Implementation of a customized SharePoint Online intranet

Itransition customized SharePoint Online and developed a mobile-friendly cloud intranet to facilitate document and project management as well as intensify enterprise collaboration.

Customer

The customer is a UK-based independent housing association that owns and manages over 4K rented homes and hundreds of leasehold properties, as well as shared ownership properties, commercial units and homeless units. The non-profit organization aims at increasing new homes supply and is recognized as one of the best housing providers in the UK.

Challenge

The customer turned to Itransition with the need to create a corporate intranet to centralize enterprise-wide document and project management and let employees stay tuned to the company's activities. The future portal was also to become a single access point to a variety of corporate systems that employees used daily. The customer wanted their intranet to be mobile-friendly in order to provide their remote employees with all necessary functionality regardless of the device they use. As part of the project, Itransion’s team had to integrate the existing Active Directory (AD) with Azure AD, thus ensuring automatic user profile synchronization.

Solution

The team has chosen Office 365 as the platform for the solution because it provides a comprehensive set of collaboration and productivity tools and enables continuous collaboration experience on desktops and mobile devices.

Itransition’s SharePoint team was to fulfill various tasks:

  • Developing and implementing fully-functional corporate portal in line with the corporate design guidelines
  • Designing and implementing a custom intranet navigation
  • Designing and implementing a custom News module
  • Setting up a corporate document storage with relevant taxonomy
  • Developing project and team site templates
  • Enabling media content management
  • Implementing an employee directory
  • Implementing a mechanism for trending content display
  • Designing a customized corporate calendar
  • Customizing a list of vacancies
  • Setting up the integration with Facebook and Twitter feeds

SharePoint Online represents the solution’s core. The team leveraged the SharePoint Framework (SPFx) capabilities to customize the SharePoint modern pages that serve as the basis of the intranet sites.

The SharePoint Online intranet functionality covers several essential domains.

 

Enterprise collaboration

The intranet homepage is a starting point for every user who logs in to the portal. It hosts corporate news and announcements and informs employees about the past and upcoming events. It also contains links to a variety of corporate resources and serves as a single access point to the enterprise systems, such as a time tracking solution, reporting system, accounting system and more. The intranet homepage also displays trending content, including trending pictures, documents, videos, and pages. Apart from that, employees can see the latest updates on the corporate Facebook and Twitter accounts right from the intranet homepage.

 

Document management

As employees collaborate on a great number of documents daily, it is critical to ensure a clear and flawless document management process. Fortunately, enterprise document management is one of the strongest sides of SharePoint, which allowed the team to build a robust document management system right within the corporate intranet. The system comprises several SharePoint libraries with documents sorted by particular topics. Here employees can find document templates, create, edit and collaborate on new documents, as well as read enterprise policies, process descriptions, and manuals explaining essential enterprise workflows.

 

Project management

The SharePoint Online intranet also helps the company to structure internal project management processes. Itransition’s SharePoint developers delivered several templates of a project site to cover different project management scenarios and address the needs of different project teams. Customized project templates are stored on the intranet so that employees can choose the most suitable one when they launch a new project. The project management area also includes a dedicated document library with project-related documents, as well as a project wiki that puts together the information on project management practices established in the company.

 

Team collaboration

Apart from the generally available enterprise collaboration space, the SharePoint Online intranet provides team collaboration sites. The developers leveraged the capabilities of modern SharePoint team sites and customized them to the needs of the defined teams. A typical team site includes the following components:

  • Team Home: the main page of a team site that contains team news, upcoming events, team tasks, and team activities
  • Team Library: a document library available to team members only
  • Team Members: a SharePoint page that displays employees who form a particular team with their contacts and general info (position, department, location)
  • Team Task: a SharePoint site that enables task management within a particular team
  • Discussion Board: a collaboration area where team members can communicate, share their comments on activities, ask questions, and look for advice

Development process

During the intranet development, the SharePoint team used the capabilities of the SharePoint Framework (SPFx), which simplified the UI customization and development of custom SharePoint features substantially.  The team also helped the customer elaborate on the relevant approach and requirements for integrating the existing on-premises AD with Azure AD to enable the single sign-on (SSO). The developed approach was further implemented in the customer’s infrastructure.

Below are the developed modules and corresponding technological stacks:

Module Technological Stack
Integration layer Azure AD Connect, AD FS

User profiles

synchronization
Azure AD Connect, PowerShell scripts (to set up user profile properties)
User Interface Standard Office 365 layouts, SPFx, React JS and WebPack to create custom UI components (navigation, widgets, web parts)

The project also required the development team to actively collaborate with the customer’s service providers (an IT infrastructure provider and an enterprise mobility provider) to ensure the correct implementation and operation of the intranet across different devices.

Results

Several hundreds of employees now use the implemented custom SharePoint Online intranet every day. The intranet not only centralizes enterprise collaboration but also provides all the necessary tools for such critical processes as document and project management.

As the customer has an enterprise Office 365 subscription, Itransition’s team assists them in adopting other collaboration apps that make part of the suite. The customer focuses on the active use of Delve and Office 365 Groups to diversify collaboration experience of their employees.

Itransition’s team supports the intranet continuously. They collaborate with the Microsoft support team regularly to address technical issues that appear due to the Office 365 multitenant nature. Itransition focuses on the intranet performance and carries out regular analysis of the environment to improve the intranet operation. The team also keeps their work on the SharePoint Online customization and develops new features in line with the customer’s requests.

Customer's voice

As with most things we do, the vast majority of people will have no idea of the amount of ambition, effort, talent, complexity, and challenge involved in getting to this point—which is the way it should be. To deliver this project in the timescales we’ve had to work with is an excellent achievement, particularly given other competing priorities. Thanks to all of you for your hard work, dedication, and professionalism—you’ve all played a massive part in shaping the future of our company and of that, you should be proud.