Pros and cons of a SharePoint intranet
In their Intranet Design Annual, the Nielsen Norman Group put together 10 best intranets of 2018. The half of winning intranets were built on SharePoint. The report proves that SharePoint, a Microsoft’s platform that celebrated its 17th anniversary this year, is still one of the most popular intranet platforms worldwide. It allows creating intranets with strong business and social features. See how a company can make the most of these features in this interactive demo.
Jeff Teper, “The Godfather of SharePoint”, and his team keep working hard, and their work brings positive outcomes. As a member of Office 365 family, SharePoint has been propelled during the last 3 years and is often praised by its devoted owners. For example, one of Illinois largest hospital systems, Advocate Health Care claims to save over $50 million owing to the increased productivity of their employees collaborating in SharePoint and Office 365. And at the latest Microsoft Ignite conference, Jeff Teper announced innovations for content collaboration in the modern workplace that would extend the capabilities of intranets based on recently released SharePoint 2019.
There’s a fly in the ointment, though. If SharePoint participated in Jimmy Kimmel’s show, it would get a hefty portion of mockery: sour stories of irritated users, as well as multiple predictions of SharePoint’s upcoming death voiced by competitors and critics, have poisoned the platform’s image. It’s no wonder that such polarized opinions on SharePoint often make business decision-makers doubt if it’s the right platform for their corporate intranet.
To dispel doubts, we have dived into our SharePoint intranet development practice and analyzed various advantages and challenges that SharePoint brings to is owners. This helped us to put together all the SharePoint intranet pros and cons so that you can decide if it suits your business needs, collaboration patterns, and budgeting strategy.
Out-of-the-box capabilities of your SharePoint intranet
What’s important: Out-of-the-box features determine default capabilities of your intranet and its potential for further extension and customization.
Pro. You get a rich set of features
Deploying an out-of-the-box SharePoint intranet, you will get a variety of features ensuring document and workflow management, content management, enterprise-wide and team collaboration, task and issue management, learning management, and more. Using out-of-the-box functionality, you can facilitate various business processes and enable users to fulfill their daily tasks faster and with less effort. All in all, SharePoint frees you from developing essential intranet features from scratch along with letting you decide on your intranet’s ‘filling.’
What’s more, modern SharePoint offers a new dimension for your intranet via mixed reality technology – SharePoint Spaces. This immersive environment enables users to view and interact with content in 3D, as well as visualize and manipulate data and product models in real-time, which brings new opportunities for communication, collaboration and employee training at your company.
SharePoint also offers enhanced content collaboration through AI capabilities. AI builds an understanding of what you work on, how and with whom you work to facilitate your job-related activities. Thus, AI helps to create personalized experiences, including targeted search results, views of recent documents, recent sites and news, etc. As a result, user productivity increases due to focusing on the most important things.
Con. A multitude of features can cause a mess
Indeed, SharePoint comes with a variety of built-in features, but it can be hard to choose those fitting your business needs best. Enabling all the available features at once without prioritizing them can result in a messy intranet that hinders users’ activities.
To avoid that, you’ll have to analyze organizational processes, employees’ requirements and collaboration habits to decide on the relevant SharePoint intranet components. Moreover, out-of-the box features aren’t customized to your specific organizational needs, so you will have to tailor your SharePoint intranet before making it generally available.
SharePoint intranet design
What’s important: Intranet design determines how willingly your employees are going to use an intranet.
Pro. You can leverage modern experience
SharePoint modern experience offers creating beautiful, flexible, and adaptive sites out-of-the-box. As compared to the old classic sites, modern sites avoid stale layout techniques, typography, etc. They are faster. What’s more, modern sites are mobile responsive.
Con. SharePoint modern sites have limitations
Modern sites are created as site collections. So it’s impossible to implement a subsite with a modern site template and only classic templates can be used to create subsites. Thus, modern sites make features like security and navigation inheritance through subsites a thing of the past. Also, you can’t change the master page and access the site using SharePoint Designer.
SharePoint intranet customization
What’s important: Intranet adaptability determines how easily and how deeply you can change out-of-the-box features to get an optimal solution for your enterprise.
Pro. You can create a unique SharePoint intranet
Companies rarely work with out-of-the-box SharePoint, as it simply can’t fit a specific business context. Fortunately, organizations can customize SharePoint intranets quite deeply adding corporate branding and developing custom add-ins and full-fledged solutions to cover particular activities (HR, project or knowledge management, etc.). In general, one of the biggest SharePoint intranet advantages is that you can build a unique solution covering a variety of processes, which would be impossible if you adopted a ready-made task-oriented solution. Besides, it’s possible to build customized SharePoint mixed reality apps from smart templates with point-and-click simplicity.
Although cloud intranet customization differs from on-premises intranet tuning and has its limitations, many organizations tweak their cloud solutions successfully. You can see an example of a social care services provider that runs a custom-made SharePoint intranet in the cloud to enable a personalized learning process, an easier interaction between employees, accounting department and HR managers, as well as effective time management.
Con. Customization time and costs
SharePoint intranets are customization-friendly, however, you should keep in mind that the customization will require time and investments. The above-mentioned report by the Nielsen Norman Group shows that the average time of creating a new intranet reduced significantly from 6.2 years in 2011 to 1.2 years in 2018. Still, you should be ready for this 1+ year intranet customization period. As for the customization/price ratio, it’s very simple: the deeper you want to customize your intranet, the bigger your final bill will be.
Integration of a SharePoint intranet with enterprise systems
What’s important: Integration capabilities determine the place of your intranet among other enterprise systems and influence the quality of collaboration between different departments.
Pro. You can enable cross-department collaboration
Due to its flexibility, SharePoint can be easily integrated with CRM, ERP, BI, ITSM systems and other software. For example, by integrating SharePoint solutions with CRM or ERP, you can ensure enterprise-wide search, team collaboration and continuous business processes. Relying on SharePoint intranet benefits, you can connect employees working in different systems.
At ScienceSoft, we actively use SharePoint-enabled collaboration spaces integrated into our corporate CRM system, which allows sales managers to collaborate with the marketing team, project managers, business analysts and technical leaders involved in the same project.
Con. Integration can require extra development effort
Every integration case has its peculiarities, so if you use a custom ERP system, you will have to create another custom solution to connect your ERP system with a SharePoint intranet. SharePoint integration issues should be considered beforehand: first, because they add time and cost to your project, second, because in case of failure, employees’ productivity will be affected.
SharePoint services for your intranet
What’s important: Workforce availability determines your SharePoint intranet vitality and flawless performance. This aspect is crucial for companies that don’t have their own SharePoint teams and thus have to look for outside SharePoint services.
Pro. You can address multiple service providers
Even if you don’t have an in-house team to maintain your customized intranet solution, it won’t take you long to find service providers. There are plenty of companies providing comprehensive SharePoint services including customization, migration and 24/7 support.
If you prefer ready-to-go solutions, you can opt for an Intranet-as-a-Service that will be fully supported by a vendor.
Con. Service quality may vary
If you don’t have your own SharePoint team, you will most likely collaborate with different service providers to address various challenges. Service providers’ approaches to your SharePoint deployment may vary, so may vary service quality and prices. To prevent negative outcomes of scattered activities, it will be reasonable to choose one or two permanent partners who will work with your intranet continuously, bringing regular improvements.
SharePoint intranet pricing
What’s important: As there are at least three SharePoint deployment models (on-premises, cloud, and hybrid) and their pricing models are different, you should plan your investments accordingly.
Pro. You decide on the best pricing model
When SharePoint existed on-premises only, there weren’t many options to choose. Initial costs included infrastructure and licenses, then, service costs were added.
Fortunately, Microsoft diversified their offering with multiple cloud plans and introduced various payment schemes to take the financial burden off SharePoint owners. So, today companies can also choose among multiple cloud plans to align payments with their budget capabilities.
Con. Your final bill may not come cheap
Cloud intranets are gaining popularity and promise SharePoint owners to cut intranet costs substantially. However, there are things to consider in all the deployment options. On-premises intranets require substantial initial investments into infrastructure, licenses and customization, which can make up a huge part of your budget. As for cloud intranets, they allow cutting infrastructure costs but bring ongoing monthly subscription payments. If you choose a hybrid solution, you will have to invest in both on-premises and cloud SharePoint.
Should you opt for a SharePoint intranet?
As you can see, there are so many aspects to consider before starting a SharePoint intranet implementation. To a great extent, your decision should depend on your business size, collaboration needs and budget.
A SharePoint-based intranet is a suitable solution for large and medium-sized companies with multiple teams and diverse collaboration patterns. Moreover, if you already have a developed IT infrastructure, setting up a SharePoint intranet will be relatively easy.
At the same time, if your company is pretty small, SharePoint on-premises won’t be your best option, as it can be too costly for your budget and collaboration needs. In this case, better choose a SharePoint Online or Office 365 solution or look for an alternative collaboration tool.