SharePoint Alternatives: What's  the right intranet for your organization?

Posted by Kath McNiff on Apr 2, 2019 10:27:16 AM

If you're in the market for a digital workplace, chances are you've considered SharePoint. 

As Microsoft's answer to document management and web-based collaboration, SharePoint can seem like a sound choice - particularly if you're already invested in the Office 365 productivity suite.

However, if you've done any research, you also know that SharePoint has received its share of bad press over the years. Variously described as the "Swiss Army Chainsaw" or "The most expensive free tool" - many organizations have fallen victim to the platform's sheer size, complexity, and cost of maintenance.

According to an AIIM report, a whopping 40% of organizations consider their SharePoint solution to be unsuccessful. At the same time, there is no disputing the solution's extensive functionality and flexibility.

How do you cut through the noise to determine if SharePoint is the right intranet or digital employee experience platform (DEX) for you?

This post peels back the layers so you can see the differences between SharePoint and an alternative option like out-of-the-box intranet, GreenOrbit - you'll have all the information you need to make an informed choice.

Does it have the features I need?

Since it comes "free" with enterprise level Office 365, many organizations default to using SharePoint as their intranet platform. In a sense, they don't choose SharePoint - it chooses them.

As part of Office 365, SharePoint is one element in an intricate and complex ecosystem - as seen in Matt Wade's famous periodic table:


On paper, the features look impressive, but the 'functionality' metric is not just about the number of features a solution has to offer - it's about whether the features are 'fit for purpose' and whether they succeed in meeting business needs without complex customization.

For example, if you're looking for an intranet to drive communication and break down departmental silos - it can be difficult to see how to make this work in SharePoint. 

Which components address these organizational goals?

What will it take to pull these components together into a cohesive experience?

For most organizations, it takes a third party SharePoint consultant (and extensive customizations) to deliver effective answers to these questions. This might be fine for large enterprises - with IT departments that have SharePoint expertise and lots of spare capacity - but can prove prohibitively expensive for others.

Will it drive better business outcomes?

SharePoint didn't start life as an intranet, instead it's a mix of several platforms that have been acquired by Microsoft over the years - not exactly a great example of 'intentional design'.  

In contrast, GreenOrbit is a dedicated intranet solution - built from the ground up and honed over the years to address the core pillars of digital workplace experience; productivity, collaboration, content and culture. 

GreenOrbit is the best intranet solution in the digital workplace

It's common for organizations to 'make do' with SharePoint - trying to shoehorn it into the broader business strategy. This can lead to problems with adoption and stakeholder buy-in. It can be a time-wasting step in the wrong direction.

Make no mistake - SharePoint is feature-rich and highly flexible but, depending on the organization, it can be like giving a toddler the keys to a helicopter.

Is it easy to use?

Over the years, SharePoint has had a reputation for breaking or ignoring the rules around User Experience - lack of signposting, breadcrumbs and poor navigation are some of the themes that frequently bubble-up - particularly for those working in the classic SharePoint UI.

Modern SharePoint has made some headway on this, but it has also created a headache for organizations looking to upgrade their highly customized classic SharePoint to the new Modern version.

According to AIIM, close to 60% of organizations blame low adoption rates on the fact that the solution has a steep learning curve and is difficult to use. It also requires a level of expertise that makes it difficult for content creators in Internal Comms and HR to take an agile approach to information management.

You might also find yourself frustrated by Sharepoint's fragmented approach to social collaboration - MySites and Newsfeeds are separate entities that require users to navigate away from the intranet.

With a solution like GreenOrbit, you can empower content creators and equip users with everything they need in one central location - leading to a cohesive and engaging user experience:

GreenOrbit is an alternative intranet solution to SharePoint

What about governance?

Sharepoint allows you to set multi-level permissions to govern who can do what in the intranet - but if approached without a plan, the results can become complicated and confusing. This is especially true if you create new custom permission groups.

In GreenOrbit, there is a consistent and streamlined process for defining, viewing and editing the creation rights of every user and content item.

It can also be difficult to control the proliferation of sites in a SharePoint intranet - and many users report feeling overwhelmed and out-of-control. For example, when you create a new Office 365 Group, you automatically create a new SharePoint site collection - without realizing it. It can be hard to get your head around what all these sites and site collections are about.

What level of support do I need?

Microsoft is obviously a trusted vendor - but when it comes to customizing the look and feel, setting up workflows and deploying your intranet, they take a hands-off approach. You'll need to hire a SharePoint consultant or build a team in-house - both of which come at a considerable cost.

With a GreenOrbit subscription, you are not just buying the software - you're buying decades of intranet experience too.

Based on your branding guidelines and the results of an in-depth Information Architecture review, UX experts will deliver a cohesive intranet that meets user needs and is branded to suit your organization's culture and objectives. They will take care of deployment and provide training. You won't need to hire specialized intranet consultants or lean on internal IT resources. 

How much will it cost?

Although organizations get a free SharePoint Online license with Office 365, the eventual outcome could easily cost more than $120k when you factor in customizations, third-party integrations, specialist consultants, internal resources and deployment.

GreenOrbit is competitively priced based on number of users and your subscription includes:

  • Professional implementation and deployment

  • Site structure setup and branding

  • Theme user training and mentorship

While it can take upwards of 12 months to deploy a SharePoint solution, your GreenOrbit intranet can be up and running in a matter of weeks - depending on your site's requirements.

What does the future hold?

In his article Why the future of SharePoint could be Dismal, Scott Robinson says 

"...the days of large-scale SharePoint build-outs for collaboration and content management are probably over. Newer products are often just as flexible, relatively inexpensive and don't require .NET expertise for complex customizations."

We could all use a crystal ball to see what's ahead - to make sure our digital workplaces are successful now and into the uncertain future.

It seems likely that productivity, innovation and employee experience will continue to reign supreme as the hallmarks of a successful organization. If your intranet supports these pillars without breaking the bank or causing undue chaos - you made the right choice. 

For more information, about using GreenOrbit as a launchpad for success check out our free ebook:

eBook: Steps to Building a Great Intranet


Topics: digital workplace, new intranet, SharePoint, digital workplace experience, intranet examples, sharepoint alternative

Centralizing Communications: Thou Shall Not Have Broadcast Email

Posted by Terri McKinnon on Jul 3, 2018 1:09:28 PM


Financial services organization VicSuper needed an internal communications strategy that was as dynamic and efficient as their 260 person team.

Led by the Learning & Organizational Development team, the company embarked on delivering a new company intranet with GreenOrbit (formerly Intranet DASHBOARD). The goal: To push information and knowledge away from email and into an open, centralized platform.

The organization’s preference for email communications was purely out of habit - as that’s the way it had been for so long. The company-wide reliance on email was taking its toll, making it time consuming and inefficient for working collaboratively. The only way to communicate company news was via an ‘all staff’ email, which failed to engage users and was easily lost amongst other content. They were suffering from serious email overkill.

When disparate systems kill the message

The restrictions email placed on information sharing were obvious to the team. A document would be created and then converted to PDF for emailing. It was too difficult to upload documents to the old intranet, and no one would share it on Yammer as they were two disparate environments. This disconnect fuelled the team’s case for a new intranet, and was identified as a key business challenge.

The vision for the new intranet was that it would be the place to access information, communicate, and collaborate. They were eager to move these activities away from email, and into a central platform where it would actually be read, understood, and engaged with.

It was important to have a system that could facilitate multi-dimensional communications, pushing different messages to audiences in different ways. Pushing collaboration away from email and into GreenOrbit meant, having a tool that allows several conversations concurrently through news posts, forums, pages and activity feeds – getting messages out at the right time to the right people.

After relying on email for so many years, the team knew it was difficult for people to change their habits - even if they wanted to. Some of the strategies used by VicSuper to drive user adoption included pushing the intranet to employees as the browser home page and committing to “No more blast emails”. In turn, they have found, people have taken to social functionality like ducks to water.

The centralized model

From the outset, the benefits of centralized communications began to unfold. The team had been rolling out a learning program called Activate - about activating their brand. Traditionally, they would have let the business know through an ‘all staff’ email - the same message, at the same time, with the same instructions.

The issue with this was that the course meant different things to different departments, and had different calls to action. Through their new company intranet, this information could be targeted to different groups in different ways. Users could then ask questions, offer advice, and share. Information immediately became more meaningful, impactful, and known. It was no longer buried away in people’s inboxes.

You can learn more about VicSuper’s intranet through their full case study.

To find out more about how GreenOrbit can get work going in your organization - check out the GreenOrbit Feature Checklist:


Feature Checklist



Topics: Internal Communications, Social Intranet, communication tools, new intranet, company intranet

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