Intranet Product Directory – now updated with 104 products
When I started work on updating my Intranet Product Directory I was not prepared to find that at the end of the research I had a list of 104 products. The process was made easier by the work undertaken by Sam Marshall and his colleagues at Clearbox. The third edition of the SharePoint Intranets in a Box report, published in November 2017, lists 42 products. In the 2017 Database I had a 33 intranet products that used proprietary web code, but this number has now increased by 27. I don’t think that this is a result of a growth in the number of products but of more likely the amount of time I have spent working through various lists and Google searches. Inevitably I will have missed some – please let me know if your product is among them.
From a geographic perspective 34 products come from companies based in the USA, 27 from the UK, 9 from Canada and 6 each from Denmark, France and the Netherlands. It is noticeable that many of the products are positioned as digital workplace products or enterprise social networks. I have not tried to clarify these categories, nor which of the Microsoft enhancements are on-premise or cloud or a combination.
In the course of the research I have looked at every one of the web sites and have generally been disappointed in the emphasis on speed of implementation, long lists of features without any sense of what business cases they might support, and usually very little information about the company. The speed of implementation is dependent on so many factors that promises that an intranet can be implemented in a few days are unrealistic and unhelpful. They can perhaps be installed in a short period of time but ‘install’ and ‘implement’ are very different processes. Given the scale of product sales claimed by most of the vendors, I would have thought that they could have presented a range of implementation periods based on actuals and not on hype-times-two. Another obvious feature of the web promotion is that few of the companies have thought about who they are selling to and what potential purchasers at looking at from an intranet product. For an organisation with operations in a number of different companies the level of support for these products, whether from the company itself or from partners, should be an important element in the purchase decision.
The good news is that if you are not being forced to buy a SharePoint/O365-based product by IT then you have a wide choice. However the proprietary code products offer not only considerable functionality (including reasonable search) but also a community of customers dating back some years who are usually very willing to past on experience, ideas and perhaps bits of custom code. In a procurement situation it may be much more difficult to compare features to arrive at perhaps three on a short list. Then the work really starts as a simplistic ‘scoring’ approach is never going to provide an adequate level of confidence for the team and the organisation that the optimum decision is about to be taken.
Taking advice from independent consultants who have may be worth considering. In 2005 I wrote The Content Management Handbook as a guide to content management selection, and it is as relevant today as when it was first published. It is no longer in print (you can buy a used copy on Amazon for 81p) but I am still in the business of supporting intranet CMS selection. If you are in the SharePoint domain then do go straight to Sam Marshall, who has far more SharePoint experience than I do. Other consultants with a track record of intranet CMS selection include Step Two (Australia), North Patrol (Finland) the Real Story Group (USA).