One question we are often asked by customers is whether they can build an effective intranet out of Microsoft Teams. In our opinion, the answer is somewhere between “no” and “not really”, although there are some overlapping capabilities that can be delivered by both Teams and a modern intranet. In this article we’re going to explore the question in more detail. It’s also a topic we explored in our recent webinar on the future of Office 365 and SharePoint intranets.
Why are customers asking this question?
To fully answer this question, it really helps to understand why customers are asking it in the first place. Partly it is because Microsoft Teams is likely being well adopted within their organisation, so is the place that many of their employees already spend a lot of time each day. Therefore, creating an intranet in Teams means it will already be in the daily flow of work and enjoy good adoption. Theoretically Teams can then become a highly convenient “one stop shop” or entry point into collaboration, the wider digital workplace and published content.
Clients have also seen Microsoft invest heavily in Teams and push it in marketing. This twin strategy has made Teams Microsoft’s fastest ever adopted tool with over half a million organisations using it. It’s entirely consistent for digital workplace professionals to continue to want to extend the capabilities of Teams within their own organisation, confident that Teams is only going to get better and better via Microsoft’s own roadmap. Microsoft’s continuing investment in making it easier to integrate different elements of Office 365 is also a factor here.
The third reason is that many clients are attracted to the idea of being able to build an effective intranet straight out of the box from Office 365; this has the potential to save heavily on costs and effort. Over the past year or so Microsoft has invested in out of the box features in Modern SharePoint that deliver more of an intranet experience out of the box, but about a year ago these features were a little half-formed, with Teams providing a better overall experience.
For many Teams therefore appears a more viable solution to build an out of the box intranet. However, over the past few months and with some upcoming promised features, SharePoint Online can start to deliver a far more convincing intranet right out of the box, although medium-sized, large or complex companies will really need to consider an “intranet in a box” solution like Wizdom to meet all their intranet needs.
What Teams doesn’t deliver
When people talk about an “intranet” they usually mean a publishing platform where employees can find content and information that helps them get things done and stay informed. It also provides an opportunity to interact and communicate with colleagues. Of course, modern intranets also come with a heap of other capabilities including collaboration, the ability to complete simple transactions and also connect to the wider digital workplace.
But with Teams more of a place people collaborate and get things done, the focus on what Teams doesn’t deliver is really around internal communications, content publishing and findability. Additionally, Teams also does not give you some of the governance and control that a modern intranet can give you. Let’s look at these areas in more detail.
Navigation and findability
Intranets help employees find things and often requires users to explore via navigation, either through a mega-menu or through elements on a homepage or landing pages. Teams is not designed to do this and for users to navigate will require largely physical clicking through tabs, for example, which ends up becoming very clunky and slow. There isn’t the convenience of features such as mouse-overs and expanding menus. Using Teams as an intranet means employees feel like they are navigating through a series of files and folders, a concept that modern intranets ditched a long time ago.
Moreover, intranets in large organisations can become extremely complex and in reality, are often a series of locally run intranets or microsites, tied together with a navigation and a homepage that aggregates and surfaces content in ways that make sense to different groups, and presents global and local content together side by side. Currently it is going to be nearly impossible to reproduce this complexity within Teams in a way that helps employees find what they need and also delivers a good and relevant user experience.
Internal communications and content publishing
Employees want to consume content and stay updated in similar experiences to the information they consume outside work. Internal communicators want to target information to different audiences and present it in different ways. An operational announcement about the air conditioning in the Madrid office must be presented differently compared to a company-wide quarterly update from the CEO.
In the past few months SharePoint out of the box including the development of communication sites, hub sites, content targeting and more allows you far greater sophistication around publishing and messaging. An intranet in a box product like Wizdom also takes this even further to give internal communicators a suite of tools to present content. Teams is not a publishing platform, and just simply does not cut it in this area.
The successful publishing of content requires governance around it to ensure that pages and items are accurate, up to date and relevant. This is essential not only to sustain employee interest and adoption but also to ensure that content can be relied upon, for example to support customers. The kind of governance that needs to be put in place includes having clear ownership of every page, approval workflows, automated reminders to review of pages perhaps every six months, restrictions on who can publish where and more. Teams is simply not going to give you this and organisations may find that an in a box product like Wizdom will also prove to be a better option than out of the box SharePoint.
But there is some crossover
Of course, there is some crossover between what an intranet might do and what Teams can deliver. Some intranets are positioned as a place for collaboration, a place to receive updates from other channels and systems, and even view external feeds. Some intranets are even positioned as the place to find Teams, with a directory of sites. Likewise, Teams could display a feed of news from the intranet or display an external feed of information.
Similarly, you can embed different parts of the Office 365 universe such as SharePoint library or a Yammer feed as web parts into both a SharePoint intranet or a Teams site.
As the development of the Microsoft Graph allows easier integration between Office 365 tools, the question about whether Microsoft Teams can act as an intranet starts to become slightly redundant as the digital workplace can offer multiple views and entry points into the same data, content and files with different channels more suitable based on context and use. In other words, we perhaps need to flip the question and ask what we’re trying to achieve and what the user experience will be like rather than work to strict definitions and limitations of what Teams is and what the intranet is.
Above: A slide from our recent webinar on the future of SharePoint intanets and Office 365
Teams and SharePoint Online do different things and in different ways, but can reference the content and features of each other.
If you’re not sure where Teams stops and an intranet starts (or the other way around) or you’d like to include both in your digital workplace and are not sure how to plan for this, then get in touch. We’d also love to hear from you if you’ve got Teams working well as an intranet and can prove us wrong!