Setting Up SharePoint Online? Here's How to Overcome Common Challenges

SharePoint Online is an absolute super star within the Microsoft 365 suite, revolutionising business collaboration and information management. With a staggering number of users – over 200 million to be exact, everyday! – it’s clear that SharePoint and OneDrive for Business have become indispensable tools in just about every workplace.The recent shift towards remote and hybrid work has only accelerated the need for robust digital solutions like SharePoint Online. As forward-thinking professionals, we understand the importance of embracing this trend and leveraging technology to drive our clients forward.

But let’s face it – integrating SharePoint Online into your organisation’s digital strategy can sometimes feel like navigating a maze. You’re not alone in this struggle. In fact, according to a report by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), many organisations (around 40% if we’re being specific) face challenges when implementing SharePoint effectively despite recognising its significance for internal collaboration.

Fear not! We’ve got you covered with this guide specifically designed to address these common setup challenges head-on. Our goal is simple: help your business overcome any obstacles so you can harness the full potential of SharePoint Online.

By following our actionable strategies, you’ll unlock enhanced collaboration, efficiency, and digital resilience within your very own digital workplace. Let us show you how to navigate those hurdles smoothly while maximising what SharePoint has to offer!

Two women working side-by-side on laptops to set up SharePoint Online

Why SharePoint Online Commonly Faces Set-Up Challenges

Integration Complexity 

SharePoint Online’s integration with the broader Office 365 ecosystem presents a complex challenge and is often underestimated by many businesses. A vast number of digital transformations fail due to the complexities involved in technology integrations. The key to a successful integration lies in understanding the nuances. In the case of SharePoint Online, this relates to the architecture and how it interacts with other Office 365 tools, such as Teams and OneDrive. While you aren’t looking at high ongoing management costs, getting it right the first time is important.

Expectation vs. Reality

Businesses often embark on their SharePoint Online journey with high expectations, influenced by its marketed capabilities. However, mismatched expectations lead to dissatisfaction with new technology. It’s crucial to align your organisation’s expectations with the actual capabilities of SharePoint Online. It’s important to remember, SharePoint is a platform, with a bunch of amazing capabilities and can easily replace your file shares. It isn’t a turn key solution and it requires careful migration planning to ensure it aligns with the needs of your business.

Initial Configuration Pitfalls


The initial setup of SharePoint Online is critical to its long-term usability and effectiveness. According to a report by Forrester, approximately 66% of software implementation issues are due to poor initial configuration. Common themes with setup errors include inadequate planning, improper site architecture, and neglecting user permissions. Obtaining practical advice on how to avoid these pitfalls ensures a robust and scalable SharePoint Online environment from the outset saving time and resources in the long run.

Challenges Users Face with SharePoint Online

User Adoption and Engagement

Adopting a new platform like SharePoint Online can be a significant challenge for users, particularly when transitioning from different systems like file shares. Effective change management can improve success of a new system by up to six times. User adoption can be improved by training programs, communication and engagement plans, and feedback mechanisms. By understanding user needs and crafting an adoption strategy that caters to these requirements helps to ensure a smoother transition and higher engagement levels.

Effective Collaboration Barriers

Despite SharePoint Online’s promise for enhanced collaboration, barriers such as complex navigation and feature overload can hinder its effectiveness. Poor information architecture in complex collaborative tools can reduce efficiencies for users. To address this we suggest simplifying the user interface, providing clear guidelines, and customising features to meet the specific needs of teams. This can be done by creating pages with the out of the box webparts, with filtered views to make working with files easier. This can help produce a more intuitive and user-friendly collaborative environment within SharePoint Online.

Managing and Locating Content


SharePoint is an industry leader as a document management platform. But, one of the primary challenges users face with SharePoint Online is efficiently managing and locating content! This is often due to poor governance as it is a potential issue that involves many stakeholders. It is imperative that business have an effective content management process, and end user training to ensure correct implementation and maintenance of their document management system. This includes using best practices for organising documents, utilising metadata effectively, and implementing search optimisation techniques. In addition, consider SharePoint’s built-in tools like content types (or file types) and views to enhance content discoverability and management.

Man using SharePoint

Challenges IT Teams Face with SharePoint Online

Customisation and Scalability Issues

Customising and scaling SharePoint Online to meet specific business needs is a significant challenge for IT teams. These challenges include customising SharePoint Online, such as creating custom workflows, site designs, and maintaining brand consistency. IT teams are also challenged by scalability issues; having to ensure that the SharePoint environment can grow with the organisation. Strategies for overcoming these challenges include leveraging SharePoint’s out-of-the-box features effectively, using modular design principles, and planning for future scalability from the outset.

Security and Compliance

As businesses increasingly move sensitive data to the cloud, ensuring security and compliance in SharePoint Online becomes paramount. It is estimated that 58% of sensitive content in the cloud resides in Office documents, including those stored in SharePoint. Therefore, every business must address the challenges of maintaining robust security protocols and compliance standards within SharePoint Online. Businesses need to address that daunting task of data governance, user access controls, and compliance. Best practices for addressing security concerns and securing SharePoint Online, include regular audits, using advanced security features, and employee training. SharePoint has many security and advanced governance features, however planning, configuration and maintenance will turn theory into practice. This includes careful planning regarding if and when you allows external access into your Teams and Sites.

Maintenance and Support

Ensuring business continuity for organisations who support hybrid and remote workers is becoming more important in this age of flexible work. Ongoing maintenance and user support are critical for the long-term success of SharePoint Online. Many businesses are faced chasing their tail trying to maintain the SharePoint Online environment, including managing updates, troubleshooting issues, and providing user training. By establishing effective support systems, such as help desks, user communities, and regular training sessions, the approach becomes proactive. The importance of a maintenance strategy cannot be underestimated as it will impact business function, efficiency and collaboration. It can also have security implications, which no one wants in their blind spot. 


Mastering SharePoint Online

It’s important to acknowledge the intricate journey of digital transformation when engaging with a powerful tool like SharePoint Online and the broader Office 365 platform. Understanding and addressing the challenges of setting up these complex solutions will lead to more successful systems, user experience, better utilisation of SharePoint’s powerful features, enhanced security, and the list goes on.  At Propelle, our years of experience in implementing Microsoft 365 solutions, including SharePoint Online, have equipped us with a deep understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities this platform presents.


In our experience, the successful integration of SharePoint Online goes beyond technical configurations; it’s about aligning the platform with the unique fabric of your organisation. We recognise that each business has its distinct culture, processes, and goals. Our team’s approach is centered around customising solutions that not only address the technical challenges of SharePoint Online but also foster user adoption, streamline collaboration, and uphold stringent security and compliance standards.