In the last few months Microsoft has rolled out its new Communications Site, and at Ignite 2017 announced Hub. We compliment the Microsoft SharePoint team on the work they have done and how great the sites look; it's a vast improvement over the old user interface.
The only issue is that many users now think that they can put in a Communications Site and like magic have an Intranet. The question remains:
Are these new sites really my free out-of-the-box Intranet for my organization? The answer is perhaps yes, but probably no.
If your Intranet requires a simple news and activities page that looks good and is easy to create, then yes. If your requirements go beyond this then get ready to roll up your sleeves and put in some time and skills.
With the base Communications Site, you will find that the content will soon become stale, and you have no options for content targeting or personalization. Additionally, there are no built-in processes for approval or other content related activities. All news consists of wiki pages that require the content manager to know SharePoint who must dive into Site Contents and the Site Pages Library to manage news items.
Events consist of SharePoint calendars not related to Office 365 calendars. Communication Sites can only be created in their own site collection, so you cannot mix them with your existing SharePoint team sites. This means that you will have to manage users, permissions, apps and much more for each site collection, which can become cumbersome and complex. There is actually a long list of shortcomings with the design that can eliminate it as the magic out-of-the-box Intranet solution for many organizations. See more in the Clearbox Consulting blog.
Be careful with your expectations about what you get. While it is a big leap in look and feel, understand that you still have to “design” your Intranet site and site structure. You still need to build the pages, build the lists libraries, and build the workflows to fulfill the vision of a full Intranet structure for your organization.
In reality, the Communications Site is a better page builder; that is all. Similar to the analogy of building a house, you can give a carpenter tools and materials necessary to build a house. However, without a plan or design it will still end up in disaster.
You need an architect to design the floor plan, electrical, plumbing, and elevation. The same goes for your Intranet. Of course it is great to have better tools, but to think that that is all you need will get you into trouble.
At SP Marketplace, we offer an out-of-the-box Operational Portal Structure that brings everything together to deliver an employee services solution that goes beyond the Intranet home page to include employee self-service with a central help desk, document center,and process central.
Department portals include staff portals integrated with Office 365 Groups, built-in help desks, staff work spaces, and functional applications. Additionally, each has an employee service portal like MyIT, MyHR, etc., that provides a consistent way for employees to get resources and services provided by each department.
All of these attributes go far beyond just the nice Home Page provided by the Communication Site. It is truly an operational Intranet structure. Now, don’t assume that we think them Modern User Interface and the Communication Site are bad. They are a great leap forward in look and feel. In fact, we will be adapting our out-of-the-box solutions to use the modern UI, and the Communications Site as the basis for our Intranet Home Page and in our Portals.
Unlike other vendors, SP Marketplace has always used native SharePoint and Office 365 features, and now the wait for a great user interface pays off. Of course we will add the enhancements required, but the look and feel will be based on it when it is ready for prime time.
At SP Marketplace, we have created out-of-the-box "Native" SharePoint templates to transform your Office 365 to a Digital Workplace, learn more below.