If there has been one welcome area of improvement in the SharePoint intranet world over the past couple of years, it has been the introduction of ‘out of the box’ intranet solutions built on SharePoint. Of course it sounds like you just click a few buttons and voilá you have a fully functioning and beatutifully designed intranet. Eh, no. Bit more work involved than that.
In 2016, I was delighted to be asked to review a few SharePoint intranet products for the second SharePoint Intranets in-a-box report from Sam Marshall at Clearbox Consulting. I got to do five reviews – there were 26 in total. Can’t reveal who but I found them very interesting. Some were highly developed while others were quite young in their development phase. And without exception they all looked terrifc from a user experience point of view. That was the one thing that was so noticeable. How these vendors were using the base platform and features of SharePoint but adding a huge level of functionality and design to it was really incredible. For some products you were hard pressed to see that you were actually using SharePoint such were the changes in the user interface.
One of the main selling points for such products is their relative ease of implementation. Hence, ‘SharePoint in-a-box’. Which is somewhat true from a technical development point of view. In other words you can have a standard intranet fairly quickly installed either on-premise or on Office 365. Of course it’s the requirements gathering, business analysis, information architecure, design, content migration and content management end of things which makes it complicated!
What was also interesting was the roadmaps and future developments of these products. They were adding a lot of features and functionality which were going to enhance their products. Another area of interest was the increasing integration with external applications and 3rd party tools. This is a huge area and that integration is critical to the success of an intranet in this digital workplace age.
Any weaknesses? Yes. Analytics. Though one vendor I reviewed was implementing PowerBI analytics which was impressive. But overall this is a gap for SharePoint in general and not just these vendors.
Right, what are you waiting for? Go off and buy a copy of this excellent report. The SharePoint Intranets in-a-box report is available now. Remember, there are 26 products reviewed here. That number alone was amazing as even I had no idea there were that many.