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What Is a SharePoint Intranet? (And Superior Alternatives for 2022)

Barry Nyhan

Senior Demand Gen & Marketing Ops

28 Mar 2021

Is a SharePoint intranet right for your HR team?

The majority of the world’s intranets get built on SharePoint. SharePoint is a collaboration and web publishing platform provided by Microsoft.

SharePoint is a very flexible and powerful platform that has many strong points. But, it does not always deliver an intranet that employees love. It lacks the benefits that HR managers are seeking. For example, boosting employee engagement. This will lead to poor user experience and low adoption rates.

As an intranet solution, SharePoint is often recommended by IT functions. There are some strong SharePoint intranets out there that do provide a good solution. Especially when employees need to access an archive of static reference content. But, HR and internal communications teams are still underwhelmed by a SharePoint intranet.

What is SharePoint? 

SharePoint is a communication, collaboration and web publishing platform provided by Microsoft.

Microsoft describes SharePoint as being able to create websites. You can use it as a secure place to store, organize, share, and access information from any device. All you need is a web browser, such as Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer, Chrome, or Firefox. 

Corporate intranets are often built on SharePoint because of their flexibility and scalability. Although, in our view, it’s not the best choice for this.

SharePoint 101: Classic and modern SharePoint

SharePoint is a very mature platform. It has been active in one form or another since 2001. There have been many versions of SharePoint released over time. The most important developments recently are:

  • The launch of SharePoint Online – the cloud-based version of SharePoint
  • The release of modern SharePoint.

Modern SharePoint is a revamp of the classic SharePoint. It has a new look, feel, and an underlying development framework. This brings many improvements to the software. If considering SharePoint, you must distinguish between ‘modern’ SharePoint and ‘classic’ SharePoint.


Classic SharePoint

SharePoint has always been a platform that has a divided opinion. There has been a lot of opposition to intranets built on classic SharePoint. Many feel the designs can be unattractive for employees and are difficult to use.

Many organizations decided to customize SharePoint when building their intranet. Companies can meet specific needs by doing this. However, it leads to very long and expensive projects. These intranets would later be very difficult to upgrade.

Modern SharePoint

Many feel that modern SharePoint has brought better interfaces and easier usability. Modern SharePoint has also reduced the need for customization. This means intranet teams can deliver a SharePoint intranet quicker and cheaper.

Modern SharePoint definitely looks better than classic SharePoint. But, obstacles still exist in delivering good employee experiences and culture.

Why use a SharePoint intranet? 

There are many reasons why companies introduce SharePoint intranets. Some of these relate to what a good intranet delivers regardless of the technology. Other reasons are more specific to SharePoint:

  • Employee engagement – driven through internal communications and people-focused content
  • Boosting productivity by helping employees complete tasks in an efficient and effective way
  • Saving time by allowing employees to find what they need, such as information and link
  • Keeping employees informed through news and updates
  • Supporting roles by providing operational information employees need on a day-to-day basis
  • Drive collaboration by providing easier access to team sites and SharePoint document libraries

Organizations use SharePoint for their intranet because:

  • It is already part of their Microsoft or Microsoft 365 enterprise license. There is that feeling that they have already paid for it, making it is cheaper to install and manage
  • The previous intranet was made on SharePoint. It’s what they’ll be used to
  • IT functions tend to advocate for it. It integrates with other Microsoft 365 tools like Microsoft Teams
  • The intranet can integrate with the collaborative and document sharing capabilities of SharePoint

What else is SharePoint used for? 

SharePoint has many uses like communication, collaboration and business process needs including:

  • Project and work collaboration across teams, groups and even communities
  • Document management and document sharing
  • File storage
  • Management of information that feeds into automation, workflow and apps
  • Web publishing and related workflow to large groups of employees
  • A variety of knowledge management processes
  • Acting as the base technology for different web apps and websites, including intranets.

SharePoint powers some key features of other Microsoft tools. For example, sharing documents in a Microsoft Teams Space. It utilizes a SharePoint document library in doing so. It can also integrate with other tools across the Microsoft 365 universe.

There can be difficulties in describing the uses of SharePoint. It can be hard to know what SharePoint is powering and what other technology is powering.


What are the main features of SharePoint?

SharePoint has several features and templates used in a SharePoint intranet. These include:

  • SharePoint document libraries with features such as version control
  • SharePoint lists – tables of information that are easy to update
  • Ability to create pages that display information
  • Libraries of different web parts (components or widgets). These are presented on a page, including news, events, a hero area, the latest documents and more
  • Communication sites – a flexible, ready-made template for group communication
  • Team sites – a template designed for work-based collaboration
  • Hub sites and home sites. This brings together communication and team sites into more of a ‘homepage’ experience.

In many ways, SharePoint is a very impressive and flexible platform. Yet, it is not always the best option for a corporate intranet.

There are some great SharePoint intranets around. But, they might not deliver what you want to achieve. Particularly around areas like engagement, supporting front line staff, and lowering costs.


Will a SharePoint intranet work for me? What are its capabilities and drawbacks?

SharePoint has many capabilities and strengths. For instance:

  • Ability to integrate with other Microsoft 365 tools like Yammer and Microsoft Teams
  • Document management using SharePoint libraries
  • Strong collaboration workspaces, with team sites for project and working groups
  • Good search capabilities, straight out-of-the-box
  • Smooth integration with Active Directory, supporting personalization and targeting

But, there are significant drawbacks from an intranet perspective, including:

  • SharePoint has a uniform look and feel which not everyone likes. Although, SharePoint modern is much better than ‘classic’ SharePoint
  • News and publishing features on native SharePoint are outdated. They are unlikely to meet the needs of HR professionals
  • Limitations to the corporate branding features on a SharePoint. It may feel more like a Microsoft intranet than an individual company intranet
  • Social features and tools are not threaded into the DNA of a SharePoint intranet. They are often only delivered through an integrated Yammer feed
  • An out-of-the-box SharePoint intranet is hard to structure for a global company. They can prove inflexible if you choose to restructure
  • Everyone will need a Microsoft 365 license. Businesses with frontline employees may find that not all staff can access a SharePoint intranet
  • The mobile intranet experience may not be engaging enough
  • A SharePoint intranet project comes with hidden costs. You are likely to need external help if you do not have solid SharePoint expertise in-house


In a nutshell, a SharePoint intranet may not deliver everything you want it to. It will be difficult to deliver a positive user experience and increase engagement. Employees won’t love it unless they have adopted it fully or meets the needs of frontline staff.

So, if you want to avoid these problems… let me introduce you to the world of the modern social intranet! You’ll be able to achieve engagement, productivity and collaboration, fast.

SharePoint vs the Modern Social Intranet

SharePoints don’t always deliver a modern, social intranet experience for employees. Social intranets are different from the static, content repositories of old intranets. Intranets become lively and engaging when employees can share their voice and stories. Exactly how it should have always been.

Social intranets like Workvivo have the power to:

  • Give every employee a voice. This creates a powerful level playing-field and ensuring people feel valued
  • Make it easier for leaders to provide more authentic and impactful communications
  • Provide a great base for employee advocacy
  • Celebrate and amplify the very best aspects of organizational culture
  • Drive an important sense of community and connection, essential for wellbeing
  • Achieve great levels of adoption
  • Encourage work-based collaboration across scattered locations and divisions
  • Deliver insights on employee sentiment through polls, comments and analytics
  • Help employees feel connected during difficult times, including the COVID-19 pandemic

Social intranets can also handle the formal communications required to get things done.

Want to see a Social intranet in action? Take Workvivo for a test drive and experience it today.

There is a common complaint that HR and comms teams tell us over and over again. It’s that their SharePoint intranet doesn’t meet social intranet standards.

It works well for employees wanting to access central policy documents. But, it doesn’t work so well for engaging employees and creating that sense of belonging and connection people crave. Which at the end of the day, is the single biggest challenge facing companies around the world as we transition to a hybrid work model.


SharePoint for HR and people management

We often get asked a recurring question by HR professionals. They ask if a SharePoint intranet delivers the organizations’ HR/People strategies through:

  • Supporting employee engagement to reduce employee turnover
  • Encouraging employee advocacy to attract new talent
  • Establishing more efficient HR processes through employee self-service and automation
  • Supporting employee health and wellbeing
  • Delivering specific ‘moments that matter’ throughout the employee lifecycle. For example onboarding, personal growth and career development
  • Supporting Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) and the range of benefits this brings

A SharePoint can support HR processes through integration for things like employee self-service. But, it will fall short in other areas.


A social intranet like Workvivo (above) can:

  • Deliver employee engagement by giving everybody across your diverse workforce a voice. This provides community, connection, sense of belonging, and allowing for more natural leadership communications
  • Drive employee advocacy initiatives, encouraging employees to post on their own social channels
  • Help those ‘moments that matter’ by providing access to recommended learning by peers. Or, help new starters feel more welcome with connections and content
  • Support wellbeing by helping to reduce loneliness
  • Promote D&I by surfacing stories and updates from right across your organisation
  • Still support employee self-service by integrating HR platforms like Workday

If you want to learn more about next-gen social intranets, we have just the thing. Check out how you can easily reach and engage your people, build meaningful bonds, and keep everyone connected with Workvivo.


Final Thoughts

SharePoint is a good platform. But, it has definite gaps in its capabilities and hit its prime back in the early 2000s. It’s not going to meet the adoption levels companies want, and it’s not going to be as focused on employee experience and engagement.

A next generation social intranet platform like Workvivo is far more likely to deliver what HR teams want. A platform that connects every employee and gives them a voice. It will help increase engagement, supports wellbeing and ensures diversity and inclusion. 

See how you can use Workvivo to bring your people together, wherever they work from by checking out the product tour below. Help them feel included and truly connected to your company culture, values, and to each other.