Many businesses are moving to Office 365, but still think of their intranet as something separate that sits alongside it. However, the Office 365 apps can be cleverly integrated and embedded into your intranet, giving you the following benefits:
- Drive adoption of Office 365 apps and the intranet at the same time
- Improve efficiency and usability
- Continually add value as Microsoft rolls out new features and changes
So, how specifically can you integrate Office 365’s many apps and capabilities in your intranet?
1. Use Delve and Microsoft Graph to give employees a list of their recently accessed documents
Microsoft Graph is the technology that tracks everything you do on Office 365. You might find that scary, but actually it’s really useful. It enables Delve to highlight relevant content to you, and if you go to portal.office.com you’ll see a list of the documents that you recently accessed. It’s pretty easy to then add this feed to your intranet homepage, making it more useful and personally relevant to all your employees. We’ve added this as an additional feature in Wizdom.
2. Use Yammer for commenting on pages and news
Yammer is great for conversations around all sorts of topics within a business, but it seems quite separate from SharePoint and the intranet. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s completely possible to use the powerful Yammer functionality to drive comments, likes and @mentions on any content pages within your SharePoint intranet – including news!
When someone comments on a page in SharePoint – it appears on that page, but also in Yammer – so the conversation can span the two platforms.
See this handy guide to integrating Yammer comments for more information
3. Add interactive PowerBI dashboards and bring data to life
PowerBI is a fantastic app that allows you to build dashboards and custom reports which are fed from lots of different data sources – financial systems, CRMs, inventory management or Excel spreadsheets. You can build and view the reports within the PowerBI app, but why stop there? Earlier this year, Microsoft released a new PowerBI webpart for SharePoint Online, allowing you to easily publish reports into your intranet pages. The only catch is that people must have a PowerBI pro licence to view the reports. If you don’t have PowerBI pro licences though, there is a workaround that involves a few extra steps.
4. Create a learning & development area using Office 365 Video
For years and years, video platforms for intranets were really lacking. But, things have changed and I talked about a new hope for intranet video at IntraTeam in Copengahen.
It’s now completely possible to deliver high quality video content to your employees via laptop, tablet or mobile. With Office 365 you can do this quickly and easily. The app converts and optimises your videos for you and allows you to arrange them into searchable channels.
But did you know that you can also embed the videos into your intranet pages? Meaning you can embed them within guidelines or policies. You could even create a dedicated training or learning and development site with chaptered video content.
We created an Office 365 learning centre for JM on their intranet – all powered by Office 365 Video.
5. Make it easy to blog and provide a platform for your people using Delve
If you haven’t seen it yet, you should really check out personal blogging in Delve. This neat feature was one of the first areas to use Office 365’s modern UI for content publishing. It’s much easier and more satisfying to use than the traditional SharePoint publishing tools and it’s now available in Team Sites too.
If your employees are embracing blogging, though, how do you make the most of that? Using the SharePoint search results webpart you can actually add a feed of the latest Blog posts on your intranet.
6. Quickly connect colleagues using Skype for Business
Skype for Business allows colleagues to communicate quickly via text chat, call, or virtual meetings and has become a key tool for many organisations.
To get the most out of Skype, you should make sure that it’s integrated with your intranet. When seeing someone’s name on screen, you can use Skype for Business to indicate their ‘presence’ i.e. whether they are online, away, in a meeting or offline. But, you can also allow people to quickly message or call them using a single click or tap.
You can even go a step further and automatically create Skype discussion groups whenever someone in your business creates a team site. That’s exactly what we did for the Institute for Cancer Research.
7. Manage projects using Office 365 Planner
Team Sites have a project timeline webpart, but they are not very sophisticated when it comes to managing teams and tasks effectively. Fortunately, there is another app in the Office 365 suite that you can make use of – Planner.
Office 365 Planner allows you to quickly create projects, organise tasks into buckets and assign them to different team members. It can be used across desktop, tablet and mobile.
Here’s a great intro to Planner
8. Help people stay on top of their day to day work in Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams launched earlier this year and there has been a lot of excitement surrounding it since. One of the great things it does is combine team conversations with the strong document management abilities of SharePoint – clearly differentiating it from Yammer, where the document management side of things is lacking.
Each team has its own email address too – so you can forward emails into your Teams to keep everything visible and in one place.
9. Use chat bots to provide everyone with a personal concierge
Chat bots are Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered assistants that you can interact with via a text chat interface. You might ask them to find you a policy, book a meeting room or check the weather forecast.
Chat bots are a hot topic in the intranet world at the moment because they have reached a level of maturity where they can be useful, but also they are much easier to configure. You no longer have to be an AI boffin to train bots and make them more helpful.
Microsoft’s bot, Luis, can be embedded on your SharePoint intranet via a chat interface and we are currently rolling out a chat bot for a UK accountancy firm.
10. Work live on intranet information at the same time using Office Online
Anywhere in Office 365, whenever you click on a Microsoft Office document that document will open in a new browser tab within Office Online. Office Online includes the web app version of Word, PowerPoint and Excel that runs within your web browser.
But, were you aware that you can click the ‘Edit’ button and make changes to the file directly in the browser? Not only that, but other people can edit the same document at the same time, and you even can see their changes appearing right in front of you.
There are many opportunities to make use of this neat functionality on your intranet. You could use these files to collect information from multiple people at the same time using a shared excel spreadsheet. Or, you could create a knowledge base / wiki which is based on set of word documents. The contents will be indexed by search – so people will easily find the content later.
11. Create an approval workflow for policies using Flow
Building workflows for your SharePoint intranet used to be quite tricky. Flow is the Office 365 app that was designed to fix that. Creating workflows in Flow is much more straightforward. It offers integrations with other apps outside of SharePoint and even outside of Office 365, like Dropbox for example.
A really common workflow that companies often want to implement is one for approval of content before it’s published. Check out this video for a step by step tutorial for building an approval workflow in Flow.
12. Build an app for field workers using Power Apps
Many organisations struggle with how to make their intranet relevant and useful to field workers – people not based at a desk. This can be factory workers, delivery agents, sales reps and so on. Most of these workers do not have laptops, but many have tablets or mobile devices.
Power Apps is a tool within Office 365 that allows you to build apps for these staff to use on their mobile devices. The apps could allow them to enter information about a customer they just visited, or log maintenance problems with machinery on the production line. Also, that app can be integrated directly with SharePoint to share this information with other people in your business via the intranet.
In this step-by-step tutorial video, Microsoft show you how to build an app using Power Apps. Their example scenario is a secret shopper app for clothing retail stores.
13. Keep in touch with customers using Dynamics 365
You may already have a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) suite, but you should really take a look at Dynamics 365.
Dynamics 365 allows you to do all the regular things that you’d expect from a CRM: Keep data on customers, integrate with your website etc. However, being based in Office 365 means that it integrates really well with other apps like SharePoint. Dynamics 365 uses SharePoint for storing its documents and can be easily connected to your SharePoint intranet search. This means that your employees won’t have to jump between different systems to find the information they need.
14. Run an employee survey using Forms
It’s often necessary to collect information from your users on your intranet – from booking a training course to requesting stationery. You can do this with SharePoint lists, but it’s a bit difficult to configure and not very easy to use for employees.
Say hello to Forms. Forms is currently in Preview – meaning it isn’t fully released yet, but is available to try out. Microsoft have introduced Forms as the natural successor to InfoPath Forms. It allows you to build attractive and usable forms with a simple drag and drop interface.
The forms you create can then be embedded in a range of locations on Office 365, including within your SharePoint intranet pages. You can then use Flow to move the captured information through a business process.
15. Craft beautiful sales aids using Sway
Many companies have sales reps out in the field, talking to customers and evangelising products and services. Traditionally they are provided with material to help them explain the products or services to their leads. Sometimes these sales aids are expensive custom apps built for tablet devices, but often they are just a few lacklustre PowerPoint presentations or pamphlets.
Sway is an Office 365 app that allows you to quickly build web app that conveys information using mixed media and a simple interface. Without any need to touch computer code, you can create a set of content that is beautifully structure and presented, but can include written content, images, videos, charts and graphs. With a built in menu system it also allows you to take the customer on a journey through the information that is unique to them, rather than flicking through a generic linear PowerPoint presentation.
You can manage access to all your Sway presentations from your SharePoint intranet.