Unlocking the value of SharePoint and O365 for your intranet solution

    Discover the opportunities and challenges of the most popular SharePoint intranet solutions with our pros and cons comparison. We got it all covered: SharePoint publishing sites, SharePoint communication sites, custom-built intranet platforms and intranet-in-a-box solutions.

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    Custom SharePoint intranets have been the most popular intranet solution for years, but there are other contenders and newcomers in the SharePoint intranet landscape. Join us on a practical journey through the opportunities and challenges of all the available options in Office 365 and SharePoint for intranet channels and modern workplaces.

    Intranet solutions pros and cons comparison chart





    UX / UI

    Publishing sites

    ☆ ☆ ☆

    ☆ ☆ ☆

    ☆ ☆

    Communication sites

    ☆ ☆ ☆

    ☆ ☆ ☆

    ☆ ☆

    Custom-built platforms

    ☆ ☆ ☆

    ☆ ☆ ☆


    ☆ ☆

    ☆ ☆

    ☆ ☆ ☆

    ☆ ☆ ☆

    Legend: Intranet scoring criteria from ☆ (poor) to ☆ ☆ ☆ (excellent)


    1. SharePoint publishing sites

    Publishing sites have been part of SharePoint for more than 10 years now. They are actually based on a predefined site template, with structured authoring and publishing processes. Although their built-in editing/approval workflows and scheduled publishing are valuable features on the content management side, they mainly fail on the user experience. Every minor change requires technical development and even with a wide array of page layouts available, the outdated interfaces won’t live up to the expectations of today’s digital savvy users.  While a publishing site can be an easy-to-implement, low cost solution, it might weigh down on user adoption and engagement.

    SharePoint publishing site intranet solution – Example by AMPLEXOR


    2. SharePoint communication sites

    SharePoint communication sites emerged in 2017 as a fast solution to set up intranet portals. With varied attractive layout options, fully responsive design and must-have intranet features such as news and event feeds, they enable rich and dynamic communications. Also from the editing perspective, the interactive dragging and dropping of web parts to build up pages is a major enhancement.

    SharePoint communication site intranet solution – Example by AMPLEXOR

    Communication sites can be used to create specific sites for teams’ updates, product launches and cross-company campaigns. When adding hub sites into the picture, it is possible to group all the existing sites and business apps into a global corporate communicational channel.

    SharePoint communication sites for corporate intranet hub sites – Example by Microsoft

    Although communication sites offer a far better user experience than publishing sites, they are still very limited in the typical publishing features they offer: they don’t contain publishing flows, nor scheduling options or multilingual support. As such, communication sites are still quite ‘lightweight’ and it remains to be seen what Microsoft’s plans are to further evolve this site type. Regular updates are being announced with new features such as new web parts for Twitter and Yammer, an email news digest for consolidated news email updates, and mobile notifications for the most important news.


    3. Custom-built SharePoint intranet platforms

    As we have mentioned earlier, if you look at mature enterprise intranets, they will likely be custom-built on SharePoint, mostly based on the publishing sites template. While this might be the best approach in some cases, especially for larger organizations or complex networks, many of its adopters have now realized some inefficiencies and complexity of these projects.

    Customized SharePoint intranets usually mean long-term development projects that require time and high investments. Not just that, factors such as team size and technical expertise also play an important role in mapping user requirements through the development and testing cycles.

    Despite these less attractive factors, full customization does offer benefits: full control over all aspects and the ability to accommodate complex information structures, industry-specific requirements, automation for highly-specialized business processes or any other capabilities.


    4. Intranet-in-a-box SharePoint solutions

    Over the past 3 years, we’ve seen SharePoint-based intranet-in-a-box solutions pop up like mushrooms. Out-of-the-box intranet solutions are also known as intranet-as-a-service, pre-built intranet or turn-key intranet solution. The vastness of the landscape of packages available only goes to show evidence how SharePoint can be used to build top quality intranet sites that enhance corporate communications while optimizing employee experiences.

    SharePoint intranet-in-a-box solutions landscape

    Based on the fact that they offer all major intranet functionality out-of-the-box, e.g. news publishing, events, social interaction and advanced branding, these ready-to-go intranet solutions have proven to be a successful choice for companies that give priority to faster implementation and less maintenance needs without disregarding the workplace experience and higher user adoption.

    An intranet-in-a-box solution is most valuable if Office 365 is already fully rolled out in your organization. If you're looking for a fully branded, pixel perfect design for your intranet or you need a 100% functional coverage of multilingual content management, then the flexibility of a customized platform brings major benefits to providing a tailored intranet experience for all users.

    After careful consideration Amplexor selected VALO as the most powerful and popular intranet-in-a-box solution for Office 365 and SharePoint. VALO intranet solutions are full of features and are designed to seamlessly embed Office 365 products such as Delve, Yammer, Teams, OneNote and Planner, among others. In addition, VALO’s extension of SharePoint is based on best practices, which keeps customization options open if needed.



    Finding the right balance between investment, customization flexibility and feature requirements is not so straightforward, but we’ve got you covered. Our summary comparison should help you navigate through the all the available intranet options.

    Published on    Last updated on 13/09/2019

    #Digital Workplace, #Office 365, #Collaboration, #SharePoint, #Intranet

    About the author

    Tom Laureys is Solution Director ECM at Amplexor based in Belgium. For the past 10 years, Tom has been helping clients across industries find the right technology to effectively digitize their business processes and improve collaboration and productivity. His combination of strategic thinking and expertise in a range of platforms - from Alfresco and Documentum to SharePoint and Office 365 – grant him the capacity to capture new trends on the market and turn them into solutions for our customers.