Intranet requirements range greatly from industry to industry, but several core requirements repeatedly come up with intranets built on SharePoint.
Identifying these common requirements and exploring what it takes to make them happen is key to starting any SharePoint intranet project off on the right foot.
We have already explored current branding and design trends for home pages, as well as ways to improve the process of finding content. This post will focus on using SharePoint features to improve collaboration, because a little less email in your inbox is a win for everyone. We'll also address considerations for companies looking to make that big SharePoint on premises vs. SharePoint Online decision.
Separating Collaboration from Intranet Content
Many organizations have caught on to the fact that employees need a place to collaborate outside of Outlook and file shares.
While the content stored on an intranet site typically is long lasting and infrequently updated, content produced by team or project collaboration is typically more dynamic. Think of the difference between an HR policy and the minutes from a project meeting.
HR may update the policy every two or three years, and it needs to remain available to all employees for a long period of time. Minutes may receive one update post meeting, but then ignored once the project concludes.
The way to manage these two content flows is to create a separate portal for collaboration. A separate web application or site collection could serve this purpose, depending on the amount of content and security required.
Creating a separate portal for collaboration will allow you to handle content retention differently. While the content on the intranet may need long, multiple year retention policies, archiving collaboration content after a certain amount of time keeps the sites clean.
Ad Hoc Sites – Empowering Users
One of the simplest ways to encourage adoption of this portal is to make it simple for users to generate ad hoc sites for their collaboration needs.
You can easily accomplish this by setting up a site request list at the top level of the portal. Have users enter information around the purpose of the site and potentially require them to specify a date for the site to be reviewed or closed, which will help with retention polices.
Once the site request is approved, a SharePoint workflow can automatically create it based on the information they entered and email them a link. Creating templates for a few sites will offer you even more control over the general taxonomy. The template could include common content types or metadata that should be used across the organization. For example, the request form may have a drop down menu for “Site Type” and the user could choose Project, Team or Community site. The workflow would see that value and create the new site with the appropriate template.
The key here is to keep the intranet content that has a wide audience separate from content that belongs to a specific team or department.
Also, while the intranet may have only a few site administrators who can update and manage the portal, each collaboration site could have several unique site owners. The self-service option allows them to not only take more ownership, but also encourages them to use SharePoint features they may not otherwise have access to on a well-structured intranet site.
Collaborating in the Cloud: Office 365 Groups
All of the above information applies to both SharePoint on premises and SharePoint Online. But with the increased popularity of Office 365 and SharePoint Online we should address the benefits around collaboration specific to Office 365. One feature in particular is Groups.
The Groups feature in Office 365 allows us to quickly pull together teams and provide them the collaboration space to get work done. Groups are integrated across Office 365 and with integrations continuing to be added regularly.
Groups can include people within the organization as well as external users (customers, partners, etc.) and includes access to their own mailbox, calendar, library, OneNote, and even their own Plan (part of the Office 365 task management app “Planner”).
Some caveats when using Groups: Groups offer limited governance capabilities and no retention polices or compliance features are currently available. However, with the frequent Office 365 updates, that may change any day.
We previously discussed how the Delve feature in Office 365 presents relevant content to users.
Delve also comes into play when we think about collaboration and breaking bad email habits. Delve Analytics displays specific information about how you spent your time over the week. It includes details about how many hours you spent writing or reading email, in meetings and even the average time it took to respond to emails.
Further, it shows specific information on collaboration with your teammates, how many emails you received from them, meetings you both attended etc. This is a great tool for understanding where most of your collaboration is happening and seeing hard data on how to improve it. Read more information about Delve Analytics here.
Still to Come
The remaining articles in this series will cover the following additional requirements:
- “We need integration with the other tools we use”
- “I need people to be engaged and actually use the intranet”
So check back later in the summer for updates.