If you’ve worked at a small to mid-sized business (or even an established enterprise) in years past, you’ve probably used some form of an intranet to share internal knowledge.
Microsoft’s SharePoint became the most well known, and while it was initially designed to help many teams stay on the same page —the product now has present-day limitations, particularly in knowledge management.
Many knowledge managers still depend on SharePoint to store all their company knowledge; information access has become a challenge and focal point. Though highly customizable and possessing many unique features, SharePoint was never designed to be a complete knowledge management solution.
In today’s world, many companies attempt to make SharePoint work, but would benefit from a dedicated knowledge management platform — one that can leverage AI to offer insights, one built to connect to all the customer service and support platforms.
In this post, we’ll examine a few prevalent SharePoint drawbacks related to knowledge management—and explore some better modern alternatives to SharePoint.
As is so often the case, SharePoint’s greatest strength can also be its biggest weakness. Complete with features ranging from an asset library to task management functions to security information management, SharePoint has a host of custom configuration abilities — so many that keeping up with them all can be a difficult task.
Versatility is essential for platforms to meet a business’s full operational needs, but too much configuration can steepen the learning curve and slow down implementation efforts.
If you need a knowledge management solution that’s both comprehensive and simple to use, SharePoint simply isn’t the best option. Many knowledge managers are overwhelmed by the high degree of customization options and bells and whistles.
Since SharePoint is designed to have custom tools built on top of it, you need a developer familiar with SharePoint, a skillset difficult and expensive to find. Companies looking to add a certain functionality into their intranet platform will either need to bring in an expert or devote their own IT resources to the task; both options require time, effort, and money.
Many companies hire SharePoint specialists to train their employees on how best to use the platform, in addition to employees.
As valuable as these experts’ insights are, bringing in a consultant always comes with a price tag and also takes your staff’s time away from their duties simply to use a new software. When new employees come on board, they’ll need training on SharePoint too, making training a recurring cost.
Licensing and installation costs
Even though SharePoint Online starts at $5 per user (or even free in some scenarios) the costs of SharePoint can quickly escalate depending on the size of your business.
SharePoint offers different plans for companies based on the number of users and features required. The most basic costs are $5/user/month and don’t include Office applications, while the most advanced costs are $23/user/month, cover all Office apps and support an unlimited number of users.
Other plans exist to meet the needs of SMBs and enterprises, and each has enough variations that keeping track of the differences can be a chore in itself.
The server costs associated with on-premise development are another expense. Renting a server may cost $250–$500 apiece or $10,000 to purchase, and client access licenses cost $100–$125
Even after implementation, companies must still face the cost of keeping their SharePoint system operational. Those repositories will need to be cleaned up for your SharePoint to run at full speed, and that’s one more duty to be added to IT’s already full to-do list.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for businesses using this intranet to dedicate a staff member (typically versed in ASP.net) strictly to SharePoint customization and maintenance.
Any platform will require upkeep from time to time, and the complexities of SharePoint have the potential to make maintenance more difficult.
Long implementation time
Time is of the essence in today’s high-speed business world, unfortunately SharePoint projects can get pretty drawn out; implementation is a pretty big lift, especially for large organization with lots of data.
Some experts say the average SharePoint implementation project lasts 3–6 months. They’re only estimates, but the typical timeframe for each stage of the process is:
- Discovery and Analysis (2–4 weeks)
- Design, Deployment, and Configuration (4–6 weeks)
- Testing (4–5 weeks)
- Training (1 week)
- Support (4 weeks)
When added to the time it takes to become proficient with the platform, the start-to-finish implementation time for SharePoint (and the resulting lost productivity) may cause some companies to rethink adopting it at all.
Poor search function
An intranet file-sharing solution is of little help if your team can’t find the assets they’re looking for. For all its capabilities, SharePoint’s search function is reported by some to be subpar.
For example, one SharePoint user on Gartner noted how unorganized and ineffective search results returned by SharePoint have been over the years.
“Search often brings back inefficient and unhelpful results in a very unorganized format. No matter what version of the SharePoint I have used, the issue here has always been the same. What you need gets lost unless you pinpoint its exact location for users, and Search doesn’t relieve this trouble.” —Knowledge Specialist in Pharmaceutical Industry
Employee productivity is hindered when team members are forced to spend excess time searching for documents. The data contained in some repositories may be so essential that operations cannot move forward without them.
If your company needs knowledge to be retrieved quickly for its agents, or employees—there are better knowledge management options on the market.
Search function difficulties are one way that files can get lost in SharePoint’s midst, but other problems can lead to a disorganized intranet that hinders productivity.
For example, When this happens or an employee leaves, it may not be easy to locate important documents, forcing them to be recreated if they’re ever used at all.
Between search function issues and worker discrepancies, once-organized intranet platforms can become chaotic all too quickly — and part of it’s not even SharePoint’s fault.
SharePoint was never designed to provide the intelligent, curated, end-to-end knowledge management platform that companies today need to consolidate all of their information assets. You need a modern knowledge management platform to effectively organize content types, including assigning categories and tags at the file/content type level.
Due partly to its design as an intranet solution instead of a single source of truth, SharePoint may not be compatible with every tool businesses use. Despite their high degree of configuration, custom-building every niche tool isn’t cost-effective, so businesses need their information-sharing platforms to play well with the others in their stack. Some examples are:
- Customer Relationship Management
- Live assists
- Self-help portals
Some of these tools can be integrated into SharePoint, but the platform’s complexity means that doing so requires a good deal of technical knowledge — along with time and cost.
SharePoint is a legacy solution to knowledge management
SharePoint was designed with the intranet use case in mind, as a precursor to even the most basic knowledge base software on the market today.
If you need to make knowledge accessible everywhere—both for internal use cases like a company intranet AND embedded in your CRM (for example), you need a solution designed for this task specifically…not a legacy solution like SharePoint.
Legacy solutions like SharePoint also can’t make use of big data as it relates to knowledge management.
Your customer support systems introduce millions of knowledge-related data points each day— like unanswered questions typed in a help portal. Processing all this data to return the best answer is a modern requirement SharePoint was never designed for.
No built-in AI
Today’s knowledge management professionals benefit from platforms like Shelf use AI to automate knowledge work—another downside of out-of-the-box SharePoint. SharePoint Syntex technically offers AI modeling, these features don’t come standard and require advanced SharePoint admins to configure.
For a knowledge manager, insight into content should be available out-of-the-box…not after purchasing additional products and hiring multiple SharePoint developers.
SharePoint offers AI capabilities via integration partners or SharePoint Syntex—but not by default.
Knowledge managers need a solution with built-in AI as part of their knowledge management system. Any modern tool built from the ground-up with a foundation in AI will be 10x easier to leverage than any custom-built SharePoint solution.
Explore SharePoint alternatives for knowledge management
If your organization has invested in SharePoint and need a better knowledge management solution built for the future, check our our Buyer’s Guide for Smarter Knowledge Management.
You’ll learn what a modern knowledge management-specific platform can do…and why it makes the ROI of knowledge management so much higher than sticking with a legacy solution like SharePoint.