Occasionally we get asked by intranet teams and IT functions what the best base technology option for an intranet is. Without much hesitation we reply SharePoint or SharePoint Online. In our view, it offers the most flexible option for an intranet and the most value, particularly if you are using other Microsoft tools like Yammer or Teams that can be integrated into it. If you’re on Office 365 then a SharePoint Online intranet is pretty much a no-brainer.
Of course, every organisation is different and that means what your intranet needs to deliver is different. Budgetary factors and the composition of your digital workplace can also be factors in working out what the best technology option for your intranet is. The great news is that there are plenty of technology options to consider, although invariably we find when organisations go through an evaluation exercise, SharePoint often emerges as the preferred choice.
SharePoint still provokes negative reactions in some people. We think this is partly because of experiences with older versions of SharePoint, where customisation was necessary for most intranet projects, and where implementations could drag on for months and months. SharePoint has changed dramatically and is now much better, with improved UI, better performance and much less reliant on developers. So, if you have had bad experiences with SharePoint then please put those aside and keep an open mind. Things have changed.
Here’s our view of the main reasons why a SharePoint or SharePoint Online intranet is likely to be your best intranet option. (Note that below when we’re talking about SharePoint, we’re also referring to SharePoint Online too.)
1. It’s the world’s most popular choice for intranets
SharePoint is the world’s most popular base technology for intranets. This is repeatedly reflected in various digital workplace and intranet surveys. While this is not a reason to go with SharePoint per se it does provide some confidence that organisations are successfully using SharePoint and SharePoint Online to deliver great intranets.
The various intranet awards like Nielsen Norman Group’s annual top ten intranets and the Step Two Intranet & Digital Workplace Awards also regularly feature SharePoint intranets as the winners, demonstrating the art of the possible.
2. There are a great many options
One of the great advantages of using SharePoint (and particularly SharePoint Online) is that it opens up a huge variety of options for your intranet. Although you can now deliver an intranet out of the box, there is a now very mature market of SharePoint intranet-in-a-box products that work alongside SharePoint to provide additional site templates, page layouts, ready built web parts and additional capabilities, allowing you to deliver exceptional intranets within weeks. These turnkey intranet products are highly effective, good value and fully leverage the power of SharePoint to deliver the kind of modern intranet that complex enterprises demand.
Because the market is so competitive it means that many of the offerings are now of a very high standard; we implement Wizdom by LiveTiles Intranet, in our view the best product on the market and one that is highly regarded. But the good news for intranet teams is they have a great number of choices.
3. Integration with Office 365 and other Microsoft tools
A major draw of SharePoint is the ability to integrate with other Microsoft tools, increasingly without any help from developers. Integrating Yammer feeds, lists of Teams spaces and OneDrive documents is straightforward and there are also exciting opportunities to weave process improvement (using Power Automate, for example) and reporting (Power BI) into your intranet too. It also works the other way too so you can integrate the intranet experience, for example into Teams.
Having a close relationship between your intranet and your 365 suite of tools allows you to create a great digital workplace experience, while also using your intranet to drive adoption and establish some governance. The future possibilities look intriguing too with the easier ability to start to integrate Microsoft’s AI and automation capabilities from the ‘Power Platform’ into SharePoint and SharePoint Online.
4. Flexible, scalable, customisable
One of the most powerful capabilities of SharePoint is its flexibility and scalability. It’s used for intranets both by companies with 100 employees and 100,000 employees and supports a range of capabilities including internal communication, content services, collaboration, search & findability and more. Flexibility and scalability come into their own as organisations restructure and as strategic priorities change over time. SharePoint is also customisable, so it is perfectly possible to craft an intranet (or even an entire digital workplace) truly wrapped around the way you work. Many IT functions want to avoid customisation if they can, but it remains an option for particular use cases., and we’ve worked on many SharePoint intranets that have some customisation.
5. SharePoint supports most content publishing needs
Fundamentally intranets are about content, and you can fully utilise SharePoint for sophisticated content publishing and management to meet most of your needs around internal communications and where content needs to be carefully managed. Although communication sites have helped to bring more publishing capabilities to SharePoint, actually more sophisticated content publishing features like approval workflow, news templates, editorial calendars, automated content reviews and more tend to be included in in-a-box products.
6. Integrating collaboration into the intranet
Traditionally SharePoint has always been a strong collaboration platform, mainly through team sites. While perhaps Microsoft Teams has perhaps now taken over the crown as the flagship collaboration tool, a SharePoint intranet can still bring collaboration into the heart of the intranet experience and the daily flow of work. Team sites are still available, but easy integration of Microsoft Teams and Yammer means that the collaboration continues to be part of a SharePoint intranet.
7. Document sharing and management
Many organisations’ information distribution, collaboration, knowledge assets and project output remain resolutely document-centric. While that is perhaps not always ideal, it’s a fact. SharePoint’s relatively robust document library capabilities therefore have always been a valuable part of SharePoint, allowing for document sharing and distribution, knowledge management, collaboration and more. The easy integration of SharePoint libraries into your SharePoint intranet has always been a strong capability that is not always acknowledged.
8. Supporting personalisation and content targeting
Most modern intranets include personalisation capabilities, so that content can be targeted to different groups such as all employees at one location, or in one division or function, or based on their seniority. This means that differently themed content can appear seamlessly together, targeted for each individual employee. Additionally, some intranets allow users to subscribe to different topics of interest. SharePoint and SharePoint Online intranets can very effectively support personalisation and content targeting, leveraging easy integration with Active Directory profiles to deliver truly relevant intranets. It’s another reason why SharePoint is an excellent base technology for your intranet.
9. The modern experience
The development of SharePoint modern experiences with attractive designs, far easier publishing interfaces, better performance, some very useful site templates and a whole host of other improvements has been at the centre of SharePoint improvement over the past two years. This is very different from classic SharePoint – it produces a far better intranet but also allows the intranet team to be far less reliant on the IT function, something which has been frustrating for many teams in the past. The modern experience is one of the things we love about SharePoint both as geeky developers and as SharePoint consultants too, helping clients implementing fantastic intranets.
10. Microsoft keep on investing in SharePoint
Over the past two years Microsoft has been very active in investing in SharePoint and SharePoint Online with the development of modern experiences and further intranet out of the box capabilities that support the development of intelligent intranets. This is set to continue. The roadmap for SharePoint is already looking pretty full, just with the existing work-in-progress and new announcements from the recent Ignite conference! You can be confident that investing in SharePoint means an intranet that can evolve and improve with extra features and capabilities.
Get in touch
If you’re considering creating a new SharePoint or SharePoint Online intranet, want to return to SharePoint, or need any advice in this area then get in touch! We’d love to hear from you.