Stand-alone CMS vs. SharePoint Add-On

Adam Smith, known as the founder of modern economics, once said, “The world contains infinite undiscovered combinations — atoms become molecules, words become poetry, a handful of notes becomes an endless book of song.” 

With his sage wisdom in mind, it’s what we believe we’re doing to solve problems facing most internal comms today, by combining LiveTiles functionalities with what’s lacking in SharePoint (and other platforms). This is one of the main areas being desperately requested by professional communicators for best-in-class content management capabilities. 

Mission: incomplete 

A question we get a lot from organisations and companies searching the marketplace for solutions is, “should we get a standalone CMS or get it as a SharePoint add-on?” As we’ve gathered, the reason customers look for a solution like LiveTiles is Microsoft’s lack of professional content management capabilities that Comms and HR teams require. 

SharePoint was not designed as a comms platform — it is built as a collaboration tool. 

Important features like: 

  • Targeting based on complex rules and supporting matrix organizations 
  • Robust, out-of-the-box publishing process with campaign planning and delegation capabilities (such as publishing on behalf of senior leaders, content planning boards etc.) 
  • Channel-based information architecture 
  • Ease of use when editing content (from anywhere) 
  • Curating content from multiple/external sources 
  • Support for more advanced content types like polls and events (including registration and participant management) 
  • Defining mandatory vs. compulsory content 
  • Requesting read receipts 
  • Comprehensive content analytics to measure engagement and impact 

and more, are not available in SharePoint. 

To brand or not to brand? 

Another issue is the lack of branding capabilities. Customers using only SharePoint cannot add their own branded company app in the app store – so users have to download an app from Microsoft instead of the company they work for. This obviously is a real pain when you need to bolster and evolve company culture and maximize identification with your  your organization and brand 

Now, vendors have two options: 

Manage content outside Microsoft (like we do) or trying to build the missing functionality based on SharePoint (like some other vendors do). Let’s explore them side by side. 

Managing content outside Microsoft 

The advantage of managing content outside Microsoft is customers get a professional content management tool designed and optimized for comms users from the ground up. Authors get to open the editor experience directly within SharePoint. Content is consumed through SharePoint, Teams and Viva but also through other experiences (for example other portals such as ServiceNow), and a downloadable branded app via iOS/Android app store rather than the (un-brandable) SharePoint mobile app or Viva Connections. 

The downside of that is comms content is not managed in SharePoint. Which brings us to: 

Building missing functionalities based on SharePoint 

The advantage with this is content is managed through SharePoint. But what is the real advantage of this (other than SharePoint is known and often detested by most comms pros)? 

The disadvantage with building functionality on top of SharePoint is content gets captured inside the Microsoft ecosystem and can’t be consumed elsewhere. Your entire team, (including frontline workers, contractors and other audiences who otherwise don’t need Microsoft tools) will need an expensive Microsoft license just to read a company news(!). 

An even bigger drawback: SharePoint was not designed to support all capabilities mentioned. So, it is probably not the best idea to expand a foundation that doesn’t live up to the challenge.  

Microsoft also admits to and recommends not extending SharePoint’s features.

This leads to to even more complex problems if Microsoft tries to catch up and releases functionality in SharePoint present in a third-party solution. 

Lost in translation 

A recent example is that Microsoft didn’t support multi-lingual modern pages. Many vendors built proprietary SharePoint extensions to fill those gaps. But once Microsoft released a similar functionality, customers who installed such third-party solutions potentially got into a lot of trouble because of overlapping functionalities.  

Such interference may even lead to technical conflicts or incompatibilities and will force comms to migrate all their content to the new Microsoft functionality, which requires a lot of muscle. 

Where do we go from here? 

These are some of the pros and cons when choosing ways of managing content and when seen from a technical standpoint. Considering these, LiveTiles has made a deliberate choice to build a stand-alone CMS with a seamless integration into the Microsoft and other platforms. 

In closing, here’s what author Thomas Petzinger Jr. wrote upon expounding Adam Smith’s idea in his book, The New Pioneers: “Add gospel to blues and you get rhythm and blues; throw in a white boy from Memphis and you get rock ‘n’ roll.” 

Bring LiveTiles to your team and you get category-leading employee experience. 

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