Social Business, The SharePoint 2013 Intranet: Pros and Cons
SharePoint conquered the enterprise intranet. Although the conquest was never as bloody nor expensive as more invasive conquests, such as the Mongols under Genghis Khan, intranet citizens are not always thrilled by the new system and structure under Gates Khan.

SharePoint 2013: Evolution of an Intranet

SharePoint is present in 80% of the Fortune 100 and plays a prominent intranet role in about 70% of knowledge worker intranets (either powering the main intranet portal, or delivering associated collaboration sites and/or document repositories). This, in spite of its history.

SharePoint 2007 was a dog; SharePoint 2010 was a dressed-up dog; but the latest, SharePoint 2013 represents a considerable improvement compared with its canine predecessors.


The SharePoint 2013 Intranet Home Page @ Prescient Digital Media

There are a lot of reasons to buy into or upgrade to SharePoint 2013: the latest iteration of Microsoft’s portal-web development platform represents a massive, multi-million dollar upgrade on the previous version of SharePoint (a version that was typically oversold given its underwhelming if not frustrating performance and lack of execution). SharePoint 2013 is a massive upgrade to 2010: noticeable improvements to social computing (social networking via My Sites), mobile computing (PDA access and accessibility), Office integration, cloud integration, search and more.

But it’s not all good news, and it’s not a solution that fits every organization.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

At my company, we upgraded to SP2013 at the beginning of the year and haven’t looked back. Though some problems persist, the bugs and challenges are not as persistent as 2010. There are some obvious improvements (pros) and some persistent issues (cons):

Learning Opportunities


  • Cloud -- feature parity cloud version (of course this was supposed to be the case, in large part, for 2010)
  • Mobile -- enhanced mobile access experience (of course, this was promised for SP2010, and it fell embarrassingly short)
  • Social -- enhanced social networking (nearly completely lacking in prior versions)
  • Web CMS -- enhanced publishing and management interface (employing the ‘ribbon’ from Office)


  • Branding -- although it’s apparently easier to implement new custom designs on SP13, MS has openly cautioned against customizing the home page
  • Social networking -- My Sites and Newsfeeds are still isolated and separate of the main intranet
  • Search -- search is still not best-of-breed, requires considerable configuration work, and underwhelms most users (though offline, consistent content management policies are mandatory).

There are far more pros than cons, but there should be at the price MS charges. SharePoint is perfect for a small to medium-size intranet in a .NET environment that requires a web development platform focused on enterprise content management. But it is not cheap, typically requires a lot of work and customization, and doesn't always work as promised.

The Prescient Digital Media intranet features a lot of customization and customized web parts, including those for:

  • Calendar
  • Sales Pipeline
  • Client Projects
  • Invoicing
  • Social Feeds

Speaking of conquest, the Chinese learned Mongol lessons the hard way and built the Great Wall. Although a firewall is requisite with any intranet, not just a SharePoint intranet, walls kill collaboration and employee knowledge management. More salient, key lessons can be drawn from implementing and working with SharePoint 2013:

  • Licensing represents a fraction of the cost
  • Planning and governance are mission critical -- mission critical
  • Custom or third-party web parts and applications are almost always required
  • Social collaboration doesn’t just happen, it’s earned
  • Change management is the key to success

Title image courtesy of Andrey Burmakin (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Read more of Toby's thoughts on intranets in Say 'No' to Expensive Intranets