The Subtle Art of Making a Great Intranet: A HR Perspective

If there’s one thing many case studies agree on it’s that creating a successful SharePoint intranet is a team effort. The more subtle truth is that anyone can be the initiator and key driver.

Whether you’re in corporate communications, HR, IT, or a specific business unit, you’ve got the power to successfully initiate a SharePoint intranet project and build a digital workplace for your organization.

What happens next is a methodical set of activities to see the project through to completion.

Here is the perspective of how an intranet project got its roots in Human Resources (HR) at a manufacturing company. Elena Bobyreva, Director of HR at Peak Products, shares her valuable insights in the interview below!

Background and Intranet Project Roadmap

  • [YP] Why an intranet?

  • [EB] What I like about our SharePoint intranet is that it helps our company to deliver information to employees and internal stakeholders as well as collect their feedback. It is a forum for employees to communicate and connect and that builds employee engagement.

  • [YP] What was used before the SharePoint intranet at your company?

  • [EB] Previously we relied on emails, phone conferences or calls, and in-person meetings.

  • [YP] What top things were important to you for your SharePoint intranet?

  • [EB] News and updates - a consistent place for company information to keep employees in the know.

  • Employee Announcements - to keep everyone in the loop on who’s joining the team, who’s being recognized for their achievements, etc. This section was adopted quite quickly, we started seeing responses, comments, and likes right away. We see people from different departments recognize people from other parts of organization which encourages the culture of collaboration and performance.

  • Polls and Surveys - one of our tools to give voice to our employees.

  • Finally, informational sites for things like [Benefits and Career Opportunities], and a dedicated section for new hires to help them onboard with the company.

SharePoint Intranet Project Planning

  • [YP] What were some of the challenges you had to overcome to get buy-in for the intranet project?

  • [EB] It was important to present decision makers with facts and numbers to help them understand the importance and value of the intranet.

  • [YP] What were some of your strategies?

  • [EB] I have seen and worked with many intranets before but there were parts needing expert input.

  • The first strategy was to determine the pain points. We launched an employee survey to collect the feedback at all levels about everyone’s communication needs and pain points. We received a lot of ideas on potential solutions. The response was very positive towards having a tool like a SharePoint intranet.

  • From there, our next step was to work with an expert to understand how everything fits together in terms of the process, features and capabilities so that decision makers see the return on investment.

  • These two were key to build a compelling business case.

  • [YP] Were the benefits you presented more along the lines of “time saved at work” or benefits more related to “reducing silos”?

  • [EB] It was a bit of both. Numbers are important and so are qualitative benefits related to eliminating errors through collaboration. We also put an emphasis on reducing the volume of emails to help people with time management.

  • [YP] How did you arrive at a SharePoint Intranet as the chosen platform?

  • [EB] We used Office 365 already for email, so a SharePoint Intranet was a natural choice.

SharePoint Intranet Process

  • [YP] What was the process around building the intranet?

  • [EB] First, we started by clarifying roles and responsibilities of who will create and maintain the content on the intranet. This formed our core intranet team. Then, we moved on to brainstorm what was needed on the intranet and what employees told us they wanted to see based on the survey we collected earlier.
    We then engaged in a workshop with a cross-functional group of employees and the SharePoint intranet expert to select the right features we needed to deliver the content.

  • [YP] What were the constraints?

  • [EB] Whatever features we chose, they needed to be easy to maintain to ensure that the learning curve for new content authors was smooth. Also, the design of the site needed to reflect the company’s external website and brand.
    Finally, we needed something that we could maintain in-house with our own resources. We needed to ensure the system is supportable and maintainable.

SharePoint Intranet Adoption

  • [YP] How did you roll out the site?

  • [EB] The content was reviewed and approved by the key stakeholders. Once that was completed, we soft-launched the site. Gradually we started transitioning communication and sending newsletters highlighting key content on the SharePoint intranet in various areas. People started getting used to checking the site more and more often.

  • [YP] What are some of the things you’re glad you did when planning?

  • [EB] Having an expert to take us through the process. Going alone would have been much more difficult. Having a governance matrix of who will maintain the intranet and draft, author, and approve content was crucial because it gave everybody clear roles, responsibilities, and expectations.

  • [YP] What’s Next for your SharePoint Intranet?

  • [EB] Having a co-author or someone who shares passion for driving interesting content and engaging our employees. Move more content and processes to the intranet, things like reports, documentation, guidelines and our LMS.

In summary, Elena captured an opportunity to bring digital to an existing workplace and highlighted those benefits to her leadership team. One of the tools she used to back up her SharePoint intranet assumptions were employee surveys. This has remained on the agenda all the way throughout each brainstorming session and every decision that was made.

When employees see that their feedback is brought to action, it builds trust and buy-in, even if the decision making team is a much smaller group.

Using the insight from Elena and how Peak Products benefited, see how you can kick off a transition like this at your organization!

What area of the business are you coming from? Are there items not considered in this post you'd like to see more of? Let us know in the comments below!

Founder of SharePoint Intranet

Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is the Director of Product at Origami. He's also 8 time Microsoft MVP, speaker at many local and worldwide tech events, and a published author of several SharePoint related books.