4 Reasons Why Microsoft SharePoint fails as a Document Management System

In addition to being a popular Microsoft product for creating business intranets, SharePoint can also be a secure place to store, organise, share, and access information. If used as intended, it is a powerful tool that increases collaboration and knowledge sharing across the organisation.

 

Once SharePoint has been installed and is under the control of the IT department, it is often seen as the ‘panacea of all ills’. When a QHSE/Business Assurance professional requests a management system to house the variety of content required by their discipline, the answer back from IT is often to put it in the Document Management System (DMS).

 

Many Business Assurance professionals have experience and knowledge of the controls required for a system to manage the ‘single point of truth’, and while being entirely onboard with the benefits of SharePoint, they still do not consider the technology fit to be used as a DMS.

This article will discuss four key reasons Microsoft SharePoint has failings in document management and offer an alternative solution:

 

SharePoint is not a DMS

SharePoint, by design, is not a DMS but a powerful collaboration platform with robust business intelligence capabilities. 

 

It is incredibly flexible and adaptable to your organisation’s needs. However that flexibility comes at a cost – namely that SharePoint doesn’t have any out-of-the-box features explicitly designed for managing documents (unmanaged assets), specifically document control capabilities – which we’ll look at in more detail later on.

 

If you want to use SharePoint, you will need to create those features using custom apps or 3rd party tools – which usually involves hiring some developers or consultants – both of which come at an additional cost!

 

Ultimately, SharePoint is great for storing your company’s documents. However, if you operate in a highly regulated sector and need more robust features that capture, manage, share and secure your documents than what SharePoint provides out of the box, then you’d be better off considering a different option.

Users find it difficult to use, resulting in poor adoption

SharePoint may be the most popular enterprise collaboration platform today, but that doesn’t mean it’s effective as a DMS. SharePoint can be difficult to use—and therefore many companies end up giving up on their SharePoint implementations altogether.

A female worker who is visibly stressed and frustrated holding her head in her hands while looking at a laptop.
Users find it difficult to use, resulting in poor adoption

So why exactly do users not like SharePoint as a DMS? We have spoken to countless companies who have failed to implement SharePoint projects, with the two recurring themes being:

 

  • It’s not intuitive. Learning how to get started can be confusing and frustrating if you don’t already have experience with SharePoint or another similar system. Even if you know what you’re doing, configuring your site takes time and effort—and even then, there are things you might miss that could cause problems down the line (e.g., adding permissions).

 

  • It is difficult to learn. Learning new routines takes time and practice, and there is no way around this fact! Switching over can seem like an uphill battle when someone has used other programs before (e.g. Word).

 

  • Users require bespoke training and/or support. As a result, organisations usually assign an IT department to act as a help desk for issues related to their SharePoint system, which can be both time-consuming and costly.

Poor document control and security

SharePoint might be suitable for less regulated industries, but for organisations where high levels of compliance and security are required, many consider it an ineffective solution. 

A gold padlock sitting on top of a laptop keyboard next to two credit cards.
SharePoint might be suitable for less regulated industries

The system of choice should provide a full document life-cycle from initial development to archive and allow trained in-house administrators to automate the creation of each document, configure a sequence of notifications for approval and review, as well as determining document archiving. 

 

It’s also important to note that continual improvement isn’t just a top priority—it’s a shared responsibility between all levels within an organisation (from executives to frontline workers).

Limited workflow and automation capabilities

As the number of documents and your business grows, your DMS must have the required workflow and automation capabilities to scale with your business while ensuring time is efficiently used and costs are reduced.

 

SharePoint is very limited in this sense. Instead, it would require either 3rd party tools or a SharePoint consultant/developer to add this to your existing SharePoint site. Both of which come with further training and associated costs. 

 

The aim is to find a solution where these capabilities already exist, such as within a structured DMS that has this functionality integrated into its workflow. Documents sent for review and approval using the fully-automated workflow feature should be represented in real-time graphical dashboards for the document owner to see. 

When SharePoint should be used

SharePoint is a good platform for collaboration. A SharePoint site can be made available to any number of users who can share and edit documents on their own or in teams. The site will keep track of who edited what and when so that you can easily see the history of all changes made to a document over time. 

 

It is best used by smaller organisations in less-regulated sectors, where document control and security are not a priority. 

The next step

As you can see, dependent on your knowledge of document governance, SharePoint may not be the right tool for creating a secure and compliant DMS. While often promoted by the in-house IT functions as the answer to the QHSE Manager’s requirements, creating an Integrated Management System (IMS) where graphical business models and process maps have prominence is not practical in SharePoint.

 

Suppose you are using SharePoint as a DMS and wish to transform it into an integrated framework. In that case, there is a proven route using the Agility System software to achieve this that will enhance security, increase the visibility of responsibilities and be more cost-effective.

 

Book a demo today, and we will be in touch to discuss your specific needs. 

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Peter Shields
Peter Shields

With extensive experience of Quality Management, Risk & Compliance in the Energy, Nuclear & Defence industries since 1979, Peter formed BusinessPort in 1996 to specialise in Process-based Management Systems delivering both Performance and Compliance.

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