Peak Products

SharePoint Intranet Essentials and must-haves in a Modern Intranet

Over the years of implementing various SharePoint intranet designs, the conversation with a customer typically started with "what's important to you/what do you need"?

What I'll share here, are some of the most common modules a typical intranet needs to date to be successful and relevant in a medium sized organization. You can use those as intranet ideas in the design of your own intranet.

1. Workspaces and Teams: Document Management

If you think of your intranet as a city, Workspaces or Teams are your residential neighborhoods.

Workspaces or Teams are places for groups and departments in your company to form a close working community to get something specific done. This can be a project, a task force, an internal document repository of a department or a team.

Here are some typical workspace sites:

  • Project Sites

  • HR

  • Finance

  • Legal

  • Marketing

  • IT

Workspaces usually have restricted access with select group of contributors managed by a site owner.

Essential functionality expected on these sites includes:

  • Working together on documents and deliverables

  • Easily search for documents and projects

  • Track versions

  • Track tasks and ownership

This is an example of a Projects Directory where users can search for their project site and access relevant documents

This is an example of a Projects Directory where users can search for their project site and access relevant documents

 

2. Employee Tools: Employee Engagement

intranet idea.PNG

Employee tools is part of your cultural neighborhood in the intranet city. This is where employees go to find tools to help them be productive and connect.

Typically this area of your intranet includes:

  • New Member Orientation Site

    • Ex: First Week

    • Ex: Ordering Business Cards

    • Ex: Equipment

  • Training

  • Benefits Information

  • Staff Forms

  • Policies and Handbooks

  • Career Growth

  • Staff Directory

  • Employee News and Events
    (where team members can post their content even if it's moderated)

This area is generally open for everyone to read with few select contributors. It's important to clearly identify content contributors and we often display their names on the site so that if some content is missing or inaccurate, everyone knows who to contact.

Help users connect with the content contributor in a specific area of the site if they find an error or missing information

Help users connect with the content contributor in a specific area of the site if they find an error or missing information

3. Tools/Resources for Business

Help employees quickly access tools they need to get their work done. This is the area where you keep all of the relevant business resources, links, and process information.

Here are some of the most common items we recommend in this section:

  • Process and Methodology Knowledgebase

    1. Ex: Logo Usage Guidelines

    2. Ex: Supplier Procurement Process

  • Templates and Sample Deliverables

    • Ex: Project Status Report Template

    • Ex: Project Plan Template

  • Request Forms

    • Ex: Marketing Collateral Ordering Form

  • Links to:

    • CRM

    • Reporting

    • Analytics

Help your users find content by tailoring each sub-section to the type of content.

For example, if your company provides services you can help your staff to easily find a company published whitepapers or a case study. Case studies are easier to find when they're in an article format rather than a document.

Here is the example of how you could present your case studies on a Marketing Resources site.

Illustrates how different content is presented to draw attention to various sections of this department site helping users find what they're looking for.

Illustrates how different content is presented to draw attention to various sections of this department site helping users find what they're looking for.

4. Communication

Communication is a bread and butter of any intranet site. In fact, many intranet initiatives are started by communication department's need to effectively facilitate dialog between employees and the company. In the modern intranet, communication is not exclusively produced by the members of COMMs team, so what is this content?

Typically communication content goes right on the home page of the site with links to other sections of the intranet.

Here are the most common communication tools your intranet needs:

  • Urgent Company Alerts

  • Internal Company News & Events

  • Public and External Company Announcements

  • Employee Welcomes and Recognitions

Some other interesting elements include:

  • Department News
    (targeted to logged in user)

  • Message from Executive

  • KPI's

  • Opinion Polls

In Summary

As you can see, the modern intranet is dynamic and is all about what your team members need to get their work done. It doesn't duplicate information from other sources such as the public site content. It also doesn't try to be a replica for other specialized system such as CRM.
It provides quick access, it's relevant, responsive and helpful.

Hope this helps in your upcoming intranet design strategies. Post your comments below, would love to hear!

Complete, no-hassle, true SharePoint intranet.

 
ypentsarskyy_2016_small.jpg

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.

@spentsarsky

7 Steps to Effectively Introduce Intranet & Digital Workplace

You've joined a new organization which doesn't have an intranet or it's out-of-date. From your past experience, you see so much value and potential a good intranet could bring. How do you go about convincing others?

Introducing a new tool to the organization can be a challenge but not if you follow organic process and let others be your advocates for the change. Let's take a look at some of the key strategies we saw some of our customers found successful.

1. Plant an intranet idea

First, you need your key ally and a future sponsor. Determine who can be your intranet executive sponsor and run an idea past them. See how receptive are they.

intranet idea.PNG

Here are the goals for this kind of conversation:

  • Do they feel like document and knowledge management in a company can be improved

  • Are they open to you finding out a bit more details and hearing back from you in a week or so

  • Are they open to you leading an informal survey

At this point you won't have to present any business case or budget. Try to keep the conversation high level, ask questions and get their agreement to gather more real data from others (see next step) to back up your point.

Ideally you'd want them to agree on you running a short survey to collect measurable feedback from others.

The key here is to start with a conversation, spend a minimal amount of effort, and gather more evidence.

2. Gather evidence in support of an intranet

Now that you've got some interest from the potential intranet sponsor, gather some more evidence from others. If you're in charge of HR, Marketing, or Communications, this is probably the easiest step for you.

The goal is to determine the pain points others experience with document management and communication. Start by putting together a quick intranet survey using Survey Monkey or just a plain old email.

The key here is to collect measurable data so have some pre-defined questions and one or two open ended questions.

Here are the typical things to measure (tailor messaging to your organization):

  • Rate how easy it is to find documents and versions

    • 5 Very Easy ... 0 Very Difficult

  • How easy do you find it is to collaborate on a single document with multiple people?

    • 5 Very Easy ... 0 Very Difficult

  • Rate how easy it is to find the right information (processes, projects, procedures, forms)

    • 5 Very Easy ... 0 Very Difficult

  • How productive do you find current communication via email (or meetings)

    • Very Productive .... Not Productive at All

  • How satisfied are you with keeping up with company & employee news, and events?

    • 5 Very Satisfied ... 0 Not Satisfied at All

These are some of the ideas. Feel free to add specifics for your company and make sure you make them measurable (0 ... 5) that way you can build quantifiable picture.

Try to keep number of questions between 5 and 10 so that people actually answer them.

Also, feel free to throw in few open ended questions, those tend to generate a lot of ideas and even potential solutions. Those are great narratives to help convince stakeholders and sponsors. Here is an example:

If you were to describe our current document sharing and collaboration in one word, what would that word be?

You can boost up the response rate to your survey by posting a bulletin in the office kitchen, or mention it during next staff event. Even drop by team's desks and promote your idea that way.

3. Find intranet solutions

While your survey is collecting valuable data, you need to be on a look out for compelling intranet tools, including searching for intranet in a box.

intranet solutions.PNG

At this stage you will need to know your options and cost ranges. The best is to pick few intranet solutions and gather pricing details to implement each.

Here are the key things to keep in mind while reviewing your options:

  • Know the amount of users who will be using the intranet (are those users internal users only or do they include clients, contractors etc)

  • Determine solution cost model

  • What else do you need to make it run

  • Determine the timelines for the implementation

  • What does provider need from you

    • Ex: Maintenance resources, licenses etc

4. Present intranet business case

Now that you've gathered some convincing results, build a quick 5 page slide deck to help you put a convincing business case.

Here are the things to include:

  • Number of survey responses gathered

  • Facts and ratings translated into compelling statistics:

    • Ex: 60% respondents said finding documents is Very Difficult

    • Ex: 40% respondents said current communication via email is Not Productive at All

  • Include some interesting narratives to your open ended questions. Focus on the ones that bring impact and value.

  • Tie your statistics to company's values or goals for the year or in general

    • Ex: [ time saved at work] or more soft benefits such as [reducing siloes]

  • Your preferred solution vendor and some key points why

    • Might include a screenshot or two of the solution

  • Implementation cost based on your research

  • Implementation timeline also based on your research

  • Who will you need from internal resources

    • People who will help you write content etc

At this stage you might want to present the business case in a meeting. If you find resistance, try to understand why. Perhaps your executive sponsor doesn't have much experience with intranets and needs a bit more help understanding the key benefits. It's not a bad thing.

What you want to walk away from this meeting is:

  • Does the business case sound compelling and when can you start engaging with vendors

    • Can you request time from your select stakeholders (see next step)

  • If there are gaps in the business case, what are they and are those the only ones to work on

  • If the timing is not right, when can the idea be revisited

5. Pick your stakeholder team

content brainstorming.PNG

You have just secured one of the most important stakeholders, your sponsor, congrats! You now need few more stakeholders to make your intranet a success.

Your Content Owners are other key stakeholders who will put other important content on your intranet. Those are typically:

  • HR

  • Marketing

  • Communications

  • Delivery

  • IT

It's important to include representatives from those areas otherwise you will end up with the intranet that's heavily leaning towards one type of content but not the other.

Luckily, if you've launched an intranet survey from your previous step, your stakeholders are already in the loop.

Stakeholders can't be just anyone, they need to be people in charge and who can actively participate in meetings to determine what makes it into a final product from their Area or Department. They, in turn, can allocate additional staff/contributors from their teams to join particular meetings so they need to have an authority to delegate and assign tasks.

6. Ready for launch

writing content.PNG

Fast forward few weeks, you and your vendor have finished configuring the tool and you have an intranet ready to be launched, now what?

You need to populate it with the content.

Most intranets have [Team Specific] content and [All Company] content.

  • Team Specific content includes documents and artifacts teams use every day. Typically this content needs to be migrated from their previous repositories and everyone on the team needs to be aware where the new location is. Team Specific content can be restricted to users of a specific team for example the Management Team.

  • All Company content includes bits from almost every department. This content has main contributors but anyone can read it. This includes content for Policies & Procedures, Templates, News & Events etc. Typically this content needs to be created by assigned Content Contributors prior to launch, although some of it can be migrated from other repositories if this content already existed.

Content Owners and key Contributors will need to work with their team to provide key content for all of their content areas whether it's [Team Specific] or [All Company].

7. Beyond the launch

The most important part of a thriving intranet is having content contributors know what content areas they're responsible for and how often do they update them.

One of the things we always provide customers with is a governance and content worksheet. It's a simple blueprint used by Content Contributors to know, especially in the beginning, which content they're responsible for maintaining and how often.

This ensures your intranet is fresh and users always know who to contact in case of a question for a particular area of the site.

Hope this helps in your upcoming intranet design strategies. Post your comments below, would love to hear!

ypentsarskyy_2016_small.jpg

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.

@spentsarsky

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

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

human-resources.jpg

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

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

Here is the perspective of how an intranet project got its roots in HR at a manufacturing company. Elena Bobyreva, Director of HR at Peak Products shares her valuable insight in my recent interview with her:

Background and Intranet Project Roadmap

  • [YP] Why an intranet?

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

  • [YP] What was used previously at your company?

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

  • [YP] What were top things important to you in your 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.

Intranet Project Planning

  • [YP] What were some of the challenges you had to overcome to get a buy-in for the 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.

Sample Twitter poll launched externally

Sample Twitter poll launched externally

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 an 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 more soft benefits such as “reducing siloes”

  • [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 SharePoint Online as a platform?

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

Process

card sorting.jpg
  • [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 team. Then, we moved on to brainstorm what is needed on the intranet and what employees told us they want 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 expert to select the right features we need to deliver the content.

  • [YP] What were the constraints?

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

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 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 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?

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

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

When employees see that their feedback is brought to action, it builds trust and buy-in, even if 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 in your organization.

What area of the business are you coming from? Are there items not considered in this post you'd like to mention?

ypentsarskyy_2016_small.jpg

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.

@spentsarsky