Microsoft SharePoint has conquered the enterprise intranet. Although the conquest is never as bloody nor expensive as more invasive wars, intranet users are not always thrilled by the structure and usability of SharePoint intranets. Though not used for conquering, SharePoint is used by many communicators as the main intranet or digital workplace technology platform.
SharePoint intranet is present in 80% of the Fortune 100; and plays a prominent intranet role in about 70% of knowledge worker intranets (either powering the main intranet portal, or delivering associated collaboration sites and/or document repositories). This in spite of its history.
Older versions of SharePoint intranets left little to be desired, but Microsoft heard the feedback and invested millions in improving the leading intranet and digital workplace solution. SharePoint 2013 represented a leap forward, and became more user-friendly, particularly for communicators who produce and manage internal news.
SharePoint 2016 and Office 365 represented considerable improvement in terms of content management, social and search. Office 365, the online, cloud-based version of Microsoft Office, includes SharePoint Online, plus many other solutions and tools, and resembles a true, complex digital workplace solution.
SharePoint 2020 has become a truly mobile-friendly solution (when using the “modern UX”), with a number of improvements to collaboration (particularly Teams) and hybrid-cloud computing and hosting.
The ''lookback'' on SharePoint intranet development
There are a lot of reasons to buy into or upgrade to SharePoint 2019 or 2020: the latest iteration of Microsoft’s portal-web development platform represents a massive, multi-million -dollar upgrade on previous versions of SharePoint (which were typically oversold given its underwhelming if not frustrating performance and lack of execution). SharePoint 2020 is a massive upgrade from 2013: noticeable improvements to social computing (social networking via Delve and Teams), mobile computing (responsive design with “modern” pages and a dedicated mobile app), better Office integration, cloud and hybrid integration, search and more.
The latest in SharePoint
SharePoint Online in Office 365, which is not only feature and function parity with SharePoint 2020, in some cases, it’s more rich. Though some problems persist, the bugs and challenges are not as persistent as 2010 and 2013. The obvious improvements are particularly helpful to business owners and communicators:
- Content management – enhanced publishing and management interface.
- Social – enhanced social networking (nearly completely lacking in 2010), the evolution of My Sites into Delve, and the introduction of Microsoft Teams, with integration and upgrades to Skype for Business, and Yammer.
- Search – search is much improved with the full integration with the FAST search engine.
- Cloud – applications and software, data, and computing needs are accessed, stored, and occur over the Internet or the cloud, or a hybrid of cloud and on-premises.
- Mobile – enhanced mobile access experience (of course, this was promised for SP2010 and 2013 and it fell embarrassingly short) with a true responsive experience using ‘modern’ pages, and a dedicated mobile app for employees; not mobile-friendly using the “classic UX”
- Branding – the new “modern pages” are slick and responsive; it can be more challenging to implement new custom designs the original “classic UX”, and MS has openly cautioned against customizing the home page when using the modern experience.
It’s easy to publish news and corporate content, and easy to update. Creating a truly custom user experience is more tricky and expensive, but easily executed with an experienced .NET development team.
MODERN VS CLASSIC
The new ‘modern’ experience in SharePoint intranets perhaps represents the most visible improvement to SharePoint, from the corporate communicator’s perspective.
SharePoint 2020 catches up the modern experience that’s been available in Office 365 so that organizations that are running internal infrastructure can take advantage of the new modern pages.
Most of the SharePoint intranet portals that are available today are based on the Classic UX. Office 365 (SharePoint Online) and SharePoint 2020 both offer classic and modern UX.
The standard way of deploying a classic SharePoint intranet is by developing the custom master page and the page layouts. The modern UX is an out-of-the-box approach where you can choose different templates and color schemes. It deploys fast, and the solution is fully mobile responsive. And it has a dedicated mobile app
Depicting Modern vs Classic, by Content Formula
Speaking of conquest, the Chinese learned a few tough lessons from their Mongol invaders the hard way, and built the Great Wall. That didn’t work out so well for the Chinese, who were conquered and ruled by the Mongols for nearly a couple of centuries.
Nor do walls work well for communicators in collaborative environments. Although a firewall is a requisite with any intranet, not just a SharePoint intranet, walls kill collaboration and employee collaboration, knowledge management (knowledge sharing) and content management.
For global organizations, like those featured at this year’s Digital Workplace & Intranet Global Forum, the key to a communicator’s success is breaking down walls and geographic and cultural silos.
Content management and social tools cannot work in isolation; the digital workplace must continually breakdown walls and seek connections between disparate employee groups. Breaking down walls, and spreading the responsibilities and accountabilities across all areas of the enterprise — a key requirement to ensuring value from SharePoint.
Content management, regardless of the solution (SharePoint or other), works best when it is decentralized, and spread across the organization. When content management is consolidated, with a single team, like corporate or internal communications, then great value is lost in the process. Content needs to be created and shared across the organization, regardless of how they access the digital workplace.
The same is true of social collaboration tools. Social works best not when the tools work in isolated silos, but are integrated into the home page and other digital tools.
Yammer is still a stand-alone tool that is not easily integrated into other parts of the intranet. There’s not even a natural link to it from SharePoint out-of-the-box.
Microsoft though is slowly learning this lesson the hard way: finally, years after purchasing the floundering microblogging platform, Yammer has now been integrated into Microsoft Teams. And Teams, with integration into SharePoint, Outlook, Skype, and other Office tools, is becoming the ultimate social collaboration tool on the intranet because it’s breaking down these walls.
Microsoft Teams is an interesting addition to Office 365; many liken Teams as Redmond’s answer to Slack. It’s a little more involved than Slack, but hardly as cool. It does, however, integrate with SharePoint Online, and Skype, and is definitely worth a look if you’re already a Microsoft customer. Despite some pundit reports, Microsoft Teams is not a replacement for Yammer, but a completely different tool.
SharePoint intranet web portal development is not easy, but with right tools and some professional help, the portal will increase the engagement in your company and deliver the results you are expecting.
In Definity First, we use design thinking & agile methodologies to ensure a next-generation intranet platform tailored to your business needs. Focused on tackling your pain points & with the best easy-to-use interfaces for better user experience.
Connect with us firstname.lastname@example.org and let's increase the engagement of your intranet.
Related post: What is the difference between SharePoint and Office365?