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.
Putting It All Together: The Components of an Operational Portal Structure at the Core of a Digital Workplace
In our last blog "Putting Office 365 to Work with an Operational Portal Structure," we introduced the concept of an Operational Portal Structure (OPS) and how it is the contextual core of a Digital Workplace. We explored the meaning of an OPS, its evolution, and how it can be realized through Office 365 and SharePoint Online.
In this blog, we will take a deeper look at the core components of an OPS, what is necessary for it to be part of an Office 365 Digital Workplace, and why.
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.
Intranet portal design has evolved considerably as a result of Office 365 and SharePoint. As more organizations come to understand and embrace the Digital Workplace, employees expect a centralized, seamless user interface that they can access anywhere, anytime.
When it comes to your Intranet portal, beauty and functionality only go so far. The content that is displayed on the Intranet portal for your organization and how it benefits employees is going to be the defining line in user adoption and a successful Intranet on Office 365 and SharePoint.
There is no shortage of content that can be added to the Intranet portal. It’s important to strike a balance between operational content that is essential for all employees to be aware of and personalized content that is going to benefit just one team or one department.
What most organizations don’t realize is that in order to have content you have to get content. It’s a Catch-22. While employees of an organization clamor for content they don’t understand what it takes to provide that content. When they are then approached to submit content they avoid the task or put it off. This leaves frazzled and overwhelmed content managers who work hard to provide relevant, contextual Intranet information.
Providing employees with the ability to personalize content in conjunction with organizational content will increase usage and collaboration and help them do their jobs better.
For example, picture a salesperson in charge of the government sector who finds a website containing the latest RFPs for his or her state. The ability to link relevant content directly on the Intranet will greatly improve workflow, reduce time-consuming searches, and increase user adoption of the Intranet.
A lot of businesses become enamored with big, beautiful Intranets with sleek layouts and vibrant visual imagery. They want a stunning, well-sized picture to go with the latest company announcement. Or, they want to see who the new hires are, not just read about them. There are awards given to Intranets for achievements in design and beauty.
However, bigger is not always better and neither is beauty when it comes to Intranets. What people don’t realize when it comes to designing an Intranet and making it look good is that beauty comes at a price. Is your budget ready for that?
By Darrell Trimble
A lot of new Intranet-in-a-box offerings for SharePoint are flooding the market that promise businesses a vibrant intranet that employees will love and use. These Intranets-in-a-box promote an enhanced interface, responsive design, content targeting, and social features.
As with any technology or software purchase, it’s important to educate yourself on what you are actually paying for. SharePoint, especially SharePoint Online, already comes with the features mentioned above as part of its base platform.
So, what are these new Intranets-in-a-box really providing, which can cost businesses close to $50k? To be straightforward, they are putting a new face on what some people consider “old and ugly” SharePoint. This scenario is similar to paying for a complete kitchen remodel when all you’re really getting is kitchen cabinet refacing.
Even more interesting is that with the announcement of the new SharePoint user experience, the need for “refacing” will soon go away. The Intranet product-specific user experiences will collide with the common user experience Microsoft is releasing across Office 365 components, such as Groups, Planner, and email.
Your Intranet should share this common look and feel with the rest of Office 365; otherwise, it will stick out like a sore thumb, leading to inconsistency with other Office 365 services that users traverse each day.