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).
Basic Intranet Structure
Additionally, you will want to add collaboration sites with the Community Site template as well. This will enable sales, service or other groups to not only use SharePoint Online to store documents and manage activities but also easily share knowledge, experiences and information.
A Consistent Experience
Having the right structure is a good start but to really transform the Intranet into more than just a home page you have to go further. Having a consistent user experience across department sites will achieve this.
An employee who visits the Intranet and then accesses the IT Portal or the HR Portal should experience consistency and unity in look and design. Often this isn’t the case because each department sets up its own portal independently.
Confusion can arise if access to important documents or forms for IT or HR is in different locations in the department portal. Also confusing is if each department uses a different Help Desk or Service Request approach. Having consistency across all departments ensures employees quickly and effectively access key documents and services, which improves productivity and the user experience. Below is an example built by SP Marketplace of consistent portal design across two departments
The above example clearly defines what an Intranet is and what it should accomplish. A successful Intranet portal is in the details and is more than just a home page.
More than 50% of Intranets run on SharePoint. Here at SP Marketplace we have implemented our Intranet Portal template at more than 500 organizations since starting business three years ago. That is roughly two organizations per day since starting business. We have learned a thing or two in that time that we would like to share with you. View our whitepaper here on using Office 365 as an Intranet portal. Let's look at some ideas about how an Intranet should be designed.
So what should an Intranet look like on Office 365?
The answer to this depends largely on your organization. The Intranet portal should reflect the structure of your organization and make it easy for employees to navigate. The documents and services that employees use the most often should be easy to find. And the Intranet should provide intuitive access to those things only used occasionally.
A simple, straightforward design at the basic level would have the organization home page portal at the top with several department portals - HR, IT, Marketing, Engineering - underneath. If you operate a retail organization or run several divisions that share overlapping services, the Intranet structure might have the organization at the top plus a portal for each division, store or region.
Obviously there is much more to a successful Intranet deployment using Office 365, including organization education, keeping content fresh and contextual just to name a few. Tune in next week to learn about how to resolve issues relating to Intranet content.
A Branded Intranet
Branding the Intranet portal will achieve organizational unity and increase value for all stakeholders. This is easy to do using Themes in SharePoint Online. You can match the colors to your organization and add a logo.
If you want to go further, hiring a consultant will help you design a custom SharePoint branding master page. 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 preconfigured branding template offered by third-party vendors. Apply specific colors and other elements to bring it in line with the branding for your organization. Below is an example of a customer’s external site versus their Intranet portal.