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Research report: The SharePoint 2013 IntranetThe launch of SharePoint 2013 at the start of this year marked the ten-year evolution of Microsoft’s intranet and collaboration platform. In this time it has grown from a fairly simple document-centric tool to cover a range of uses:

  • as an intranet for published information, both corporate-wide and for business units
  • as a portal to glue together other systems such as employee services
  • for team and project collaboration
  • for storing and disseminating documents
  • as a means of connecting employees through profiles and social media.

DWG’s latest report, “The SharePoint 2013 Intranet: An evaluation of SharePoint 2013 as a platform for enterprise intranets”, takes a critical look at what has changed – and what is still missing. The report is intended as a brief for decision-makers, with an emphasis on counterbalancing a technology-driven perspective on SharePoint with a look at likely business drivers, risks and implementation demands.

Download executive summary: The SharePoint 2013 Intranet

IBF is strictly vendor neutral and does not promote any one software solution over another. We have written this report because a large proportion of DWG members are interested in SharePoint 2013 and could benefit from an independent analysis.

If you’re interested in other software options, see DWG’s recent research report on intranet platforms, which compares the most common enterprise content management systems, including SharePoint 2010.

The main changes

Although there are many technical improvements, the ones that intranet managers and users are most likely to notice are:

Area Change
Social
  • New community features, including #hashtags, @name people mentions and basic gamification.
  • A “newsfeed” gives the ability to see activity feeds by following people, sites and documents.
User experience
  • Improved navigation with “site hubs” and recommendations for sites to follow.
  • Windows 8 look and feel.
Search
  • More powerful search engine with increased options for previewing and refining search results.
Mobile support
  • Improved support for designing multiple mobile templates.
  • Dedicated mobile apps for social features.
Apps
  • “App Store” approach makes it easier to add new functionality to a page.
  • Apps can be added from both internal or external sources.
Intranet content management
  • Content aggregation across the enterprise is greatly enhanced.
  • New features for content owners such as file drag and drop into document libraries and paste from Word.
  • Automatic language translation.
Collaboration
  • SkyDrive and a “share” button for sites and documents make it much easier to do ad-hoc collaboration.
  • Office Web Apps provide lightweight versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote through the browser for viewing or simple edits.
Deployment
  • The cloud-based version of SharePoint, available within Microsoft’s Office 365 service, now offers nearly all the features of an on-premises installation.

On top of this, Microsoft is also strongly promoting a cloud-based approach. Companies opting for SharePoint 2013 through the Office 365 offering will benefit from more frequent updates and better integration with Yammer. The price, however, is that one of the most powerful new features, search-driven publishing, is not supported. This makes it harder to do things like internal news syndication, “most popular stories” and an internal You Tube style experience.

Shortcomings

Although the improvements above are welcome, there are areas in which SharePoint still trails rival offerings.

  • There is some support for mobile devices, but most organizations will have to start from basic building blocks to develop a satisfactory experience, or hope that Microsoft will release further apps for the main mobile platforms.
  • The “newsfeed” social experience does not pick up on all activities within SharePoint, so it is a less complete dashboard of what is happening than it first appears. Microsoft has indicated that this will be replaced by the Yammer service it acquired in 2012, but details of the full integration are sketchy and in the interim the social experience will be fragmented compared to rival platforms.
  • The user experience is variable. Newer components are relatively well designed, but older features have barely been updated, leaving tools like blogs, wikis and surveys looking dated.

Deciding to upgrade

For some intranet managers, there will be no choice about upgrading – either the IT team or the cloud-hosts may decide it is a necessary step. For this scenario the report discusses some preparatory steps and the aspects of SharePoint 2013 that are over-and-above a typical upgrade plan.

For others on earlier versions of SharePoint or even other platforms, the business case will depend very much on how well SharePoint 2013 fits with your intranet or digital workplace strategy. In the report we look at three case studies of companies that are upgrading. For many it is the improved social experience that matters. For others, while they acknowledge that the current features may not be quite right, they are backing Microsoft because they believe in its future commitment to this area.

As with any intranet, the bottom line is that you need to be honest about what problems you want to fix: if the root cause isn’t the technology, then the solution isn’t technology either.

Download executive summary: The SharePoint 2013 Intranet

About the author

Sam MarshallSam Marshall is DWG’s resident expert on all things SharePoint.

He was the author of DWG’s first report on the digital workplace and continues to champion the employee perspective when implementing digital strategies.

Sam has specialized in intranets and the digital workplace for over 15 years, working with organizations such as Unilever, BT, BBC and Rolls-Royce. Sam is a regular speaker at international conferences.

He has a master’s degree in Artificial Intelligence and more bicycles than shoes.

Connect with Sam on Twitter: @sammarshall or on Google +.

4 Comments

  1. A good overview Sam but I’d say the elephant in the room is cost. The costs of 2013 licences, server upgrades possibly, training and so on. We would all like the shiny new toy and it may may tick a lot of boxes in terms of what it offers. But the budget issue is a compelling one and hey, SharePoint 2010 still works.

  2. Hi Andrew
    Many thanks for your comment.

    I think there are many perceived elephants in the SharePoint room! For some it is the technology, others governance, for me it’s lack of proper adoption.

    My focus for the report was on what has changed in 2013 compared to earlier versions from a business point of view. I appreciate that the server requirements for 2013 have gone up considerably, but I think it should be just one factor in the decision-making. SharePoint 2010 clearly doesn’t still work well for some company strategies, and if the technology is the biggest cost line on the project, then I’d be asking if a company has its priorities right.

  3. Great review here Sam. And good information in the comments to you both. This is certainly helping me as I am in charge for our team in making sharepoint decisions…lots of big elephants in the room 🙂

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