SP Marketplace returns to the SharePoint conference in Las Vegas, May 21-23. Come join us for the world's biggest and most comprehensive event empowering you to achieve more in the modern workplace with Microsoft 365.
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Listen to this invitation from Jeff Teper, Vice President for Office 365, OneDrive and SharePoint at Microsoft
We look forward to seeing you at our booth!
The short answer is about five to seven hours.
Here at SP Marketplace we have implemented over 600 Intranet portal and business solutions for our customers. Key to success is having an “owner” of the solution, often not a SharePoint technician, but rather a business person who is a SharePoint Power User.
While your IT people may understand the technology behind your business, and keep everything humming along quite nicely, they often do not understand your business practices and processes. In fact, your typical IT staffer is possibly the worst person for this role. The person you want is the one who is not only a little technology savvy, but understand the needs and requirements of your business and is able to then interpret what each department's needs are, and translate this into the best SharePoint practices for you. This may even be the person who can make Excel sing and dance to create all those reports with the graphs that you like.
There is a wealth of training and instructional videos available that can take a user from novice to a power user level. Some of those links can be found on Lynda.com or in the training section at SP Marketplace. These provide some great examples of what is available out there (the latter is even free).
Just by watching some of these will help you gain a better understanding of how powerful a tool SharePoint can be. It is much more than a document repository/management tool. Once they have an understanding of not only how lists and libraries work, but workflows and permissions as well, they will be able to not only successfully configure your SharePoint sites, but are then are able to add more functionality to this business platform.
Another point you will want to consider is how you are going to administer each department site as well. As your Power User won’t want to be inundated with requests to add new announcements, change some of the existing links, or even manage the contents of the emails that are sent out when a new ticket is logged. For this you want to ensure that the content is easily managed by an appointed person in each department.
It no longer is just a set of static pages like a home-made website, but a powerful tool, that will let you perform a lot of business workflows, like approval processes, and manage tickets quickly and effectively with its own built in reporting functions. A well designed SharePoint site collection can allow a small to medium sized company to forgo the ongoing expense of lots of Siloed applications, which will have no inter-relation to each other, and have this replaced by a single platform to manage most if not all of your business needs—all in one place.
Just ask yourself… How much is a well-designed, correctly maintained platform worth to your organization? Make sure that you have the right person for the job. They will need to know how your staff communicates with each other, and how information flows around your organization. This will ensure that not only is the correct information being delivered to the correct people, but also greatly assist in the behind the scenes automation and reduce in the manual handling (and mishandling) of the communications around your organization.
So while you need someone who not only understands the capabilities of SharePoint, and what it cannot do, they need to be someone who understands your business processes to be able to translate that into your business environment. Then you will have a site that can not only sing and dance, but perform for you and your organization.
If you have Office 365 and SharePoint Online, you may think you get an intranet portal with the package. According to the Microsoft’s Office 365 web page many of the Plans include (Microsoft’s description):
Intranet site for your teams:
SharePoint sites provide workspaces with customizable security settings for individual teams within the organization.
What this is in reality is the Team Site template in SharePoint Online. It is a very basic site that includes a document library, a news feed, a one note library and that’s it. It is designed for a small team to collaborate and share documents. So what is an Intranet then? Here is an excellent simple answer:
Obviously, the above answer is very clear, the path to a successful intranet portal is in the details. Another excellent source for definition is good ole Wikipedia. Go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intranet for a good overview and introduction to creating an intranet. One important piece of information is that over 50% of intranets operating today are running on SharePoint. So Microsoft’s claim of an intranet is generally accurate, except that they should say it is a great platform for an intranet! Not an out of the box intranet as many assume. We at SP Marketplace have implemented our Intranet Portal template in over 400 organizations in the last 18 months, and we have learned a few things to pass on.
So what should an intranet look like on Office 365?
Well much of that depends on your organization. Most important is that it reflect the structure of your organization. Second it should make it easy for your employees to find the things they use most often, and have intuitive access to those things they only need once in a while.
If your organization is typical you might have a top organizational portal (Home) and several department portals (example HR, IT, Marketing, Engineering etc). If you have an organization that is a retail organization or has several divisions which share common services it might have the organization above, plus a portal for each division, store, region etc.
Each department might be an extended Team Site with a department tasks list, calendar, document libraries etc. Create one of these and make it your department template for the staff of that department to access and use. This is the simplest structure and is a good start.
However, while it serves basic needs, eventually you will want to expand the structure to provide self-service functions for employees, and employee portals in each department which separate the department staff site from employee access with an employee portal for each department. Here is one such structure (as provided in SP Intranet Portal module from SP Marketplace).
Additionally you will want to add collaboration sites with the Community Site template as well, so sales, service or other groups can not only use SharePoint Online to store documents and manage activities, but also they can share knowledge, experiences and information easily.
Key User Adoption Strategy 1: Consistent Look, Layout and User Experience
Having the right structure is a good start, but it is also just as important to make sure that the user experience is consistent across sites. An employee using the Intranet, then going to the IT Portal, or the HR portal should have a consistent intuitive experience. Often this does not end up happening because each department end up setting up their own portal, without regard to a common experience for the end user in relation to other departments. If access to important document or forms for IT or HR. is in completely different locations in the department portal, then the user may become confused or frustrated. If each department uses a different Help Desk or Service Request approach, that can be confusing. So an important aspect is for each of the departments to use a common design approach to their employee facing portals. Below you can see an example (source: SP Marketplace) of consistent portal design across two departments.
Key User Adoption Strategy 2: Branding: Make it look like it is part of your organization
Another key to high user adoption is to make the look and feel of the template reflect your organization branding on your external web site. You can do that in a simple approach using Themes in SharePoint Online. Here you can change the colors to match your organization colors and add your logo. This is the minimum that should be done. If you wish to go further you can hire a consultant to design a custom SharePoint branding master page. However, be aware that if not done right, it could result in problems upgrading to newer versions of SharePoint. An alternative (and more cost effective) way is to use a pre-configured Branding template offered by third party venders. You can often apply your specific colors etc. to bring it closer to your organization branding. Below is an example of one of our customer’s external site vs. their Intranet portal.
For those of you new to or using Office 365 and thinking about using it as an intranet portal, we hope this article was informative. Obviously there is much more to a successful intranet deployment using Office 365 like organization education, keeping content fresh and more. For those of you who would like to quickly deliver an Intranet structure to your organization, we at SP Marketplace offer SP Business Suite and a range of services as a way to cost effectively jump start the solution.
Here at SP Marketplace we have seen a lot of different processes used, by a lot of different departments for a lot of different businesses. Even in my personal experience of working in IT for 20 years now, I have seen quite a few different types of ticketing systems, ways to manage documents and interact with different departments. I have seen ticketing systems utilized that are as basic as working on an Excel spreadsheet, to as convoluted as the ones provided by ConnectWise. A couple of the biggest commonalities that I have seen with these is they are usually just a single (Siloed) application for just that department and they are not really that customizable for the ever changing needs of the business.
Consider this: A centralized ticketing system that utilizes the same platform for all your departments (IT, HR, Facilities, Training, etc.) that your staff can access from any device, from any location they can access the internet from, to be able to make requests or submit a ticket to any department within your organization, AND then able to quickly see the status of that ticket.
What if that ticketing system could be very easily customized to each individual department’s needs and requirements? What if each department had their own easily accessible library for not only documents, but the forms that are utilized, not only for themselves, but the rest of your staff as well?
How about this: How many of your business processes are handled manually? What if a lot of these processes could be initiated automatically when required? Take, for example the onboarding process for a new employee, or a frequently performed project, that has dozens of individual tasks associated with it, and requires the coordination of many people across many departments? How can you track the progress of these tasks in one centralized area? How can you even see who is doing what?
What about your assets and facilities? I have seen a lot of companies just storing this information on a spreadsheet, or they utilize another siloed application to keep a track of them. However, a lot of these programs do not keep track of the tickets or work orders raised against those assets. What if you had a centralized area to do all of these and also keep a track of your regularly scheduled maintenance?
That is just your internal staff. Add to this mix, your external clients/customers. How many programs and processes are used in not only their management but your service of their needs and requirements?
Every company’s business needs are different and diverse. A lot of the software out there is stock standard and requires contacting the vendor to make even the simplest of changes. What you need is a simple unifying platform for your staff to access all the information they need on a day to day basis, which is unique to your requirements and processes, that can keep up with and change with your specific needs.
This is where SharePoint on Office365 comes into its own. It is a platform that will integrate with your organization, its diverse nature and requirements. Add to that the business solutions in SP Business Suite that are offered by SP Marketplace, and you have that a centralized structure for your staff to not only communicate and collaborate with each other, but to handle and manage the tasks required for their daily interactions and transactions. Not only that, but it will save you time (and money) in having all your business needs in one location, automate a lot of your business processes and for your staff to track how things are going!
Implementing an Intranet is very different from your external website. After over 300 implementations of our SP Intranet Portal, we have gained some insight on success factors. With an Intranet, there should never be an emphasis on marketing, PR, and over glorious graphics. Its mission is much different, to facilitate the quickest possible access to information, collaboration and tools to help your employees do their job.
As we have covered in previous articles in this series, a successful Intranet implementation may start with the right technology platform (example: Office 365) and the right structural design, but its ongoing success relies on a commitment from the organization for staff resources to keep it running. In small to medium businesses this can be a challenge. These organizations do not have the budgets or staff available to commit exclusively to the Intranet.
The ongoing challenges of HR policy management at small to medium organizations (SMBs) are constantly changing and evolving, leaving HR managers overwhelmed and frustrated. Strict government regulations and an increase in employee legal disputes complicates policy development and automating the process of distributing and receiving employee acknowledgement.
Once a policy is developed and approved, what is the best way for organizations to communicate it and distribute it? Where and how can employees access it, especially if the policy is urgent and the employee is not in the office? Furthermore, how can HR managers receive confirmation that employees read, understood, and acknowledged the policy?
Over the years Microsoft makes changes that affect a custom built Intranet, help desk, employee self-service or other custom site on Office 365 SharePoint Online. The impact can impact your ability to conduct business. These changes may impact any web parts, forms, workflows or branding where code was used by the original developers. Many of these are probably core to the operation of the application solution. There are a number of other solution development approaches that will become a problem as well. This article will look at business solution development and the “critical” mistakes internal developers and consultants can make and what you can do about it beforehand.
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: