SharePoint ‘Intranet-in-a-box’ report Version 5.0 now available from ClearBox Consulting

by | Nov 7, 2019 | Intranets, Reviews

At one point in my heterogeneous career I was a judge for the awards given by the Directory Publishers’ Association. Sitting at my desk in Reed Publishing reviewing the submissions a very experienced publisher put his head around the door, breathed deeply for effect, and then remarked that publishing a directory was really very easy. Just circulate a tick-the-box survey that inevitably ends up with a misleading comparison spreadsheet.

Publishing a handbook is much more challenging. ClearBox Consulting’s ‘SharePoint Intranets-in-a-Box ‘is styled as a ‘guide’.  It is really a handbook, though you would need strong hands to hold 600 pages printed single sided. That’s 20% more than a ream of paper. Thank heavens for digital!  

There are many very helpful changes this year, notably the move to a quarterly update cycle. Three quarterly updates are included in the price where ClearBox will add new reviews and revised assessments when products undergo a major release

The report covers 52 products – 30 in detail and 22 in summary. Each vendor had to demonstrate to the ClearBox team just how how their product fulfils eight different business scenarios. These scenarios were then revised in line with the functionality required by both content publishers and content users.

Of course Microsoft has now woken up from close on 20 years of hibernation and recognized the corporate value of a good intranet. An invaluable benefit of the handbook is that it appreciates that many buyers wish to benchmark each product against the Microsoft offering. After all they are going to have to make a case for not implementing the Microsoft offering! To facilitate this comparison ClearBox has developed a ‘SharePoint base score’ for each of the standard SharePoint capabilities for each scenario.

Other changes and enhancements this year include

  • 30 products reviewed in depth, 6 completely new reviews
  • An independent assessment of how SharePoint alone stacks up as an intranet tool
  • New scoring system showing how products use and extend core SharePoint and Office 365 capabilities
  • An expanded listings section with the key points summarised for a further 22 products
  • Eight revised scenarios with new criteria, considering Microsoft’s communication sites, hub sites, home sites and more
  • More screenshots per vendor than in previous editions

The team responsible for the handbook are Sam Marshall, Suzie Robinson, Andrew Marr, Guy van Leemput (Belgium) and Michael Sampson (New Zealand) with Steve Bynghall as the report editor. These people really do know what they are talking about, and this is where a guide/report/directory turns in to a ‘handbook’ combining information, expertise and experience with customers, offering readers the facility to read between the lines of the vendor literature and vendor demonstrations. In this respect it says a lot about the reputation and independence of this handbook that vendors are prepared to take the time out to work with the team in assessing performance against scenarios. I love the one-line ‘Twitter-style’ summary on each vendor.

The quality of presentation is quite superb, and no wonder it took 700 hours of team time to get to publication. That works out at around $100,000 of professional time and yet all you have to pay is $595 (other currencies are available) for the initial report and the quarterly updates. Talking about money, the guidance on pricing models is immensely helpful.

Now you might be asking yourself what the point would be of buying the report when you have recently (say the last two years) invested in a new intranet application. The answer is that it enables you to sit down with your vendor, highlight the features that other vendors offer, and question why they are not offering them to you.

During 2020 the team will be moving on to look at the non-SharePoint intranet-in-a-box products, which are more plentiful than it might seem. This too will be a significant investment.  In due course the two handbooks will mark out ClearBox Consulting as the definitive source of advice on “What products meet our current and planned requirements?’ Can you afford to make the wrong decision?

Martin White