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 represents a leap forward, and SharePoint 2016 and Office 365 represent considerable improvement into a a very usable, complex digital workplace solution. SharePoint 2019 has become a truly mobile friendly solution, with a number of improvements to collaboration (particularly Teams) and for hybrid cloud scenarios.

There are a lot of reasons to buy into or upgrade to SharePoint 2016 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 2019 is a 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 nearly at feature and function parity with SharePoint 2019, and in some cases, more rich). Though some problems persist, the bugs and challenges are not as persistent as 2010 and 2013. There are some obvious improvements (pros) and some persistent issues (cons): 

  • Cloud – feature parity cloud version (of course this was supposed to be the case, in large part, for 2010)
  • Mobile – enhanced mobile access experience (of course, this was promised for SP2010 and 2013 and it fell embarrassingly short)
  • Social – enhanced social networking (nearly completely lacking in 2010)
  • 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
  • Social networking – Delve and Teams are showing signs of true collaboration (and the latter integrates with Skype), but Yammer is still isolated and separate of the main intranet
  • 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. 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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author avatarDeveloper 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 avatarSales 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 avatarSharePoint 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 avatarOwner & 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 avatarOffice 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 5LeaderboardReal 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 avatarProject 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.