As many of those who have used Microsoft SharePoint will know, it is a bit of a "kitchen sink" product. It offers the typical enterprise a bit of everything -- a bit of workflow, lots of document management, social features, calendars, basic task management -- this list goes on. As a result it can be difficult to know what bits to use and how best to use them. Intranet projects can quickly become bloated and the final product is met with a resounding whimper by end users.

To help with this issue, here is my list of five things you should not be doing with a SharePoint Intranet.

1. Implement Workflows

So many Intranet projects try to make use of SharePoint workflows. Some even plump for an add-on like Nintex, which provides a really powerful platform for building almost any custom workflow you can think off. But you should avoid workflows on your Intranet. Why? Because they are so very hard to get right.

Implementing a badly thought out workflow will kill your Intranet before it even has chance to get going. Workflows are often sold as a way to improve users working lives, to streamline, to save money. Instead users normally end up with a clunky process, that involves more steps or convoluted workarounds and turns users off SharePoint altogether.

Why not try instead ...

Keep your Intranet simple to begin with and launch with only a core set of features. Then spend some time and money investigating how people really work, and the processes they carry out. Only once the Intranet has seen some adoption and you truly understand a given workflow, should you try to build it. And again, keep it simple.

2. Build Infopath Forms

Infopath is similar to workflow, in that often people are sold on the idea that every form in the business can be put online, with all the advantages this supposedly brings. Instead they get complex forms that are harder to fill out than the paper versions and never end up being used. Infopath is a complex tool and producing usable forms with it is a real skill. People often see it as a close relation of Word and dive right in to build a "Sickness absence" or "Holiday" form. The results vary wildly.

Launching a new Intranet with substandard functionality will turn users off and they will never adopt the system long enough to see the benefits. Forms are an easy trap to fall into -- easy to build and very difficult to get right.

Why not try instead ...

Keep all forms as Word documents, but store the masters on the Intranet. That way people have to use the system to get a copy of the form in the first place (use content types if you are really doing it properly). Completed forms, in Word or scanned, can be saved in a document library.

Keep things simple to begin with (see a theme developing?) and once people are used to the system, you can expand with well thought out Infopath forms.

3. Implement a Custom Graphic Design

The issue of graphic design, SharePoint and Intranets, is something of a pet topic of mine. Basically don’t waste time skinning up SharePoint to match your website or corporate brand guidelines.

The time and money spent on this work can be much better spent on functionality, training or adoption activities. These things have a much greater return on investment than making sure your brand themes are interpreted accurately. This issue is even more pertinent for SharePoint 2010. Microsoft’s offical advice is not to touch the user interface -- so don’t!

Why not try instead ...

Put your logo on your SharePoint master page and create some themes that use your color palette. Then create some site templates that consider good layout and information architecture.

4. Replace All Existing Fileshares

SharePoint is great at document management, it really is. Check in and out, versioning, even the interface: all good features well implemented. Even SharePoint detractors can’t help but admit that it does documents well. But don’t do what many companies do and migrate all documents to the SharePoint Intranet and remove the existing fileshares.

People likes fileshares, they are used to them and have a lot of time invested in how they are organized. Yes they are messy, out of control and poorly managed, but they are also widely adopted by almost everyone. If you just turn them off and dump everyone in SharePoint you are going to end up with a lot of confused users, no matter how good the document management feature set is.

Why not try instead ...

Make fileshares read only, so nothing new can be added, but leave them where they are. Ask users to upload new files into SharePoint, whilst reassuring them that the old stuff is safe where it is. Allow SharePoint search to index the fileshares so one search result returns all documents, no matter where they live.

5. "Finish” It 

If you think you have finished your SharePoint Intranet then you have failed. So many companies think a project ends when the system is launched. This is actually the beginning. Typical users don’t come to work dying to play with SharePoint, and a new Intranet has few reasons it has to be used. So you need to encourage users, train them, add new features, keep things interesting. All of these activities need to happen after the Intranet has gone live. So don't ever finish your Intranet, but treat it as a live ongoing project.

Why not try instead ...

Take a good look at your Intranet project plan. If it ends at "go live," rip it up. You need to add events and activities for up to six months after you launch the system, ideally 12. Run competitions, perform user training, set up "drop-in clinics," hire people to keep content up to date and relevant, heck even build new features (maybe workflows and forms -- but simple ones!).

Editor's Note: Another article by Chris Wright you might enjoy is:

-- SharePoint 2013 Needs Less Features, Not More