The Recipe of a Successful SharePoint Intranet

08.03.2018
10 min.
title

SharePoint intranet development has much in common with culinary arts. Acquiring SharePoint out-of-the-box, a company gets a variety of features to transform them into a custom intranet. Just the same way a chef in a restaurant uses different ingredients to cook a specialty. But is there a universal recipe to create a balanced intranet that will support activities of different departments and keep employees engaged? Let’s find out.

Choosing The Basis for Your SharePoint ‘Dish’

The basis is a critical part of every dish as it determines its essential taste. Translating it into the SharePoint language, you have to choose an optimal deployment model to build your SharePoint intranet. Currently, there are two major options: you can choose an on-premises corporate portal on SharePoint Server or you can run a cloud intranet with SharePoint Online.

Two platforms have several critical differences. Comparing SharePoint On-Premises and SharePoint Online, companies should pay attention to such important aspects as:

  • Deployment and licensing models
  • Out-of-the-box features
  • Customization efforts required to tune an intranet
  • Support efforts necessary to ensure an intranet’s stable and secure performance, as well as its further development

Apart from that, deciding on an intranet’s basis, you also determine the cost of the entire SharePoint ‘dish,’ its customization flexibility, and the level of control over it.

Filling Your Intranet with Essential Ingredients

Once you select an optimal basis for your SharePoint intranet, you can move on to filling it with different ingredients. The ‘stuffing’ usually depends on the overall needs of your business, as well as on specific activities and preferences of particular departments and teams. If there was a traditional cookbook for corporate portals, a SharePoint intranet recipe would include several essential components.

The homepage is the face of your corporate portal. This is the first page that welcomes users once they log in and a starting point for employees to access corporate resources and systems. The intranet homepage requires a particular attention to design as it determines users’ first impression about the intranet and defines how easily they find the required information.

Employees’ profiles summarize their personal information and activities. In all SharePoint on-premises versions, users access their profiles via MySites. These are personal sites that bring together user information, as well as individual newsfeeds, blogs, apps, and

As for SharePoint Online, it doesn’t contain MySites. Personal information resides in user profiles that aggregate all content related to an employee. If you choose an Office 365 subscription, employees will be able to leverage the Delve app that not only displays employees’ info and content but also offers individual blogs.

Collaboration sites are bread-and-butter of your SharePoint intranet. They come with newsfeeds, discussion boards, calendars, rating and ranking features, mentions, and

All in all, SharePoint owners can choose among different types of sites to cover various collaboration scenarios. Let’s take a closer look at the most popular SharePoint sites you can leverage.

  • Team sites serve as collaboration hubs for teams to manage their content and activities in a centralized manner. In a corporate intranet, team sites serve as private areas for team members to publish updates, cowork on documents, organize events, and discuss ongoing activities. Team sites stay one of the most popular SharePoint intranet features adopted in more than 90% of organizations.
Use of SharePoint in content management areas
Data source: http://info.aiim.org/the-impact-of-sharepoint-2016

All these sites are available both in SharePoint On-Premises and SharePoint Online users with a sole difference: while they can be top-level sites in SharePoint On-Premises, they exist only as subsites in SharePoint Online.

Meanwhile, there are two more types of collaboration sites available for SharePoint Online users only.

Business solutions. Finally, a SharePoint intranet should foster organizations in their business activities. Relying on a great number of out-of-the-box features, organizations can extend their intranets with business solutions to cover specific processes (for example, document management, quality management, reporting) or activities of particular departments (for example, legal, R&D, accounting, etc.).

  • Communication sites help employees share information with large audiences. This is a suitable medium for analysts, marketers and HR managers to spread news and reports, showcase projects, and organize events or training sessions across the organization. The greatest advantage of communication sites is that they come with several pre-built templates, which makes it easier for users to launch them and fill them with content and features they need most.
  • Hub sites aren’t yet here with us, however, Office 365 First Release customers are expecting to access them already in the first half of 2018. Hub sites will let SharePoint Online owners to better organize their cloud intranets by putting similar sites, projects, content and common activities under one roof.
  • Project sites offer a set of collaboration features similar to those provided by team sites. Additionally, they contain default project management features, including project summaries and timelines, project-related tasks and libraries for project documentation. They can also be connected to Microsoft Project to let teams collaborate on complex projects within a familiar SharePoint interface.
  • Community sites help you diversify social collaboration across the organization. In practice, they can serve both business and entertainment A community site can be a handy way for employees working in the same business domain to discuss their activities, share experience, and accumulate professional knowledge. At the same time, community sites can be a meeting place for users who share the same interests (sports, traveling, music, etc.), thus connecting people regardless of their professional status.
  • Blog sites can exist as separate SharePoint intranet components or as part of team, project, and community sites. In the first scenario, they can become a handy tool for HR, marketing, sales or communication departments to distribute corporate updates throughout the company. In the second scenario, blog sites can help teams and communities to share their ideas, observations, and expertise with team members only.
  • Enterprise wikis are usually responsible for organizational knowledge. SharePoint wikis can also become learning and training centers in an organization. At the same time, smaller teams can use them to accumulate corporate knowledge and experience on particular projects or business domains.

Stepping Up From Fast Food to Haute Cuisine

Although a typical SharePoint intranet has much to offer, it won’t be able to satisfy true intranet gourmets. Like fast food, it satisfies the overall collaboration hunger, but it can’t bring the feeling of uniqueness and delight, as haute cuisine does. So if you consider yourself a culinary connoisseur, you are welcome to fill your SharePoint intranet with unique flavors and tastes through original solutions and features.

Personalized digital workplaces. While SharePoint out-of-the-box offers MySites or user profiles, they rarely bring real value beyond summarizing employees’ info. To move to the next level, you should consider customizing your intranet and adding employee digital workspaces. This is a great chance for employees to get their private working environment for managing and storing important content, organizing their timetables and recording ideas independently on other team members. If you don’t have an internal team to offer a feasible solution, turn to SharePoint consultants who will help you develop digital workplaces within your SharePoint intranet.

If you don’t plan to go for a deep customization, consider implementing features and web parts that help employees personalize content they are interested in.

SP based enterprise portal
Building a custom SharePoint intranet, Itransition customized the My Subscriptions web part to let employees filter news according to their tastes and select content of their interest. Picture source: Itranstion project portfolio.

Knowledge management embedded in team collaboration. To kick off knowledge management, organizations usually implement knowledge bases that become unused very quickly. Instead of generating stiff and isolated wikis, it’s worth implementing knowledge management features within other frequently used intranet components. For example, if you run team sites, you can extend them with idea sharing areas, brainstorming and research subsites where team members can accumulate and improve project-related knowledge and expertise in parallel with their working activities.

Social components. Apart from launching fully-fledged communities, you can enrich your SharePoint intranet with organization-wide social components. Here are a few takeaways.

  • Corporate benefits help employees to stay tuned to corporate perks and choose offerings according to their tastes. This group of features can include discount programs, food menus, events, and learning activities.
  • Corporate markets enable employees to give out or sell unused things, share gifts, and offer help to their colleagues. Intranet-hosted markets can also host charity programs and events, as well as support such popular activities as bookcrossing.
  • Contests and awards can be business-related to show up the most productive employees or those who excelled in particular projects. They can also be entertaining and display in-house and external contests, winners and their trophies.
SharePoint intranet Itransition
The Hall of fame web part displays leading employees while the Ads web part enables the staff to publish their announcements. Picture source: Itranstion project portfolio.

SharePoint productivity add-ins. Organizations usually prefer traditional add-ins that display weather forecasts, birthdays or currency rates. However, productivity add-ins (for example, task management, document management, personal growth or learning management SharePoint add-ins) can be of greater value than informational ones. The former let employees have critical data at their fingertips (for example, reports, statistics, project timelines) and stay productive at work.

Seasoning Your SharePoint Specialty

Last but not least comes the dish seasoning and dressing or SharePoint intranet design. While it’s unreasonable to create unique designs for every single page of your SharePoint intranet, it makes sense to tune its key components.

  • Intranet homepage determines the very first impression about the intranet and makes users continue their intranet journey or pushes them to leave.
  • Custom site templates can be adapted throughout the entire intranet across team sites, community sites, and Every team and community then will be able to apply these themes to newly created sites.
  • Mobile intranets are critical to enable employees to use their intranet regardless of their location and devices, be it a smartphone or a tablet.

Serving the Ready-Made SharePoint Portal

This is a universal SharePoint intranet recipe that embraces all components essential to your corporate portal. You are also welcome to add your own ingredients to align the intranet with your organizational structure, your business domain, and your corporate culture. While considering an intranet project and cooperating with a SharePoint consulting company, try to find the right balance between out-of-the-box SharePoint capabilities and customizations to create a functional and unique intranet. You should also plan user training to ensure positive intranet adoption.

When starting your SharePoint intranet project from scratch or planning its redesign, don’t treat your users as fast food addicts. Let them try out an exquisite SharePoint dish cooked specially for them.

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