SharePoint Review

The SharePoint Intranet – Pros and Cons

SharePoint has conquered the enterprise intranet. Although the conquest is never as bloody nor expensive as more invasive conquests, such as the Mongols under Genghis Khan, intranet citizens are not always thrilled by the new system and structure under Gates Khan.

SharePoint is present in 80% of the Fortune 100; and plays a prominent intranet role in about 70% of knowledge worker intranets (either powering the main intranet portal, or delivering associated collaboration sites and/or document repositories). This in spite of its history.

SharePoint 2007 was a dog; SharePoint 2010 was a dressed-up dog; but SharePoint 2013 represented a leap forward to a more user-friendly, true web platform. SharePoint 2016 saw improvements, but perhaps the most significant advances have come in the last couple of years with the release and evolution of SharePoint online (and eventually SharePoint 2019) with the advent of Office 365.

SharePoint Online, and the on-premises version SharePoint 2019 (though the Online version is constantly being updated and improved upon; 2019 will not be upgraded until 2021 at the earliest) represent considerable improvement to a a very usable, complex digital workplace solution. SharePoint Online Modern Experience has become a truly mobile friendly solution, with a number of improvements to collaboration (particularly Teams and a dedicated mobile app) and for hybrid cloud scenarios.

There are a lot of reasons to buy into or upgrade to Online or 2019: the latest iteration of Microsoft’s portal-web development platform represents a massive, multi-million dollar upgrade on the previous versions of SharePoint (a version that was typically oversold given its underwhelming if not frustrating performance and lack of execution). SharePoint Online and 2019 are massive upgrade from 2013: noticeable improvements to social computing (social networking via Delve and Teams), mobile computing (responsive design with "modern" pages and a dedicated mobile app), better Office integration, cloud and hybrid integration, search and more.

But it’s not all good news, and it’s not a solution that fits every organization.

Here at Prescient Digital Media, we upgraded move to SharePoint Online in Office 365 (which is more feature and functionally rich than SharePoint 2019). Though some problems persist, the bugs and challenges are not as persistent as versions 2013 and 2016. There are some obvious improvements (pros) and some persistent issues (cons): 

  • Cloud – you no longer need to worry about patches, maintenance and security; Microsoft takes care of this for you
  • Mobile – enhanced mobile access experience with completely responsive sites and apps, and dedicated single sign-on apps for each of the tools in the Office 365 toolset
  • Social – enhanced social networking via Delve, Teams and Yammer
  • Web CMS – enhanced publishing and management interface (employing the ‘ribbon’ from Office)
  • Branding – the new "modern pages" are slick and responsive; it can be more challenging to implement new custom designs using the new modern pages versus classic, and MS has openly cautioned against customizing the home page
  • Search – search is much improved with the full integration with the FAST search engine, but requires some configuration work

There are far more pros than cons, but there should be at the price MS charges. SharePoint is very good for a small to medium-size intranet in a .NET environment that requires a web development platform focused on enterprise content management. In some scenarios, SharePoint can excel as a large enterprise intranet, but it can cause headaches if its overly customized .But it is not cheap, typically requires a lot of work and customization, and doesn’t always work as promised.

Speaking of conquest, the Chinese learned Mongol lessons the hard way, and built the Great Wall. Although a firewall is requisite with any intranet, not just a SharePoint intranet, walls kill collaboration and employee knowledge management. More salient, key lessons can be drawn from implementing and working with SharePoint:

  • Licensing represents a fraction of the cost
  • Planning and governance are mission critical – mission critical
  • Custom or third-party web parts and applications can really enhance the experience
  • Social collaboration doesn’t just happen, it’s earned
  • Change management is the key to success
**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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Add a Comment

author avatarit_user4401 (Developer at a transportation company with 1,001-5,000 employees)

Can you tell me, please, what is the difference between SharePoint Server Standard, Server Enterprise and Foundation? Thank you.

author avatarit_user149673 (Sales at a tech company with 10,001+ employees)

Standard is not that powerful (with v limited capabilities, like version control). Enterprise you have some online editing functions for office document, n u have some basic workflow. Foundation is just a file server....

author avatarit_user120555 (SharePoint Architecture and Develop at a consultancy with 51-200 employees)

Enterprise includes things like:

Access Services;
Excel Services;
Visio Services;

There are over 150 features that are in the Enterprise version (of which Foundation and Standard contain a subset).

Are there specific business functions you are evaluating these versions/features against? It might help with the edition evaluation.

author avatarit_user143376 (Consultant with 201-500 employees)

author avatarit_user341562 (Owner & Corporate Trainer at a non-tech company)

The best thing about SharePoint is users are no longer frustrated by large documents being rejected. Finally there's a place that will accept them no matter the size. More people can read, edit and add comments while someone else is using it. And you don't have to be in the same city to do this. Nice!

Retraining employees will take time but they'll learn how to use SharePoint once they see how to use it and the advantages it can have on their work.

author avatarit_user329733 (Office 365 Consultant at a hospitality company with 1,001-5,000 employees)

There has been far more significant improvements in SharePoint online as opposed to the on-premises Sharepoint. With the release of the on-premises SharePoint 2016, though, the gap is a lot closer. But when it comes to availability and reliability, the on-premises is far more reliable because you don't worry too much about latency issues.

author avatarMario Treviño Salazar
Top 20LeaderboardReal User

We use SharePoint mainly to store Microsoft Office documents.
We support some business process with this tool to cover the lack of functionallity of our current BPM, and also to do some simple Company workflows (request form, authorization forms, etc), mainly we cover the IT request forms with this tool.

author avatarToby Ward
Top 5LeaderboardConsultant

Yes, this is a typical approach and scenario for most companies. Most use it for document management, and team sites. However, more and more are using it for their enterprise intranet portal.

author avatarit_user635955 (Project Manager at a tech services company with 10,001+ employees)

Scored quite high when we evaluated it on compliance and compatibility with required ECM features (Gartner ECM assessment criteria used in our assessment), i.e. scored in the range of 92% to 96%. Among the criteria evaluated were library services, record services, content creation and capture, metadata management, workflow and BPM, navigation and search, security and access control, and architecture and integration functionalities.