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According to Forbes, 71% of businesses have a public-facing website on the internet. These sites serve as a platform for companies to showcase their services and also engage with the public. By providing an introduction to the company and its place in the industry, websites help prospective and new customers build a relationship with the company. For existing clients, websites offer resources for support and additional services. Similarly, a company’s intranet is crucial for its internal customers – its associates. An intranet build offers a centralized platform for employees to access company information and collaborate with colleagues. It also helps streamline their work processes. So, why build an intranet? This article delves into the value of an intranet build and offers insights on how to build a successful one.

If you have not read the first two parts of this blog series, check them out below!

CAMC's Intranet Build Home page
Figure 1 – CAMC’s Intranet Build Home page

What is the goal?

Understanding the ‘Why’ is important to creating a solution that works for your clients. This is crucial for those seeking improved content management and new methods to connect users and groups. It’s also vital for those replacing an outdated and ineffective internal space. An Intranet is a gateway to company culture, strength of community, and the creative world of collaboration and ideation too. It provides a group, team, or organization the ability to connect privately to their content. It also enhances efficiency in connecting to their corporate community. Ultimately, you want an intranetbuild to help increase communication and productivity, while providing a secure environment to communicate and collaborate. Here are a few things to consider when building an intranet using SharePoint.

  • Provide a gateway to company culture, strength of community, and the creative world of collaboration and ideation.
  • Privately and efficiently connect users to their content and corporate community.
  • Increase communication and productivity.
  • Provide a secure environment to communicate and collaborate

Get acquainted with your audience

Concepts in SharePoint are fairly straightforward. However, your user community’s level of knowledge should always be considered. Your technical team may have to adjust their approach if the client is moving from a non-SharePoint environment (File Explorer) to SharePoint. Typically, intranet sites are created as Communication sites that are organization-facing. The Executive team/ Site administrators designate a cohort of users (content editors) to manage the site’s pages and connection to content (infrastructure). The rest of the organization helps to create interconnectivity to the content by way of sharing building spaces that use content in the tenant as resources connected to group areas (team sites).

Team sites can be built as an extension of the Intranet, giving BU’s group infrastructure an added level of membership and security. If groups are used on team sites, consider the use of permission-trimmed configurations. For example, create navigation nodes that include audience targeting connected to group-enabled sites.

Consider the End-Users’ relationship with their data…

Inventory the legacy spaces and understand how users share and collaborate. Let your Architect ask the client about their preferences in the legacy space and areas for improvement.

Are they moving from a legacy SharePoint environment to a modern SPO? Do they currently organize their files in File Explorer and mapped drives and are they moving to SPO and OneDrive? Answer these questions because they provide the most insight into how to build the new space.

CAMNet.30 New SharePoint Intranet Build
Figure 2 – CAMNet.30 New SharePoint Intranet Build

End-users may not be new to SharePoint, but the space is new. They will potentially be faced with new concepts to deal with for managing data in the new environment. These concepts may include an introduction to document library structure, such as metadata tags. They also encompass advanced organization of content like menus and quick links, and managed access (permissions) that determine access levels. Allow the new-found excitement of management and the security of their data to be the motivation. With minimal preparation, your guidance, and a bit of practice, users will get the hang of the environment in no time.

Be a good listener…

The client is going to tell you what they need. Hidden in the lines of discovery notes and survey answers describing the problems with legacy environments, a client is telling you what they REALLY need. Your job as the builder and architect/solutions provider is to read between the lines. Often clients only know the issues they face in day-to-day operations. They won’t know what will serve as a solution until you introduce them to it. They will tell you a lot of what they don’t want but as the SharePoint expert, you can guide them to the portions of the interface that will add value for them. The earlier you can match what a client needs with the features and functions of the new build, the more successful your build and UAT phases will be. The ripple effect will be evident in current and future intranet builds.

Think SharePoint ‘Out of the Box’

There are many features to SharePoint that can be used for creating an Intranet. But the ‘out the box’ (OTB) features for SharePoint build can seem limited for certain user stories (e.g. knowledge bases, Employee handbooks, guide indexes, etc.). Finesse functionality to fit what you need to accomplish for the client. For example, you can use the news web part to publish and promote corporate news or to promote news from an affiliate site.

With the addition of page types, a bit of smart configuration, and a custom landing page, the same news web part can become much more. Use this tailored approach to create a News post dashboard to showcase birthdays and anniversaries or a bulletin board for daily/ weekly bulletins and other announcements. Use News links to connect to content that is created for an organization in multiple places within SharePoint sites. This gives interconnectivity to your content for public-facing and org-wide resources. This is sure to add value to the intranet solution and increase user adoption.

Let them behind the veil

Make sure to keep the content managers/ editors/ major stakeholders involved in the creative process. Every phase of your intranet requires input from the intended audience. Gone are the days of requirements docs and numerous meetings to discuss, while the client waits months for the development of a prototype. The use of an Agile framework and adaptation of the ‘user story’ makes for a more hands-on approach to building an interface solution like an intranet.

TSI’s Design/ Build team schedules working sessions within the project timeline that help to open dialogue with major stakeholders. This allows for consideration of specific use cases and scenarios that will help define and ensure success in usability. So be sure to leave room in the project timeline for UAT. UAT is a time for your client to figure out if the configured space meets all of their business needs. Be sure to take this time to let content managers see the configuration and maintenance tasks that will affect overall usability. You not only get feedback that tells you how well the solution meets the need, you expose the client BUs to operations scenarios that could help during your project refinements phase.

CBG SharePoint Intranet Benefits Site - Human Resources
Figure 3 – CBG Intranet Benefits Site – Human Resources

Ultimately, the intranet space is for the user. An intranet serves as a tool to announce and help engagement but also provides space for team collaboration and the evolution of creative content. This evolution starts with the concept and should remain constant with every step toward a tailored solution.

  • Training and support: Provide training and support to help users get the most out of the intranet. This can include training on how to use SharePoint features, as well as how to collaborate and share information effectively.
  • Regular updates: Keep the intranet up-to-date with the latest information and resources. This can help ensure that users continue to find the intranet useful and relevant.
  • Feedback: Encourage users to provide feedback on the intranet build, and then use this feedback to make improvements. This can help ensure that the intranet continues to meet the needs of its users.

Conclusion

In conclusion, building an award-winning intranet using SharePoint involves understanding the goals and needs of the audience, considering their relationship with data, and being a good listener to their requirements. It’s important to think outside the box and use SharePoint’s features creatively to meet the specific needs of the users. Keeping the content managers, editors, and major stakeholders involved in the creative process and using an agile framework can help ensure the success of the intranet. Ultimately, the intranet build serves as a tool for engagement, collaboration, and also evolution of creative content.

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