How is Discourse better than Sharepoint?

Hey Everyone,

I’m hoping you can help me out with a problem I’m having. I’m trying to get our department to adopt Discourse for use as a forum/discussion board between research scientists and research support personnel/statisticians. However, our IT department is pushing the idea of using Sharepoint instead.

From what I’ve seen of the Sharepoint solution they recommend, I find it to be intimidating and difficult to use. So I’m hoping I can enlist your help to better understand if there are any advantages of Sharepoint over Discourse or vice versa?

Thank you and have a great rest of the day!


Note: I reposted this from the trial forums because I thought this might be the better place to ask this question. Apologies if there’s any overlap or other issues - I’m not the dev type, so please forgive me! :smile:

This is the right place for this question. The ‘Try’ site is just a sandbox to play with the system and gets wiped every day.

To offer any real input here, it’d probably be good for you to first get some more info about what they plan to do with the system, and which features of Sharepoint they think are especially valuable.


Our organization is a mix of scientists, research support personnel, statisticians, and statistical programmers and data scientists.

From what I can tell, our IT group wants to use Sharepoint as a place to organize individual groups where they can share files and ensure people work on the same documents (.docx, .xlsx, etc.), provide a place to store resources, and generally keep people working on the same page.

My idea for Discourse, and the reason why I’m trying to get us to implement it, is to get data scientists, programmers, statisticians et al to share ideas, knowledge, and discuss better ways to do things. Right now, everyone kinda does it their own way and there is no standardization. We’re also implementing new telecommuting jobs (piloting it for now) and I think Discourse could provide a reliable way for telecommuters to stay in touch and ask questions, get support, etc.

The Sharepoint way seems intimidating and we have a lot of people who are good statistical programmers but not necessarily IT types. I think it would ultimately fail and people would fall back on just emailing each other one at a time and leave no record of solutions to others who encounter similar problems in the future.

I especially think Discourse could help us keep archives of solutions to similar problems and hence am trying to figure out what works best.

Here’s an example group on Sharepoint they’ve made so far, note the “team discussion”.

I think discourse will certainly be a better platform for discussion that stands a chance to wean people from email, though, that alone will take effort still. There are plenty of topics here discussing using discourse as a replacement to mailing lists. It’s a non-trivial problem both technically and culturally. With all the effort put in so far, I think it does a pretty good job with room to improve still.

However, it may or may not be the best fit for the document-sharing aspect of the requirements. You may have to think that one through further, and detail the workflow you’re thinking of.

Having done work with remote teams for some time now, you’ll probably also want some kind of group chat system like Hipchat or Slack. That fulfills a need for real time collaboration, and can also be a good place to reinforce the habits you want to encourage on the other platforms.

Thank you David for all of the feedback so far! It is very appreciated!

I definitely am trying to change a culture aspect here - but not so much trying to implement any document sharing aspects. For that, a shared drive has sufficed so far and Sharepoint would probably be better. However, we’ve had some complaints about the quality of our work because of inconsistent products (not all programmers program alike or even use the same algorithms for similar problems) and I really am hoping to open up a place where people can ask for help easily and there be a record of it in case others encounter similar problems.

Possibly like an internal stackexchange type solution, however not be 100% FAQ style.

Right now, email is the only way people ask questions and get solutions and what a shame it is because others don’t gain from their previous investigation! If only someone else could see that I asked question X when they had question X months later.


For this use case, I can’t recommend discourse more highly. The built in search is great and the features for using it like a mailing list are quite mature (though, yes, there is still room for improvement).

The ability to search, and quickly quote relevant posts from other topics really helps make it easier to find information from previous discussions and point people in the right direction.


How did this story eventually end? Did you succeed in changing the culture?

I’m in a very similar situation where the IT department is steering towards Sharepoint, but there is a significant difference to your situation four years ago: Microsoft Teams is part of the picture. They are looking at Sharepoint for file sharing (which seems reasonable when it’s included in the Office 365 package anyway) and at Teams for communication. I’m fine with using Teams, but it’s not suitable for organization wide discussion and knowledge sharing (at least if your org has more than 2500 members, the max. size for a team), which is why I’d like to integrate it with a discourse forum.


I’ve seen that kind of shift with clients, they’re so keen to get ephemera out of the inbox and ditch email for internal communication that they forget all of the valuable internal comms which need to preserved.

It’s not uncommon for them to come back and implement discourse after a couple of months of trying to make a chat product work on its own.