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Woman entrepreneur at work in office. SharePoint is not an ideal solution for market research.

An expert’s take on why SharePoint is not the optimal solution for a function-specific search application

Organizations considering how best to manage their market research and competitive intelligence assets often say to themselves at some point in their deliberations, “Well, we already have Microsoft SharePoint.”  Which is somewhat akin to the head groundskeeper at Fenway Park saying to a John Deere sales representative, “But we already have a push mower.”

In other words, it’s a solution, just not the optimal solution.  As one Northern Light client quipped, “SharePoint is where research goes to die.”

Search industry guru Martin White recently published an insightful, pull-no-punches article recapping the history of enterprise search solutions since the launch of Microsoft SharePoint in 2001 – essentially a brief history of the universe: enterprise search edition.  In his piece, entitled “The Rise and Fall of Microsoft Search,” White recounts the comings and goings of various players in the enterprise search market during the first decade of the 21st century.  He notes, “By 2005, the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Information Access listed 25 vendors, with FAST Search and Transfer, Verity, Autonomy and Endeca populating the top right leaders quadrant. By comparison, the search functionality of SharePoint was poor.”  So Microsoft acquired FAST Search and Transfer and launched FAST Search Server for SharePoint, but, for various business reasons, eventually emasculated (White’s word) it.

Now, fast-forward to 2021.  Where does that leave SharePoint today as an application-specific search tool for competitive intelligence and market research?  The short answer is: lacking – in particular, lacking key features that Northern Light SinglePoint possesses, such as:

  • Search engine optimized for market research and competitive intelligence content.
  • Search forms with rich search options reflecting the unique metadata for each content set.
  • Personalized home page with content selected for each user.
  • Document collection systems for automated content harvesting from external sources and from high volume internal repositories.
  • Document access authorization system for redirecting users to external content providers’ websites for document access, automatically logging them in with individually saved or globally assigned logins.
  • Search engine and search technology optimized for research applications.
  • Text analytics optimized for research applications. Especially useful is the ability to tag documents automatically with rich industry and company-specific taxonomies that Northern Light provides with each SinglePoint portal.
  • Machine learning-based AI-search features optimized for market research and competitive intelligence applications.
  • Collaboration solutions to bookmark and tag documents, share documents and bookmarks, form groups, and identify internal experts and collaboration partners.

More than one Northern Light client has estimated the cost of building a research portal on Microsoft SharePoint with anything close to the features in SinglePoint. These estimates have been as much as $2 million for the project in the first year, and an ongoing maintenance cost for the system that is a substantial percentage of that.  Development schedules have been created in these exercises that stretch out for 1-3 years.

As Martin White concludes in his article: “Microsoft search may be a good match for your [generic] enterprise-wide search requirements, but have you considered your employees’ requirements at a persona/task/location level, and carried out a gap analysis between what they need and what you are delivering? There’s no point asking them how satisfied they are with Microsoft Search when they have no experience with other search applications. If you’ve never driven an electric car how can you know if it’s better or worse than your regular car?”

To learn more about the distinct advantages of SinglePoint vs. Microsoft SharePoint for finding and mining competitive intelligence and market research content across the enterprise, contact Northern Light.

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