A key question for intranet teams is what base technology to use for their intranet. For most organisations that are using Microsoft 365, this tends to be a relatively simple question, as the advantages of using SharePoint Online for your intranet are obvious. However, on top of that, there is often a question about whether to use an additional “in-a-box” solution that works alongside SharePoint and comes ready with templates and capabilities to enable a much quicker and easier implementation.
Two years ago, and perhaps even just last year, the value of deploying an intranet in-a-box product was pretty clear for most organisations. However, recently, the development of SharePoint Modern and more intranet-ready features becoming available more or less out of the box with SharePoint Online has opened up the number of options for intranet teams. It is now far more feasible to launch an intranet based on SharePoint Online largely out of the box; in particular, IT teams are keen to promote this approach, fully leveraging their Microsoft 365 agreement and reducing licensing costs.
On balance, while we think this is a valid argument for small organisations, an in-a-box intranet product like LiveTiles (formerly called Wizdom) provides considerable value for medium and large organisations, and is still a more realistic option for the intranet than just relying on SharePoint Online alone. Not only does LiveTiles offer far superior intranet capabilities for navigation, content and governance, it also has several unique features that are not available in SharePoint out of the box.
As this is a question that is being asked now, has always been asked, and will continually be asked as Microsoft continues to add features, here is our current take on seven key areas in which LiveTiles provides real value over SharePoint alone.
A staple of modern intranets is to have a global navigation and mega menu similar to that which you might expect of a global organisation, spanning across different site collections and even different applications. In this respect, you also need to have some flexibility to meet the kind of restructuring and renaming that is commonplace in most organisations. With a LiveTiles intranet, you get all the flexibility to meet complex and evolving needs, as well as the ability to direct different navigations to varying target audiences. This is a real strength of the product.
How the navigation looks is an important consideration too. The LiveTiles megamenu looks engaging and can include images, videos, dynamic content, widgets and labels.
Global navigation is an area that Microsoft hasn’t nailed with SharePoint out of the box. It is still difficult to create a navigation across site collections, with navigation generally shared across a single hub. The look is very basic too. Here, a LiveTiles intranet provides far better support for a global intranet navigation.
One of the most popular features of the LiveTiles platform is the LiveTiles Everywhere capability – a personalised toolbar that features the ability to view news, relevant information, personal links and apps and complete transactions from any number of different systems that you want to integrate (we call these ‘micro-services’). You can also expand the toolbar to give a dashboard view.
What makes the LiveTiles Everywhere features so powerful is that it can be viewed consistently across different applications, including within Microsoft Teams. This brings a unifying and consistent single-entry point into the wider digital workplace that fits directly into the flow of everyday work, helping employees save time and enabling communicators to drive messages to where employees actually are. There is simply no comparative feature available in SharePoint Online.
Support for internal communications
A key use case for any intranet is internal communications. Here, an intranet product like LiveTiles will far better support the needs of internal communicators with content targeting, news templates, homepage displays, noticeboard feeds with different channels, video feeds, RSS, channel subscriptions, mandatory channels, content governance features, content approval workflow and more. Because features on the LiveTiles intranet have been developed to meet the needs of internal communication teams, and have been shaped by their feedback, a LiveTiles intranet ticks the boxes far more convincingly than SharePoint Online.
Just using SharePoint Online is likely to leave Internal Communications teams frustrated, particularly in larger and more complex organisations. There are many gaps to fill. Even though SharePoint Modern has hugely improved information and content publishing from SharePoint classic with much-improved templates like Communication Sites, it is still unlikely to give communicators the control and features they need. This includes configuration of the homepage, the use of different news templates, the ability to target news, and easily surfaced “local” news that most internal communications will expect from their intranet software.
An intranet is only as good as its content. Related to the needs of internal communicators is the kind of content governance that needs to be in place across an intranet to ensure content is up to date, of good quality and truly sustainable. A LiveTiles intranet has several advantages over SharePoint Online for this, with several core content governance features, including:
- Content approval workflows to help preserve good quality and findability
- The ability to display clear ownership of content down to the page level, encouraging ownership and accountability
- Automated page review notifications to ensure content is up to date
- Editor dashboards – these are aggregated views of the pages a person is responsible for, helping them to keep on top of content management.
Additionally, a LiveTiles intranet has a template for a Policy Library that allows you to implement mandatory policies and the kind of governance you need in place in order to establish a central location for key organisational policies – often a staple requirement for a good corporate intranet.
Successful digital workplaces also need to have some measure of collaboration governance. Site sprawl, duplicated and unused sites, using the wrong tool for the wrong type of collaboration, and the inability to lock down certain collaboration tools are all common issues. As Microsoft Teams (and soon, Yammer) use has ramped up recently, usually without much governance applied, these are all issues that many organisations are now facing.
In the face of these problems, a LiveTiles intranet and platform can add real value through collaboration governance features which increase control over the collaboration site provisioning process, covering different types including Microsoft Teams, team sites and Yammer Groups. This provisioning process can add approval workflow and spin up different types of tool depending on use case, helping to maintain control and governance over your collaboration tools. These features will not be present in an intranet based on pure SharePoint, meaning that it can be difficult to drive effective collaboration while also maintaining any control over the platform.
Intelligent insights and tools suited around intranet needs
Another key feature of the LiveTiles platform is the ability to integrate intelligent tools that are suited to the specific needs of intranets. Again, these are capabilities that are not available out of the box in SharePoint Online. Many of these features are included in the LiveTimes Quantum suite of tools, and include:
- Advanced analytics around content that engage content owners and underpin user experience, for example, heat maps tracking places where users interact on the page
- An intelligent employee directory that notifies users with requests, completes their profile and fills in any gaps in AD profile information
- A bot platform that allows non-IT people to create bots to handle repetitive tasks that can then be embedded into the intranet.
An internal communications app
Another advantage of the LiveTiles platform is its great mobile app, that can be easily deployed and focuses on employee communications. While the SharePoint mobile app is decent, it does not deliver convincing news and updates to all employees regardless of location and device. In particular, the LiveTiles Reach app is excellent for organisations with a high proportion of frontline or deskless workers who need to be kept informed and engaged, even if they don’t have an Office 365 licence.
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It’s important that intranet and IT teams make sure they have the right intranet technology for their needs. For medium and large organisations, a LiveTiles intranet and platform have several advantages over just using SharePoint Online.
If you’d like to discuss intranets, the LiveTiles platform or SharePoint Online, then get in touch!