Year after year, SharePoint proves to be a leader in intranet design. In 2018, the Nielsen Norman Group compiled a list of the ten best intranets, and half were built using SharePoint.
The report shows that SharePoint is still one of the most popular intranet platforms worldwide, allowing businesses to create intranets with strong social features for collaboration. This list of pros and cons can help decide whether or not SharePoint fits your business needs, collaboration patterns, and budgeting strategy.
SharePoint is still one of the most popular intranet platforms worldwide, allowing businesses to create intranets with strong social features for collaboration.
Out-of-the-box features are what determine the default capabilities of your intranet and the potential it has for extension and customization. With SharePoint, you get a rich set of features from the start. Features like document and workflow management, enterprise-wide and team collaboration, task and issue management, and learning management can help expedite business processes and allow users to complete daily tasks more efficiently.
Pro: SharePoint allows you to leave the make specific decisions about the frame of your intranet (while eliminating the hassle of development). SharePoint Spaces provides a new dimension for your intranet (using mixed reality technology). With an immersive environment, users can visualize and manipulate data or product models in real-time and interact with content in 3D.
These advantages provide new opportunities for communication, collaboration, and employee training. Using artificial intelligence (AI), SharePoint provides content collaboration and can develop an understanding of what you work on, how you work, and with whom you work in order to help with job-related activities like targeted search results, views of recent documents, recent sites and news.
These benefits increase user productivity by helping users focusing on important tasks by making them easy to view and access.
Con: Because SharePoint includes a number of built-in features, it can be difficult to choose the best fit for your business. By enabling all of the available features without prioritization, your intranet could be difficult to navigate and may hinder productivity, obstructing user activity.
To avoid this, analyze and determine employees’ needs and collaboration habits, choosing SharePoint intranet components that are most beneficial to your company. Since out-of-the-box features are not customized to specific needs, make changes to your SharePoint intranet before it’s accessible company-wide.
Pro: Your intranet design will determine how willing your employees will be to use your intranet. With SharePoint, you can leverage “the modern SharePoint experience,” which offers your company the ability to create beautiful, flexible, and adaptive websites out-of-the-box. Modern sites avoid older layout techniques and typography, and are faster and mobile responsive, making for a better overall user experience.
Con: Though SharePoint offers modern sites, they have limitations. SharePoint creates modern sites as site collections, which makes it impossible to add a subsite within the modern site template (only classic templates in SharePoint allow you to create subsites).
As a result, modern sites do not allow features like security and navigation inheritance through subsites. Additionally, you are unable to change the master page of your website or access your website using SharePoint Designer.
Pro: The adaptability of your intranet determines the ease and the depth of the changes you make to out-of-the-box features. While SharePoint allows you to create a usable intranet straight out-of-the-box, most companies choose to customize it to meet a specific needs.
One of the biggest advantages to customization is that you are able to build a solution to include a variety of processes, something that would be impossible if you were to use a ready-made, task-oriented solution.
With customization, you can build SharePoint mixed reality apps from smart templates with ease. Cloud intranet customization is different from on-premises intranet customization (which has limitations) but many companies can change cloud solutions with success.
Con: With customization comes added time and cost. Allow ample time (at least one year) for proper intranet customizations. When looking at the customization/price ratio, keep in mind that the more in-depth the customizations, the larger your final cost (and the longer the process.
Pro: The integration capabilities of your intranet will determine how the intranet is placed among other systems, and will influence the quality of the collaboration between departments.
SharePoint allows you to enable cross-department collaboration, and can integrate with CRM, ERP, BI, ITSM systems (and other software). For example, if you chose to integrate SharePoint with CRM or ERP, you can ensure company-wide search, team collaboration, and continuous business processes. By using these benefits, employees working in different systems will be able to connect and collaborate.
Con: Despite the benefits, integration can require extra development time. If you leverage custom ERP systems, other custom solutions will need to be created to connect to your SharePoint intranet. When making a decision about SharePoint, consider integration possibilities – they can add time and cost to the overall project.
Services, Management and Support
Pro: A crucial consideration for companies seeking SharePoint services is workforce availability, which can determine the strength and performance of your intranet.
There are numerous companies that provide services like customization, migration, and 24/7 support. You can also choose Intranet-as-a-Service (which will be fully supported by the vendor).
Con: Without your own SharePoint team, you may need to collaborate with multiple service providers in order to address and solve different problems. Some providers may have different approaches to SharePoint deployment, meaning that service quality and prices can vary.
To prevent negative outcomes of multiple, differing activities, develop relationships with trusted vendors to bring regular improvements to your intranet.
Pro: Since there are at least three different SharePoint deployment models (including on-premises, cloud, and hybrid), their pricing models can vary. Decide on the pricing model that fits your needs.
Originally, SharePoint was only offered as on-premise service, making pricing options less varied. In the past, initial costs of on-premises SharePoint included the infrastructure and licenses, followed by service costs.
When Microsoft diversified offerings by adding multiple cloud plans, they introduced different payment options that take the financial burden off SharePoint owners. Today, you can choose from various cloud plans to fit a variety of budgets.
Con: While your payment and deployment models are flexible, the final cost may not be cheap. Cloud intranets are becoming more popular but consider your options. On-premises intranets normally require most investment for infrastructure, licenses, and customization.
Cloud intranets can help cut infrastructure costs, but they come with ongoing monthly subscriptio. A hybrid solution will require investing in both on-premises and cloud SharePoint options.
Before starting with SharePoint, there are many things to consider. Your decision should be based on the size of your business, collaboration needs, and budgetary restrictions.
SharePoint intranets are suitable solutions for large and medium-sized companies with multiple teams and strong need for collaboration.
If an IT infrastructure has been developed, a SharePoint intranet can be implemented with ease.
For small companies, on-premises SharePoint may not be the best option due to the high cost and collaboration need. In this case, it may be better to choose SharePoint Online (an Office 365 solution) or an alternative collaboration tool.
Your decision should be based on size of your business, collaboration needs, and budgetary restrictions