sharepoint intranet

What TIME has taught us about featuring People content on your Intranet

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In 1974, Time magazine had a People column. This section featured short stories about people who’d done something great. Over time that People column became so popular the magazine’s editors wondered if they can spin it into it’s own publication.

Any idea what happened next?

People magazine was born, and today it has the largest audience of any American magazine.

Engaging with People-content

People love people-related-content but how do you separate the noise from actually engaging content?

We’ve all seen online discussion boards and forums becoming dumping grounds. Nobody wants similar clutter on their intranet, let alone show any of it on the home page.

Lesson learnt from the Time magazine back in the days was to feature:

  • Content about “ordinary” people doing extraordinary things

  • Content featuring celebrities

This 50:50 split was the magic formula to capture the engagement of the public.

How does this apply to your intranet?


Whether you have a communication team or not (lone intranet manager), have an editorial calendar. In this calendar, spread out your featured stories to cover:

  • Major Company Events

  • Employee Achievements (Safety, Innovation, Customer Success etc)

  • Executive Stories (Customer Value, Employee Success etc)

  • Day in Life of (Field Worker, Project Manager etc)

With this mix, your people will always want to know what’s going to be posted next.

Sourcing your People-content

How do you source all this interesting content?

Here are few ideas:

  • Is there a conference or a trade show your company is attending?

    • Interview few of your attendees

    • Ask them what are they excited about

      • What’s new and changing?

      • How will it impact the industry or how they work?

      • Who’s their favorite session speaker and why?

      • What’s the biggest lesson learnt?

    • Ask to keep in touch with those SMEs to follow up on the relevant industry trends in subsequent stories

  • Use input from your SMEs and post on industry news and trends

  • Are your people attending a competition, hackathon or training?

    • Find out about it and feature it!

      • In the past we have featured a series of 3 posts based on external hackathon company team was participating. Even though our team didn’t win, the challenges our team went through and lessons learnt were super exciting to follow.

        In our case we recorded a simple video but you can just talk to your team and transcribe it as a short article.

        Here is the first video to check out and links to the remaining 2 Part 2 and Part 3 videos.


  • Have a Major Process Improvement? Was it suggested by an employee? Feature it

    • What motivated them?

    • What’s the impact?

    • How did they come up with the solution?

    • What are other opportunities they see?

Other Types of People-content

So far we looked at a centrally managed content published by an intranet manager or a member of communications team.

People content can be much more decentralized and still organized. It can also be interactive and self-posted (with moderation on or off).

Here are few ideas we implement for our customers over years:

  • Idea and Feedback Crowdsourcing

    • Employees get to nominate new ideas

    • Employees tag their idea (same self-moderation applies here as in Employee News)

    • Others get to comment and “like“ submissions

    • Most commented or liked ideas get to bubble up to the top

    • Moderator gets to tag ideas as they get through the “idea pipeline” … this also provides feedback as to what happened to the idea

  • Topic Discussion Channels with Office 365 Teams

    • Example: Rally potential participants in an external industry hackathon

    • Employees get to start a new channel in Teams

    • Others get to contribute

  • Staff Recognitions

    • Example: Give kudos to hackathon participants

    • Employees get to nominate someone for a job well done

    • Tags can include company values

    • Others can “thumb up“ or “star“ the nomination

  • Employee WIKI and How-To

    • Employees get to create a how-to in a specific category

    • Moderators can approve the how to

    • Others get to rate the quality of the how to

    • Number of views gets tracked to showcase the popularity

What else?

Start small and add features later. Don’t enable all of the possible features at once.

Perhaps centralized news is more in line with your organization. If so, launch with that feature alone to post your people content.

You can always enable crowdsourcing, recognition and other tools later.

If you do launch social features, think whether you need content moderation.

Be very clear about the purpose of the content area. Eliminating ambiguity will keep the area clean.

For example: if you plan to have an area for idea crowdsourcing, don’t let it turn into Q&A or How To.

Here are few tips on how to do that :

  • Decide on the categories for each submitted idea?

  • Who will be moderating submitted ideas?

  • How will you get back to the employee who submitted the idea?

  • How will you encourage staff using this new area and check whether new ideas are submitted?

Cross promote bright new ideas in a company newsletter mentioning that this was brought up by using idea crowd-sourcing tool.

We’re here to help

If you have questions on how to make your intranet more engaging while leveraging your existing Office 365 and SharePoint investment, we’re here to help you make that impact.

Turn focus on your users.
Pre-built Office 365 intranet intelligently shaped to your company.


Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is the founder of OrigamiConnect, a rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get an intranet designed for them without starting from a blank page. He's also 8 time Microsoft MVP, speaker at many local and worldwide tech events, and a published author of several SharePoint related books.


Why focusing on apps and widgets can really make your intranet fail?

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Focus on apps and widgets is quite common in many intranet projects but it doesn’t yield results that business users are after. Successful intranet is all about the content and helping users access this content in quick and intuitive way.

As you design your intranet, perform content audit to make your intranet centered around content relevant to your users. Have a good representation of stakeholders in your workshop. Treat each app as a helper to serve content scenarios and not take over the stage.

Finally think about the maintenance of your apps if you’re considering building custom ones.

It’s about the content

Let me be very clear about one thing:

Your users come to your intranet because they need content they think they can find there.

That’s it. Everything else is a bonus.

When we talk to users about the biggest issues they face with their intranets - issues related to content are at the very top of the list, the middle of the list, and at the end.

Hard to believe? You be the judge. Here is what we hear when we start a new project and do a content audit in a form of a test:

  • “Actually quite hard to find things, some things are not obvious”

  • “I found that I had no idea about where to find half of the things on the site“

  • “The menu titles are really vague“

  • “Some of the resources took a few attempts to find what I’m looking for“

What to do:

  • Invest time in content audit.

    • Involve various content representatives in your workshop. They will be the authors of what’s going on the intranet, and they need to be there to tell you that.

  • Group your content by a function and not department/ownership.

    • If I’m looking for a template, I expect to find it in “Templates“, I don’t expect to have to figure out who would be the author of that template and then check out the site of that department. This also solves issues with content owned by multiple departments.

  • Include tools and apps that help finding information.

    • Focus on what users would look for not what you’d want them to look for.

    • Avoid generic roll ups such as “Recent Documents“, “Recently Updated Forms“. Ensure your forms are really the most popular before you start promoting them as such.

  • Allow to provide feedback easily.

    • If this means putting “Page Contacts“ app on your page, make sure you also include FAQ section, so authors of the page can actually post those questions they get most often and reduce the burden of answering the same things multiple times.

Apps as ingredients

Does this mean you shouldn’t have any apps? No. Think of your apps as ingredients to an amazing dish, and that means:

  • Adding everything can lead to surprises … often unpleasant ones

    • Just because you see an app on Office 365 “spice rack” think whether you add value by using it. Adding more apps to your pages just because they’re available will leave your users confused and lost.

  • Think of your customers

    • Intranet is not a meal you will enjoy all on your own. You share it, so remember to accommodate other stakeholder’s needs. The best intranets are well balanced with needs of entire organization.

  • Trust the recipe

    • It’s fine to improvise but be honest with yourself whether you’re stepping outside of your comfort zone. There is a recipe to a successful dish and there is a method to a successful intranet. Following proven methodology will save you time and money reworking the costly mistakes.

  • Trust the experts

    • Watching a YouTube video on “what’s information architecture“ doesn’t mean you can fully put one together. It’s best to acknowledge that and get qualified help before everyone starts unfavorably judging your work.

What to do:

  • Start with the content on sticky notes before you start building the site.

    • We often see this common mistake. People start adding pages and content without fully understanding what else is going in this area. You end up with disjoint site impossible to find anything on.

    • Build your content map on a pager using sticky notes or electronic boards. Refine, test it, and update it until it’s ready. Then you’re ready and can take to one level down and start creating sites and pages.

  • Use apps that help you deliver needed content.

    • Apps are there just to simplify access to the information not create new information that is not needed. If your users don’t need a stock ticker on the home page - don’t add it.

Think about the maintenance

Every time you think about building an app think about its maintenance, and that includes

  • Updates that keep it running as Office 365 changes over time

  • Performance.

  • Compatibility with evolving dependencies such as services.

  • Troubleshooting.

  • Data retention.

What to do:

  • Determine whether you need a custom app to serve up your specific content.

  • Does the app have an owner and optionally a contributor?

  • Determine who will maintain and troubleshooting the app.

  • Does the app require content moderation, is there an owner for that?

  • If the app has critical information, what’s the fallback plan?

  • Is the app compatible with the Office 365 platform in a foreseeable future or does it use approach and modules that are becoming obsolete?

    • What about app performance?

  • Does the app have consistent user experience with the rest of the site?

As you design your intranet, you will come across various alternatives, chose options which are driven by users’ demand. Ensure the demand is real and well represented and your intranet is set for success.

Pre-built Office 365 intranet intelligently shaped to your company.


Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is the founder of OrigamiConnect, a rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get an intranet designed for them without starting from a blank page. He's also 8 time Microsoft MVP, speaker at many local and worldwide tech events, and a published author of several SharePoint related books.


Intranet Themes, Intranet Templates, and a Pre-Built Intranet: What's the Difference?

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Intranet Themes, Intranet Templates, and Pre-Built Intranet: What's the Difference and more importantly, before you pull out your credit card, which one do you need?

These three types of solutions have one main thing in common, “intranet” word attached to them.

In reality, there is a world of difference between what you think you’re getting and what you’re actually buying, so let’s dive right into it.

Intranet Theme

Think of an intranet theme like you would a PowerPoint theme, but for your intranet. You take a pre-existing document and apply a theme to make it prettier. You still have to build out your intranet before you can make it pretty, just like you’d have to write a PowerPoint document before applying a visually appealing theme.

Key attributes:

  • Services, including support services, aren’t typically included as part of the package, you read the manual and install the solution.

  • Themes are designed to be exclusively compatible with pre-existing intranet platforms, such as SharePoint, Office365, or proprietary intranets.

  • You need an existing, already-built intranet.

  • Themes provide a visual face-lift including with:

    • Colors

    • Backgrounds

    • Fonts Options

  • You are constrained with a very limited functionality of what you can and can’t change in the theme.

    • Some themes will have a “control panel“ with switches and toggles and that’s all you have to work with

  • Custom apps you may have built in your intranet may not inherit the rules of the theme.

  • Themes are very inexpensive.

  • Support services are very basic since you’re responsible for everything but cosmetic look and feel supported by the theme.

  • Target audience: Organizations between 30 ~ 100 users.

Intranet Template

An intranet template is similar to an Office Document template. It’s designed for a specific purpose, but you need to fill in the blanks to make it function for you. You’ll have to work around their constraints, keeping features you may not need and finding ways to customize things you want but are not included.

Key attributes:

  • Basic installation and integration services are usually included as part of the set up. With some products the manual and install package is simple enough for experienced users to set up the template

  • Intranet templates are platform specific, just like themes.

  • Unlike themes, templates can serve as add-ons to pre-existing intranet, or starting points for new ones, for example:

    • Helpdesk Intranet Template - will provide helpdesk workflows and functionality to an existing intranet whether you have one or not.

  • Templates provide new apps, specific workflows, and in some cases:

    • Colors, backgrounds, and fonts, but those are often limited to elements in the template and not everything else in your intranet.

  • You may be able to re-arrange what’s inside the template (apps) but not change the functionality of the apps. Some templates allow you to add out-of-the-box features of the parent platform, like SharePoint.

  • Custom apps you build are yours to maintain and not part of the template.

  • Templates are more expensive than themes on average 3-4 times.

  • Support services cover the basic apps and functionality built into a template, but not changes you’ve made to the template our other apps.

  • Target audience: Organizations between 50 ~ 150 users

Pre-Built Intranet

Think of pre-built intranet as a set of intranet templates aimed at fulfilling a specific goal. This goal could be:

  • Ensuring information on the intranet is easy to find.

  • Facilitate employee engagement and gamification.

  • Simplifying document and information management.

It’s rare that pre-built intranet will fulfill all of these goals completely, but most will do one and maybe even two of these things well.

Key attributes:

  • Pre-built intranet is likely to have set up services aimed at maximizing the goal of the solution.

    • Some are very much cookie cutter intranets with additional configuration offered through contractors.

    • Others will include configuration and set up services for greater customer success factor.

  • Similar to themes and templates, pre-built intranet can be platform specific, but some can also come as their own platform.

    • Apart from SharePoint you may find many specific intranets targeted towards the goal. They are cohesive and complete units that may not require a platform or run on a platform such as SharePoint or Office 365

  • Pre-built intranet will typically require a fresh install.

  • Pre-built intranet generally includes new apps, workflows, various services, and branding.

  • Some, but not all, pre-built intranets extend their look and feel to your custom applications.

  • Cost is typically 3 times more expensive than an intranet template.

  • Support services will cover pre-built intranet and, in some cases, extended support covering questions related to the platform.

  • Target audience: Organizations > 150 users.

What else?

One option that hasn’t been mentioned yet is custom intranet. Still a popular choice but beginning to gain a reputation of having much less return on investment than before due to an increase in pre-built alternatives on the market.

The key is to accurately assess your company capabilities.

Too often do we see organizations attempt to build an intranet on their own by purchasing bits and pieces, templates and themes, overtime. Ultimately, resulting in higher costs and suboptimal, patchwork, solutions.

Always remember who you’re building an intranet for: your users. Rarely are they aware of budgets. Everyday interactions is what makes an impact.

Users will never know if the solution was inexpensive or not, but they will remember if it was frustrating to use.

Pre-built Office 365 intranet intelligently shaped to your company.


Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is the founder of OrigamiConnect, a rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get an intranet designed for them without starting from a blank page. He's also 8 time Microsoft MVP, speaker at many local and worldwide tech events, and a published author of several SharePoint related books.


How is Employee Retention linked to Employee Recognition & Feedback

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Employee retention is linked to feedback and recognition. Organizations not making it easy for employees to give feedback are bound to face lower productivity and higher turnover.

Everyone agrees that Employee Retention is important factor in any organization. We all know that the longer are we in our jobs the more we learn and more efficient we become. On the flip side, the costs associated with hiring a new employee include:

  • Recruiting

  • Training

  • Effort related to more initial support and supervision

Apart from random events, it’s natural to assume that job and company satisfaction plays a big part in the retention.

So how can we predictably measure job satisfaction? When do you know there are issues to address?

As obvious as it may sound …

… first, we need to know what it means for us to be satisfied.

If I asked you today: “How satisfied are you in your job?”
What would drive that answer: recent events or objective evaluation of your career over time?

Even though we’d like to imagine we evaluate our career and come up with an overall rating on how satisfied we are, that’s not how our mind works. We decide on the spot based mostly on most recent or most significant events.

Also, negative events matter more to us and stick more in our memory!

We get a glimpse on how this happens in the study that was conducted in 90s.

Behavioral experiment

Researchers at University of Toronto in 1990s conducted an interesting study where they get a glimpse in how people rate their experience. Here is how it went down.

154 participants in the study volunteered to undergo a routine medical procedure performed without an anesthetic and causing some pain. The participants were prompted every 60 seconds to indicate the level of pain they experienced at that moment. The question went along the lines “indicate 0 for no pain; and 10 being - intolerable pain“. As the procedure went along, patients pain score was plotted on a chart showing the scale of pain over time.

behavioral study.JPG

As you can see, the experience of the two patients, illustrated in the graphs above, shows how they experienced the procedure.

First patient’s procedure only lasted 8 minutes; patient #2 wasn’t so lucky with 24-minute procedure.

Now consider this easy question: who from the above suffered more?

If you’re like most people, you’ll say that patient #2 suffered more. Their operation lasted longer, and they routinely indicated at least as much pain as the patient #1.

When the procedure was over, all participants were asked to rate “the total amount of pain“ they experienced during the procedure. Very similar to how you’d ask someone “how satisfied are you with your job/company/team etc“.

The answer was surprising. Patient #2 indicated much less suffering!

What’s happening?

This study revealed 2 patterns:

  • People rate their overall experience based on:

    • Their experience towards the end

    • Their worst possible moment during the experience

  • People neglect the duration of the experience when providing a rating

Averaging out our pain/satisfaction is not how we naturally remember our experience.

Most significant work experiences stick

Negative experiences happen at work. Unfortunately they stick more than positives and our overall opinion leans over time towards not being satisfied with work.

This experiment translated to a workplace also explains how employees who left the organization due dissatisfaction don’t come back and speak positively of it. Their overall experience is remembered by the last significant negative event.

Despite many positive events happening at work over years, it’s those negative one that slowly erode our satisfaction and build our overall perception.

So, what’s the solution?

Tackle Issues Early: Collect and Action Feedback

Sometimes organizations are afraid to create an area for ideas and feedback on the intranet.

What if negative comments are going to spread and create a moderation nightmare?

Although we recommend having guidelines and moderation, you won’t see many cases where you’ll need to enforce those. Just as people don’t post offensive post-in notes in the office kitchen, they’re even less likely to do anything similar when their name is attached to the post on the intranet.

Here are few other suggestions to include in your posting guidelines:

  • Check if there is a similar feedback/comment already posted

  • Think constructively

    • Propose a solution

    • Explain an alternative

    • No pointing fingers

    • Provide details

  • Specify category of feedback (technology, facilities, process etc)

As a moderator, be sure to:

  • Have a mechanism to get back to those who posted feedback

  • Redirect feedback to SME’s

  • Allocate regular time for moderation activities

  • Group similar feedback

Recognitions and Kudos

Meaningful employee recognition is important. In fact, many organizations have non-digital, highly formal processes to recognize their employees.

With your intranet, you can take advantage of the digital channel to simplify employee recognition and open it to the rest of the organization.

With some of the organizations we worked with, Kudos were opened to the entire organization so that everyone could nominate co-worker in a moderated channel.

To help organize Kudos you can suggest categorizing the type of recognition based on company core values.

recognitions and feedback.JPG

With Office 365 you can also roll up staff photos to make the feedback tool more engaging and personal.

What else?

Employee engagement is a key element at keeping everyone productive. It’s also an opportunity to understand the underlying issues your people may be facing daily and how to improve. Too often organizations discard useful feedback too quickly because it’s perceived as complaining or not actionable. Use your intranet and tools it can give you to categorize and tag feedback, crowdsource ideas, and gain momentum.

We’d be happy to help you get started with an objective intranet consultation.

Pre-built Office 365 intranet tailored to your organization.


Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is the founder of OrigamiConnect, a rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get an intranet designed for them without starting from a blank page. He's also 8 time Microsoft MVP, speaker at many local and worldwide tech events, and a published author of several SharePoint related books.