How to Build Your SharePoint Online Intranet

10/26/2017 by Vanick Digital

Your intranet needs to be an online solution that users/employees can rely on to find the answers they need, whenever they need them. It should be a place that empowers them, not one that confuses them with too much or too little information. As you are planning your SharePoint Online Environment, consider the overall goals of your company along with the specific needs of your users to build a successful intranet.

For many companies, organizational challenges are a continuous hurdle. This can especially be true for companies that are experiencing growth, international businesses with locations around the globe and teams with remote workers. Many solutions exist to address this issue, but one of the most widely used is the intranet. TechTarget defines an intranet as a “private network that is contained within an enterprise”.

In this blog post, we will explore the intranet- how to determine if building one is right for you and, if so, how you go about building one. Today’s market offers many options, so it has become that much more important to do your due diligence beforehand and determine what will work best for your users. As you are planning your SharePoint Online Environment, consider the overall goals of your company along with the specific needs of your users.


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The Intranet - To build or not to build? 

From a high-level perspective, your intranet needs to be an online solution that users/employees can rely on to find the answers they need, whenever they need them. It should be a place that empowers them, not one that confuses them with too much or too little information. This can include anything from finding forms and documents, to using productivity tools, to viewing news feeds and calendars, to publishing and sharing content. In order to determine if a SharePoint Online intranet will be of value, you must first determine what is most important to you and your users. Is it collaboration, document management, project management, information sharing, or something completely different?


Using SharePoint Online to build a successful intranet
 

Now that you have determined that a SharePoint Online intranet is the right solution, how do you go about building it? Additionally, how long can you expect that endeavor to take? Fortunately with SharePoint Online, not only are there turnkey plug-ins immediately available, there are also numerous resources and best practices available for you to leverage. 

One of the major benefits of building with SharePoint Online is that it was designed as a service to store, manage and organize content using a bottom-up, connected approach. It includes functionalities for both peer-to-peer collaboration along with top-down communication directives. Also, being cloud-based means that your data is always accessible and any upgrades or functionality improvements will be made automatically.

For your intranet site to be successful, we mentioned the need to create a space that empowers your users to find the information that they need. This process could very quickly become overwhelming, but is easily simplified by looking at it in 3 major elements:

 

  1. Company Culture - this will most likely be the majority of what your users see when they first come to your intranet. These are easily digestible, everyday elements like news and announcements, calendar of events, org charts, company contacts and pictures or videos.

  2. Collaborative Content - this content is generally the “meat” of the intranet, but would feel too overwhelming on a main page. This can include team sites, project sites, departments’ sites, IT Help Desk and more. Generally, you would want to house this information one level down from your main site so that approved users could navigate to it, as they need it.

  3. Usability/Adoption - if your users don’t like your site or aren’t able to find what they need, they aren’t going to come back - it’s as simple as that. Features like a search bar, clean and consistent branding, easy navigation and social aspects help with engagement and increase the likelihood that your site will be successful.

 

Getting your intranet up and running 

In many cases, companies are using manual processes (i.e. HR storing employee data in excel spreadsheets) or numerous 3rd-party tools (i.e. Marketing sending large files with Dropbox) to manage and share information. Your SharePoint Online intranet is a solution to bring that all under one roof and house everything in a one-stop-shop. Not only is this easier on your users, it offers a safer, more protected environment for potentially sensitive company data.

While your intranet is an environment that is completely customizable to your specific needs and goals, there many tools or “modules” available in SharePoint that can help you facilitate the building process. Microsoft has made it easy to quickly apply elements that are common to a majority of companies. A few examples are:


  • Document Libraries - organize and manage documents according to different groups, teams, etc.

  • Calendar - track birthdays, upcoming events, deadlines and more

  • Discussion Boards - collaborate with other employees, outside partners, etc.

  • Task lists - have easily visible reminders of what needs to be accomplished

  • Excel Web Access - allow users to easily download up-to-date information in spreadsheets (i.e. sales reports, financial data, etc.)

  • Promotive Links - drive your users down a path of desired action (i.e. fill out a form, send a message, etc.)

  • Search - quickly find needed documents, connect with an expert or analyze data to discover insights

 

There are countless ways to approach an intranet build, and each company will have it’s own unique goals and requirements. Make sure that as you begin building your site, and throughout its development, you prioritize the needs of your users and keep them top of mind. Create a space for them that is consistent, simple and easy to navigate to ensure a successful intranet adoption rate. 


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Vanick Digital