In 2001, Microsoft released a collaborative software solution for organizations. They called it “SharePoint.” Originally released as a document management system, SharePoint was designed to integrate natively with Microsoft Office.
Some saw SharePoint as a document storage system—where businesses could store, organize, and share company documents like standard operating procedures (SOPs), policies, and employee directories. Others took advantage of it as an intranet and content management system to post company news and other internal communications.
Today, this web-based platform is an all-in-one solution that thousands of companies use in their daily operations.
In this article, you’ll learn all about SharePoint—what it is, how it works, its features, benefits, and even its disadvantages. While SharePoint is a great solution for many organizations, it isn’t right for everyone–at least not in all the capacities that many businesses try to use it in. Depending on your specific needs and your development capabilities, it may or may not be the right fit for your business.
Keep reading to learn whether or not SharePoint is right for you and your organization or if it’s better to go with a SharePoint alternative.
What Is SharePoint and How Does It Work?
SharePoint is a Microsoft-integrated software used by organizations in a variety of ways. The primary purpose of SharePoint is for organizational collaboration and knowledge sharing as a document management system (DMS).
As a website-based communication system, SharePoint uses various applications and security features to empower organizations to work together digitally.
Not only is SharePoint a cloud-based DMS, but it’s also one of the most popular intranet solutions. As a private internal website, organizations can use SharePoint to keep data and other resources secure in one place that teams can access from anywhere with an internet connection.
Organizations use SharePoint as a digital workplace to help employees communicate and coordinate business activities in a secure environment. Teams can use SharePoint across a wide range of day-to-day business functions, whether to assign project tasks, track schedules, communicate company announcements, or look up company information.
Benefits of SharePoint
By 2027, the global intranet market is estimated to reach $36.89 billion USD. As one of the most popular intranet solutions, SharePoint offers organizations a robust toolset to boost workplace productivity and collaboration. SharePoint features an intranet-based team collaboration solution to help teams find what they need quicker, communicate with each other, and improve performance.
Here are some of the benefits of SharePoint:
Accessing Information Easily
Since its inception as a document management system 20+ years ago, SharePoint has been a viable option for teams looking to organize company files through a digital file storage system. SharePoint’s vast document library can be used as a company intranet for internal communications.
SharePoint allows you to store, organize, and search for digital files and documents. As mentioned above, Microsoft offers top-notch security within their DMS, including protection from unauthorized access or use within documents.
Since Microsoft SharePoint is a document management system and an intranet, it allows its users to access all company information in one place.
Organizations can use the software to collect, organize, and find company data in a centralized location to better understand how they can perform within their role.
Not only can individuals find internal company information, but they can also get information from suppliers or business partners outside of their organization.
Sharing and Collaborating
The reason SharePoint offers simple file management is to promote sharing and collaboration.
Different teams working on a project can easily collaborate through Microsoft’s applications. Plus, developers can build internal communication sites or customize Microsoft’s apps to fit an organization’s specific needs.
Users can share files, invite participants to projects, and approve or deny requests for tasks, files, and more.
Since SharePoint integrates with Microsoft Office 365, employees can also work within documents simultaneously through real-time collaborative editing. SharePoint allows you to create user-friendly virtual workspaces that allow your teams to meet, complete tasks, and collaborate with one another.
Not only is it a robust document management system, but it’s also great for project management. Project managers can create custom workflows and tasks within SharePoint, assigning responsibilities and roles for every assignment to complete projects in a timely manner.
SharePoint is all about sharing information. Communication is one of the pillar functionalities of the platform. Teams can email, message, and share documents with each other with ease.
Plus, SharePoint also has its own internal social network, Yammer, that teams can use to communicate further. The network includes customizable social feeds that allow individuals within an organization to interact with one another through likes, comments, etc.
The modern work team is highly dependent on digital workplaces. Even if teams are in physical offices, they’re likely spending the majority of their time on their computers, interacting with one another online.
SharePoint allows simple integration with Microsoft Teams. Different teams can easily collaborate and work on projects from anywhere, whether in a physical location or working together remotely.
Plus, new team sites can be created with SharePoint. You can think of it as an intranet within an intranet. Developers can use SharePoint to create new intranet sites specifically for teams to foster even better collaboration.
Integration With Other Microsoft Tools
Nearly 80% of U.S. organizations use Microsoft Office. One of the main benefits of using SharePoint is that organizations can seamlessly integrate all their Microsoft tools within their digital workplace.
If your organization is already relying on Microsoft technology like Microsoft Office 365, Teams, or OneDrive, you’ll find that adding SharePoint to your organization’s toolset is a simple transition in your workflows.
And, while a SharePoint intranet primarily allows you to access and use countless Microsoft apps that are integrated into the platform, you can also use custom apps. If you have a development team, you can build out custom apps within SharePoint specifically designed for your organization.
Security Is a Top Priority
Microsoft takes security very seriously, and as a result SharePoint is a very secure platform for document storage and knowledge management.
According to the official SharePoint blog by Microsoft, “When data transits into the service from clients and between data centers, it’s protected using best-in-class encryption.”
SharePoint includes both co-authoring and autosave features for encrypted documents. They also enable information barriers and automatic expiration dates of external access to protect documents and sensitive information.
Teams can also use SharePoint’s two-factor authentication to safeguard company data.
Another advantage to using SharePoint is its flexibility.
One of the main advantages of using SharePoint over other knowledge base software solutions is because of how customizable it is. The platform supports various capabilities for better communication and collaboration. Developers can create custom apps, custom sites both internally and externally, depending on the needs of your organization.
It’s important to note that while SharePoint has advanced customization capabilities, you’ll need to ensure that you have the IT resources, expertise, and infrastructure to support the software’s uses. Your IT team should be well-versed in building out SharePoint instances, otherwise you may end up with a poor user experience and harm your organization’s overall productivity.
Disadvantages of SharePoint
While SharePoint is a top-tier document management system used by countless organizations, the reality is that the software isn’t for everyone, and it may not be the right fit for organizations attempting to use it for knowledge management and engagement.
SharePoint’s main advantages in being Microsoft-integrated and highly customizable end up being its most significant liabilities.
Here are a few disadvantages to using SharePoint within your organization.
SharePoint is a complex software that requires a lot of resources to run effectively. While it is a robust platform that can do a lot, it requires significant time and labor to set up and keep running. Organizations need advanced technical teams to develop and manage the platform, which can be costly in terms of labor and company resources.
Expensive To Scale
Just as SharePoint is difficult to set up and maintain, it’s also challenging to scale. If your organization is positioned to grow, it can be costly to scale SharePoint’s use as your organization scales.
SharePoint’s licensing structure makes it quite expensive for growing organizations to continue to use the platform. As the needs of your organization increase, the cost will also rise substantially.
Requires Significant Training
SharePoint requires a lot of upfront training, which can also be costly. However, it won’t just tie up a ton of money. It will also take up a ton of time. Since SharePoint is so complex, the platform has a steep learning curve, so you’ll need to invest quite a bit in training your employees on how to use it.
This can also be challenging for organizations looking to encourage their team to be more self-sufficient.
While the platform has robust features when it comes to document sharing, collaboration, and communication, it also takes up more bandwidth in terms of employee education.
Adoption and Engagement Barriers
Since SharePoint is such a robust tool that requires extensive training, it can take time for employees to adopt it into their everyday workflow. Whether an employee has been with the company for years or is onboarding as a new hire, this can be an issue.
New technology may be helpful to your organization when employees understand how to use it. However, if it’s complicated to learn, as SharePoint is, it can be challenging to ensure employees engage with the content regularly.
Too Many Features
There’s no doubt that SharePoint offers a wide variety of features that can be advantageous for an organization looking to improve collaboration and communication.
However, if a platform has too many features available, it can be overwhelming for employees to navigate, especially if it’s not managed properly. A platform like SharePoint requires a great deal of oversight to ensure features used work together harmoniously.
It Doesn’t Easily Integrate With Existing Data Sources
While SharePoint integrates well with Microsoft apps and products, it doesn’t mesh well with other tools. You’ll need significant development work to integrate SharePoint with current data sources and tools outside of Microsoft’s product suite.
In addition to being expensive to scale as your organization grows, the developmental needs can also be very costly for organizations.
No Q&A Functionality
Despite being a feature-rich document management system, SharePoint isn’t the most user-friendly tool for finding the answers you need.
SharePoint lacks built-in Q&A functionality: that is, the ability for users to ask and answer questions within the platform (with those questions and answers becoming searchable). This means employees will spend more back-and-forth time in their emails, asking questions frequently (and requiring subject matter experts to answer the same question multiple times).
A SharePoint Alternative
Undoubtedly, SharePoint may make sense for businesses that are heavy Microsoft users and are primarily looking for a tool for file sharing and document management. However, as mentioned above, SharePoint does have its disadvantages, and it certainly won’t be the best fit for every business, especially when it comes to knowledge management.
While SharePoint offers a variety of handy features and is very customizable, it still lacks one essential component: it’s not a true knowledge base. It’s a document management system. With limitations around the search experience, plus a lack of Q&A and features to drive true knowledge engagement, it’s not the right solution for organically growing a company’s knowledge base and turning knowledge into a true strategic advantage.