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Everything you’ve been wondering about using SharePoint for your Intranet

13 December 2021
  

Looking for a new intranet and wondering whether to use SharePoint? If you’ve searched up ‘intranet sharepoint’ you’re not alone. With so many companies using Microsoft 365, and with SharePoint included in their M365 license, SharePoint is a logical choice for intranet software. SharePoint isn’t just a default however, it’s also a solid option; just ask the 200,000-plus organizations and 190 million people who use SharePoint for their intranets, team sites and content management.

And to add to SharePoint’s appeal, Microsoft has added SharePoint Connections to its offerings.

In this blog post, I’ll examine SharePoint in more detail:


It’s over 20 years since the creation of the first intranets. Technology has changed greatly in that time. The way people work from anywhere, at any time with any device has changed the world of work dramatically. Increasingly, the best intranets are business critical tools that people rely on to aid their work.

Are all SharePoint intranets the same?

People are generally more familiar with traditional on-premise or older versions of SharePoint than the modern SharePoint intranet, and the association is usually not a positive one. These older intranets built with SharePoint were relatively static and uninteresting and were primarily used as repositories for company documents. These old intranets areas also infamous for being somewhat tricky to implement and to upgrade, with some intranet projects taking upwards of a year to complete and running into hundreds of thousands of pounds. 

This changed when Microsoft overhauled SharePoint and created a new, modern experience with SharePoint Online.

The three SharePoint models: on-premise, subscription, and hybrid

On-premise/SharePoint Server - Organizations can deploy and manage SharePoint Server on-premises.

Subscription/SharePoint in Microsoft 365  - A cloud-based service, hosted by Microsoft, for businesses of all sizes. Instead of installing and deploying SharePoint Server on-premises, any business can subscribe to a Microsoft 365 plan or to the standalone SharePoint Online service.

Hybrid – A combination of on-premise and a cloud-based service.

Introduction to SharePoint modern intranet

Today, SharePoint has become the platform of choice for many businesses owing to its versatility in document management, collaboration, business process management and its customizable interface.

The modern SharePoint experience includes the release of responsive site templates, new list and library experiences, mobile apps and a broad set of new development frameworks and customization capabilities that align more closely with modern web development practices and the result is an intranet platform better suited to modern workplaces.

A modern intranet creates connection at every level of the company. It’s a powerful, central communication tool that’s simple enough for everyone to use. It streamlines the ways in which you interact and work.

For businesses looking to increase collaboration and productivity, SharePoint is a great modern intranet solution that offers essential intranet features such as document management, calendars, and task lists.

Microsoft Viva Connections and how it works with SharePoint Intranet

Viva Connections is a framework through which you can deliver your intranet. Through Viva Connections, employees can access internal communications and company resources like policies and benefits, and participate in communities like employee resource groups, from a single customizable app in Microsoft Teams.

As people increasingly use Microsoft Teams as their primary place to communicate and collaborate with colleagues Viva Connections is a way of delivering content even if employees don't log into SharePoint daily.

Microsoft Viva Connections doesn’t have any additional cost, but it does require a SharePoint Online license.

So what’s the benefit in using Viva Connections?

Get more from your SharePoint intranet

If people are spending more time in Teams, they could miss important company news or updates. By bringing the content from your SharePoint intranet into Viva Connections, you create a richer, more personalised employee experience.

Employee engagement

By integrating company communications and news into Teams, Microsoft is aiming to address engagement challenges.

More mobile-friendly

No matter what your role is in the company - a frontline worker or an information worker - Microsoft Viva Connections offers a streamlined experience for tackling important tasks from your mobile.

 


Microsoft Viva explained: read our blog all about Microsoft Viva.

 

Developing your intranet with SharePoint

When considering SharePoint for your intranet, one of the first questions to answer is whether you want to build your intranet internally, or buy it from an external provider. Here are a few things to think about:

  • SharePoint intranet challenges
  • SharePoint intranet pros and cons
  • SharePoint intranet business value

SharePoint intranet challenges

There are numerous SharePoint modern intranet offerings and it’s likely the features are very similar. So it makes sense to focus on your challenges or pain points. Rather than deciding that you need a certain feature or widget or intranet, ask yourself what problems you’re trying to overcome.

How do you find out what your pain points are? Have a cross-section of people from the company participate in a survey or focus groups. Getting leadership involved is crucial.

Examples of challenges you may want your intranet to solve:

  • We having too many digital tools and users are confused about what to use and when.
  • We need a better way to find information.
  • Our in-house knowledge is lost/ dispersed among employees and former employees.
  • We rely excessively on email for document sharing and input – there has to be a better way to manage this.
  • File duplication and lack of control over where documents are stored and versions are recorded needs to be easier and better.
  • We want an intranet that makes it easier to work from anywhere.

SharePoint intranet pros and cons

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Pros of internal development

  • Your intranet will be designed to your requirements and specifications. This is helpful when you have unique needs and want particular features.
  • You have complete control over the design of the product and when new features are added.
  • Ownership of code.

Cons of internal development:

  • Depending on the features required, this is often more complex and time consuming that an off-the-shelf product. If you want a sophisticated solution like Atlas, this could take at least 2 years to build.
  • Internal intranet development is generally more expensive, both in the shortand long term. Not only do you need in-house development skills, but also for someone to manage the project, provide designs and provide support and maintenance once your intranet is up and running.
  • Low quality if your internal development team do not have the right skills.
  • Responsible for maintaining everything. This is hard to do successfully unless you have the relevant experts and low staff turnover.

Pros of a SharePoint modern intranet product

  • Speed of deployment - quick to get your intranet up and running in weeks rather than months.
  • Provides a way to manage and publish news and events more easily than SharePoint OOB.
  • A more attractive user experience both for users and administrators.
  • Lower risk of bugs and compatibility issues.
  • Smoother upgrade path. Upgrading SharePoint has historically caused problems for bespoke intranet with customizations.
  • Support and maintenance is provided externally, putting less strain on internal IT.
  • Regular new features should be included in your subscription.

Cons of a SharePoint modern intranet product

  • Depending on the product, bespoke customizations could be costly.
  • Integrating it with other products may not be possible if the intranet has not been built with that purpose in mind.
  • Few solutions cover the collaboration side of SharePoint.
  • On-going license costs.

SharePoint intranet business value

The final criteria for making a choice is to look at the business value. This starts with your strategy. It’s important to understand how you’re going to measure and maximize the business value of the SharePoint Intranet to the organization.

Business strategy will often focus on one of three core areas:

1. Productivity: improving corporate performance across the entire company.

2. Innovation: bringing new ideas to life whether it is new products and services or improvements to processes.

3. Competitive advantage: finding ways to set the business apart from your competitors.

What should your intranet do?

In conclusion, a SharePoint intranet is a solid start if you’re looking for a platform that provides a central communication tool, is easy to use, and boosts collaboration and productivity.

However, organisations that are aiming for digital transformation need that objective to be supported with something more than an intranet. A digital workspace takes collaboration, communication and productivity to the next level.

 


Good blog: What’s the difference between an intranet and a digital workspace?



Atlas – software built for and on Microsoft 365 and that works hand-in-glove with SharePoint – takes an intranet into the realm of a digital workspace.

As the developers of Atlas, ClearPeople has given a great deal of thought to what a digital workspace is and what it needs to empower an organisation to do. Below are some of the features of what we think make a great modern intranet – and more specifically, that makes the Atlas digital workspace stand out from all other intranets.

Company insights: A great intranet will keep everyone across the organization updated on company news, policies, departmental news, customer updates, and everything else that matters in a way that’s engaging and easy to consume.

Proper collaborative platform: There should be a great flow of conversations and collaboration across projects, departments and even socially. Atlas workspaces are the glue that bond an organisation together. Whether across multiple divisions or smaller project teams, these workspaces are highly versatile and cater for modern collaborative working practices.

Integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Teams: with so many users on Teams this is a really important feature and Atlas actually simplifies your access to and use of Teams

Makes it easy to find stuff: Atlas enhances Microsoft Enterprise Search to surface all content from a single interface with pre-configured search scopes.

Builds company culture: The intranet should be a digital copy of the organisation and what it represents. It should fully represent the company’s systems, ethos and how its employees engage with one another. Features such as an employee social media platform, peer-to-peer recognition functions, open publishing rights for employees and a company guide or workbook with its values, enable the company to nurture its culture among its employees. 

Consolidates work processes: A good intranet will simplify processes and remove confusion about what resources to use and when. Activities can be centralised into the organisation’s digital workspace, reducing overheads and confusion while adding value to the process.

Store and find documents easily: An intranet should be a well-managed library, not an information dumping yard. Recognizing that organizing information using SharePoint out-of-the box relies on individuals who have strong information management and SharePoint governance skills, we developed Atlas Connex. ConneX automatically creates workspaces with the correct taxonomy tagging, notifies business owners and admins and does much more. Atlas search also works across the entire digital workspace, making it so much easier to find what you’re looking for.

Branding options: An intranet must provide enough customization options to make sure it looks like a platform that belongs to the company.

Allows for everyone to contribute: Atlas Add It enables any user anywhere to add content without specific technical knowledge. By enabling people to contribute easily (through a step-by-step wizard), your digital workspace becomes a tool in empowering and engaging your employees and building a culture of knowledge sharing.

Accessible: Implementing an accessible intranet is integral in building an inclusive workplace culture and is a key principle for us in developing Atlas.

 

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