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14 Ways that SharePoint isn’t an intranet

In the early stages of an intranet build, the chances of someone in your organization pushing SharePoint forward as a viable option is high. After all, if you’ve invested in Office 365, why not use it for connecting, collaborating and communicating across your organization?

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But when you’re carrying out research for possible intranet providers, it’s clear that SharePoint is not a wise option. Choosing this fairly one-dimensional application means that you risk wasting a huge amount of money, time and effort.

To prepare for the SharePoint argument, it’s a good idea to know exactly what an intranet 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, it has experienced more and more interest for its role as an intranet platform. While the cloud-based applications of O365 carry a lot of value for the modern workplace, SharePoint does not work as a substitute for a proper out-of-the-box intranet.

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 fulfills 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.

So why are SharePoint drop off rates so high?

Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

In an intranet build, SharePoint is often pushed by IT departments who want to exploit the O365 package. But why has SharePoint gained a reputation as a good intranet stand-in? 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 Office 365 package, so not free. Moreover, the cost of building the intranet on SharePoint can be high.
  • “Everyone already has access to it” — Desk-based employee may have access, but those who work on the frontline, on the shop-floor, in depots and warehouses or on the road will have limited access to a computer, making their access to an intranet problematic.
  • “SharePoint is an intranet” — Despite the argument that SharePoint is an intranet, it isn’t. Its fundamental role is to store files.

But here are 14 reasons why SharePoint isn’tan intranet.

1. Customization of SharePoint is very difficult

As its role as a DMS, SharePoint was never designed to be customized. Which means if you do want 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.

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 an intranet planning team, this means the constant progression of an intranet is stymied by resources in this particular department.

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.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

4. Difficult to budget for

Often with a SharePoint build, it can be impossible to price up. With the amount of time, resources and developers, the estimated cost of successfully using SharePoint has been estimated to be anything from £150,000 — £375,000 / $200,000 — $500,000. However, ongoing work can mean that budgets quickly veer off track.

5. No personalization

To boost engagement, one of the features of an intranet should be personalization, sending relevant news and updates to the employee. A Hub Site does not have this function, meaning that staff are subject to a barrage of irrelevant information: for example, a U.S office getting updates about car parking at the UK office.

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

Managing content means going to the backend of SharePoint, and instead of using list and libraries like a custom-made intranet, management is done at page level. The simplicity of normal intranet management is not present with SharePoint.

Annie Spratt for Unsplash

8. Heavy administrative burden

The governance of permissions, controls, targeting and, personalization means an enormous 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, and not in your organization.

11. Implementing design is onerous

Microsoft introduced Community Sites in 2017 as a way of allowing the user to create a visually appealing front end to a site using web parts and a building block approach. However, functionality of this is limited and presents siloed information from a single site rather than aggregated content from multiple sites.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

12. Heavy technical support when fitting a Communication Site to an existing SharePoint site

A Communication site cannot be retrofitted on to an existing SharePoint site. A workaround is required, whereby you transfer everything on to a new Communication site. For most businesses, this involves a lot of time and effort.

13. No control over priority news

For important news that needs to be visible to the workforce, there is no way of anchoring it to the homepage. New stories just replace old ones.

14. Training is extensive

In comparison to a few weeks custom-made intranets, SharePoint requires extensive training across multiple departments and offices taking months.

In summary, implementing SharePoint as your intranet exposes you to a lot of risks. Not only will it take a huge amount of time and effort to build and manage, but it will 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 it isn’t designed for the end user in mind. This inevitably leads to a bad user experience, which will see a slide in user adoption.

Couple this with constant IT assistance means that SharePoint intranets rarely move forward, especially if those people who initially developed the project leave or the budget has run out/been put on hold.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

In fact, in all the features of a modern intranet; content and information delivery, collaboration, search, compliance, personalization, mobile, reporting and analytics, administration and management, vendor services and project risk and lifecycle, Interact outperforms on everything.

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 Office365 applications, creating an intuitive and seamless digital workplace experience.

Users can have full access to Office365 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 involves a great deal of time and resources. Interact provides a quicker, smarter and more cost-effective option while still allowing you to enjoy SharePoint’s benefits.

For a more in-depth view of the Interact v Sharepoint argument, download our free guide here.

This post originally featured on the Interact blog on 16th July 2018




Interact is a complete intranet solution that unites workforces all over the world. We power internal communications.

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Interact is a complete intranet solution that connects enterprises all over the world. We power internal communications.

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