How to Create an Intelligent Intranet with SharePoint

How to Create an Intelligent Intranet with SharePoint

15 Feb 2023

If you intend to create a company intranet soon, then you’re in the right place. Creating an intranet can be a daunting task for anyone, but if you’re not into technology, it can be even more difficult.

With Microsoft SharePoint, you can create intranet sites for your organization with a variety of options and tools. Your intranet might take a while to migrate to SharePoint within Microsoft 365, particularly if you have a large amount of content already. Our goal in this article is to help you quickly launch a new SharePoint intranet and get a return on your investment.

SharePoint: What’s Possible?

By using SharePoint, anyone can create highly functional intranet pages without writing code or performing other difficult customizations. Users will have a deeply engaging experience on these sites regardless of their device or screen size.

SharePoint in Microsoft 365 is much easier to use than SharePoint Server for your intranet. Anyone can create responsive, dynamic pages, and IT doesn’t need to build and maintain custom solutions.

Identify current business goals and key stakeholders

A successful intranet does more than looks good, it helps people get work done and often promotes engagement. A look book can help you envision how your content might look, but defining your business goals will help you decide what content and functionality are most important.

Make sure that your intranet aligns with these goals if you want to ensure its success and funding. These goals can also help you prioritize your intranet initiatives. Since your organization’s needs and priorities will change over time, your intranet project is never “done.” Nevertheless, you should focus on intranet initiatives that are most closely aligned with your organization’s priorities.

Understand your audience

Think about what your new intranet will look like once it is in place to get a sense of how it will work. How will people be able to accomplish their goals? How will they begin their day? Is the intranet going to be well received by the public?

Creating personas for your key users can also be helpful with the end in mind. A persona is a fictional but realistic description of a typical intranet user (e.g., new starters, new employees, knowledge workers, field workers, sales representatives, people managers, and content authors). Research the information requirements of the different personas by engaging with people who represent them. Intranets cannot be built without a thorough understanding of the people who will use them.

Think about governance

Having too much irrelevant content discovered by your users can indicate a governance problem. Consider how you will govern the architecture and content of your new intranet project before you begin. Early in your intranet project, these decisions are easier to make and enforce. Consider the following, for example:

  • How are new sites provisioned? How do they become discoverable in search or navigation once they are provisioned?
  • In order to find key content easily, should all sites follow the same pattern?
  • Does someone have accountability and responsibility for the content on sites? When should content be reviewed?
  • For those with edit or owner permissions, does content management for intranet sites figure into their performance goals or job descriptions?
  • Do you need to retain or classify intranet content based on your retention policies?

In the absence of a plan for how you will govern your new, intelligent intranet, it can quickly become a wasteland of information that fails to accomplish your critical business goals.

Review your existing intranet

Depending on your current intranet, you may have sites for HR, IT, Facilities, Engineering, and others. To plan your new SharePoint intranet, we recommend taking an inventory of your existing sites and meeting with their owners to determine their business outcome goals. Consider where your content is located and how much content you would need to move when creating a new intranet site. Before moving to a new site, check your current content to see if it needs to be updated. It’s not uncommon for migration strategies to leave existing content behind. If you are creating new content that is optimized for the modern SharePoint experience rather than migrating existing, out-of-date content, you don’t have to migrate anything.

The purpose of these meetings is to identify the business needs addressed by each existing site, as well as any requirements for new ones.

You may also want to convene a focus group of new employees in addition to meeting with current site owners. New employees are a key audience for the intranet, and those who joined your organization within the last two to three months can provide some valuable insight into what’s missing or hard to learn in your current intranet or what resources they wish they had when they first joined. Additionally, they may be able to provide you with some valuable ideas from the organizations where they previously worked to help you come up with new and important capabilities.

Take this step as an opportunity to learn. Your business and users are learning what’s important to you. Your intranet initiatives will be based on this information.

Identify initiatives

Working with your key intranet stakeholders, identify initiatives that reflect your organization’s priorities – as well as any barriers that might exist during implementation.

Implementing all of the identified initiatives may ultimately be possible, but prioritizing which project to do first will enable you to achieve early success and user engagement as efficiently as possible.

Identify each initiative based on the following criteria:

  • What problem does it solve?
  • What is the expected number of users?
  • In what timeframe can it be built?
  • Are you getting a return on your investment?

Assess the ease of implementation of each initiative in terms of its positive impact on your users. The ideal first project is a high-impact initiative that requires little customization.

Work with the business leaders for that area to determine the solution’s objectives, who is responsible for driving success in this area, and the metrics you will use to evaluate success. Focus on more than just system metrics. Consider the impact on the business.

Choose pilot scenarios

Determine what an ideal solution would look like for each scenario owner:

  • What kind of visitors do you have?
  • Why do visitors come to your site? What do they hope to accomplish or learn?
  • Is there any technology or tools they use today?
  • Do you have any information you’d like to promote?
  • What tools and technology do visitors use?
  • How will they transition to the new site or solution?
  • In what ways will you be able to determine whether your solution was successful?

Determine which scenarios meet these three criteria from the high priority scenarios:

  • Would you be able to build a prototype quickly (within a few days)?
  • Has a sponsor committed to the project?
  • Does the content demonstrate key capabilities in an up-to-date manner?
  • Does a pilot have a specific audience?

Compile this information and create a design brief to help map out how you would like the site to work.

Solution components

An intranet can be built using a variety of SharePoint building blocks:

  • Communication sites – Share news, reports, statuses, and other information through templates and web parts.
  • Home site – Your home site is your organization’s intranet landing page.
  • Hub sites – Use hub sites to organize related sites and teams and to centralize search, content, and news.
  • SharePoint news – Post important or interesting news, announcements, people news, status updates, and more using the news web part.
  • Yammer – Connect people across your organization beyond projects, functions, and departments using Yammer.
  • Forms – Create quizzes, surveys, questionnaires, registrations, and more with forms.
  • Stream – Deliver live and on-demand meetings, events, and training with Stream.

You should involve your help desk at this stage so that they will be prepared to answer questions once the site goes live.

Launch the pilot program

A prototype can be rolled out to a pilot group, or even to the entire organization, once it has evolved to a point where it can be shared more widely. An intranet’s success depends on user adoption. We recommend using both a top-down and bottom-up approach to drive site usage:

  • Establish executive sponsors who can ensure funding for the intranet project, as well as help others understand the importance of the new site.
  • Promote the new site on a grass roots level by empowering champions across the organization.

You can also drive success by:

  • Organize launch events and communications campaigns.
  • Formalize the training process.
  • Provide regular office hours where users can ask questions.

To drive additional engagement and user satisfaction, keep an eye on your success metrics as the site rolls out and more users engage.

After the site is on its way to success, take note of any lessons learned and move on to the next intranet project.

Any business will find creating an intranet challenging. It will be easier to complete that process if you follow these steps.

A well-thought-out plan is the key. We have done the hard work for you by laying out the steps you need to follow. Now all you must do is create your intranet. Investing in it will be one of the best decisions you ever make for your business.

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