In the world of the intranet, SharePoint rules. It plays a dominant role in some of the largest businesses today, which means many workers are using it as their intranet experience. If you’ve used it in the past, then you may have felt like the many who believed that the disadvantages of SharePoint outweighed the few advantages it provided. With the updates Microsoft has made to this system, however, there are some additional pros and cons to evaluate.
The Pros of SharePoint
1. It offers cloud accessibility.
This allows intranet users to be more collaborative with one another in terms of documentation. Items can be uploaded to the cloud through the intranet portal, accessed by authorized users, and saved again by other users when necessary. The end result is an increase in productivity within the organization while hardcopy documents can be reduced.
2. There are mobile access features.
The 2010 version of SharePoint was supposed to have huge mobile capabilities and it fell very short of its goals. The expectations that were discussed in 2010 have finally been met with the latest version of this intranet. The mobile access experienced has been dramatically enhanced so that workers can access the data they need from wherever they happen to be. It even allows for users to access the intranet even when they’re out in the field.
3. Social networking options are available.
In the previous versions of SharePoint, there were virtually no social networking options available at all. That has been remedied with the latest version, allowing employees to interact in an easier way with each other. Groups, teams, and core individuals can all be linked to each other through the intranet so that documentation, messages, or needs can be passed along at greater speeds.
4. It allows for MS Office integration.
Many businesses today are using MS Office software products to meet their administration needs. Unlike other intranet platforms, the tools created and saved through MS Office are instantly compatible with SharePoint. There is also the inclusion of app stores on this intranet solution, providing the opportunity to have custom apps which personalize the user experience for the business.
5. It is easier to brand than ever before.
Even though Microsoft discourages certain changes to the platform, the ability to add branding to the core design is rather easy to do. It is also easy to change the look of the intranet pages if you’re not so keen on the classic blue and white experience that SharePoint has typically provided. This creates a better look and feel for the end product that can create a better overall reception for those who are using it for their work needs.
6. Security options are much better.
Microsoft has greatly enhanced the authentication and authorization protocols on SharePoint so that user access can be completely individualized. This means workers can have access to all of the areas of the intranet that they need and none of it that they don’t need. Even for users who are fairly proficient in changing their access levels will struggle to get where they don’t belong thanks to the improvements that have been made in this area.
The Cons of SharePoint
1. There are warnings against customization.
SharePoint may have added customization options for those that implement this intranet system, Microsoft actually discourages this from happening. The ease of customization with custom designs, especially from a home page perspective, can help businesses better tailor their intranet experience to the individual workers. Just don’t tell Microsoft if you plan on doing so and plan on having some unanticipated errors creeping up if the layout options are changed.
2. Search options require a lot of internal customization.
Most people who use SharePoint will find themselves greatly underwhelmed by the search experience. Compared to how fast people can find lost files on the average PC today, the search system on the intranet is difficult at best. Internal IT professionals must also spend a lot of time customizing the platform to make it useful, which is often an unanticipated cost. For those companies without IT help, the cost of outsourcing the need or hiring someone can be a high unexpected expense.
3. Social networking is separated from the rest of the intranet.
In order to share through the intranet or get updates, users must navigate off of the main intranet in order to read their newsfeeds or access their preferred sites. The user experience in this area can be difficult at best and non-functional at worst, meaning that the gains seen in the social experience often require extensive training for the average workers to understand how to access them. It’s better than nothing, but still could be dramatically improved.
4. There is no public website feature support any more.
For customers that are just coming to SharePoint, they’re going to face a unique issue. There is no longer any support for public-facing websites through this intranet platform. This means new users are forced to go through a third party vendor in order to have this need met and the quality of that vendor locally may be questionable at best. The unanticipated cost with this change can also be quite problematic for some small businesses. For some small businesses, this could even become a deal breaker.
5. The apps that are available are difficult to use and often isolated and unmanageable.
In many ways, the inclusion of apps in SharePoint feels like an afterthought more than part of the design updates. It’s like someone said, “Everyone else is using apps with their cloud platforms so we should probably be doing that as well.” The end result is that it takes extensive work to do anything beyond the basics with this intranet solution and that may make it difficult for some small businesses to use.
6. It cannot be deployed in a small environment.
If you have a small intranet environment, then you have a 100% guarantee: you won’t be able to use the full capabilities of SharePoint. You’ll need to have a separate workflow server and a separate OWA server in order to take advantage of what this solution has to offer. There is a lot of potential for there to be proliferation that is not managed if governance and planning of a SharePoint installation is not carefully considered.
The pros and cons of SharePoint show that this intranet solution from Microsoft has come a long way in the last decade. It has become a highly useful tool instead of something that was more frustrating than anything else. The disadvantages show that there is still some work to do, but overall it is a lot better than it ever has been before and is ideal for companies large and small.