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SharePoint Intranet

Yes, SharePoint is a good platform to build your intranet.

February 9th 2017 - Franck van Diest


The rise and rise of Office 365 as major platform for Microsoft, and the ongoing (humongous) investments that Microsoft is making in their cloud platforms has led to leadership in it's field. Not according to us of me, but according to Forrester, as you can read in this report. That is a report about Enterprise Collaboration you say? Sure, it is. Be honest, a plain intranet has become a commodity. An entry point to something more. A portal that brings together your workforce, your knowlegde and let's people collaborate on ideas, projects, documents and what not.

And this is where the Microsoft stack is really powerful stuff. Office 365 in particular combines forces of so many essential tools for the workforce that really brings you benefit and competitive advantage. Imagine, all your data, content, knowlegde and systems accessible through one convenient interface. Helping your users to anty up the service levels towards customers, drive better results in project, collaborate in your own workplace, instead of Dropbox.

Yes we can!

With Office 365 and SharePoint we can. With SharePoint being the connecting element that brings clarity to your users. So, what should you look out for in a SharePoint Intranet? The summary below should help your to get up to speed.

  • SharePoint is NOT a turn key intranet solution
  • Be aware, performance is of great essence: design and develop wise
  • Not going to cloud yet? Make sure you follow the right development strategy
  • Going to the cloud? Make sure to be ready for all the changes that Microsoft brings
  • Do not overdo it. Think big, start small
  • Do not, repeat do not, forget to onboard you business

Let's look at this list.

SharePoint is NOT a turn key intranet solution

Dispite what others are telling your or you may think yourself. SharePoint nor Office 365 are turnkey intranet solutions. They are just not. They are building blocks that can evolve to great workplaces. Out of the box, SharePoint offers nothing. There is no who-is-who section, you have to build it. There are no department sites, your have to build them. There is no hompage with news, quick links, personalized information or social feed, you have to build that. 

Also, and this might be important, there is no corporate branding. No "this is us" feeling, no recognition for your users. And that hurts adoption and egagement. Big time. 

Be aware, performance is of great essence: design and develop wise 

SharePoint Online is offered as a hosted solution, hosted by Microsoft. This service is great, really it is. The performance however can not be compared to an on premises installation. So, that is something to keep in mind when developing or selecting a partner. There are some tricks in the book that you can follow, not all of them are in the publicly available resources. Be sure to develop and design for speed and optimize for other channels, such as mobile.

Not going to cloud yet? Make sure you follow the right development strategy

Microsoft (and we) follow a cloud first principle. The cloud, Office 365, is evolving incredibally fast. It is hard to keep up, even for us as professional software vendors. Imagine that it is not your core business to develop SharePoint solutions. Making the right choices straight from the start helps you. First, make the choice between buying a SaaS solution like Debble Workplace, or building your own. In both cases, follow Microsoft best practices in terms of architecture. 1 example: no custom code goes into SharePoint! Use or demand (when going SaaS) remote provisioing instead. 

Going to the cloud? Make sure to be ready for all the changes that Microsoft brings

When planning for a cloud deployment, keep in mind that the Office 365 platform changes all the time. Some changes may affect your work and simply break functionality. Make sure that you are able to keep track of all the changes. If you can't, don't even start building something inhouse. When building in the cloud, it is mandatory to have your own IT staff. Without it, you will not be able to keep track of Microsoft's velocity. It is as simple as that.

Do not overdo it. Think big, start small

A common mistake, this is an open door, in every IT project is to overdo yourself. Being to ambitieous, wanting to bring to many features at ones. Don't. Nobody expects it from you, nobody likes it, the business doesn't get time to adjust to the change and money flies out of your company in all directions except yours. Just plan, easily. Start small and know what you are doing. Talk to your key staff and write down everything you might ever want in a backlog. Now make a selection of the most important wishes and combine those as your first release. Your only focus is to bring that version live and drive a succesful implementation.

Do not, repeat do not, forget to onboard your business

Do you have an "owner" for you current intranet? I can be almost 100% sure that the owner is not the business. It should be the business. They are the ones that will use it, they have to love it. Part of this is just doing a good job. But another part is psychological. Ignore them and they will ignore you. Get them onboard up front, as part of the team. Give them a voice in the process. Allow them to bring in new ideas and thoughts. Maybe even provide them a platform for it. You'll be amazed of the results, really.


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