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Over the years, Microsoft SharePoint has gained quite a following. From its FrontPage origins through Windows SharePoint Service, SharePoint Foundation and now SharePoint Online, it has accumulated more than 200 million users and is deployed in more than 400 of the Fortune 500 companies.
However, despite both the popularity and maturity of the platform, SharePoint problems persist. In each of its 10 incarnations, it has been a mixed bag -- convenient and easy to use out of the box, but expensive to manage and customize. And the latest -- SharePoint Enterprise 2019 and SharePoint Online -- are not exceptions. Despite improvements in the point-and-click page-building and site configuration functionality, true customization requires .NET surgery under the hood -- an expensive developer resource.
In the era of clouds and mobile devices, organizations have more alternatives to SharePoint than ever before. And for some, it may be time to rethink the platform.
In its heyday, SharePoint was an all-in-one system of unprecedented convenience: a content management system, collaboration suite and business intelligence hub, all bundled together with point-and-click website generation. All of that functionality in a single platform was irresistible.
Today, that all-in-one thinking is passé; collaboration is more easily facilitated in a world full of cloud technology with many digital channels. The contemporary mobile universe is a place where granular apps make more sense than monolithic collections of them. The once-indispensable platform that could do it all may now be more trouble than it's worth.
Here are five more SharePoint problems that may prompt businesses to leave the platform:
1. Isolated social networking
The SharePoint Community Site feature started off with a bang, as the idea of an easy-to-generate social network was a huge attraction. Yammer integration quickly overtook it, but there are some governance issues when it lives in SharePoint. Its ease of use works against it, permitting discussion thread segmentation and loose tagging that require active -- and persistent -- moderation for any real business utility.
The user experience is less than ideal, because sharing or reading feeds through SharePoint social requires navigating off the main intranet. For some organizations, it might be easier to go with a stand-alone Yammer program, Chatter or Facebook Workplace. Social interaction between team members then becomes as uncomplicated and passive as conventional social media.
2. Governance and management
The bottom-up, user-empowering nature of SharePoint makes it very attractive in the adoption phase, but that same end-user orientation often leads to an out-of-control, standards-free deployment -- popularly known as "SharePoint sprawl" -- as the platform ages and becomes increasingly ungovernable.
An all-in-one platform, especially one used in all departments of an organization, requires a tremendous governance effort. There must be standards around site creation and usage, generating and using content, interfaces with other systems, and collaboration practices. Smaller, more granular platforms are easier to moderate.
3. Customization complexity
If out-of-the-box works just fine, SharePoint is often the best alternative. But if site features and workflows require significant customization, the platform rapidly falls from grace. Though customization has grown somewhat easier over time through improvement of out-of-the-box configuration tools, the range of customization is still limited.
Serious additions to site or workflow functionality often require the effort and expense of developers, because that level of customization requires .NET coding. In the SharePoint Online version, this is often off the table, as in-house developers can't access Azure servers directly. Third-party tools are then required, and even they often cannot deliver all the desired customization.
4. Enterprise search
The most disappointing of SharePoint's unfulfilled promises might be Microsoft's failure to create a configurable, user-friendly enterprise search feature. At first, the disappointment was that SharePoint search wasn't enterprise-wide. Search functionality could not be extended to all in-house data sources servicing SharePoint.
When it finally became enterprise-wide, the customization required to make it practical was overwhelming. Elasticsearch, Coveo or Attivio might be less stressful and better-performing, as they are designed to be enterprise-wide and source-agnostic.
Though the ROI argument in SharePoint's favor is often strong, it has always been expensive to license and even more expensive to maintain. An on-premises server costs more than $2,500, and running it can be more than twice as costly, depending on the number of users. This has become more painless with the introduction of SharePoint Online -- $5 per user, per month -- but the cost across a large organization rapidly becomes exorbitant.
Many of the granular alternatives -- such as Wix, Stack, Box, Nuxeo, Jostle.me, Confluence and Liferay -- are free or less expensive and not as labor-intensive to manage and maintain.
And for those who love the all-in-one platform or don't want to keep track of several different enterprise apps, there are several that offer SharePoint functionality with less headache, including GlassCubes, Samepage, Huddle and HyperOffice, depending on priorities. These platforms aren't as all-encompassing in functionality as SharePoint, but each offers an impressive bundle of applications and features.