Microsoft announced in 2016 it would no longer support coded sandbox solutions and gave less than 30 days’ notice. Put in business power user terms, if you have developed business solutions such as an Intranet, help desk, employee self-service or other custom site on Office 365 SharePoint Online they may stop working soon if you did not build them using the correct methods. The impact could impact your ability to conduct business.
This recent announcement may impact any web parts, forms, workflows or branding where code was used by the original developers. Many of these are probably are 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.
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.
With Office 365 and the cloud going mainstream, organizations are looking at ways to leverage this powerful platform to go beyond basic email and document sharing. Many small- to medium-size businesses are looking to create a central point of information sharing, collaboration and access to internal services through implementation of an Intranet for their employees.
More than 70% of all organizations rely on an Intranet. Often they are using Office 365 and SharePoint Online as a platform and are starting to become aware of the possibilities.
How you approach the Intranet project though can determine its success or failure. Do you build it from scratch or do you buy an out-of-the-box solution? What are the advantages of one over the other? How does cost factor in? These are all very important, very relevant questions necessary to consider before deploying an Intranet for your organization.
Building a basic Intranet from scratch can start at $30,000. But for more complex, robust Intranets, organizations can expect to pay considerably more, exceeding $100,000. But is building it yourself or with consultants your only option? Lets examine the alternatives.
The features that go into an Intranet are going to determine its adoption and how it benefits your organization. By not deploying an Intranet that empowers employees and helps them find the things they are looking for, companies can expect to lose money on their investment.
Standard features though for a successful Intranet that improves productivity and enhances company-wide communication and collaboration include:
The question is, if 70% to 80% of all organizations need the same features, why are so many Intranet portals being built from scratch? Why not start with an 80% template and customize from there?
Many organizations have gone to Office 365 – most because they saw the strategic value of a Cloud Solution and other because, well, Microsoft made them a deal they couldn’t refuse.
The bottom line for all businesses is that it makes dollars and sense to transform from a Client-side model with expensive servers to a Cloud-based solution. They have effectively eliminated the need to manage and install countless updates on so many different Client versions of Office. These companies give their employees greater capabilities and accessibility across all devices….anywhere… anytime.
That is…if they use it. The fastest Ferrari in the world can’t do much if you don’t learn to drive stick shift. We are finding that while a lot of people have moved to Office 365, in reality, their users haven’t adopted and are using the crutches of Client-based programs.
So now, you are paying for the cloud and the clients!?! Why should you pay for something you are not even using?
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.
Ignite 2018 Preview: Announcing MS Herds, a New Collaboration Platform that Joins the Office 365 Team Tools
Today, Microsoft previewed MS Herds, a fresh, new addition for teams that want to work together more effectively than ever before.
MS Herds joins the roundup of Outlook, SharePoint Team Sites, Yammer, Groups, and Teams as another collaboration platform to the Office 365 family. It is designed for those teams that want to collaborate with other teams yet still want to stay part of the greater whole.
“We are excited about our newest collaboration offering for multi-team work,” said Carla Chaos, VP of Collaboration Strategy at Microsoft. "When combined with all of our other collaboration offerings, we are now able to include every possible type of collaboration model."
Many organizations have teams that want to collaborate with other teams as part of a greater herd. Microsoft recognized the ebullient need for this situation and developed MS Herds. With MS Herds multiple teams can hold conversations, share documents, calendars, and more without allowing other teams who are not part of the herd to participate.
As more organizations come to understand the value and impact of an Office 365 Digital Workplace, it will be increasingly important for businesses to successfully bring together all the necessary components. By doing so, businesses will empower employees to be more productive and proactive in their jobs while making business easier and more efficient.
To address the needs and the core components of a Digital Workplace, a new concept is emerging called an Operational Portal Structure, and it is the logical next step for businesses to move forward. But what is an Operational Portal Structure? And, more importantly, what is the impact on your business now and going forward?