The common dialog when I first step into a client’s office and someone is advocating for using SharePoint for document storage: “What’s wrong with using what we already have? Why shouldn’t we use SharePoint?” This is a question I hear frequently. The real question is why you would want to use SharePoint when there are far better options available. Perhaps your business has an infinite amount of time, a large budget, and many IT resources, one specifically that has expertise in building out a working SharePoint site.
The reality is that in the AEC industry, this is rarely the case. We have small IT departments, coupled with tight budgets for technology. The industry has an overwhelming number of documents, content, and data. We need to be smart and get it right the first time.
I Say Define “Free”
SharePoint comes as part of the package for select Microsoft Office licenses but if you want to use it to its full potential, it’s far from “free.” In addition to an expensive licensing structure, there are hidden, high costs to implementation that add up very quickly.
Add customized requirements, app development, ongoing support, and a less than stellar user experience – and you have an expensive product with a long journey to a positive ROI and end user satisfaction. Products like Egnyte and M-Files (to name a few) have much of this already developed for you and offer up a team available to assist in putting the finishing touches on your content environment.
It’s not you – it’s SharePoint. This solution is highly technical and requires someone with a unique skillset to customize it to your organization. Unlike other content management solutions who have a team of developers and engineers at your disposal, Microsoft does not offer professional services as part of the package although they do provide a 600 page do it yourself manual. For non-technical users, it’s a difficult solution to manage. It is not out-of-the-box ready.
Let me describe a real-life, yes this really happened, scenario for you. Your team is out on a project site, working overtime on a Saturday, and for some unknown reason, cannot access their SharePoint site. IT is contacted and after some investigation has realized it’s a Microsoft issue. You call Microsoft and are provided their virtual support hotline which is automated. After pressing a series of prompts you are put into a long queue to speak to a customer service advocate. Since others are having similar issues, the wait time is longer than usual. When you reach an advocate, they don’t know you and they don’t your business. You realize you are no one special.
When you contract with technology solutions that understand your business you are never alone. They comprehend that you are losing money by the minute. The relationship between a dedicated technology vendor/reseller and your business is a personal one.
SharePoint, and likely your shared drive, is not optimized for the cloud.
The call I frequently receive when a company who is on SharePoint is one of distress. Operations and their Project Managers are upset with how long it takes to download simple documents and are frustrated working within the SharePoint site due to latency. At times it has the speed of our old dial-up.
We try to put documents somewhere everyone can find them. Retrieval can be tricky if something lands in the wrong folder, or even worse, a folder ends up dragged into another folder. The missing folder panic attack is one that we have all suffered and unbeknownst to many has been resolved years ago with evolving technology. This isn’t true if you’re using your shared drive or older content storage repositories. Most sophisticated content management or collaborative solutions use OCR technology that scans the content of your documents as you save them into the content vault. This means that you now have search capabilities across the entire repository if your permissions allow.
Ease of Collaboration
Are you working with Procore? Many of these solutions now allow a two-way sync between the Procore document library and your content vault. Access to CAD files, contracts, documents (RFI’s, Change Orders. Etc.) media and photos can be accessed on a mobile device. A proper connector is critical for quickly accessing working documents within Procore. When seeking out a document repository solution, do your due diligence. Will the solution you’re considering work in sync and support your existing technology platforms?
Are you using e-mail as your source of workflow because your free version of SharePoint is only a storage repository? Most technology that is “not” SharePoint, offer workflow and form capabilities that allow audit history, bottleneck notification, and utilize the content information for BI purposes. Your otherwise flat documents become a source of working intelligence that can be utilized for a higher purpose.
This one is for the C-Suite and the IT Department: Let’s talk compliance
The SharePoint version that is included with the package lacks much of the following:
• Reporting and Auditing – Monitor who has access and active sharing links
• Permissions – Set permissions at an individual or group level; allow or restrict folders and subfolders access
• Version Retention – Restore past versions when necessary
• Data Governance – Protect both corporate and personal data
• Ransomware Protection – Detect and recover from attacks quickly
• No need for a VPN
• Adheres to DPA, FCRA, GDPR, SOX and many other compliance regulatory mandates
Summing it up
My final recommendation is when considering a content management platform that doubles as a collaborative solution, consider one that can offer a secure, simple, and lower cost way of achieving your business goals and provide end-user satisfaction. If I haven't convinced you yet, do a good amount of research on your own. There is a reason why there are many articles written about the “cons” of SharePoint, and the low adoption rates across organizations.