SharePoint 2013 has a lot going for it … "if only it wasn't so hard to use." Ask anyone who uses it routinely — and doesn't work in IT — and you're likely to hear something along those lines.
Non-technical users tend to describe SharePoint as easier in theory than practice (unless someone invests the time to become an expert.) "It can get really complicated if you want to go past posting documents or adding a list," one user explained.
Some users give up, relying on share drives or their own hard drives and email rather than a tool that integrates both these functions. "It's hard to persuade them to go a more digital route," another user said.
Others take the easy way out and ask someone in the IT department to generate or post content, even though that's not an IT function.
But what if there was a better way? What if there was a way to retain the functionality of SharePoint in a simplified package — to dress it, as it were, in different clothes? That's what Akumina claims it can do.
Making Everyone Happy
Akumina is a digital marketing and web solutions company headquartered in Nashua, N.H. It specializes in delivering websites and strategies based on two platforms: the Ektron web content management system (WCMS) and Microsoft SharePoint.
The company was founded by Ektron co-founder and former COO Ed Rogers and Steven Sherkanowski, Ektron’s former vice president of marketing. But let's leave the interest in Ektron aside and focus on the company's connection with SharePoint.
Rogers and Sherkanowski think SharePoint 2013 should be your next WCMS. "It provides everything marketing wants on the platform IT already loves," they claim. Why should you use it?
- It's flexible and mobile ready: Most of the platform’s previous limitations on design flexibility are gone.
- It has improved navigation: Managed Navigation combines SharePoint’s search engine functionality with Microsoft’s term store manager.
- Friendly URLs and SEO: It can be configured to automatically generate SEO-friendly, extension free, canonical URLs which prevent dynamic content from appearing multiple times in search engines.
- Search, analytics and personalization: Its got the ability to index content, metadata and site visitor behavior, making it uniquely positioned to deliver personalized digital experiences.
Fair enough. But what about the user experience? "Marketers don't want to deal with all the technical details and technology. They just want a great user experience. The goal for us is to create a SharePoint 2013 platform that does not look, act or feel like SharePoint 2013 at all to the end user," Rogers said.
As Sherkanowski explained, "We just want to change perceptions about SharePoint."
InterChange Authoring Tools
Akumina today announced the beta release of InterChange, a persona-based authoring and website management solution for SharePoint 2013. "With InterChange, casual content authors no longer need to 'learn SharePoint' or understand the underlying information architecture of their site to create and manage content," Rogers told CMSWire.
For example, a public relations manager can simply open the InterChange Press Release App, create a release and preview how it will appear on the site. Once the press release is ready to publish, InterChange’s Decision Support Service provides assurance the release is stored and displayed correctly on the site, Sherkanowski added.
InterChange essentially dresses SharePoint in new clothes: it creates a layer of what Akumina describes as an easier-to-use, friendlier interface. But it's still good old SharePoint underneath.
The combination of SharePoint 2013's technical capabilities and InterChange’s "ability to address the gaps" in its CMS experience "should have CIOs and CMOs alike excited," Sherkanowski said.
InterChange is designed to give organizations the abilities to build their next generation SharePoint 2013 website on Azure, Office 365 or even on-premises while maximizing their existing investment in Microsoft licensing. More importantly, Rogers said, it "ensures their site delivers a modern, adaptive customer experience that increases conversions and drives revenue.”
SharePoint 2013 and InterChange can create websites "with all the sizzle many CMS vendors talk about, but that will actually deliver, at scale, on the demo that got you excited in the first place,” Sherkanowski said.
Does it Work?
According to beta tester Kym Harrington, president of Boston-based Sales Edge, "Yes." Sales Edge was created to help organizations accelerate sales through RFP and proposal automation solutions. It created its current website about seven years ago — "and it looks like it," Harrington told CMSWire.
"We wanted to create a new site that leveraged our investment in Office 365, looked responsive and modern, and was easy for casual users to update. I didn't want a SharePoint site ... until I saw this solution. It's cost effective, easy to use and looks great, even on mobile," she said.
The new site isn't live yet, but is expected to launch in a few weeks. "Would I recommend this solution? Absolutely," she said.
Title image by bepsy (Shutterstock).