We recently did a demonstration of our SharePoint business application suite for a major Association. The organization contacted us to look into one of our Office 365 SharePoint Online applications. They proudly stated that the organization was embracing a technology strategy to “move to the cloud”. They are moving to Remedyforce for IT Helpdesk, Saleforce for CRM, two cloud HR apps, a home grown Intranet, cloud email and more.
Each of these systems has separate user interfaces, and most have separate sign-ons. Plus they are using SharePoint (another sign-on and user interface) for collaboration and document sharing. So while they may lower hardware costs by deploying “siloed SaaS applications” they are creating more complexity for the business user by making them carry around a notebook of passwords and a binder of user manuals for each new application. Additionally information sharing and data integration between applications is nearly impossible. The following is from PC Magazine as the definition of a siloed application:
"An application that does not interact with other applications or information
systems. A siloed application is any software that functions on its own to solve
a problem. Such applications are often found within the many departments of
Discover how to use Office 365 SharePoint Online as a CRM!
Here at SP Marketplace we hear from SMBs every day looking for an alternative to Salesforce for their sales team. They tell us as their organization grows they cannot afford the rising costs, especially when they only use a subset of the features. It’s a powerful CRM solution, but should you pay for that power if you don’t use it?
We hear this most with Salesforce. The SMB with a small sales team starts with the base module for 5 users or less at $25 / user / month, then as the organization and requirements grow the per user price creeps up to $125 per user per month. If the organization now has 15 reps, the annual bill tops $20,000! Microsoft Dynamics at $65/user/month, is half that but still over $10,000 per year!
Stale and stagnant Intranets are out; active Intranets are the next big thing. So what is an Active Intranet? It’s a vibrant, dynamic and flexible portal that serves as the hub for your organization’s communication and collaboration.
Driven by operational activities and events, the Active Intranet is a next generation departure from traditional Intranet portals. Gone are the days where content is manually updated by content administrators who divert precious resources chasing news around the organization, ultimately ending up with stale, stagnant content that is of little interest to users.
So what is an Active Intranet exactly?
At the core of an Active Intranet is its ability and willingness to engage audience members by routinely presenting new and relevant information from inside and outside the organization.
External news, reports and industry intelligence is often delivered through news feeds, Twitter and social networking sites like LinkedIn. That part is already available and easily added to an Intranet page using apps or web parts. What becomes the challenge is receiving up-to-date, timely internal organization news.
Posting announcements and events is standard practice for every organization’s Intranet home page. But keeping those announcements and events current is the challenge.
Internal news is often derived from operational activities and events:
Choosing an Intranet is a big decision and a lot of time and effort goes into making that final choice. When you do make that decision, you want to be sure it’s the right decision. Here at SP Marketplace, we have deployed Intranet solutions on Office 365 for more than 700 customers and we’ve put together what we have found to be the five biggest consequences of choosing the wrong Intranet solution.
1. Spending too much for a pretty site
One of the biggest mistakes companies make is they blow most of their Intranet budget on building a beautiful site that does not do much. We have seen scores of companies that come to us after hiring consultants to build a highly graphical home page only to see the project fail because the end result provided little value to employees resulting in dismal user adoption.
An Intranet is not like your Internet, which must impress visitors and acts as a window to your company’s products and services. An Intranet is intended to be an operational hub for collaboration, news, and a consistent way to access internal services. If you are an SMB with a limited budget, choosing pretty over purpose can be disastrous. Consider choosing an out-of-the-box Intranet solution that not only looks good but also is ready to deliver function that can drive user adoption and a quick ROI.
2. Nobody uses the Intranet because of stale content
One reason behind an unpopular Intranet is that the content never changes. It’s a reasonable expectation that if your company spends money to deploy an Intranet then employees are going to use it, right? Not necessarily. Providing an Intranet is one thing but you have to go further and give your employees a reason to want to use it.
Many organizations underestimate the work of keeping content current. A lot of Intranets display stale content as opposed to active content and that translates into lackluster usage. Imagine if your organization had an Intranet that automatically displayed the latest industry news, pushed important departmental announcements or events, captured the latest sales win or revealed the new employee for Company News. Some out-of-the-box Intranet solutions can actually gather news.
3. Little functionality beyond the home page
If you are using the Intranet solely as a home page, you are missing out on all the other functional value it can provide to employees. It’s critical when researching an Intranet solution that you also take into account the internal services you provide to make them easy to access for employees. Can it consolidate disparate siloed departments to make it easier for employees to access documents, procedures and internal service processes?
Beyond collaboration, productivity is driven by making it easier for employees to do business inside the organization, thereby spending more time and focus on their primary job. Make sure your Intranet includes an employee self-service portal in the structure. By doing this and investing time into the structure, you will increase user adoption and increase ROI.
4. Not deploying a consistent department structure
Department siloes often are a frustration for employees accessing internal services. The last thing you want to do with a new Intranet is create more work for employees, and that’s exactly what you will do if you don’t use a consistent design across portals. A major goal of an Intranet should be to create an organizational hub that is a consistent and intuitive experience across departments. Watch out for each department designing their own site. Provide a uniform template for department portals and add relevant content.
The IT department can have its own portal to organize help desk tickets. Marketing can have its own portal to keep track of campaigns and measure success. But, choosing the wrong Intranet solution usually is the result of a poorly planned Intranet structure that ultimately will lead to decreased productivity, declined user adoption and siloed portals.
5. An Intranet that cannot grow with you
Very few organizations stay the same over time. Growth and changing business requirements demand that your Intranet can meet your needs today as well as five years from today.
Is your Intranet flexible enough to change with the times?
Can it take advantage of new technologies or features in Office 365?
Can you change the structure, modify or add new portals easily?
Can it grow to automate more business processes over time?
Don’t make the mistake of choosing a cool looking Intranet that covers up SharePoint or Office 365 with a code driven layer. This limits flexibility and will inhibit the ability to leverage future Office 365 features. Make sure your business users are empowered to change it, and you don’t have to rely on consultants to change it.
To learn more about an Intranet that looks great, is affordable, and easy to deploy, visit us online or see a video tutorial.
For many small to medium organizations (SMB) IT support is little more than sending an email to the IT person, or seeing them in the hall, or lobbing in a phone call and hope he/she is in. But as the organization grows the "seat of the pants" approach can lead to chaos. Many SMBs start with a simple email-based IT Help Desk setup, but as they grow and as service requests increase, the quality of service drops drastically. The IT support team gets into a fire-fighting mode, just resolving requests to avoid service failure. After losing track of a few requests, or having software update tracking get out of hand, the IT group can quickly lose credibility in the organization.
Enter Office 365 SharePoint Online - a great platform for a ticketing solution
SharePoint Online has many of the functions that allow you to build a ticket tracking application. You can build a simple issue tracking solution using basic features, or you could take some deep SharePoint training and eventually build a full featured help desk solution if you have weeks to do it. Another option is to hire a consultant to build it, or start with a full featured template like SP IT Portal from SP Marketplace. This article provides a look at the features of a ticket tracking system, and suggestions for how to use SharePoint Online to deliver it.
The Arteries of Local Government: How Office 365 Can Be Used to Create an Organizational Hub for Employees
Driving more responsive citizen services and creating a citizen engagement strategy are ways local government can be more successful, forward-thinking and help transition from a department-centric approach to a citizen-centric approach. Beyond citizens, there is a key audience not to be overlooked that also plays an important role in how local government accomplishes both of the above: Employees.
While citizens may be the life blood of any city or county, employees are the arteries that help transport citizens and citizen requests throughout the system.
In our last two blog posts we talked about how department silos in local government can impede the ability to provide more responsive citizen services and engage citizens. It’s also important to point out that department silos can have a major impact on internal services to employees within local government.
Department silos began as a way to achieve more focus and specialization. This worked well at first but as citizen and employee needs evolved with advancing technology, department silos proved to be insufficient, especially in today’s fast-paced, information and consumer driven economy.
Department silos not only lead to inefficient delivery of services but inefficient delivery of internal services, such as HR, IT and Facilities, making it hard for employees to find and access the services they need most to do their jobs.
SP Marketplace has spent more than four years working tirelessly with organizations to help streamline processes and improve communication and collaboration. SP Business Suite has helped more than 500 organizations at every level, including local government, improve communication and collaboration.
What does an Intranet portal on Office 365 mean for you? Is it a place for employees to collaborate? Is it a repository for you to access key corporate information and work on your own projects? According to Microsoft, on its Office 365 page, an Intranet portal is a SharePoint site that provides workspaces with customizable security settings for individual teams within the organization.
In other words, Microsoft’s vision of an Intranet portal is a home page template in SharePoint Online. It’s a basic site intended for small teams to collaborate and share documents that includes a document library, a news feed, a One Note library. That’s it.
Let’s simplify things:
Each department might act as an extended team site with a department tasks list, calendar and document libraries. Create one of these and make it the template for the staff of that department to access and use.
Once your organization grows and your needs expand, so will the Intranet portal structure. An advanced structure will provide self-service functions for employees, such as Service Requests, a Documents Portal and a Forms Portal. Each department will have its own portal allowing access to employees in that department. Below is one example of an advanced Intranet portal structure (as provided in SP Intranet Portal module from SP Marketplace).
A major difference between the SharePoint Modern and Classic UI, is that the Modern UI editor and web parts are built much like popular website building tools (Weebly, Wordpress, Wix etc). That makes them easy to use. Unfortunately, the designers did not seem to realize that building an Internet page is very different than an Intranet. The main difference is the audience. Internets are generally pages built for the masses - anonymous users generally viewing information only. Whereas, an intranet audience is not anonymous. It is made of authenticated users who have different information needs based on role, function and level. The content in an intranet needs to allow targeting, and provide governance (security), over what is shown and who can change it based on the user.
Unfortunately that is not how much of the content management works in the SharePoint Modern and Communication Sites. It is the reason it is generating many articles of concern, here is a few:
Internet - Page building
Audience - anonymous users
Content - general information that is organized but not targeted
Content Source - the pages themselves
Governance - Simple, most of it read only
Intranet - Content Management System
Audience(s) - authenticated users by role, function, level
Content - Information, documents, data that is targeted to audience
Content Source - Lists, Libraries with meta data for filtering, targeting
Governance - Permissions based Content
I want to emphasize though, we are not saying Communications Sites themselves are bad, just beware of how their out-of-the-box content management works. Continue on to learn more.
Recently, we have seen a number of organizations who are looking to deploy an Intranet Structure wrestling with the approach of building it themselves using tools, pieces and parts, from vendors vs. using an already built out-of-the-box application based on best practice design. They are looking at companies like Live Tiles, Unily, or Valo that provide building blocks, thinking they can design an effective intranet structure.
This is interesting because many of people shopping may not fully understand that just having the tools, does not mean you know how to design an Intranet portal structure.
Like building a house with no architectural plan
Let’s step back and compare building an intranet structure to building a house. We have all gone into custom built houses that are poorly designed and wondered what were the original owners thinking?
Imagine you have bought a lot and you are ready to build your home. You can have a bunch of materials dropped off, get power tools and build it yourself. Maybe you have watched some videos and think you can design it yourself. Or you just start building it with the cool new power tools you got.
Small businesses of less than 100 people often have the challenge of building the business, developing product, marketing and generating revenue to keep the business going. Often this does not leave much time to think about putting in place a technology infrastructure to support growth. The owner or CEO, probably does not have the expertise or money to create a technology infrastructure plan.
They get the basics done like email, a website and the office essentials like Microsoft office put in. They might use a small business accounting system like Quick Books to keep track of their financials. The rest is often whatever they can get by with. The major tools are Excel where they may track client information, Employee information, and other data. Even tasks and projects often are tracked in Excel. No one thinks to put together a document storage strategy, and many are kept on employee hard drives.