How Companies are Overcoming SharePoint Limitations

Mar 19, 2015
7 Min Read

While SharePoint is well-entrenched in most enterprises, usability issues, speed to deployment and adoption, lack of workflow flexibility and project and process management capabilities are raising questions from IT organizations on the future of their on-premise installations. Decisions are being made whether to move to SharePoint cloud or investing in new lightweight third-party tools to increase time to market.

It is well known that SharePoint is not the best of Microsoft’s business productivity products, but the product has been able to skate by riding on Office’s coattails. In her recent article on the TechTarget Search Content Management website, Lauren Horwitz notes that the majority of enterprises still rely on SharePoint as their primary Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system.

But is SharePoint always the best option when it comes to empowering business users or non-engineering project or program managers who haven't written code for a living? Here are just a few ways SharePoint is still a bit too clumsy to meet the needs of today's agile businesses.

Process Management

Many workers need a better way to manage and track their work through improved workflows, not to mention easier and automated ways to report out on goals and status. According to a research survey of SharePoint users by AIIM International, nearly 30% of users have no processes or workflows in SharePoint. SharePoint’s lack of flexibility, time and expertise required to customize, and lack of skilled SharePoint developers within many organizations makes it increasingly hard to use for important value-drivers of the business. Providing end users with rapid prototypes of business applications and quickly iterating on them to solve users' unique and changing business needs is an effort most are unwilling to tackle using SharePoint.

[caption id="attachment_27487" align="aligncenter" width="440"] © AIIM 2015,[/caption]

Administrative babysitting

SharePoint requires A LOT of care and feeding. As Lauren suggests, it’s not a set-and-forget it type of application. Users have to manually organize everything, spending endless inefficient hours categorizing, uploading, and retrieving files, and building a sensible structure so that others can find and view them. As the amount of content increases exponentially, so does what Lauren calls SharePoint sprawl - and the tendency for project administration to spiral out of control.  “Sprawl is often rife among companies using SharePoint, in which documents reside in far-flung, hard-to-identify locations, with little governance or ownership of those files,” she says.

Complex search and non-intuitive site building functionality

If you don’t tag your metadata correctly in SharePoint, the search functionality won’t deliver the files you need. And correct tagging is no small feat. You must have intimate knowledge of your business and industry in order to map SharePoint architecture without mistakes, so it’s impossible to outsource and users must be trained in-depth. Also, people who design websites for a living understand basic usability principals, but what about everyone else? SharePoint expects that all users will have this knowledge, but much of the time, they don’t.

Inconsistent navigation

According to Wendy Neal in her article for CMS Wire, one of the first rules of website usability is that primary navigation should be consistent no matter where you are on a site. As long as the site owner configures the global navigation this way, the site will adhere to this rule. But when you create a sub site in SharePoint 2013, by default the navigation inheritance section defaults to “No.” If you don't change this setting when you create your sub site, you'll be left with a site that appears to be orphaned because it doesn’t contain any global navigation links and there is no easy way to get back to other areas of the site.

A second usability problem related to navigation, Wendy points out, involves the site logo.

A common web practice is to have the site logo act as a unified link that always takes users back to the home page. In SharePoint, the site logo links back to the sub site's home page and not the top level root site home page.

Hidden breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs, reminds Wendy, help users see where they've come from and provide a trail back to the pages they have recently visited. In SharePoint 2013, the breadcrumbs have been disabled by default. Although you can make them visible by modifying the master page, they may not have the exact look and feel you want for your SharePoint site.

Are you experiencing SharePoint limitations around business process and workflow or project management?  Join AIIM International Research Director, Bob Larrivee, as he moderates an expert online panel with EMC and FedEx on Thursday, March 26 at 1:00 PM EDT, "How EMC and FedEx Overcame SharePoint Limitations - Improving the Speed of Today's Business and shares highlights of the most recent AIIM SharePoint survey.

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