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07

Jun

Reimagining your SharePoint intranet with Office 365

Throughout my SharePoint career, one of the themes that has been a debate amongst consultants and our customers is the question of customisation.

Customisation has come in many forms; from changing the look and feel of the intranet to more closely aligning with the organisation’s brand and perhaps its website, to building custom components to extend functionality.

With enough development, anything has been possible. I have seen SharePoint being customised to the point where it is hardly recognisable. But does having the ability to do it, mean it’s the right thing to do?

The evolution of SharePoint

Comparing SharePoint versions, as nostalgic as it is, can be a real eye-opener. It is striking to see the pace at which it is now evolving. For those of us using Office 365, we can expect new features in our tenants almost weekly.

In some cases, several of the SharePoint features that were used extensively in previous versions are now no longer available. We eagerly await the new “modern” versions of these components being rolled out by Microsoft throughout the year. It certainly keeps things interesting! We are also seeing some of the traditional SharePoint features morphing into powerful standalone products of their own.

The result of this rapid change is that many of the customisations that organisations built in previous versions of SharePoint either need to be rebuilt, replaced or retired. Without a crystal ball, it is tough to know whether the investment you make into a customisation today will cause more headaches later, as Microsoft continues to invest in the evolution of their products.

Getting back to basics

SharePoint is not the only capability that Office 365 provides. There is often more than one app that fulfils a function, so how do we know if we are selecting the best tool for the job and future-proofing the solutions we build?

Moving into the new modern workplace that Microsoft 365 offers, often involves a fundamental change to business processes and how people work. Some find this change exciting, whereas others find it very unsettling.

To find the balance between leveraging the powerful new apps in your Office 365 tenant and keeping your staff happy, it is best to start simple. Using out-of-the box SharePoint features to build a basic intranet with familiar areas that users would expect, creates a solid foundation. Such areas could include company information, news, as well as HR, finance and other support service-related tools and templates. Starting simple means that we immediately start benefitting from the other capabilities such as Microsoft Search, Delve and Graph. This gentle approach allows for intranet champions throughout the business to buy into the possibilities for a new way of working and sets a positive tone for the road ahead.

For the branding and communications activists amongst us, it can be tempting to push the envelope at this point to get the branding just right. Although Microsoft has scaled these capabilities back somewhat in the modern experience, there are several ways that organisations can still create a unified brand experience for their staff.

Implementing a theme to introduce the organisation’s colours and including imagery that aligns to the brand can often bring an intranet to life. Building a few site templates for staff to work from and using Organization assets that serves as a central library for images, allows end users to start enjoying working in the new intranet while the Marketing and Communications teams still have oversight of the branding.

Working within these boundaries means that your intranet is largely future proofed. It is responsive on all devices and looks exceptionally beautiful.

SharePoint building blocks for a better Intranet

https://sharepointlookbook.azurewebsites.net/

The whole is more than the sum of its parts: creating a Modern Intranet

Once the basics are in place, your end-users will likely start asking about collaboration spaces for teamwork. The products within the Office 365 suite are so beautifully compatible and integrated that your intranet can rapidly be transformed from a communication to a collaboration platform.

Always think about how these changes will impact the people who will be using these tools to do their work. The benefits should always outweigh the pain of embracing a change.

  • Add a Yammer feed to your intranet home page to encourage conversation and employee engagement. This takes some governance planning upfront and buy-in from leadership for staff to feel comfortable enough to use it.
  • Enable “comments” and “likes” on pages and use analytics to establish which parts of the intranet receive high traffic. Use this information to make changes to your navigation and adjust the elements that are displayed on the intranet home page.
  • Start publishing your videos to Stream and embed video into your SharePoint site pages, where it makes sense to do so. Knowledge Managers can revel in the opportunities for tacit knowledge video capture. Videos in Stream can appear in search results, so it is worthwhile to read through the transcripts that are automatically generated when videos are uploaded to Stream channels.
  • Plan your Information Architecture and migration approach to move documents from various file shares, outdated document management systems and personal drives into SharePoint document libraries and OneDrive. Consider how metadata will be extracted or captured as well as the compliance policies, lifecycle management and the business processes surrounding these documents.
  • Encourage end-users to share links to documents from SharePoint and OneDrive, instead of emailing documents to one another. Leverage the power of co-authoring to improve the way they collaborate.
  • Consider using Flow and PowerApps to introduce efficiencies and empower end-users.
  • SharePoint provides an excellent way to display Data Insight reports.
  • Remember that Office 365 Groups are created when new SharePoint Team sites are created. A new Office 365 Group and SharePoint Team site is automatically created with each Microsoft Team. A process for SharePoint site and Teams requests, provisioning and overall governance is an important consideration early on.
  • If you are using Skype, think about the transition to Teams.

Creating a collaboration hub with Teams

Teams is the hub that brings together all of these collaboration and communication capabilities of Office 365 to allow people to work together. Teams consolidates the messaging, meeting, call and video capabilities of Skype, the task management functionality of Planner, the note-taking features of OneNote and the document management features of SharePoint into one place. Teams can be extended by incorporating other Office 365 and third-party apps into the channels that your teams are working in.

Using Teams to create project workspaces is an extremely effective way to boost the collaboration and knowledge management efforts within an organisation.

Being its fastest growing business app, Microsoft will continue to evolve Teams, so we can expect even more power from this product into the future.

Conclusion

In summary, it can be tempting to customise SharePoint using code to fulfil 100% of your expectations. In addition to third party accelerators, consider all the other products that are available to you as part of your Office 365 suite before doing so. We can often get 80% of what we need using out-of-the-box functionality. The last 20% is a small price to pay for future-proofing our investments.

 

 

This blog is part of the #cxreimagine series. For more experts' insights, clients' experiences and to download the whitepaper, click the banner.

For more experts' insights, clients' experience and to download the whitepaper, click the banner #cxreimagine

Posted by: Amanda Redgard, Senior Consultant | 07 June 2019

Tags: SharePoint, Collaboration, Office 365, customer experience, Digital Transformation, #CXreimagine


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