Are SharePoint Communication Sites the intranet killer app?

2017-07-05

With the coming release of the new Modern Communication Sites for SharePoint, many people have been wondering if this will finally mean Microsoft can offer a complete intranet solution. Based on other Modern experiences already available in SharePoint and the previews provided by Microsoft, Communication Sites looks like it might just do that. But what does this mean for the vendors who already offer SharePoint customers solution that provide that same functionality?

As I'm in the middle of the process of updating my directory of turnkey intranet solutions for SharePoint and Office 365, I recently had the opportunity to talk to some of those vendors about how they think Communication Sites will impact SharePoint and the need for third-party solutions.

For the most part, you might be surprised that many were very positive about Communication Sites. This highlights the concern, just like Microsoft's own customers, that these companies want to be reassured of Microsoft's ongoing commitment to SharePoint. Lauren Fitzpatrick at EasyShare was excited by Microsoft's renewed commitment and said:

"We’re pleased to see SharePoint out of the box upping its game and are certain that this will result in the product marketplace in general investing in further product development."

Karina Klindtworth at Powell 365 even went as far as saying that "the modern experience is sexier, funnier and faster."

Hamish Toll at Kasama also reflected a similar sentiment that SharePoint was moving in the right direction as an intranet platform:

"The new communication sites are a great addition as they add the common requirement regarding informational micro-sites and a foundation for the modern intranet"

However, many vendors commented that Microsoft was simply replicating functionality they already provided, while almost everyone indicated that they thought Communication Sites is a solution with very limited functionality and scope. Igor Petrushynip at LS Intranet explained:

"There two ways to use SharePoint - as a product or as a framework. Communication sites are a kind of a product. It's a good match for small organizations with basic needs that are satisfied with standard SharePoint features"

Daniel Cohen-Dumani at OneWindow Workplace commented "it is not completed and will not provide a great deal of customization initially" and Marcus Dervin at Injio was confident that he expects "mid-large firms to still need tailored intranets."

At a technical level, vendors were not worried about integration with Communication Sites, if their customers wanted to use them. But some also warned that Communication Sites could easily create the same sort of governance and content management issues often experienced with Team Sites - Joyce Query at SiteSprout explained the issue, that Communication Sites could become siloed "like team sites that lack true integration for a successful Intranet."

The consensus of the turnkey and in-a-box intranet vendors about Communication Sites is generally positive - particularly for small organisations - but with a caveat about potential governance issues, as we have seen with Team Sites in the past. But these vendors still expect to see continuing demand for solutions that make it easier to deliver a more sophisticated and complete intranet or digital workplace experience.

Thank you to the following people who kindly shared their opinions on Communication Sites for this post:

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