As more and more organisations go down the Office365 and Microsoft 365 route, they realise the importance of having an intranet that integrates with the other Microsoft tools such as Yammer, Microsoft Teams, SharePoint Libraries, Planner, Microsoft Forms and even Outlook. Invariably, this means an intranet that is based upon SharePoint Online, although there are other options to explore.
Having an intranet that is built for 365 and integrates effortlessly with all the necessary tools means:
- Your are provided with a seamless and less fragmented digital workplace and digital employee experience
- Your intranet can provide a highly convenient entry point for the Microsoft universe, easily accessible for your entire workforce
- You can present content and feeds from apps together to add context and value, for example, presenting Yammer conversations alongside SharePoint content
- You can drive better findability through integrated search right across the 365 universe, simultaneous with better designed user journeys
- You can fully leverage your 365 licence, allowing you to achieve ROI more easily
- You can support better adoption of your tools and your intranet.
The options for your 365 intranet
Teams who are looking to introduce an intranet perfectly suited for Microsoft 365 don’t always know where to start, nor which base technology to use. Generally, if you have Microsoft 365, then a SharePoint intranet is going to be your best option. But there are a range of options to consider relating to SharePoint, as well as some slightly different approaches such as delivering an intranet through Microsoft Teams.
Let’s explore the different options for creating an intranet for Office 365 and Microsoft 365.
1 SharePoint Online out-of-the-box
One option for delivering an intranet is to leverage SharePoint Online straight out-of-the-box with no customisation. This is particularly attractive for some teams because it allows them to significantly reduce costs and fully leverage the features and tools included in their 365 licence. Avoiding customisation is another a tactical aim for most IT teams that supports easier day-to-day management of your intranet environment and avoids difficulties with upgrading.
Two years ago, a SharePoint intranet out-of-the-box simply wasn’t a viable option for most organisations, but Microsoft has invested in features which allow teams to add some of the main features of a global intranet such as a homepage and global navigation. However, using SharePoint alone could create significant gaps in the intranet experience, especially around the ability to deliver internal communications and advanced personalisation, as well as the capacity to add intranet governance to content to ensure a more successful and sustainable intranet. For more complex organisations, SharePoint Online alone may not be enough to meet all their needs.
2 An intranet in-a-box product such as a LiveTiles intranet
An excellent option for delivering a SharePoint Online intranet that offers a more comprehensive intranet experience is using an intranet in-a-box product in conjunction with SharePoint Online. This leverages the strengths of SharePoint Online, before adding a host of templates, features and interfaces which introduce capabilities for internal communicators, content owners and more. It also delivers a comprehensive digital workplace experience, and supports the more scalable and complex intranet required by most enterprises. An in-a-box product not only closes the gaps left by using SharePoint alone, but saves time and delivers an improved digital employee experience.
The in-a-box SharePoint intranet product that we implement is LiveTiles intranet, and it’s one of the market leaders. The obvious disadvantage of this approach is the additional cost of another platform; however, in our view, the advantages of using a LiveTiles intranet rather than just SharePoint actually make it a very sensible investment.
3 A fully customised SharePoint intranet
A few years ago, leading SharePoint intranets were all customised. This meant they were very expensive to implement, and projects were long and intense; they also proved hard to improve and evolve. Thankfully, the days of fully customised SharePoint intranets are long gone due to a combination of cloud solutions, agile methodologies, developments to SharePoint Modern and the evolution of SharePoint Online and Microsoft 365. In our view, it is unlikely there is a need for a fully customised SharePoint intranet nowadays, unless it is part of a very specific wider customised digital workplace such as the one we created for property firm Moving Made Easy.
4 LiveTiles or SharePoint out of the box with customisations and add-ons
While most teams would not want to deliver a fully customised SharePoint intranet, customisation does still have a role to play in creating the perfect SharePoint intranet. If you’re choosing to implement an intranet just using SharePoint Online, and even with LiveTiles, there may still be some gaps you need to fill, for example:
- Very specific features, processes or experiences which are unique to your organisation
- Integrations with systems and applications that are not readily available out-of-the-box
- Custom features that are popular with employees and which you want to replicate from a legacy intranet
- Individual branding needs
- Features and capabilities insisted upon by stakeholders.
When you have these gaps, adding customised web parts or additional intranet products can provide the intranet you need. For example, we regularly deliver custom business apps for Office 365 that can also be delivered or integrated via an intranet. Intranet add-ons and products deliver real value for example, our Xoralia policy library for SharePoint intranet provides industry-leading capabilities around policy management which you can’t get from just SharePoint or LiveTiles.
5 Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams has emerged as the centre of many digital workplaces, particularly during the pandemic. With an eye on the huge adoption of Microsoft Teams and its ability to integrate with other digital workplace tools (both Microsoft 365 and beyond), some teams have asked us can Microsoft Teams deliver an intranet? In fact, we were asked this so many times that we held a webinar on the topic.
When we unpacked this question, we found it can be interpreted in two ways. Firstly, can you deliver the capabilities of an intranet through Microsoft Teams, and secondly, can you access and view an intranet through Teams?
The answer to the first question is not necessarily straightforward, although it’s safe to say that on balance, Teams isn’t going to deliver all the capabilities you need from your intranet, in the same way an intranet won’t deliver all you need from Teams. Again, we explore this in more detail on this blog.
The answer to the second question is more simple. It is possible to add a link to your SharePoint intranet within a Team channel, while a LiveTiles intranet is available to view within Teams. Viewing an intranet though Microsoft Teams is also possible through Viva Connections, which is explored in more detail below.
6 Viva Connections
Microsoft Viva is a recently launched employee experience platform that is still evolving. It incorporates four apps which are experienced through Microsoft Teams. One of these the Viva Connections app – is designed to create an intranet-like experience similar to Teams, and was actually originally developed as the Home Site App: a way to access and navigate resources and sites from across your organisation within Microsoft Teams. Some of the foundational work you need to do to leverage Viva Connections actually means you’re effectively setting up a SharePoint intranet anyway.
We recently covered Viva Connections on this blog as an option for intranet teams. We think it’s still early days for Viva Connections, which means there are some advantages in waiting to deploy it. We also don’t think it’s a replacement for the full browser-led intranet experience. However, it is almost certainly going to play a role in bringing your intranet to the Teams environment, and is definitely an option to watch as it evolves.
Looking for an intranet for Office 365? Get in touch!
If you’re looking for an intranet for Office 365, there a number of options to consider. If you’d like to discuss the right one for you, then get in touch!