ten minute video I think a non-technical, non-IT viewer’s eyes would start to glaze over. But I’d love to see a few of these videos created, maybe one for each basic workload. What are your thoughts? What sort of content can we (Microsoft) produce to best support end users in the SharePoint 2010 timeframe?