Intranet Systems Beyond SharePoint

Perttu Tolvanen (North Patrol)

In contradiction to Tony Byrne, Perttu Tolvanen from North Patrol gave us some valuable knowledge about intranet systems beyond SharePoint. North Patrol is a company based in Helsinki, Finland. The company focuses on helping their clients to buy intranet project, which basically means selecting partners and technologies. According to intranet consultant Perttu Tolvanen, there’s no doubt that SharePoint is a huge beast. However, there are great alternatives to this enormous platform, especially if you’re only doing subsets of the things that SharePoint does.

Two philosophies

Perttu explains that North Patrol has two philosophies on how to approach things. The first, and probably most important, is to always understand the philosophy of the product. Every product has been designed for a specific purpose and Perttu, along with his colleagues, work hard to match the clients’ needs to the appropriate product. According to Perttu, great projects are done with great partners. But if you want to stay in line with your budget and have long-term success, you need wise technology selections. Partners and technology go hand-in-hand, but the thing is that good projects can be done without the best technology. If you strive to reach long-term success, though, the right technology must be in place.

Perttu Tolvanen presenting at Intranätverk 2014: Göteborg

Intranet concepts

If we are to believe Perttu, a great intranet concept is about business needs – finding out what the top managers expect from the intranet. It’s also important to understand the market and match the needs of the organization to what the market offers. This is especially important in terms of choosing the right technology. But to be able to accomplish a good intranet concept design, you must understand your own system environment. The intranet is in a lot of ways the heart of the modern digital workplace in many organizations. But there are also several other systems, which sometimes need to be integrated to work properly. Therefore, you have to make a decision of what kind of intranet you want before looking at partners and technology. What is the relationship between the intranet and other key systems inside your organization? And how would you define your company culture?

The 5 most typical concepts

  • The traditional 1.1 intranets
  • More complex publishing scenarios
  • The management portal concepts
  • Collaboration intranet concepts
  • “The elephant” or “SharePoint” concept

In addition to these concepts, there are also several different kinds of increment concepts. Perttu points out that it’s up to each organization to choose which concept is the best suited for them. Please have a look at Perttu’s presentation at Intranätverk 2014 for more information about the concepts. Video below.

Alternatives to SharePoint

For example, the social intranet is in a real hype at the moment. Not only because it’s practical, it can also be a business tool. In terms of a social platform, Perttu explains that there are many systems that can be useful. SharePoint isn’t necessarily a good option, since even EPiServer and WordPress offer simple and cost-efficient solutions. The best alternative, though, might be Atlassian Confluence. Another scenario that occurs more frequently today is the one regarding the multi-language management. This is about having business in different countries, which can be a truly complex task to resolve. Especially when it comes to sharing content across countries and languages. In this situation, SharePoint is to be avoided according to Perttu. Instead you should use web-content management systems like EPiServer or Sitevision.

Functionality = portal system

The third scenario is management portal concepts, which might not be seen as often nowadays. Though, many banks, financial institutions, manufacturing organizations and energy companies use them. Perttu explains that these institutions, organizations and companies like to build intranets that are report-heavy and has a lot of functionality. The more you have this kind of business functionality in your intranet concept, the more you are actually doing a portal project as well as a software development project. According to Perttu, using SharePoint as this type of platform is often not very efficient. Instead, Liferay should be considered a better option. If you want your employees to be able to organize and personalize, you are actually looking at a portal or portal systems.

People-centric collaboration

One of the newest concept layers that we have is the one about collaboration. Perttu explains that the intranet owns the people-centric collaboration, but it necessarily doesn’t own the documents. The document management is done with SharePoint or with some other tool. According to Perttu, the people-centric collaboration is a good concept for many organizations that aren’t document heavy. Software companies, for example, don’t work a lot with document but are in great need of collaboration. So their ideal intranet is often a social one with publishing capabilities and lightweight collaboration. One challenger to SharePoint in this area is Atlassian Confluence. Why? Because it has the social features and the group social capabilities necessary, and also offers a better editing environment than SharePoint.

All-in-one-package

Although there might be better options than SharePoint for several tasks, there’s to doubt that SharePoint is the best option if you want an all-in-one-package. Perttu explains that when it comes to social publishing, team sites, document management and enterprise search combined, SharePoint is definitely the way to go.

Bio Perttu Tolvanen

Perttu Tolvanen is an intranet concept design and content management system expert. Perttu consults with clients on project planning and defining requirements, and supports customers in selecting content management systems and implementation partners. He has worked with intranet systems for over 10 years and has helped over 60 clients in intranet projects during his career. Perttu has a background as a project manager on the client side as well as the vendor side. He is also an active blogger.