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What is an Intranet?

An intranet speaks to the soul of a company. It’s a place for your team to collaborate and connect, and also keep everyone up to speed on what the different divisions or departments are up to. Intranets not only allow you to develop camaraderie and support within a company, but also to find what individuals within the company are producing, even if they are outside of your direct team. Work overlaps from time-to-time, and intranets display the moving parts in action. It can naturally boost production because it allows you to see the essence of what everyone is doing across the board. For the good of the team, you want to add value, as it fosters synergy that’s essential to the success of your business. Intranets display the work behind the computer. Let’s face it, we are people first, and your intranet allows your associates to explore that.

For more information on how to get started building your Intranet with Total Solutions, check out our official Microsoft AppSource offering.

Building Your Intranet Homepage
Figure 1 – SharePoint Intranet Homepage

What’s the difference between Intranets, Extranets, and Websites?

An extranet lives somewhere in between an external website and an intranet. It is an external-facing site for customers and partners to access the information only you can provide. Let’s say it this way, your organization has an internal team that accesses specific resources, and these resources traditionally live within an intranet. Now, your organization also has partners and customers that you work closely with, and they may request certain documents and resources. It’s important to note that these resources are different from what lives on your intranet. Companies often host external resources inside an extranet and grant permission to third parties for access. A public-facing website or web space is separate from an intranet or extranet: intranets are for your internal team, extranets serve the people you do business with, and the work you do is found on a public-facing website. Your intranet can often speak to who you are as a company, based on the information and resources that are highlighted for internal consumption and communication.

Intranet and Extranets
Figure 2 – SharePoint Intranet and Extranet

How to differentiate your Homepage from the Intranet?

The homepage, at a glance, is the pretty, flashy cover. Imagine picking up a book or a magazine, it’s the first thing that you see. Naturally, the imagery should draw you in, but once you get past the cover, the rest of the book is the content. Your content needs to be dynamic and foster collaboration’. This means, you want to have important components, making it easy to find links to tools, portals to resources, and accessibility to the work you’ve done in the past. If this book is the story of your organization, then you want to display what’s important to your company. Another way to approach it is, your homepage acts a launchpad to get to certain things, be it the social aspect or the business operations.

An intranet is only as good as the content showcased. The content needs regular updates or it grows stale, and people won’t visit it anymore. To avoid the pitfalls of an abandoned intranet, we recommend appointing someone to maintain the information. When Total Solutions creates an intranet, we configure it so that information is pulled dynamically. The web parts on a page source information instantly, and format it into SharePoint. Depending on the client or the industry, content editors may have a more hands-on approach to promoting content. An Intranet evolves based on this approach. Just as the work your company is doing is on-going, an intranet is not a one-time build. Once it’s created, an intranet thrives in a space where comprehensive design and build meet managed content throughout. The newsfeed you choose to promote brings it to life. This is why you want frequent traffic to your homepage, so everyone stays on the same page while changes occur.

What do you typically see on an Intranet Homepage?

An intranet will spotlight corporate news, current events, company wins, or even new projects. You can display stats as a reminder of what differentiates your company from other employers, or accolades like anniversaries and promotions. Calendars are also commonly found on a homepage to remind the company about upcoming events, holidays and celebrations. You want team members within your organization to visit the homepage often because they can connect to all the resources they’re looking for. Eliminate old school, mass-emails or word-of-mouth in exchange for promoting updates from a centralized location – your intranet homepage.

The intranet connects you to your company. This space doesn’t need to simply reflect your individual work, but it should celebrate the value you add to the company. Information shouldn’t exist in silos. The space should be a collective effort, showcasing current events, endeavors, and success stories. Intranets allow you to see how you and your department fit into the bigger picture of the organization.

Your Intranet Homepage - A Centralized Location

Figure 3 – SharePoint Intranet Homepage

Who do we build an Intranet Homepage for?

Building an intranet means catering it to the company it serves, and making it custom for them. First, it’s important to understand the dynamics of the users and what brings their vision together. By building an intranet off the company’s Mission and Vision, it further reinforces that intranet development isn’t for the sake of trying out a new piece of software. Rather, it’s about enabling a team of individuals to work towards a collective vision efficiently and effectively.

It’s important to note that if a company is trying something new, the associates can be a bit apprehensive towards change. We can highlight how this change improves the culture and gives employees what they truly desire. You want everyone to have a space that is welcoming, while promoting new behavior when needed. Total Solutions uses an agile framework for this reason. Our team is cognizant of evolving client needs, and we understand that uncovering the “WHY” and “HOW” statements for the intranet often require multiple conversations with the stakeholders that use the technology day-in and day-out.

How do you choose an Intranet Homepage Template?

Your team has options when building your homepage and selecting the right web parts for that space. Choosing the right web parts is a question of functionality and understanding what your team is looking to accomplish when they come to the homepage. Remember that there are some web parts that won’t apply to your organization. Understand what you want to convey, whether it’s news posts, employee announcements, internal awards, and then choose the web parts for that scenario. There are times Total Solutions has to customize accordingly, and we work with your organization to decide which template might serve your company best.

You can also cater components to different departments within your organization. For example, there may be unique content that is only accessible to those on the HR team.  The parties who need to see the page will have access to tailored areas, with particular web parts on it. The entire enterprise doesn’t need access to resources meant for a specific team or group, so permissions help manage this.

Intranet Homepage templates
Figure 4 – Intranet Homepage Template

What are Permissions in a SharePoint Intranet?

SharePoint is really meant for sharing – it’s in the name. Your intranet is an access point where you can share and collaborate. Now, within that you do have permissions. Permissions are assigned based on membership and levels of privilege. They give access to make changes to the information within a particular area or limit resources to a particular department. You can add different levels of permissions within the site and decide who sees what. For example, there are strict privacy settings for sensitive employee information, like tax information. But at its core, an intranet’s true purpose is to share a space where everybody can work and stay connected.

SharePoint Permissions
Figure 5 – Permissions

What are the Prerequisites for Getting Started?

Before building out your intranet or reaching out to potential vendors to assist with this, we recommend that you take the time connect with your team and map out the the vision of your business. This exercise, in addition to answering the questions we listed above, will get you one step closer to successfully designing and building the intranet your team deserves.