In the early stages of an intranet build, the chances of someone in your organization pushing SharePoint forward as a viable option is high. However, when you’re carrying out research for possible intranet providers, it’s clear that SharePoint is not always the wisest option. For communicators especially, building a SharePoint intranet risks wasting money, time, and effort on a platform that ultimately wasn’t built for multichannel communications. Plus, the market for modern intranet software is now so advanced that SharePoint alternatives can be a cost effective and easily implemented choice.
Making the right choice between Interact and SharePoint
To prepare for the SharePoint argument, it’s a good idea to know exactly what an independent intranet such as Interact can do – and what SharePoint can’t.
We’ll explore the reasons why using SharePoint as your company’s intranet could be a very expensive, time-consuming mistake.
SharePoint was launched in 2001 as a document management system (DMS). With its inclusion in the Office 365 suite (now M365), it has experienced more and more interest for its role as an intranet platform. While the cloud-based applications of M365 carry a lot of value for the modern workplace, SharePoint does not work as an alternative to a proper out-of-the-box intranet focused on internal communications.
In truth, SharePoint is only one aspect of the complex digital workplace that an intranet embodies. If we pull apart the most important facets of an intranet, we see that SharePoint only fulfils a small part of a very big picture.
In fact, 81% of every new intranet inquiry that comes through Interact is due to an existing failing SharePoint intranet.
Why are SharePoint drop off rates high enough that communicators seek out SharePoint alternatives?
In an intranet build, SharePoint is often pushed by IT departments who want to exploit the M365 package. But why has SharePoint gained a reputation as a good intranet alternative? Some departments will perpetuate the myth that your intranet answers lie in SharePoint. It’s highly probable that you’ll encounter someone arguing its benefits.
The most popular misconceptions for using SharePoint as an intranet:
- “SharePoint is free” – SharePoint is part of the Microsoft 365 package, so not free. Moreover, the cost of building an intranet on SharePoint can be high and involve third-party developers for all but the very biggest enterprises.
- “Everyone already has access to it” – Desk-based employees may have access, but those who work on the frontline, on the shop-floor, in depots, warehouses, or on the road will have limited access to a computer, making their access to a SharePoint intranet potentially problematic. Many employees also don’t have M365 licenses, meaning restricted access to comms and ability to engage with the organization.
- “SharePoint is an intranet” – Despite the argument that SharePoint is an intranet, it isn’t. Its fundamental role is to store files not to connect dispersed workplaces through multichannel communications.
Here are 14 reasons why your SharePoint intranet isn’t really an intranet
1. Customization of SharePoint can be difficult
Its origins and role as a DMS means SharePoint was never designed to be a customizable intranet platform. If you do hope to adjust it to your specifications, it will cost a considerable amount of money. Sourcing this service is hard – SharePoint developers are few and far between and, as a result, are notoriously expensive. This scarcity means that timescales can often overrun. One option is to purchase bolt-on intranet services which lay on top of SharePoint and add additional costs there too.
2. No democratization of intranet management
Because SharePoint site creation and infrastructure are so complex, management of this type of ‘intranet’ is more than likely controlled by IT administrators. For a team of intranet managers or internal communicators, this means the continual development and adaptation of their intranet to user needs is stymied by resources in this particular department.
Making the right choice between Interact and SharePoint
3. SharePoint can easily become unwieldy
SharePoint is based on the principle of ‘sites’. This infrastructure means that information can often be siloed into hundreds of different sites with many different unique permission settings. SharePoint has tried to remedy this with Hub Sites which aggregate news and content from all its sites. However, even these have limitations and need significant technical expertise to use as an intranet.
4. Difficult to budget for
SharePoint intranet builds can be difficult to cost and even more challenging to create on a rapid timeline. With the amount of time, resources, and specialist SharePoint developers needed, the cost and time to value of successfully using the system can quickly veer off track.
5. Reduced personalization
To boost engagement, one feature of a modern intranet should be advanced personalization options; used to surface relevant news and updates to employees and give them options to tailor their own content. With SharePoint, however, this may be limited. Even a leading SharePoint expert has written, “I will admit this right away, personalization options in SharePoint are not the same we have in other applications/social media.”
If you want staff to see updates and communications relevant to their interests and roles, SharePoint alternatives may be a better fit.
6. Limited navigation
Despite SharePoint’s best efforts to join sites together, navigation is flat and limited. This means it’s difficult for employees to move across sites and access the information needed.
7. Restricted content management
Historically, managing content has meant working in the backend of SharePoint instead of using list and libraries like a custom-made intranet. For communicators who need to add, update, lift, and shift content easily, the simplicity of a modern intranet is unparalleled.
8. Heavy administrative burden
The governance of permissions, controls, targeting, and, personalization can mean an increased burden on technical support and administration. If an in-house team isn’t able to take it on, it could mean hiring outside help at great expense.
9. Processes are slower
Because of the burden on technical resource, processes become bottle-necked and delays in actioning are common. In fact, Interact’s research of previous SharePoint customers reveals that requests for alterations were nine a month, each of which took 3.5 days to resolve.
10. Features are forced down
Your SharePoint intranet is at the behest of Microsoft, meaning any decisions on changes or directions it takes in the future are made in Silicon Valley, not in your organization.
11. Will you get the design you want?
Microsoft introduced Community Sites in 2017 as a way of allowing the user to create a visually appealing frontend to a site using web parts and a building block approach. However, the design functionality offered by Microsoft’s site templates may not give you everything you desire in a way that reflects the unique culture and brand of your organization.
12. Heavy technical support needed?
Perhaps you can hold the different options in your head, but if you’re a little confused by the vast number of Hub Sites, Communication Sites, Team Sites, Parent Sites, Community Sites, and more, a user-centric intranet designed for communicators and content authors may be a better alternative.
13. Control over priority news
For important news that needs to be kept visible to the workforce, it’s essential for communicators to have easy methods of homepage management. SharePoint news can be complex to upload, manage and prioritize so that key content remains present and does not get pushed off the page by newer stories.
14. Training is extensive
Training users on a SharePoint intranet can usually take much longer than custom-made intranets.
Should I implement a SharePoint intranet?
Building an intranet on SharePoint may expose you to numerous risks. Not only could it take a huge amount of time and effort to build and manage, but it may also cost a significant amount of money, particularly compared to an out-of-the-box intranet product like Interact.
Its position as an IT-focused platform means that user-centricity and simple UX principles can be hard to replicate, potentially leading to a bad user experience and causing a slide in user adoption.
SharePoint has value in a workplace and Interact makes sure workers have access to its uses. In fact, our software can be quickly and easily configured to work alongside a number of M365 applications, creating an intuitive and seamless digital workplace experience.
Users can have full access to M365 without ever having to leave the intranet, and our search functionality includes indexed SharePoint files. Important documents like HR files can be accessed from SharePoint but have the Interact benefits of Mandatory Read, commenting and feedback.
While it’s not impossible to use SharePoint as an intranet, it can involve time and resources that organizations do not have or wish to spend. Interact provides a fast, smart, cost-effective option while still allowing you to enjoy SharePoint’s benefits.