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:
Choosing an Intranet is a big decision and a lot of time and effort goes into making that final choice. When you do make that decision, you want to be sure it’s the right decision. Here at SP Marketplace, we have deployed Intranet solutions on Office 365 for more than 700 customers and we’ve put together what we have found to be the five biggest consequences of choosing the wrong Intranet solution.
1. Spending too much for a pretty site
One of the biggest mistakes companies make is they blow most of their Intranet budget on building a beautiful site that does not do much. We have seen scores of companies that come to us after hiring consultants to build a highly graphical home page only to see the project fail because the end result provided little value to employees resulting in dismal user adoption.
An Intranet is not like your Internet, which must impress visitors and acts as a window to your company’s products and services. An Intranet is intended to be an operational hub for collaboration, news, and a consistent way to access internal services. If you are an SMB with a limited budget, choosing pretty over purpose can be disastrous. Consider choosing an out-of-the-box Intranet solution that not only looks good but also is ready to deliver function that can drive user adoption and a quick ROI.
For many small to medium organizations (SMB) IT support is little more than sending an email to the IT person, or seeing them in the hall, or lobbing in a phone call and hope he/she is in. But as the organization grows the "seat of the pants" approach can lead to chaos. Many SMBs start with a simple email-based IT Help Desk setup, but as they grow and as service requests increase, the quality of service drops drastically. The IT support team gets into a fire-fighting mode, just resolving requests to avoid service failure. After losing track of a few requests, or having software update tracking get out of hand, the IT group can quickly lose credibility in the organization.
Enter Office 365 SharePoint Online - a great platform for a ticketing solution
SharePoint Online has many of the functions that allow you to build a ticket tracking application. You can build a simple issue tracking solution using basic features, or you could take some deep SharePoint training and eventually build a full featured help desk solution if you have weeks to do it. Another option is to hire a consultant to build it, or start with a full featured template like SP IT Portal from SP Marketplace. This article provides a look at the features of a ticket tracking system, and suggestions for how to use SharePoint Online to deliver it.
The Arteries of Local Government: How Office 365 Can Be Used to Create an Organizational Hub for Employees
Driving more responsive citizen services and creating a citizen engagement strategy are ways local government can be more successful, forward-thinking and help transition from a department-centric approach to a citizen-centric approach. Beyond citizens, there is a key audience not to be overlooked that also plays an important role in how local government accomplishes both of the above: Employees.
While citizens may be the life blood of any city or county, employees are the arteries that help transport citizens and citizen requests throughout the system.
In our last two blog posts we talked about how department silos in local government can impede the ability to provide more responsive citizen services and engage citizens. It’s also important to point out that department silos can have a major impact on internal services to employees within local government.
Department silos began as a way to achieve more focus and specialization. This worked well at first but as citizen and employee needs evolved with advancing technology, department silos proved to be insufficient, especially in today’s fast-paced, information and consumer driven economy.
Department silos not only lead to inefficient delivery of services but inefficient delivery of internal services, such as HR, IT and Facilities, making it hard for employees to find and access the services they need most to do their jobs.
SP Marketplace has spent more than four years working tirelessly with organizations to help streamline processes and improve communication and collaboration. SP Business Suite has helped more than 500 organizations at every level, including local government, improve communication and collaboration.
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 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.