Understanding SharePoint’s Limitations as a Knowledge Management Solution

Phil Green

Phil Green

December 03, 2017

The SharePoint juggernaut continues in corporate enterprise environments. But 15 years after the product was first launched, clear evidence of SharePoint’s strengths and weaknesses as a knowledge management platform is emerging from objective industry observers.

The RealStory Group (a vendor-neutral research and advisory firm) is one organization that has done quite a bit of analysis on SharePoint. Lucidea’s experience working on thousands of KM implementations mirrors RealStory Group’s findings. Let’s examine SharePoint’s strengths and weaknesses, and what these mean for you.

SharePoint’s Strengths

  • Basic file sharing collaboration at the workgroup level remains SharePoint’s biggest strength” according to the RealStory Group’s research.
  • SharePoint is also a well acknowledged development platform for building all sorts of applications (including KM applications).

SharePoint’s Weaknesses

  • As a development environment SharePoint is very complex. “Once you get beyond the basics, {the} platform quickly becomes deceptively complicated and developer-intensive” notes the RealStory Group, adding “Microsoft markets the platform as a ready-made, easy-to-use product for replacing your dependence on shared drives, but enterprise customers quickly realize that business stakeholders often require much more.”
  • Enforcing uniform enterprise standards for items such as the information architecture is also highly problematic. According to the RealStory Group the “emphasis on localized, bottom-up site provisioning encourages departmental freelancing that mitigates against enterprise governance.”

What does this mean for you?

  1. Contrary to popular belief, SharePoint is NOT an out-of-the-box knowledge management solution, for anything but very basic needs. So, if you choose SharePoint for your knowledge management needs, you should plan for a long and costly development cycle.
  2. Because of SharePoint’s end-user (or bottom-up) orientation, establishing enterprise standards is difficult; and therefore, avoiding information chaos is far from assured.

Lucidea’s experience with customers mirrors these two points. We often see SharePoint development cycles that stretch from months into years. We also see migrations of documents from networked drives to SharePoint, but with no discernible increase in findability or basic organization.

Our advice—when deciding on a new knowledge management solution—is to work with a competent and experienced KM vendor who can provide you with a tailored solution that meets your needs within weeks or a few months, and if necessary, ensure that this solution can be integrated into your SharePoint environment. Without this assurance, be prepared for a long and costly SharePoint development cycle.

Do you have experience with SharePoint and KM? Please share it.

Our good friends at CMSWire have made an excerpt of this research available as a free download here.

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