When IT Suggests SharePoint

January 09, 2013 Jeff Small

Maybe you’ve heard a version of this story before. A firm implements a SharePoint intranet. The project is a huge success. Now the public website needs a redesign, so the conversation logically turns to SharePoint as the content management platform. Everyone knows SharePoint, and it’s a good way to kill two birds with one stone by using newly acquired SharePoint experience to build a website on a familiar platform. Right?

It depends. SharePoint is a good website management platform. It allows business users to update content, submit pages to workflow and publish them, and security can be managed centrally with very finite control. However, today, many digital marketers have additional needs. A lot of One North clients are exploring the options of modern content management platforms—SharePoint included. Some find that SharePoint is a perfect fit. Others perhaps not. As Jeff Hirner pointed out in a previous post, Marketing should partner with IT and investigate available web technologies together. Here are some things to discuss when considering SharePoint as a CMS:

How differentiated do I want the look and feel of my site to be?
Does there need to be a lot of differentiation between the look of your intranet and your public website? Customizing the design of SharePoint is difficult at best. We at One North have built many public sites on SharePoint and have wrestled with the SharePoint limitations when implementing complex designs. Simple CSS or JavaScript tasks on any other platform require significant workarounds in SharePoint because of the way pages are rendered. At the end of the day, because of these limitations, SharePoint sites look like, well, SharePoint sites.

Are you trying to grow your social media footprint or personalize content on your site to target user needs?
Firms are increasingly engaging in new and innovative ways to do this. Leveraging their deep content catalog, content can be targeted to a website visitor based on the visitor’s usage patterns. Multichannel marketing is also commonplace with marketers engaging customers through social media, email communication and mobile platforms with a goal of consistent messaging throughout.

Managing these digital engagement efforts is often done in silos - with website content in one system, social media management by another and email marketing done by yet another. This can result in a disjointed client experience. Centralizing these efforts on SharePoint will require third party platforms or custom development that can lead to additional expenses and complexity.

Overall, SharePoint is a powerful platform that can be leveraged to build complex intranets, extranets and websites. When choosing a web content management system, it’s imperative that IT and Marketing goals are aligned to drive the overall success of digital marketing efforts. SharePoint may meet all the needs of your firm, but make sure you are asking the right questions to get the right tool for the job.

SharePoint is one of many options available. Stay tuned as the One North marketing technologists discuss the advantages and disadvantages of other platforms, including Sitecore and other leading solutions.


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Jeff Small

At the time of publishing, Jeff Small was One North's Director of Technology Solutions.

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