Sitecore or Sharepoint – which is the better CMS platform?

Apples & Oranges - They Don't Compare By TheBusyBrain on flickrI’ve been talking to quite a few folks recently about Sharepoint 2010 to get feedback and insight into the product’s current acceptance and usage rate.

One key area that interests me is around content management and content management systems. I’ve worked with a lot of them in the past and my two favorites right now are WordPress and Sitecore.  WordPress is a no-brainer for individuals, small businesses and is a very good platform for medium / large businesses with a bent toward open source software / LAMP.

For those organizations that have a .NET focus, Sitecore has done well for itself over the last few years and is great for those businesses some money to spend for Sitecore licenses and development efforts.

Lately, I’ve been hearing from friends and colleagues that Sharepoint 2010 is being hailed as the next great content management system (and/or collaboration platform and/or search platform and/or …). Of course, those touting that are Microsoft and their sales / partnership channel for the most part.  I say that partly in jest, but also because I haven’t found many developers, content specialist or marketing person to echo that statement…none have been impressed with Sharepoint as a pure Content Management System (CMS). Does this mean Sharepoint as a CMS is bad? No…just means that its features haven’t been enjoyed by end-users.

For those of you out there with any history in IT, you’ll know that Sharepoint has been around for quite some time and there have been many iterations and foci of this platform. Its a document management system, a work-flow system, intranet system, security management system and has been used for much more.  The new 2010 version is being touted as “collaboration software for the enterprise” by Microsoft….which isn’t a bad marketing approach.

Sharepoint is a great platform for collaboration and community. I’ve seen some wonderful systems built for those functions….but is it a great content management system? Can it really compete with pure CMS platforms like Sitecore?

Sharepoint 2010’s new content management features are impressive, but anyone with experience can see these new features for what they are – a classic Sharepoint reorganization and reuse of functionality plus some new features to bring out this ‘new’ CMS  functionality.  I don’t mean this in a bad way…this is one of the strengths of Sharepoint…it can do most anything.

Sitecore, on the other hand, is built to be a CMS from the ground up. There’s no pretense that Sitecore is anything more than a CMS.  That’s why I like it so much. Is the product perfect? Nope…but no product is.

So…which is better as a CMS….Sitecore or Sharepoint?

For a pure content management system, I’d pick Sitecore hands down. The system is built to be a Content Management System and has a focus on communications & marketing.  Sitecore is focused on delivering content to external audiences and improving insight into website visitors and user experience via new products like the Sitecore Online Marketing Suite.

Of course, Sharepoint can be used as a CMS and is now being touted as one, but I currently find it hard to recommend Sharepoint solely on its CMS capabilities alone.  Of course, very few IT shops are going to look at Sharepoint for a CMS only…most are already using Sharepoint for other functionality like internal collaboration, document management, security, etc and their focus may soon move to using Sharepoint for external focused content delivery.

I’ve implemented Sitecore and Sharepoint and used both products.  I like some things about Sharepoint and some things about Sitecore.

So…how do you choose between the two?  I’ll never tell a client or company that one technology or platform is better than another…but I do like to point out differences.  Here’s a quick list of things that I would think about when choosing between the two products:

  • For an external content focus, choose Sitecore.
  • For a marketing driven platform, choose Sitecore.
  • For a platform to customize the web user experience based on non-authenticated users, choose Sitecore (and the Sitecore OMS)
  • For an internal content focus with enterprise level security requirements,  choose Sharepoint
  • For a collaboration platform, choose Sharepoint
  • For an IT driven platform, choose Sharepoint

Some IT shops will argue Sharepoint should be chosen over Sitecore for some of the above reasons (namely security for content delivery, etc) – but those arguments can be countered easily with Sitecore’s extensibility and features.  I can plug modules in that allow me to use the same security systems that Sharepoint uses.  Of course, there are modules that can be plugged into Sharepoint to get different/more functionality as well

At the end of the day, comparing Sitecore and Sharepoint as CMS platforms is like comparing apples and oranges – they are different products targeted at different uses.  Sharepoint can (and is) used as a CMS – but Sitecore has a more robust CMS feature set for marketers.

If you are looking for a .NET based CMS, either product will work – but right now, I would lean toward  Sitecore when looking for a pure CMS that provides fast development times, stable platform and ease of use for non-technical content creators.

Of course, each organization is different…don’t take my word for it…check out both products and run them through your technology selection process to determine which is best for you.

Image Credit: Apples & Oranges – They Don’t Compare By TheBusyBrain on flickr

  • http://www.k5nd.net Jim Wilson

    Eric, excellent run down on the differences at a high enough level that even I can follow it. Having used Sitecore as our CMS for external and internal content, we are now getting ready to use Sharepoint for our Intranet platform. Both these moves seem to be in line with your thinking. Great write up. Jim

    • http://ericbrown.com Eric D. Brown

      Thanks Jim!

      Looking forward to hearing how Sharepoint works for you.

  • http://arencambre.com Aren Cambre

    I agree with you, although I’m a little biased as a Sitecore MVP. :-)

    You may want to adjust your terminology. Even though the product’s called Sitecore CMS, it’s really a WCM–Web Content Management system. CMS is a broad category that includes SharePoint, ImageNow, Documentum, etc. A lot of CMS is not web, at least in the WCM sense.

    • http://ericbrown.com Eric D. Brown

      Good point Aren.

      I absolutely mean Web Content Management System. Perfect example of how we sometimes get blinders on and forget that there are other forms of content management systems.

      Thanks!

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  • http://www.sitevision.eu Daniel Erkstam

    Interesting overview. Even though it is, as you admit, apples and oranges.

    I see Sharepoint more like a framework (like Drupal and many more systems). Consultants love it because they can spend hundreds of hours without anything that can be viewed in a browser.

    I belive SiteCore have similarities with the focus as we at SiteVision. But we offer a Java-based system with 70+ ready modules. Then you just pick the parts you need and customize them for your own needs. And with our proxy portlet it is very easy to integrate other backend systems. The Swedish State Authoroty for Employment integrated 26 different backend systems with a small effort. (And NOT made with iframe) Then you can understand the consultants hate SiteVision. But the customers love it.

    WCM is not a known abbreviation in Sweden. We talk about CMS and mean only web based stuff.

    • http://ericbrown.com Eric D. Brown

      Thanks Daniel –

      Sharepoint is very much a framework….it can do quite a lot. Sometimes that is good, sometimes that is bad :)

      Thanks for the pointer to SiteVision…I haven’t seen that CMS before and will be checking it out soon.

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  • Tracey Klein

    Eric, this is a great–and refreshing–article. SharePoint and Sitecore are still the two products we work with most frequently at mindSHIFT. 99.9% of the time, we go with Sitecore for public sites and SharePoint for the internal portals.

    One of the challenges we see is IT departments pushing SharePoint on Web/Marketing departments for the public Web sites because “we already own it.” This is usually a misconception. Organizations sometimes have a server license or user licenses for SharePoint as part of a Microsoft Enterprise licensing deal, but I have yet to see this include the SharePoint for Internet Sites license.

    Once we clarify that, IT departments sometimes still want to see SharePoint used because they feel they “know” the SharePoint technology and therefore can easily support it. This also requires education, because the effort and tasks required to manage an internal Intranet platform is not necessarily the same as a public-facing Web farm and environment.

    I often find myself explaining to clients and prospective clients the difference between Sitecore and SharePoint. From now on I’ll just point them to this article. Glad to see you are still a Sitecore fan after all these years since we implemented it together. Thanks again for a very well written article!

    • http://ericbrown.com Eric D. Brown

      Hi Tracey –

      Thanks for stopping by! Still a sitecore fan here for sure :)

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  • http://www.rharbridge.com Richard Harbridge

    You make some good points here Eric.

    I know personally I have recommended Sitecore from time to time (or other powerful competing platforms) over SharePoint, however I think there are a few important aspects that I think you haven’t included that do help people understand the benefits of SharePoint over Sitecore (though it is always a fundamental ‘it depends’).

    1. The community for SharePoint IS larger and more robust than Sitecore. Not saying one is better than the other, just saying from a numbers game that the SharePoint community is larger. This also ‘typically’ means that the talent pool for SharePoint is larger. Sitecore also has a primarily dev driven community where SharePoint has a stronger IT Pro/Admin, End User and Business Community.

    2. The price for SharePoint is often (not always) better than Sitecore (especially for Federal Non Profits, Education etc). This is surprising and many people get confused by poor documentation and licensing confusion (it’s a pet peeve of mine). However I have seen SharePoint be a lower cost for many organizations than an implementation of Sitecore for the same size.

    3. Sitecore doesn’t have anything close to SharePoint’s Office integration or Smart Client Authoring (authoring web content from word using a conversion service). This has been a reason of it’s own for some organizations I have worked with for selecting SharePoint.

    4. A huge amount can be said for having a common platform, data format, and skill set (especially for a technology) within an organization. Since Sitecore is not as good for internal scenarios (as you suggested to a degree) it is rare to see a common skill set across internal and external teams (content contributors and technical resources).

    That being said:
    If you don’t have SharePoint internally, being used already for an extranet, or significant talent in SharePoint within your organization (or a desire to build that skill/knowledge set) – honestly in many external scenarios Sitecore is probably (though not always) the better choice.

    P.S – I also think using the term CMS is misleading here in some senses as really we are discussing WCM or web content management scenarios primarily and not all content management scenarios. Is there any standardization in our industry around acronyms? I feel like interpretations are always changing. (Seconding the previous comments.)

    • http://ericbrown.com Eric D. Brown

      Hi Richard –

      Nice comment. You make some excellent points, all true. No platform is perfect for everyone – there are pros/cons for sitecore and sharepoint both and you’ve provide some very good ones here.

      I shall remember to clarify in the future whether I am talking about CMS or WCMS…both you and Aren make good points there.

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  • 20pankratz33

    What is your take on using them together? They both seem to be strong in different areas and there is a connector that lets them be used together. Could this be beneficial? If so, how?

  • http://ericbrown.com/ ericbrown

    @20pankratz33 I’ve used both platforms together and it turned out well.

    A quick review of the setup:

    Sitecore manages the Web content and images for web pages.

    Sharepoint manages other digital content (documents, etc) with security. Sharepoint also acts as the search engine for all websites. Additionally, Sharepoint acts as the user profile, authorization and authentication system.

    The above setup worked well for us. There were a few kinks to work around but at the end of the project, things worked well together.

  • 20pankratz33

    @ericbrown@20pankratz33 Thanks for the quick reply! I’m doing some research and this has been very helpful. Much appreciated.

  • http://ericbrown.com/ ericbrown

    @20pankratz33 happy to help. Feel free to drop me an email (eric AT ericbrown.com) if you have any other questions or want more info on how I’ve used Sitecore + Sharepoint together.

  • CMS-Connected

    Hey Eric,

    Sitecore is going up against Drupal on cms-connected.com September 15, 2011 for a 2-hour one-on-one debate. Great opportunity for a continued post event debate on ericbrown.com.

    Cheers,

    Gary.

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  • urvin

    HIE….. well not only article but comments given by people are interesting but still views appear to me diplomatic as in some areas sitecore seems to be better option and otherwise share point .From developer’s front sharepoint has better knowledge base , internal site search , file repositories ,collaboration also better career options which makes it relatively superior to sitecore according to me. WELL would like to share few interesting url’s

    http://demandgeneration.edynamic.net/

    http://cms.edynamic.net/

  • V Hunt

    This is a really useful summary, thanks!

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