Are There Any SharePoint Alternatives for Your Enterprise?
SharePoint is ubiquitous as a tool for managing collaboration, knowledge, content, and even projects, but it’s not the only one available. SharePoint alternatives abound, but do they measure up?
- SharePoint Alternatives for Document Management
- Team Collaboration and Project Management: Alternatives to SharePoint
- Atlassian Jira
- Zoho Projects
- Alternatives to SharePoint for Content and Knowledge Management
- Atlassian Confluence
- Do You Need an Alternative to SharePoint?
Are you considering SharePoint as one of your enterprise collaboration solutions? If you are, you might have already checked alternatives available on the market. Logically, you might have thought that an alternative solution would be less costly, and perhaps less onerous to implement.
Indeed, you can be concerned about the burden that SharePoint could place on your IT team, or hesitant to implement, customize and manage the system that has so many features.
In case you wish to explore which SharePoint alternatives might fit your business requirements and want a quick assessment of their strengths and weaknesses, the following selection of products deserve your attention. However, you will need to remain mindful that their value might apply only to one particular aspect of business operation and collaboration, as opposed to SharePoint’s adaptable composition.
SharePoint Alternatives for Document Management
The digital storage, tracking and management of documents is a must for today’s enterprises, regardless of their scale. Paper-based and manual processes are too much of a handicap to productivity, security, and compliance.
That’s why document management (DM) is one of the most common applications for which organizations implement SharePoint. That said, SharePoint is not the only possible solution. There are so many more options available, but do any of them compete effectively with the original and, as many would contend, still the best DM platform?
Alfresco is a platform that in many ways matches SharePoint as a collaboration, workflow and content management tool. It also shares the same potential for extensibility and can be customized with many popular scripting languages. What’s better, it can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud and be easily integrated with the Microsoft technology stack.
Alfresco vs. SharePoint
SharePoint is attractive for organizations that rely on Microsoft technologies and have experience with managing Microsoft-based infrastructures. However, Alfresco can appeal to those enterprises that look for powerful document repositories and pre-tuned document management capabilities.
Since it integrates well with non-Microsoft solutions, you might find Alfresco a more flexible DM tool than the out-of-the-box SharePoint—even more so if your organization depends heavily on mobile-enabled document workflows.
Another SharePoint alternative with multiple capabilities, Documentum doesn’t have quite the scope of Alfresco but is more than capable of meeting general content management needs of large enterprises. It offers a wide array of integration options and plays nicely with leading document scanning solutions. If yours is a smaller business though, you might find Documentum’s cost to be an obstacle, along with the number of installations required.
Documentum vs. SharePoint
As its name imply, Documentum is an enterprise-grade document management system by its nature. It means that it contains a great number of out-of-the-box document-centric features that come to SharePoint via customization only. For instance, default document search and indexing capabilities in Documentum can defeat those of SharePoint easily.
ShareFile is a product of the venerated Citrix stable and offers a robust set of document management features. However, it is an application with a narrow focus, with no room for use as anything other than a document storage, management, and sharing solution. If that’s all you need for your organization, ShareFile should be a contender on your DMS shortlist.
It’s inexpensive, easy to use, and will not need attention from a professional administrator, making it ideal for smaller startups with the need for some basic collaborative functionality. On the other hand, if you need a broader set of features, Alfresco and Documentum, along with SharePoint, will likely edge ShareFile out of the running.
ShareFile vs. SharePoint
If yours is a small or a medium-sized business wishing to centralize and organize documents with little in the way of other objectives, ShareFile will help you do that without fanfare. Implementing SharePoint for the same purpose might be impractical and costly.
For a larger enterprise, needing document management and robust collaborative capabilities (think 20, 30, or more people simultaneously working together on thousands of documents), ShareFile would be woefully inadequate. Meanwhile, SharePoint would support both DM and collaboration requirements admirably.
Team Collaboration and Project Management: Alternatives to SharePoint
SharePoint is immensely popular as a collaboration platform, and only likely to become more so as enterprises increase the use of distributed teams and remote workers.
A recent study by Upwork highlighted that 73% of teams will be partially made up of remote workers by 2028. However, SharePoint is not the only option for collaborative teamwork in enterprises. You could consider working with any of the applications described in this section.
Slack is a hard product to beat if your organization’s need for collaboration relates mainly to real-time communication. It supports one-to-one chats, group conferences, file and document sharing, and voice or video link-ups.
Unlike SharePoint though, Slack does not support document storage and management, version control, or automated workflows. Nor can users create an intranet with it, or thematic sites and portals, for instance. That said, Slack does integrate with a wide range of applications, including project management tools like Trello and document management applications such as Dropbox, CRM systems, and many others. Therefore, although in itself it is not particularly versatile as a collaboration product, you can turn it into an engaging hub for team communication.
Slack vs. SharePoint
In contrast to Slack, SharePoint is a comprehensive, multifunctional collaborative platform that however lacks a real-time communication component like that of Slack. Installing such a platform for communication alone would be unwise unless you opt for the full Office 365 experience.
If your needs go beyond conferencing and file sharing and extend to more elaborate collaboration methods, SharePoint will meet them nicely. Nevertheless, since it’s hard to collaborate without effective real-time communication, you’ll probably need to integrate a separate application for that, particularly if we speak about SharePoint On-Premises solutions.
If it is about adopting the Office 365 suite, things will be much easier for you. Microsoft Teams that make part of Office 365 offer the full range of enterprise communication capabilities that can beat the ones of Slack.
Like Slack, Mattermost is a business communication platform. Unfortunately, Mattermost is not as easy to integrate with other solutions as Slack. The main advantage of Mattermost is in its architecture. If your company does not want to rely on hosted servers, you can download the application, use it on-premises, and customize it freely since it is open-source.
Can Mattermost serve as a useful alternative to SharePoint Server though? Not likely, but it still can perform well enough as a communication component.
Mattermost vs. SharePoint
Mattermost is billed as a collaboration and communication platform, but is mostly limited to file sharing and messaging. As it doesn't offer audio or video conferencing, many organizations may find it too limited to be a viable aid to collaboration.
Indeed, the only SharePoint gap that Mattermost can fill is built-in messaging. Other than that, SharePoint provides a better range of collaborative capabilities, and if messaging is necessary, you can always couple it with Slack, Skype, or Microsoft Teams.
When you need a strong project management (PM) solution, it’s unlikely you will choose SharePoint unless you already use it for other applications or PM is part of your broader SharePoint project. It comes as no surprise that Microsoft offers other PM-tailored applications, such as Planner and Project.
Trello, on the other hand, is among the best PM tools available, and also one of the simplest to use, especially for businesses without in-house project managers. The card-based system allows anyone to get to grips with it quickly, and it shuns Gantt charts and project management jargon in favor of intuitive simplicity.
Trello vs. SharePoint
If the comparison of SharePoint with some of its alternatives for communication falls firmly in favor of SharePoint, the same cannot be said if you’re seeking a project management tool.
Project management with SharePoint requires a particular level of expertise because the platform has to be configured uniquely for the purpose. For most organizations, that means enlisting the help of SharePoint developers, which may not be an option for smaller or cash-strapped enterprises.
For larger companies with dedicated SharePoint resources or the budget to customize the platform heavily, SharePoint can be used for project management. Indeed, it is more suited for large projects that require a highly configurable solution. For many businesses, though, the simplicity and user-friendliness of Trello, which makes it possible for pretty much anyone to use it, will be a much more attractive proposition.
Jira is a project and workflow management tool that is extremely popular among information technology companies as it supports the entire software development lifecycle. Nevertheless, Jira can be hardly compared to SharePoint in collaboration terms, as it does not provide features equivalent to the ones of SharePoint. There is a fair reason for this since Atlassian offers collaboration and knowledge management capabilities within its Confluence platform.
On the other hand, if your organization is considering SharePoint and needs superior project and workflow management capabilities, you could do a lot worse than to integrate the two solutions. Again, this tandem is frequently used in the software development industry.
Jira vs. SharePoint
Jira and SharePoint are both suitable for larger enterprises as opposed to SMEs, and they are both highly customizable. Against these similarities, there are some fundamental differences, such as the fact that Jira is designed for software development teams specifically. Therefore, if that’s the industry you operate in, deploying Jira makes a good sense, as you can probably make it work for you without a great deal of customization. It might be harder to optimize for a different industry though, in which case SharePoint could be the more suitable alternative.
Zoho is another project management application that could form part of the collection of SharePoint alternatives but would be an unlikely substitute on its own. However, it can easily outcompete SharePoint as a solution for managing multiple concurrent projects, since that's a capability at the heart of its design.
It’s not as simple or user-friendly as Trello, nor is it as heavily biased toward application development as Jira. Zoho Projects is a relatively straightforward project management platform for larger enterprises. It’s fast to implement compared with its competitors and offers a shallow learning curve for users.
Zoho Projects vs. SharePoint
Like Trello, Zoho Projects will suit the PM purist, and compared with SharePoint can be installed and implemented with a lot less fuss. It is also suited for working with multiple projects and large-scale corporate initiatives. Larger organizations might have to perform some in-depth evaluation of Zoho Projects and SharePoint before making a decision, but for smaller enterprises Zoho’s product will probably be the preferred alternative.
It seems that in every category of SharePoint alternatives, there is one product that is closer to SharePoint than others. In the project management and collaboration niche, that product might be Wrike. Used by such notable companies as TGI Fridays, Jaguar Land Rover, and AirBnB, Wrike is a feature-packed project management solution.
It’s also a product with ambition, as evidenced by a growing family of add-ons tailored to specific industries. For example, a version of the software enhanced explicitly for marketers and creatives includes modules for digital asset management and real-time document collaboration.
Wrike is not the easiest of project management tools to implement and adopt, and it’s not just for project management. The company’s CEO, Andrew Filev, gave perhaps the best summary of this product.
Filev said, “We are not building a project management system, we are building a digital workplace, and that means connecting different teams, and it also means connecting different tools.” Regarding ease of use, he adds, “We are not necessarily the simplest tool on the market, but among the most powerful tools we are the simplest.”
The key thing to keep in mind when considering Wrike as an alternative to SharePoint, is that, as Filev says, it’s a digital workplace in the making. SharePoint, though, is long-established as a complete and mature version of the same—and it shows.
Wrike vs. SharePoint
As mentioned, Wrike offers more similarities to SharePoint than any of the other project management applications covered in this article. Like SharePoint, it is a centralized collaboration platform and workspace and thus may appeal to a similar subset of software buyers.
Again, the size of the organization and its ability to field skilled developers might be a deciding factor. SharePoint could work best for corporations, while smaller businesses may prefer the slightly less complicated process required to set up Wrike. At the same time, Wrike might not yet have become sophisticated or comprehensive enough for large enterprises.
Alternatives to SharePoint for Content and Knowledge Management
Content and knowledge management are the staples upon which SharePoint has evolved over the years, and many enterprises have implemented it primarily for those purposes.
However, while Microsoft has been busy building out SharePoint’s scope of use cases, some competitors have worked hard to catch up with it in this fast-growing market. The following are two of the most notable contenders in the content and knowledge management domain.
With its Jira, Bitbucket, Trello, Opsgenie, and Confluence products, Atlassian provides the tools your business needs for a collaborative digital workspace—if your business is in software development.
However, while Confluence might be targeting the technology space, which perhaps limits its audience, it’s nevertheless a popular and capable platform for knowledge and content management. Suggested as an alternative to SharePoint, Confluence centralizes knowledge management for distributed teams in a way that encourages the sharing of ideas and information.
Sophisticated knowledge base features and an abundance of add-ons make it a viable solution for organizations wishing to build an intranet-like portal. Users have access to advanced search features and collaborative tools, allowing them to share and work together on as many documents as they wish.
Like SharePoint, Confluence is available both in cloud and on-premises versions. It should be noted though, that while the cloud version is easy to set up and use, the on-premises package will require technical expertise, adding to the cost of ownership.
It’s also an expensive product, so perhaps not suitable for smaller enterprises. However, the price reflects the quality of customer support offered by Atlassian and the possibilities for extensive customization. That tends to persuade some non-tech organizations to select it and adapt it to suit their domains.
Confluence vs. SharePoint
Atlassian Confluence is one of the few applications discussed here that has more commonalities with SharePoint than differences. Nevertheless, some key variances separate the two products. Certainly, Confluence has fewer features than SharePoint, although some add-ons are available to bridge the gap.
Its relative simplicity could also be a pro since fewer features mean less learning for users. Potential buyers might also consider the fact that its architecture and functionality have been designed for the software and tech industries, whereas SharePoint feels like an industry-agnostic platform.
If you’re looking for a best-of-breed knowledge-management solution, and features like real-time collaboration and intranets are not key priorities, Bloomfire is a worthy SharePoint substitute.
Although many companies use SharePoint for knowledge management, some of its inherent weaknesses can only be overcome with extensive, and often expensive, customization. It typically requires additional SharePoint consulting to knock the out-of-the-box product into the right shape for in-depth, comprehensive knowledge management.
These weaknesses are not present in Bloomfire. It’s a platform designed to democratize knowledge sharing, placing maintenance and customization in the hands of administrators who don’t have the time or skills to write and inject code. As a Bloomfire user, you’ll feel instantly at home with the product if you’ve ever searched for products on Amazon or for information on Google.
The product’s simplicity will surely endear it to the SME market segment, which according to a 2018 report by Zion Market Research, will experience a compound annual growth rate of 22.8% over the next few years.
Perhaps the most notable advantage of Bloomfire is its Q&A functionality. Users can search for answers from a knowledge base, or pose their questions to assigned subject matter experts within their organization. This functionality helps to eliminate the mountain of emails typically generated in a knowledge-centric environment.
Bloomfire vs. SharePoint
As an alternative to SharePoint, Bloomfire is ideal for companies and other entities needing a robust and fully featured knowledge management solution. Meanwhile, SharePoint, as with so many other of its possible applications, can be turned into a useful knowledge management tool with some focused development effort.
If you’re looking for the one solution that will do the job well straight out of the box, Bloomfire would probably win your approval. On the other hand, if you’re seeking a multi-faceted platform with knowledge management as a component, Bloomfire has nothing like the breadth of SharePoint’s scope.
Do You Need an Alternative to SharePoint?
Obviously, it is impossible to cover all SharePoint alternatives in one article. There are many more solutions that can fit your business context. But the question is, does it make sense to look for a SharePoint substitute, or is it more logical to opt for Microsoft’s collaborative compendium?
The Case for SharePoint Alternatives
While you can configure and customize SharePoint to support a raft of collaborative business needs, it doesn’t necessarily excel in any of them out of the box. Moreover, SharePoint customization can be costly and very time-consuming. That’s why, if you’re in the market for a reliable document or knowledge management tool, communication solution, or PM platform, it’s worth considering the alternatives covered in this article.
The decision can often boil down to answering a single question. Do you prefer a platform potentially spanning the entire collaborative spectrum, and are you prepared for the work involved in realizing that potential? If not, you should perhaps opt for a niche solution, ready to go straight off the shelf.
Consider Future Needs Too
The only issue with choosing a SharePoint alternative is that sooner or later, you might need to expand your collaborative toolkit. That will mean buying another software product—and so it can go on until you have four, five, or even more different pieces of software.
If you predict that this might be the case in your IT environment, there is merit in preempting the issue by implementing SharePoint. It will give you the foundation of a comprehensive solution supporting every field of business collaboration, which can be developed and customized as a series of projects over time.
SharePoint or an alternative? To date, that’s not a valid question. SharePoint or how many alternatives? Now that’s the one begging to be asked.
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