Since its launch in 2001, SharePoint has continued to divide the community.
Some organisations are devotee SharePoint users, citing its extensive functionality, integrations and customisations. Others are sceptical of the value of SharePoint, complaining of the poor usability, its immense cost and difficulties in managing and maintaining their solutions.
At its core, the platform is built to store and manage information, namely files and documents. It is a highly customisable platform, providing organisations with the building blocks to create a variety of enterprise content and collaboration solutions including intranets and websites (though Microsoft discourages organisations from using SharePoint to create a website solution).
This high level of customisation, however, can be a double-edged sword. A well thought out plan and structure is required, otherwise the solution can suffer from performance issues, poor usability and low adoption rates.
According to an AIIM report, a massive 40% of organisations don’t consider their SharePoint solution successful. The same concerns were found for SharePoint Online. 2016 data revealed 35% of organisations with an Office 365 subscription used SharePoint Online, and of those, only 2% of their staff were actively using the solution.
Despite these statistics, SharePoint remains quite popular. The platform enjoys high awareness among organisations as a valid option to host an intranet, especially as it is part of the Microsoft Office 365 suite of products that many organisations already use.
Whether your organisation is currently using SharePoint and is thinking of upgrading to the latest version, or you’re looking for an alternative to your current solution hosted on a different platform, this blog post will delve into both the pros and cons to help you identify if SharePoint is the right platform for your needs. We'll also look at a SharePoint alternative; the Elcom Digital Transformation Platform.
Document library, assets library, task management, content management, security information management and Active Directory synchronisation are just a handful of the extensive out-of-the-box functionality offered by SharePoint. These features are predominantly used to help organisations store, share and manage digitalised information in a centralised location. The new version of SharePoint also comes with an improved mobile experience so staff can access the solution from mobile and tablet devices.
With diverse and abundant features to choose from, developers do not have to code each feature from scratch. Instead, developers have the building blocks in place so they can focus on developing their solution, and adding in customisations and enhancements according to your requirements.
Integration with Office 365 and existing Microsoft suites
With SharePoint now part of the Office 365 suite that you have likely already adopted, it makes it much more tempting to use it. Since all Office 365 products are built by Microsoft, they have been built to work together harmoniously. As an example, organisations can connect SharePoint with the products already offered through Office 365, such as built in access to Microsoft Outlook emails and One Drive storage.
Additionally, as part of Office 365, new versions, improvements and features are rolled out on a regular and more frequent basis to SharePoint Online customers, and at no additional charge. Customers no longer need to wait years before new SharePoint on-premise versions are rolled out.
Integration with other systems
While SharePoint offers a variety of functionality, it can be built to integrate with existing business systems such as a CRM or ERP system. This makes access to information easier by connecting data from different systems. For example, SharePoint collaboration workspaces can be integrated into your organisation’s CRM, displaying summary customer data and enabling cross-department collaboration.
Ability to customise
Few organisations use SharePoint out-of-the-box as it was designed to be moulded to different business needs. Instead, SharePoint provides the building blocks for multiple types of enterprise solutions such as an intranet, portal, document manager and collaboration workspaces. It also requires modification to reflect each organisation's branding guidelines.
There are countless options and opportunities for customisations and integrations. Developers can build anything from a simple custom add-on, to a complex application or solution to meet particular business needs and processes such as HR or intranet solutions.
SharePoint is a one-stop shop for building different processes and platforms, making it an enticing option over pre-built solutions if you're looking for flexibility.
Cost to implement and customise
SharePoint pricing is dependent on the deployment model chosen: on-premise, subscription and hybrid. Regardless of this flexible pricing, cost still remains an obstacle.
Due to the high level of customisation often required to build the right solution for your needs, it is easier than most organisations think to blow out their budgets. This is true regardless of whether a third party agency or an in-house team of developers handles the project. Beyond the licensing cost for an on-premise or hybrid solution, there is the total cost of customisation, deployment, infrastructure, operation of software and hardware, migration, implementation, training and administration.
Even with the free SharePoint Online license that comes with your Office 365 package, your new solution can easily cost you over $100k depending on the level of customisation, implementation, training and administration required.
Unfortunately, due to the high cost of introducing a SharePoint based solution, deployment often takes many months and up to 5 years. Achieving positive ROI can be a long journey.
As Sam Marshal from ClearBox Consulting mentions, "My consulting clients sometimes tell me they plan to use SharePoint because they already have licenses, so it is ‘free’. Although you can build some great intranets on SharePoint, the fact is that many organisations struggle. Even with modern SharePoint, where much can be done just through configuration, the task requires some serious skills. This often leads companies to buy an in-a-box product to plug the gap, and the costs end up being comparable to the independent intranet alternatives."
Hard to maintain and use
It is widely reported that SharePoint is known to be hard to update and maintain for non-technical users. The AIIM report for example, goes on to explain that two-thirds of organisations with SharePoint blame the low adoption rates on inadequate user training and the difficulty in using the platform.
SharePoint wasn’t built to be used straight out-of-the-box, but to be customised. This means that it requires advanced technical skills to develop and manage, so you must have either your own SharePoint developer(s) and/or IT team or an IT consultant or external agency on hand to assist with maintaining your solution. This can lead to a drain on resources, taking up valuable time from your internal team who could otherwise focus on more high value work.
Furthermore, relying so heavily on an external agency can lead to slower content updates. And for those of you who are lucky enough to have your own in-house developers, relying so heavily on them can result in the remaining or new technical staff not having a solid understanding of what was built because of the high levels of customisation involved in the build stage.
Microsoft warns again customisation
Microsoft has discouraged organisations from customising the homepage, as unexpected errors can occur if the layout options are changed. This is counter-intuitive as it is best practice to have a consistent look and feel among all company owned properties, as well as a personalised solution depending on the requirements and needs of each end user and/or group of end users such as those based in a particular location, department or team.
Poor social elements of intranet
SharePoint was built to be an information repository. Now organisations want engagement. So it’s not surprising that SharePoint lacks support for fully integrated social features. In other words, the social elements, namely My Sites and Newsfeeds, will be separate from your solution. This leads to a poor user experience. For example, to share information with another user, you need to navigate away from your intranet solution.
Microsoft relies on SharePoint’s integration with Yammer to enable organisations to add a social messaging layer to their solution, however this leads to often fragmented comments on news items, videos and blog posts.
Search is difficult
SharePoint’s search functionality remains a thorn in the side of end users. Given how quickly staff can find files on their local drive, SharePoint provides a poor alternative.
Your agency or IT team need to invest a considerable amount of time to customise and configure it to work seamlessly.
Website support is gone
Microsoft strongly discourages organisations from deploying websites using their SharePoint platform. There is now a lack of support for public websites. This forces organisations to turn to a third party vendor or agency for support, adding to the cost of upkeep. For non-enterprise organisations, the price of maintenance is not feasible.
SharePoint is a good solution for organisations looking for a highly customisable and feature rich solution. But it needs to be built from the ground up, which can be incredibly costly and result in poor user experience if it is not carefully planned out from the beginning.
The complexity of SharePoint is driving many organisations to find alternatives, as indicated by the high volume of users searching for the term ‘SharePoint Alternative’! These solutions can offer faster, easier and lower cost ways of helping you achieve your digital goals and more importantly, your business goals.
Are you looking for a SharePoint alternative?
Elcom powers award-winning intranets that empower organisations to engage, connect and support their remote, hybrid and frontline workforce – without the high price tag that comes with other platforms.
Built on our own leading content management system (CMS) and managed by our own in-house team of technical and creative specialists. You don’t have to rely on third party agencies who may not be up-to-date with the latest product information, or an in-house SharePoint developer who could leave along with valuable technical knowledge about your highly customised solution.
With our proven out-of-the-box platform with an interface that can be completely tailored to your branding and design needs and unlimited user licensing model, Elcom has you covered throughout your organisation’s growth.
Keen to continue using SharePoint? Elcom also integrates with SharePoint to make it easier for your employee to find what they need.
Elcom is the backbone of over 1000 successful deployments for organisations across all industries including Volkswagen, Target, The Heart Foundation, Dulux and The Office of the Children’s Guardian, to name a few. Click here for more information.