Content Formula

10 SharePoint intranet FAQ

We get a lot of questions about SharePoint and how it can be used for intranets. This include some people who are relatively new to the world of SharePoint and intranets and want to know the basics. If you’re one of those people, this page is for you! We’ve assembled ten key questions (and answers!) about SharePoint intranets covering everything from what SharePoint actually is to how to build a SharePoint intranet to accessing it through Microsoft Teams.

1. What is SharePoint?

SharePoint is a collaboration and content management solution provided by Microsoft. It is extremely mature, having had its first iteration was in 2001. Since then, it has gone through multiple versions.

SharePoint is generally regarded as a highly flexible and scalable platform that can be used to build websites, portals, intranets, collaboration solutions, document management solutions and business applications, often in combination with other Microsoft tools.

SharePoint has a number of different versions – it is both available on-premises and online, and also in “classic” and “modern” versions. The latter has a more intuitive look and feel and works well out of the box.

SharePoint is available as part of a Microsoft 365 subscription, where people access SharePoint Online using the “modern” version. The great majority of new solutions and sites built on SharePoint will use modern SharePoint Online.

SharePoint is made up of a different number of web parts which are like the building bricks of SharePoint. Different web parts include a document library, a piece of text, an image, a news feed and so on.

If you want to understand SharePoint, it really helps to understand web parts. In the video below, Content Formula’s Director of User Experience John Scott explains more about web parts and what they do.

2. Is SharePoint an intranet?

SharePoint is not an intranet. It’s a solution in its own right and many people use SharePoint for uses that are not an intranet. However, many of the world’s leading intranets are based on SharePoint.

3. Can SharePoint be used as an intranet?

Absolutely! SharePoint has been the most popular base technology for intranets for a long time – certainly for the past fifteen years or so. Many of the world’s best intranets are based on SharePoint and many of the world’s leading brands have intranets based on SharePoint. For example, when the winners of prestigious intranet awards such as the Nielsen Norman Group are announced each year, you can guarantee a good proportion of them will be SharePoint intranets.

The inclusion of SharePoint in Microsoft 365 subscriptions, the evolution of SharePoint modern, and the support for a number of “intranet-ready” features straight out of the box mean SharePoint will almost certainly continue to be the leading intranet solution for years to come.

4. What are the benefits of a SharePoint intranet?

There are many benefits of basing your intranet on SharePoint. These include:

  • If you’re a Microsoft 365 subscriber, you have access to SharePoint so you’ll be making the most out of your investment in 365 with a SharePoint intranet, significantly reducing your costs.
  • SharePoint integrates seamlessly with other Microsoft 365 tools, meaning your intranet can also act as a gateway to other tools like Viva Engage and help drive value and adoption.
  • SharePoint is a highly flexible, scalable and versatile platform, meaning that you can create an intranet that meets your organisational and employee needs, whatever your size and industry.
  • SharePoint is a proven intranet technology with a great track record – thousands and thousands of organisations around the world have SharePoint intranets.
  • There is a large ecosystem of products, services, experts and developers who can help you create a world-class intranet
  • And more!

In our view, SharePoint is easily the best base technology option for an intranet. For more reasons why, watch this video below featuring Joe Perry, Content Formula’s Technical Director.

5. How do I create an intranet in SharePoint?

You can create an intranet just using SharePoint straight out of the box, but this isn’t always the best option as it can lead to gaps in functionality.

There are also other choices to make including whether you want to customise SharePoint or want to use a fully-fledged additional intranet product like LiveTiles which adds additional functionality. You can also use a more targeted and cost-effective product like Lightspeed365, which bridges many of the gaps in SharePoint, but doesn’t mean you’re paying for the same features twice.

In creating an intranet in SharePoint that will be sustainable and successful there will be several steps to take including:

  • Carrying out discovery including user and stakeholder research to get an understanding of employee needs.
  • Creating an intranet strategy, vision and roadmap.
  • Defining more detailed requirements.
  • Deciding if you’re going straight out of the box with SharePoint or adding a product on top like Lightspeed365.
  • Working out different elements including the design, information architecture, content strategy and more.
  • Creating and migrating your content.
  • Building the actual intranet.
  • Carrying out change management activities .
  • And more!

Most organisations choose to partner with a specialist SharePoint intranet partner like Content Formula. We can do much of the heavy lifting and provide expert input through all the stages of the project to create the perfect intranet for you.

6. How do you design a SharePoint intranet?

Designing an intranet is a core activity in creating a SharePoint intranet. Sometimes this involves designing different areas such as the homepage and content types such as news items using a package like Adobe Design. The designs can then be recreated within SharePoint. Others experiment using SharePoint itself to design the homepage and different content types. There are many factors which impact your SharePoint design and it’s sensible to follow several best practices during the design process.

If you want to see some real-world examples of SharePoint intranet designs, watch the video below where Content Formula’s John Scott covers ten recent SharePoint extranet example.

7. Can the look of SharePoint be customised?

Many organisations want to make sure that their intranet has a look and feel that aligns with their corporate brand to a certain extent, helping to support employee communications, brand awareness and engagement.

However, there are some limitations to the extent that the look and feel of SharePoint can be configured without customisation. There is some flexibility over logo, font and colours.. You can also use the SharePoint lookbook to provide ideas and inspiration, and then use those templates to give you a head start, while SharePoint’s “brand centre” feature also helps control brand assets and stylings across different SharePoint sites.

However, often the design options that come out of the box fall short of what brand teams and communication managers want. When this is the case, some organisations choose to customise the SharePoint design so it meets their brand requirements. However, this approach comes with drawbacks as subsequent upgrades can then break the design. To get around this issue, we created a feature within Lightspeed365 called the “Branding Customiser” that allows you to customise your design, for example adding a custom font, but then allows any future changes to be implemented safely.

8. How does a SharePoint intranet integrate with MS Teams?

SharePoint integrates with Microsoft Teams in a number of different ways, including the use of SharePoint for document libraries within Teams. There are also different ways to integrate a SharePoint intranet into Teams so users can choose whether to view the intranet there, which is usually more directly in the flow of work, or via their browser.

The main way to integrate a SharePoint intranet with Teams is by using Microsoft Viva Connections which comes free bundled with most Microsoft 365 licenses. Another advantage of integrating a SharePoint intranet into Teams is that it can then be accessed via the Teams mobile app, often a good way to provide mobile intranet access for frontline staff.

9. What if SharePoint doesn’t have a particular feature?

SharePoint has a stack of excellent features or web parts that come straight out of the box. As already noted, web parts are the building blocks of SharePoint so an individual web part might represent a block of text, an image, a document library, a feed from Viva Engage or another particular features. But the web parts that already come with SharePoint are not enough to deliver a world-class intranet, coming with several limitations and gaps. For example, perhaps you want to view a stock price on your intranet homepage, but there’s nothing out of the box. If you have a missing feature there are various different options:
  • You can buy an additional product and then integrate that into the intranet.
  • You can create a custom web part or feature from scratch.
  • You can buy additional intranet software that comes with extra features, although this can be expensive.
However, there is also an additional option. At Lightspeed365 we’ve taken a different and more cost-effective approach, offering packages with bundles of features that are missing from SharePoint and are commonly part of leading intranets. For example, with Ligthspeed365 you can include the stock price, add news subscriptions, add personalised bookmarks, add a custom walk-through tour and much more.

10. Can SharePoint integrate with systems outside of Microsoft 365?

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A good SharePoint intranet acts as a front door to the wider digital workplace, and sometimes can be a place where information and complete simple transactions without even leaving the intranet. Often these will involve popular enterprise non-Microsoft 365 systems such as ServiceNow, Salesforce, Workday, SAP, Condeco, Concur, Cornerstone and more. Thankfully, SharePoint can integrate with many of these systems, usually through connectors or via custom integrations. In recent years, it has become easier and easier to integrate with non-Microsoft tools due to the Microsoft’s growing library of connectors, improved APIs, and more!

Still confused about SharePoint and SharePoint intranets? Get in touch!

We hope that this Q&A provided the information you needed. If you have questions that weren’t covered then get in touch and we’ll do our best to answer them!

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