With the recent release of SharePoint 2016, we’re really excited about the improvements that have been brought to what is almost certainly the world’s most popular Intranet provider. With cloud accelerated experiences, an improved hybrid search, and a whole host of new features and updates, SharePoint 2016 looks like it could be the best iteration yet.
You should check out Benjamin's recent post for a detailed run-down of the new features.
However, as exciting as SharePoint 2016 is, experience has taught us that the platform often struggles on the user adoption front. All too often, the issue is less to do with the platform being inherently bad or good. Rather, it has to do with the fact that companies and end users often struggle to implement it in a useful and relevant way for their organization. As a consequence, SharePoint gets a bad rep.
So, how can you ensure that your SharePoint Intranet is perfect? While no organization is the same, many of the best practice rules will apply to every situation. Get these right and you’ll be on your way to Intranet excellence!
Before you begin creating a SharePoint Intranet, your first step is to find out what you actually need from it. The Intranet is very often commissioned by people high up in the business – CEOs, the IT top brass, and so on. This is as it should be, yet these people will only have one specific viewpoint on how the Intranet should work.
You also need to spend time with regular end users to understand how they work, what they do and what they expect from a communications and collaboration platform.
Focus on Functionality
SharePoint is great because it lets you pretty much customize it any way you want. However, too many organizations get obsessed with placing their company branding and logo throughout the Intranet, and spend a lot less time focusing on functionality. How will the pages be structured, how will users navigate, how can we make it easier to find stuff?
These should be your top priorities. An attractive theme has a lot of value, but it should come second.
Content is King
So many SharePoint Intranets fail because they get stale. Your Intranet needs to be regularly refreshed and updated to ensure it – and the information it contains – remains relevant and usable. You need to fill it with useful, updated guides, information about the company, and communications about the business’ latest achievements.
Make it Social
SharePoint now integrates well with Yammer, Microsoft’s enterprise social network (ESN). ESNs are super useful; they let users speak to one another and work in a natural and interactive manner. Individuals get their own profiles which means a ‘people search’ feels more human, and knowledge sharing is facilitated by silos being broken down. Features such as ‘likes’ and @mentions also make using the Intranet a lot more engaging.
Today’s workers are ever more mobile – they expect to connect to company systems wherever they are, and from whatever device they use. Out-of-the-box SharePoint manages this increasingly well since Microsoft is very focused on the ‘mobile-first’ economy. However, if you customize SharePoint too much, these features will become less mobile friendly.
So, if you do decide to radically alter the SharePoint's User Interface, make sure you thoroughly test it to ensure it will work on all user platforms.
Have a Great Front Page
Your SharePoint Intranet’s home page is the place your employees start and end their day. It should include fresh, regularly (daily, if possible) updated content, and a list of links to relevant areas within the Intranet.
Make Sure You Get Metadata Right
While it’s hardly the sexiest part of SharePoint, ensuring you have a well-defined metadata taxonomy is crucial. When applied intelligently, metadata helps your employees find documents fast using SharePoint’s powerful search engine. However, if it’s overly complicated to add metadata, or your chosen terms are too vague, users will abandon it, and not apply it correctly.
So, spend time really understanding metadata and planning your approach.
Give Practical User Training
The perfect SharePoint Intranet is an Intranet which users actively contribute to and edit themselves. They should be able to upload, make changes, and add content. If they don’t understand how to do this, they won’t use the platform, and you can expect very little ROI. Give your colleagues useful, practical training on how to do specific tasks related to their actual day-to-day activities.
Make It Personal
There are various ways you can make SharePoint personal – from named home pages to individual sites. Include the site owner’s name so people know who to ask for more information.
Never Stop the Intranet Project
The title of this post is somewhat misleading because, well, the Intranet project can never reach perfection. You need to continuously update, change, improve, and advance SharePoint, ensuring it’s always fresh and relevant. Appointing a SharePoint manager (or team for larger companies) will help you better organize and update SharePoint content to keep it evergreen.