Deploying your Intranet on SharePoint vs an External Solution  

by Jordan Washington

Today’s dynamic business environment demands streamlined communication, collaboration, and knowledge-sharing solutions. Microsoft 365, with its powerful tools like SharePoint, Teams, and Power BI, has become a popular choice. However, is it the only option? Are there viable alternatives outside the Microsoft ecosystem worth exploring? This article delves into the pros and cons of both SharePoint and external intranet solutions, specifically for organizations already using Microsoft 365 for email, identity, Teams, and file shares, with the potential to use Power BI and Power Automate.  

Understanding SharePoint and External Intranets

SharePoint, a cornerstone Microsoft product, is a collaboration platform where companies can create intranet sites for information sharing, document management, and team collaboration. It integrates seamlessly with Microsoft 365, leveraging existing user identities, access controls, and other cloud services for a secure experience.  

However, the market offers numerous external intranet solutions boasting unique features, personalized user experiences, and targeted integrations that may better cater to specific business needs (e.g., Unily, Simpplr, LumApps, Staffbase). These solutions address perceived gaps in SharePoint, such as personalization, user engagement, and industry-specific functionalities.   Understanding SharePoint and External Intranets

Integration with Microsoft 365


SharePoint’s Advantage

Native integration with Microsoft 365 provides a smooth and secure experience for identity management, document access, and real-time collaboration. Organizations benefit from deep integration with other Microsoft applications like Outlook, Teams, and Power BI, creating a cohesive environment.  


Challenges of External Intranets

Although they offer integrations with Microsoft 365, external intranets may need help in performance and integration depth. Additional configurations or adaptations might be necessary to achieve comparable levels, potentially impacting user experience and data consistency. Document management and collaboration can also become less intuitive for users navigating different platforms.  


Identity and Security Management

Security and identity management are paramount, especially in a collaborative environment like Microsoft 365. SharePoint leverages direct integration with Microsoft’s identity services, enabling unified access control and consistent enforcement of security policies across the Microsoft ecosystem.  


External intranets, however, introduce additional complexity. They often require parallel identity and access management: one for Microsoft 365 groups managed by IT for ecosystem-level security and another for intranet-specific groups managed by communication departments. This dual management requires careful coordination to maintain alignment, potentially introducing security risks and operational challenges, especially in ensuring consistent application of security policy across platforms.  


Impact of Teams as a Collaboration Solution

Microsoft Teams has become a central collaboration tool for Teams-enabled organizations, offering features like chat, video conferencing, task management, and more. Its integration with SharePoint allows for seamless collaboration, where documents and resources are readily accessible and shareable within teams.  

However, adopting an external intranet alongside Teams can lead to a fragmented user experience. Users may need to switch between Teams for instant communication and collaboration and another platform for accessing intranet resources like company news and policies. This separation can hinder information discovery and collaboration efficiency.  


Power BI and Power Automate

An intranet platform’s ability to integrate with analytics and automation tools like Power BI and Power Automate can significantly enhance its value. SharePoint’s native integration with Microsoft 365 enables seamless use of Power BI for real-time insights and reports directly within the intranet. Users can access analytical dashboards and reports without switching platforms, fostering data-driven decision-making.  

Power Automate facilitates creating and integrating custom applications to automate business processes, ranging from simple approvals to complex workflows. Integrating these apps into SharePoint gives users a consistent work experience with all the necessary tools at their fingertips.  


While external intranets can offer basic integrations with these tools, the depth and ease of use might be limited. While solutions exist to link these tools to third-party platforms, their consistency and effectiveness can vary, sometimes requiring additional development or adjustments.  

New call-to-action


Advantages and Limitations of External Intranets

External intranets offer distinct advantages like personalization and unique user experiences. However, integration with the Microsoft 365 ecosystem can be a concern. One major challenge is managing and searching documents stored in Microsoft 365. External solutions might struggle to provide an equally integrated and powerful search experience as SharePoint, potentially leading to duplicate documents stored across M365 and the intranet.  


Furthermore, the dual management of access groups presents a significant challenge. With Microsoft 365 groups managed by IT and separate intranet groups managed by communication, the complexity and risk of errors increase, making consistent enforcement of security policies across both platforms difficult.   Advantages and Limitations of External Intranets

Powell Intranet: A Potential Bridging Solution

In the debate between SharePoint and external intranet solutions, Powell Intranet is a solution bridging the gap between IT and communication department needs. As a natively integrated solution with Microsoft 365 and SharePoint, Powell Intranet addresses SharePoint’s shortcomings while maximizing the benefits of the Microsoft ecosystem. It offers a comprehensive and advanced intranet platform, striving to reconcile the needs of both IT and communication departments.  


Enhanced User Experience

Powell Intranet prioritizes a superior user experience with a modern, customizable interface. This approach fosters an engaging and visually appealing digital workplace that aligns with user expectations for aesthetics and functionality. Deep personalization capabilities can improve employee adoption and drive a consistent and satisfying user experience across various devices.  


Boosting Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is central to Powell Intranet’s value proposition. It offers gamification, suggestion boxes, and interactive collaboration spaces to stimulate active participation, knowledge sharing, and a stronger sense of community within the organization.  


Simplified Content Creation

Content creation is streamlined with out-of-the-box templates and an intuitive interface, making it accessible to everyone. This ease of use enhances content governance and encourages dynamic internal communication with consistently up-to-date and relevant information.  


Advanced Document Management  

Powell Intranet builds upon SharePoint’s document management capabilities by adding advanced metadata and labeling functionalities. This enhances document organization, search, and sharing, ensuring efficient management without duplicate documents.  


Dedicated Mobile App for Frontline Workers

Recognizing the growing importance of frontline workers, Powell Intranet offers a dedicated mobile app. This ensures that all employees, regardless of location or fixed workstation, stay connected and informed with instant access to critical business information and resources.  



When comparing the advantages and limitations of external intranets and SharePoint, it becomes clear that no “one-size-fits-all” solution exists. While external solutions offer superior personalization and engagement, integrating with the Microsoft 365 ecosystem can be challenging. Conversely, SharePoint excels in document management but may require more customization and flexibility for user engagement.  

Powell Intranet combines the strengths of both worlds. Its native Microsoft 365 and SharePoint integration addresses SharePoint’s shortcomings while providing an enriched user experience, advanced document management, and simplified engagement and contribution capabilities. Additionally, the dedicated mobile app caters to the needs of frontline and deskless workers, ensuring everyone stays connected and engaged.  

Powell Intranet also addresses IT security and management requirements while fulfilling communication and collaboration needs. This approach aims to create a synergistic environment for organizations seeking a modern and efficient intranet solution within the Microsoft 365 ecosystem.  


We invite you to request a personal or on-demand demo of Powell Intranet today to explore how it can transform your digital workplace by reconciling the needs of your IT department and communication team. 



New call-to-action

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive the latest information about the Digital Workplace every month.