Intranet Planning

7 Must Haves in a Digital Workplace Solution in 2020

7 Must Haves in a Digital Workplace Solution in 2020

There’s no denying that SharePoint is the most prevalent intranet platform when it comes to organization and internal communications today. SharePoint and Office 365 intranets are gaining significant ground for the contemporary employee engagement and collaboration features they provide, along with traditional intranet features such as internal communication and information management.

Top 7 Enhancements to Explore in Origami Intranet’s Upcoming Release Built on Modern SharePoint

Top 7 Enhancements to Explore in Origami Intranet’s Upcoming Release Built on Modern SharePoint

Discover Origami’s upcoming Modern SharePoint Intranet release - Hummingbird. Engage your employees and enable them to excel in their roles with Origami SharePoint intranet. Read the blog now to explore the 7 enhancements to the upcoming release built on modern SharePoint. Shape Your Perfect Intranet with Origami today!

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

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

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?

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

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.

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.

SharePoint Intranet Expert

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.


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

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.

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.

SharePoint Intranet Expert

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.


If Content is King, then How Do You Help it Rule Your Intranet?

If Content is King, then How Do You Help it Rule Your Intranet?

If your users are not able to find what they’re looking for, it might as well not even be there.

Luckily, with these 4 techniques to guide you, your intranet can be transformed to surpass your own expectations.

Where does Intranet fit in Your Digital Workplace Strategy

Your Digital Workplace is not a single tool. It’s a set of tools that make work possible by complimenting each other. By evaluating new tools that come on the market in terms of their fitness on your roadmap, you can avoid tools that are roadmap-distractions and require costly backtracking. Intranets have some very clear goals and purpose in comparison to other communication tools, but you have to ensure governance and adequate support in order to make the investment worthwhile.

1. Digital Workplace: Understanding

A bit more than a year ago, at Microsoft Ignite Conference in Orlando, I had a chance to speak with Joe Francis who runs a Yammer network for over 200,000 users at Glaxo Smith Kline.

The interview of our conversation is still available here, so feel free to check it out.

Joe and their MS Partner Leslie provided some real close-up looks on how they manage their Yammer network and how it has transformed communication within their organization.

At the time, Yammer was known in the Microsoft community to be on the “decline“. I spoke with several SME’s in the area and everyone had a nervous feeling what’s going to happen with the product. And yet it does so well at GSK.

Just 5 years ago, Yammer was considered a disruptor and many claimed it will displace SharePoint as a communication tool. But it didn’t. Now, similar disruptor stories are told about Microsoft Teams.

Many organizations are struggling to figure out how Microsoft Teams and other tools in Office 365 suite will fit their digital landscapes.

How do you know when a new tool is right for the organization?

First, let’s understand what a Digital Workplace is:

A Digital Workplace is a cohesive set of tools and environments which help the company operate successfully and drive towards a business goal.

Few key characteristics:

  • Each tool must have its purpose and audience in your organization

    • For example: you’re not trying to do project management with Yammer, just as you wouldn’t use Microsoft Project for employee communication

  • There is a governance around each tool and business users are not confused

    • Users are not mistakenly putting confidential files onto an externally accessible network

  • The tool belongs to a roadmap

    • It’s not a rogue tool installed out of someone’s impatience. Even if it’s an ad-hoc solution, it needs to have a roadmap and transition plan

2. Is the Tool a Distraction or does it belong to a roadmap?

Now that we know what the Digital Workplace is and that it can have several tools in its arsenal, let’s define the “distraction” on a roadmap.

The Roadmap

Your roadmap is a way to go from point A (now) to point B (say, 3 years from now).

A tool that is a distraction will take you on a side road and lead nowhere so you’ll have to backtrack to get back on the right path.

There are a few characteristics of a digital tool that make it a distraction.

Tool is a distraction if

  • It’s a short term “band-aid”; not tied to solving a business goal for the company

    • Example: A team needs to collaborate with a contractor who doesn’t have a corporate account, so they create a Dropbox account for them to share files with.

      • This action does not create a strategy for sharing files externally, it’s simply a band-aid for this one case

  • It doesn’t fit core values or policies of the business

    • Example: Help-desk team using email to ask customer for passwords

      • This action can result in breaches and customer information leaks

  • It doesn’t scale with growing demand

    • Example: Using Microsoft Teams channels to store project documentation

      • This decision might make sense temporarily but as more projects you’re assigned to, the more channels you’ll have and searching, archiving, and accessing relevant deliverables will become a nightmare as the team grows

  • It has visible negative impact on business goals

    • Example: Email blast company news

      • This clogs people’s email. They stop paying attention to newsletters and miss important announcements resulting in disengagement

3. Where does the intranet fit into all this?

Intranet revolves around these key goals:

  1. Be a hub for reliable corporate communication (leadership communication, KPIs etc)

  2. Be a one-stop-shop for corporate knowledge (templates, samples, Knowledgebase, How to’s)

  3. Be a central spot for resources that employees need to get their job done (manuals, policies, request forms)

  4. Be a one-stop-shop for collaboration (including: document management, findings skills and expertise through directories, launching key forms such as HR forms)

Additionally, if you don’t have any overlapping tools such as HRMS systems, your intranet can also be a place for:

  • Employees to connect (employee news, events, and ideas contributions)

  • Staff Engagement (shout-outs and kudos)

4. Setting up your intranet for success

As Joe mentions in his interview about Yammer, you have to plan for success.

Here are the key steps to implement your intranet successfully:


  • Obtain Executive buy-in

    • Propose a pilot project. Set targets, measure outcomes, report results

  • Avoid the trap of Planned Obsolescence

    • Planned Obsolescence has several shades, here are few examples

      • Example 1: Instead of maintaining the service subscription companies do not renew it hoping the software will just work. Instead, the software becomes stale and users become dissatisfied with its performance

      • Example 2: No budget assigned for an internal resource to collect employee requests, prioritize, and action them

      • Example 3: No budget for increased demand on helpdesk resources when rolling out a new software

  • Equally represented content

    • Content on the intranet is often heavily tilted towards communications with very little representation for the areas of the business. This reduces your audience and engagement.

  • Build intuitive information architecture

We’re here to help

Struggling to understand how Office 365 toolset fits the digital landscape in your organization?
It’s not always simple, and requires expertise to help you gain insight in the roadmap Microsoft has for its products. We’re here to help you.
We’d be happy to help you with a transparent and objective consultation to get you on the right track and maximize your existing Office 365 investment.


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.


4 Best Practices for Evolving Internal Communications to Digital

4 Best Practices for Evolving Internal Communications to Digital

Explore the best practices for evolving your internal communication to a truly digital communication approach. Take advantage of technology to elevate your internal communication and give your employees access to superior communications.

Social Intranet Features: What They are and How To Use Them

Social Intranet Features: What They are and How To Use Them

See how you can enhance employee engagement at your organization with a social intranet to encourage employee connection and collaboration. Find out what social intranet features consist of and how best to use them at your workplace.

Building a Business Case for a new Office 365 Intranet

Summary: Building an intranet business case solely focused on numbers is logical but rarely convinces decision-makers to take the next steps. Tie your intranet business case to customer experiences, and show how having a robust intranet helps your organization serve customers better. Start small, embrace iterative stages, and evolve with the Office 365 toolkit.

Why do you need an intranet

Before jumping into how will the intranet be built and what features will it have, we need to start with basics and supply relevant evidence on why do we think we need an intranet.

Go beyond Comparison

When building an intranet business case, it’s natural to try and appeal to decision-makes only in a very quantifiable way. However, this approach only covers surface issues and misses the opportunity to address more complex scenarios.

Say an organization uses file share to collaborate and manage files and other information. Your decision makers are very familiar with the existing file share, what it does, and costs associated with it.

Let’s say existing problems with file share have been identified as:

  • Cost of growing and maintaining storage

  • Lack of proper versioning

  • Cumbersome remote access

To address these, you might focus on:

  • Up to 1 TB of storage for $X/user/month

  • Version control included

  • Remote access included

Are these the only challenges your organization can solve with Office 365?

Here are few more to consider:

  • Eliminating rework by providing samples and templates

  • Reducing reliance on email by improving search

  • Reducing errors by introducing How To’s and Procedure Directory

  • Simplifying onboarding with the Welcome library

  • Eliminate bottlenecks for finding information

  • Align inconsistent processes

  • Promote knowledge sharing and engagement

Next, let’s see how we can provide compelling evidence to support above claims.

Provide relevant evidence

Regardless of how many benefits implementing a brand-new intranet will bring, you need to supply relevant evidence for your organization.

Here is an example of 2 statements. Which one sounds more compelling?

  1. According to LinkedIn study the Cost of Reworking Information on average is estimated 30% of employee effort over a year. In our organization of 300 desktop users, this means 3,600 of hour/week is lost due to people recreating information that could not be found.

  2. In a past year we have increased staff count by 50 new employees. With new employees onboarding, quick access to existing samples, processes, how to’s, and templates is needed to reduce the cost of recreating information. According to LinkedIn study, the Cost of Reworking Information on average is estimated 30% of employee effort over a year. In our organization of 300 desktop users, this means 3,600 of hour/week is lost due to people recreating information that could not be found.

Both statements offer industry research. The difference between the two is that second statement provides relevant evidence for the organization and not a generic assumption. In fact, I’d argue that ratio of rework hours is even higher because with 50 brand new employees, the learning curve is much steeper.

Tie your intranet to improving customer experiences

Employee efficiencies are tied to customer experiences whether direct or indirect.

When building an intranet business case, ensure this link is clearly visible.

For example, see the difference:

  1. By building a reliable intranet information architecture and testing it prior to launch with the staff, we will improve information findability and reduce errors.

  2. Our staff relies on search efficient results to find relevant client documents and deliverables. By building a reliable intranet information architecture and testing it prior to launch with the staff, we will improve information findability and reduce errors and client escalations.

The simple link to client results instantly elevated the value of proper information architecture design and testing, as opposed to ad-hoc site structure rollout.

How will you deliver a company intranet

Now that you have clear evidence why you need an intranet in your organization, we need a plan on how to get there.
Here are key aspects to consider for your intranet business case when describing the “how”.

Focus on iterative nature of the intranet

Long gone are the days when an intranet required a team of 20 stakeholders and 3 years to launch. The timelines have shortened and companies deliver relevant and useful intranet in an iterative fashion.

The benefits of the iterative approach are:

  • Reduced risk of timeline and budget slip

  • Smaller core teams

  • Focus on function, and value; less on widgets and changing features

  • Organic adoption

Iterative doesn’t mean barely functioning or bare-bones product. Your intranet roadmap needs to be driven by business priorities.


In your business case, provide the approach of how you plan to determine core scope. In this post on 4 Easy Steps to Effectively Prioritize Your Intranet Scope you will see the diagram on how we get from ideas to action when it comes to scope planning.

It comes down to laying out all of the priorities, and plotting them on the priority and feasibility spectrum.

Embrace diverse toolkit

Any given organization uses a wide set of tools for business. An intranet is not there to replace all of them. It’s important to help guide a clear scope for your intranet, and what the intranet is not.

The decision makers will appreciate a business case which is clear in its goals and embraces diversity of the tools that various teams are using.

What will you need to support your initiative

The final step in your intranet business case should be the support you require to continue.


To support the design and rollout activities, you will need adequate attention from stakeholders during the design phase as well s continuous support once the intranet is launched.

Here is the guidance in terms of support you need depending on the size of your company:

Organization Staff Size Intranet Project Team Size Operational Team Size (FTE)
100 6 0.5
1000 7 1
10,000 9 2


Over the years, according to Nielsen Norman report on award winning intranets, intranet teams have engaged external resources to help in their redesign projects, both to fill internal team gaps and gain outside experience and perspective.

In recent years, especially for Office 365 intranets, companies realized that using intranet-in-a-box products such as Origami to gain deployment efficiencies, reduce implementation costs, and dramatically increase usability of their intranets.


To assess your budget, ensure you count the time required from internal resources, vendors, and cost of the product. Remember to account for the operational team once the intranet has launched. Depending on the size of the organization, the team can range from a part-time to a couple of full-time resources as you can see in the table above.

We’re here to help

Building a compelling business case for an intranet sometimes needs a little bit of collaboration. If you’d like to work together to help you build an engaging business case for your organization, we’re here to help. We have a wealth of techniques to help you drive the right support among your stakeholders.


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.


Intranet Design Trends for 2019

Summary: Among the top intranet design trends for 2019, these stood out: focus on Information Architecture to improve information findability, reduced average time to build an intranet using pre-built structures and tools , and finally focus on involving intranet team stakeholders to represent wider audience of the business.

Intranet Teams and Stakeholders

Your Intranet Team composition plays a vital role in how your intranet will be designed, launched, and adopted.

An Intranet team includes:

  • Project team, which is the team of stakeholders who design the intranet.

  • Operational team, which is a team of authors and support staff to help run the intranet once it’s launched

Intranet Project includes the following roles:

  • Representative from each of main Content Areas

    • Communications

    • Human Resources

    • IT

    • Other areas of the business, such as “Safety”

  • Project Manager

  • Project Sponsor

While the operational team usually consists of:

  • Intranet Manager

  • Content authors

  • Support staff

The trend has been showing that the best intranets out there, have on average, 10 intranet stakeholders (Project + Operational team) for a small or medium size organization, and up to 20 stakeholders in a large organization.

Intranet Stakeholder Team Size for Award Winning Intranets as tracked by Nielsen Norman each year

Intranet Stakeholder Team Size for Award Winning Intranets as tracked by Nielsen Norman each year

These are not all full-time roles, although larger organizations commonly have a full-time intranet manager and one dedicated support staff member. The rest are part-time resources: content writers and contributors.

The key for the intranet project team is to have even distribution among your key content area owners. This allows for even representation for your organization audience rather than heavy focus on just key areas, such as: IT or Communications.

We also recommend measuring outputs in your design workshops to ensure that input received from a small group of stakeholders doesn’t carry bias. Here is how we recommend measuring outputs from the information architecture sessions produced by an intranet team.

Organization Staff Size Intranet Project Team Size Operational Team Size (FTE)
100 6 0.5
1000 7 1
10,000 9 2

Here is also a guide on how many stakeholders to include in your intranet teams (project + operational) relative to the size of the organization:

Focus on Information Structure

The key goal for an intranet apart from communication is to help staff find information: Forms, Guides, Policies, Templates, Business Resources etc.

Organizations have seen over the years that staff struggle when looking for information in structures which haven’t been designed with Information Architecture (IA) usability principles in mind. Traditionally, the findability issue has been attempted to be solved with extensive branding and custom development.

Organizations have observed that well thought out IA design helps their users achieve better usability and adoption results as compared to extensive branding and customizations.

As more companies realize this, IA design is one of the growing trends during the intranet design phase.

Office 365 Hub Sites

Even with Microsoft’s introduction of hub sites, the issue of well-designed IA doesn’t go away, since information architecture still needs to be considered even though it’s easier to move the sites around. Here is more about the impact of hub sites and things to know.

Reduced Development Time

Rollout times have decreased dramatically over the past 5 years. Typical intranet project lasted about a year for a larger organization before it’s rolled out. This is a significant reduction from the previous years as you can see from the chart below produced with data from Nielsen Norman research.

Using pre-built solutions reduce that timeline. Medium sized organizations can deploy and launch intranets in 6-8 months or less.

Here is the historical trend for larger organizations:

Average number of years typical larger sized organization has invested in creating an intranet according to Nielsen Normal research. The trend for the past 5 years is about 13 months to create and launch an intranet.

Average number of years typical larger sized organization has invested in creating an intranet according to Nielsen Normal research. The trend for the past 5 years is about 13 months to create and launch an intranet.

Another streamlining factor is that organizations are taking more agile approaches. The most suitable method is building an intranet with minimal viable release first and deploying incremental updates after the intranet has launched.

Minimal viable release still focuses on key goals for the intranet, which means laying the foundational core components such as user interface design and IA design. This aspect is confirmed by a measuring only award-winning intranets according to Nielsen Norman.

Most Popular Features

Intranet feature trends for 2019 include the following top 10 picks:

  • News and Events + Targeting

    • Most organizations’ primary mechanism for sharing information, company news, employee news and events. Targeting news to a particular role or location is another growing trend for organizations of larger size and distributed workforce.

  • Employee Directory

    • Common across organizations small and large is the directory of staff. The growing trend is to have the data in the directory auto-populated from Office 365, reducing room for data entry error and keeping the directory up-to-date.

  • Forms Directory

    • This is commonly requested to help staff find relevant forms.

  • Templates and Samples Directory

    • Another common feature aimed at retaining knowledge and building consistency in deliverables companies are producing.

  • How-To Directory

    • Commonly used for employees (newly onboarded more frequently) to find common tips on for example: how to use suppliers, order services, work specific technology etc.

  • Policies Directory

    • Similar to How-To, a place for staff to find company rules and engagement steps in a single easy to find place.

  • Project Directory

    • With many organizations working projects-based (internal or external), the need for a centralized project directory and ability to locate project sites is growing.

  • Workflow automation and Self Serve

    • The demand for self-serve is on the rise whether it’s a request to provision a new project site, or track HR processes and collect signatures.

  • Mobility

    • Mobile responsive rendering is growing in demand due to staff accessing intranets from mobile devices.

  • Department Sites

    • Department sites are still a common ask among customer who would like to provide department specific information and content on their department site.


In summary, among top intranet design trends for 2019, we have: increased focus on Information Architecture to make information much easier to find, reduced average time to build and intranet and using pre-built intranets to achieve that, and finally more focus on involving intranet team stakeholders representing wider audience of the business.

Have a question? We’d love to hear from you!


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.


Creating SharePoint Intranet Governance

Summary: Intranet governance may sound complicated, but it can help you drive engaging content and decrease the burden of maintenance on your IT and Communications teams. What’s included in the initial governance list will depend on which features you’re using on your intranet. In addition to having an initial set of rules, plan to have an ongoing governance review to update the list.

Intranet governance is simply a list of processes along with responsible parties involved.

Let’s say, someone from HR wants to update an expense form template on the intranet.

  • Who should do it? Whoever is less busy or a specific person?

  • Should we keep an old version?

  • Should we let everyone know about the update? If so, how would we communicate this change.

  • Is everyone on HR team aware how to handle this new template?

  • Should anyone approve the template before it’s published?

  • What happens if employees have questions about the new template and, who should they contact?

As you can see, without these questions answered there are lots potential routes. Having a governance around templates, in this case, will help everyone on the intranet team understand their roles and who’s accountable for what, and the process to follow.

The alternative is to handle each request in ad-hoc way, which increases burden on your resources; in organizations with > 200 users that’s not even sustainable.

What should the intranet governance document contain?

Avoid generic templates of 100 pages worth of SharePoint governance. These are too general to be useful. They provide a lot of details around out-of-the-box features but nothing related to your organization.

It doesn’t take a lot to create efficient governance document of few pages which tackle relevant parts of your intranet.

Here are the key SharePoint intranet governance considerations we see on every intranet project:

  • Sites

    • Creating New Generic Content Site & Team Site. If you have several templates on your site such as project sites, ensure you have checklist for those too

      • Naming conventions (Title and URL)

      • Branding

      • Permissions for Readers, Contributors and Owners. Ensure restricted sites have adequate permissions set up

      • Update to Footer Links, if the site lives under 2nd, or 3rd navigation levels

      • Update to other navigation links and apps

  • Pages

    • Creating a Page

      • Using WIKI versus Site Page

      • URL and naming conventions

      • Determine apps required for the page in this section

      • If apps require dependencies, add them as needed

    • Layout

      • Which page layout to use for which type of the page

        • [One column with sidebar]

        • [One column]

        • etc.

    • Content and Styles

      • Styles for Headings

      • Styles for normal text

      • Font sizes

      • Embedding rules

    • Home Page (this being the most prominent page it needs strict editing rules)

      • Rules about editing the content on the page

      • Rules about changing the layout of the page

      • Rules related to updating key apps on the home page such as new carousels, links, shout outs, polls, etc.

    • Landing Pages (these are the second most prominent types of page; they also need editing rules)

      • Rules about editing the content on the page

      • Rules about changing the layout of the page

  • Apps

    • Apps related to the home page and related rules. Such as ‘do not place more than 10 quick links on the page’, or ‘keep naming conventions of the links on the page’

    • Dependencies for specific apps. For example, whether apps require lists and libraries to operate, what are those, and what is the required metadata

    • Image resolutions for apps to best render their pages

  • Processes

    • Renaming of sites and pages to avoid broken links

    • Alerts on lists which collect user input

    • Versioning rules

    • Content review process

    • Archiving rules

    • Removing obsolete content

Roles and Responsibilities

In intranet contains content from a variety of sources and being able to find out quickly who is responsible for which content is not always so easy.

Every governance document must contain roles and responsibilities when it comes to key areas of running the intranet, those are:

  • Intranet Owners (individuals who own the home page, landing pages, and key areas of the site, they also assign area owners but are not technical users)

  • Area Owners (individuals who control specific areas of the site, such as HR; they also assign Area Authors)

  • Area Authors (individuals who create content for the area of the site)

  • Platform Owners (technical users who monitor and control the platform: Office 365, SharePoint etc.)

For every area in your intranet information architecture, you need to determine who of the above will have which role, including:

  • Who are the key contacts?

  • What is the approval process?

  • What is the support process?

Governance Committee

Governance committee is the key to ensuring your governance evolves based on the lessons learnt and decisions are made quickly to accommodate changes.

To ensure you get the most out of your governance committee, follow these key considerations:

  • Have mechanism to capture issues and feedback.

    • Issues rarely happen randomly, they are likely a pattern or a gap that can lead to more of the same

    • Provide the ability to provide feedback for your users

      • Communicate expected SLA

    • Capture issues in the issues log and determine the patterns

  • Prioritize issues and impact (diagram below illustrates how updates can be prioritized)

  • Determine updates to your governance

  • Communicate governance changes to affected parties: Area Owners, Authors etc

This chart illustrates how proposed governance updates can be prioritized to determine which ones to tackle next.

This chart illustrates how proposed governance updates can be prioritized to determine which ones to tackle next.


The value of governance is its practicality and transparency. The easier it is for everyone to know the process, the less of a burden managing the site will be.

Do you maintain governance plan? What are the challenges you find with it?


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.


4 Easy Steps to Effectively Prioritize Your Intranet Scope

4 Easy Steps to Effectively Prioritize Your Intranet Scope

Given that an employee intranet encompasses the entire organization in one shape or another, it’s important to prioritize the development of the intranet scope to deliver an amazing employee intranet that works for all departments!

[Practical Guide]: Avoid Hidden Costs when Selecting Intranet-in-a-box

Many companies who consider buying an intranet or a document management system also consider it being a significant investment.

Speaking to customers and being in an intranet business, I often hear people compare various intranet products. In nearly every case I hear things often missed resulting in hidden costs later. These things are honest misunderstandings that could have been clarified early on.

In this post, I'll highlight several key considerations to look for when evaluating candidates for your intranet.

Intranet-in-a-box: what's really in the box?

Often times when I see a product demo, I often focus on features and how those can solve my problems. I immediately want them all and rarely categorize them into [Must have] and [Nice to have].

The issue is that, with all of these features I get excited about, I may not be necessarily ready for or know how to really take advantage of. When you compare features as items on a restaurant menu, ordering more, will leave you with more leftovers.

Intranet-in-a-box is no exception.

In fact, when we do our product pricing at Origami, only a small fraction of what our customer is paying is for the features, the rest is dedicated to workshops, training, assistance in roll out and support. Many customers are surprised when they hear this, but if you look at products out there, you'll start to understand that this approach is common.

It's important to understand what you're getting in-the-box when comparing various options. But also, what do you need.

Otherwise, the solution you might be buying into, can come with hidden costs outside of what you expected.


When shopping for an intranet product you might come across these options:

  • $ per user

  • range $ for 1 ... NN users; $$ for NN .. NNN users

  • $ per feature

Why is there a difference and what does it all mean to you?

$ per user

Every vendor strives for simplicity and $/ user may come across as the simplest way to price things, but is it?

Things to ask your vendor:

  • Is there an additional setup fee? Or a minimum?

  • What if your user count drops or increases?

  • Does your vendor monitor active usage?

  • How does your vendor enforce increase in new licenses? Are users going to get unexpected messages on pages when you exceed the limit?

  • Are there additional platform fees such as Office 365 license fees or such? Or is this truly end price per user?

This type of pricing usually indicated pay-as-you-go arrangement but be sure to confirm. It also indicates that the product is pretty rigid (to maintain this rigid pricing) and you may not be able to extend bits and pieces of your intranet so be sure to ask your vendor about that too.

These are the things to be aware of. The answers you may get from your vendor maybe exactly what you expected and there are no surprises.

range $ for 1 ... NN users
            $$ for NN ... NNN users

This pricing method often means that the vendor breaks down services required for a successful implementation of the product into, usually, 3 groups: Small/Medium/ and Large.

Obviously if you're a large organization, the level of support you require to deploy an intranet will be much different that an organization of 10 people. Understanding this, the vendor tailors their offering and includes services necessary to make it a success.

What if you're on the cusp or lower end of the spectrum? Say, you have 200 users but the range covers 1 ... 250 users.

Don't worry, this pricing method doesn't mean you're paying for user licenses you don't use. It's just a guidance what services are required for this size organization.

Things to ask your vendor:

  • Is there a subscription fee or is this a one time cost

  • What do you get with the subscription after the first year?

  • Is there a minimum time commitment for a subscription (2 years etc)?

  • What happens when you outgrow your range?

$ per feature

Also known as price per module is a common practice among some vendors.

Knowing modules you need obviously requires knowledge of what you're building. Since most customers require help determining the correct configuration of modules, this pricing typically means that your vendor is targeting deployment through partners. Partners in turn talk to customers about their needs and recommend required configuration.

This doesn't mean you can't buy your intranet directly from the vendor. You just need to know what you're buying. You'll also need to know how to configure and deploy your configuration.

Things to ask your vendor:

  • Is this a subscription or one time cost?

  • Who can you turn to for help? What services do they provide? Only technical or training and support?

  • How does vendor handle upgrades and extensions? Since with modular purchases there is more chance of interacting with other 3rd party modules.

Adding Enhancements

Some customers I speak with fully expect that intranet-in-a-box means [a layers of intranet product] + [anything else they need] can be added or built. This is usually the case but not always.

The product might be very rigid and there are few products on the market that follow that rule. These vendors usually suggest that for many integration options you can use tools like Zapier or Flow allowing their product to connect to many other systems. Bear in mind though that even Zapier and Flow have their limitations.

Of course, as with anything, there are masters and consultants who can overcome any integration challenge with a clever solution but this can become a hidden cost if not known upfront.

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


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.


Migrating your on-premise SharePoint solution: key strategies and lessons learned

Since Microsoft’s announcement of upcoming SharePoint 2019 later this year, many organizations are planning to move to SharePoint 2016, SharePoint Online, or Hybrid.


Often companies choose a lift-and-shift approach, where the solution is moved to a newer version of SharePoint with no functional changes. This approach is cost effective especially if your previous solution has not been heavily customized, and you just want to take advantage of all the new features available. Lift-and-shift can also be selected as a “phase one” migration, followed by functional enhancements in later phases.

Although this is a relatively straightforward path, here are the key tactics we found crucial with many customers over the years.

Do a trial run / Have Pre-Production environment

As your SharePoint environment goes through updates, it’s hard to keep track of everything. Small customizations are often implemented by Power Users directly on the page via script. Sometimes it’s a piece of JavaScript, or a workflow built using SharePoint Designer. Those may not easily translate to a newer version of SharePoint and that’s why we recommend doing a trial run on a development environment using DB attach process.

Once you have ran the migration, you can involve your key users with a smoke test of their specific areas. This brings us to a next point of having a RACI matrix to know who does what.

Have a RACI

It’s an all familiar [Responsible/Accountable/Consulted and Informed] matrix. Here is why we need it:

  • To identify who will be doing the smoke test of trial migration and catching any issues on key pages (landing, key areas, and department pages etc

  • Know who to contact when things need to be fixed or content retired

  • Understand who makes go/ no-go decision, and understands all aspects of the solution

  • Identify stakeholders to prioritize issues before migration to production

  • Know who will send communication to which users at various stages of the migration

  • Know who will support users who are unfamiliar with some new UI present on their pages

  • Identify staff and contractors supporting outages after hours or on a day 1 after the migration

  • Identify who will track task completion, or who's your project manager

Prioritize Issues

To some people an issue may not be an issue, and sometimes that’s a big issue :)

With the help of RACI you can determine key stakeholders who can help you drive what’s to be addressed right away or after Go-Live. If there are items on which your team can’t agree, use your Go /No-Go meeting to decide with [Accountable] stakeholders.

Keep track of the decisions for each issue discovered and what resolution should be. It will help you see what was done as you migrate from development environment to staging and finally to production.

Track Action Items

Migrations strictly rely on correct sequencing of events because they involve switching users from one production system to a new system.

If someone doesn’t complete their task or completes it partially, it’s likely to have a bearing on the next steps in the sequence. For example, if you decide not to set automatic link redirect to a new system, be sure to send an email communication about that as it may impact some users.

We recommend using Trello or Microsoft Planner to track activities and checklists, and move them from one bucket to another as they change their state.


Prepare Communication

Having adequate communication sent to users will set their expectations and significantly increase customer satisfaction. As a bonus, your users will feel that you care about their experience.

Depending on the size of your organization, you may want to message things via email, staff meetings or other methods. Chose the method so that no one misses your planned outage window.

Raise awareness of the upcoming change by sending initial communication first, in advance of the migration and more details closer to the migration.

Don’t forget the details:

  • What will happen (outage, system unavailability etc)

  • When will it happen (and for how long!)

  • What to expect after (redirect on some page, new login, new UI etc)

  • Who to contact if they have a problem (chose method which can handle larger than normal traffic)

Have a Go /No-Go Strategy

Schedule Go /No-Go decision early on to ensure everyone at the table is the right decision maker. It’s important to consider not just technical readiness but also change impact. Short notice change may introduce risk of wider outage so it’s key to chose your options wisely with the right people at the table.

Prepare to handle outages

Continuous testing helps but outages always happen.

This might sound obvious, but have technical resources allocated to work over the weekend or evenings surrounding the migration milestones. Even if you won’t need their help, it’s good to have a backup. It might be permission access to a file-share or incorrect login credentials that will stall entire migration. Same goes for users who will perform smoke test of the migrated system. Having the right people available at the right time is crucial.

We recommend developers and admins clear part of their day the morning following a successful migration to help address anything urgent as users report problems.

In summary

Technical aspects of a lift and shift migration are as important as change management parts of the process. Feel free to adapt some of the tactics above to your organization based on the size and culture. In many cases, you’ll be glad you clarified assumptions and avoided set-backs.

Leave your comments on what are some of the things you're curious about and we'll try to get an expert insight on the topic


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.


"Building internal user community of over 100K users, here's what we found"

Recently, I had a pleasure to stop and have a chat with Joe Francis from GSK and Lesley Crook from Perspicuity. They've been able to share something that you can't find out just by reading a book. They've successfully created and continue to manage huge network of over 100K of internal Yammer users. Naturally, the topic caught my attention since many organizations struggle to manage much smaller internal networks.

Here are some of the most valuable bits of our conversation, for more check out the full video

[Yaroslav Pentsarskyy]
How did you come across Yammer as a tool? Did you have to "sell" it?

[Joe Francis]
It was actually an eight-year journey for GlaxoSmithKline - to get to where we are now. Yammer started originally as a disruptive computing experiment. We had students and interns that were challenged to come up with a new way of collaborating and working together and they fell upon Yammer and from those humble beginnings is how we started. Initially we worked through a lot of viral growth and then there was a lot of uptake. IT decided look at this as something that is going to work and decided to put some effort behind it. We partnered with our with our friends in communications and began making it a real thing.

[Yaroslav Pentsarskyy]
Was there a resistance to this new tool and how did you overcome it?

[Joe Francis]
There are absolutely those that get it a 100% and it doesn't matter what part of the organization they are. There are definitely those who don't and have to be
convinced. There's definitely a paradigm: the green dots, the yellow dots, and the red dots. The red dots being the ones that are hardest to convince, the green dots get it automatically and the yellows can be convinced. The challenge is to get those yellows over to green and once you're there, come back and work on the reds and we definitely had to do a bit of that.

[Yaroslav Pentsarskyy]
What are some of the top tips turning those yellows into greens and those red ones into yellows?

[Joe Francis]
It's really all about finding a bit of business fit justification. Putting it out there is not going to
bring most people in, so if you can find out what the pain points are within a group or an organization it helps.

[Leslie Crook]
Doing a yam jam campaign around certain event is one of the ways [...] it's a 24 hour activity on the network in a probably a specific group where you gather together subject matter experts from the company [for example] people from the analyst team in finance, social media, corporate communications.

[Joe Francis]
Another example, for leaders, is to wrap it around a big event like senior leader conference bring it in naturally as part of what are the problems we're trying to solve and how can we support this conference how can we go out to employees whilst we're still at the conference get their opinion about what we're talking about at this conference and then bring it back. It's important to use a hashtag around the event for people to immediately recognize it.

[Yaroslav Pentsarskyy]
Can a network like this run on autopilot once set up or do you need someone to constantly keep the fire going?

[Joe Francis]
It can run on autopilot short period of time, but in reality you're only gonna have success if you've got somebody drive it. Whether it's a group or a division or an individual or different company that are helping out. You really have to figure out ways to keep those topics
that are being discussed, keep them live, keep them active and that takes just going out and actively liking post or putting in provocative responses to try to draw people in. Without the engagement it doesn't work so just having it there it can be it can work but it's not really successful.

[Leslie Crook]
Model that I use called six Yammer hats which is based on Edward de Bono's six thinking
hats, describes skills of champions or community managers in a social network, so those are:

"Detective" where you might work in a private group. You might be a surveyor where you're doing polls and asking questions right across the enterprise getting a temperature check

"Astronaut" where you're more of a community manager but you're connecting, sharing, solving and innovating which is Simon Terry MPVs model that I'm quoting there

"Fedora hat" you could be working in communications where you're looking for you
you're on the network but kind of in the background and you're picking up grassroots stories that might be coming from manufacturing or from the labs in R&D and bringing those stories that have been bubbling away back to corporate comms to the editorial team to make proper intranet SharePoint stories

"Tiara" for giving praise. One "like" by a leader is priceless

"Baseball cap" is all about having fun with a purpose and there were many groups that. Example: group around the cycling, group for sustainable transport, photography, pets, baking so it's it's having fun at work

[Yaroslav Pentsarskyy]
Did you feel like you have to do a lot of governance planning?

[Joe Francis]
You'll fail if you don't. One of the biggest things to make you more successful is ensuring that you've got legal, security and risk groups on board with you. They're gonna want to know: are there ways to monitor the content and are we protecting ourselves, are we making sure we don't have data leaks. Having support from the legal team is crucial. You need to have that written as a policy that everybody accepts when they go in and there's general awareness this is how you act.

Leave your comments on what are some of the things you're curious about and we'll try to get an expert insight on the topic


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.


Your next document management system is going to be perfect!

First, let me give you a scenario:

You have 30 documents in a folder. You need to find a document with an “agreement” as part of its name. Would you use search or look through file names?

Hold that answer!

Here is a scenario 2. You have 30,000 documents and you need to find the one with the word “agreement” in it. Would you still look through file names manually?

Wait, how did I know you’re going to chose “manual answer” for the first scenario?

In one of my projects we tested user’s behavior in a similar sort of way as you did just now. Instead of files, they needed to find case records. We found that users resort to more structured approach when the amount of information they must deal with appears to be manageable. They prefer to look through views, names on a record, file creation date etc.

In contrast, when there is too much to go through, it becomes data. Data is best parsed by our unconscious intuition because our brain relies on finding patters since it understands that there is no match analyzing all the data consciously.

According to this an autonomous driving car processes 100GB of data each second – that's what your brain does and you don’t even bother!

Now, back to designing your document management system. How much data are you presenting to your users? Are you providing tools to help users find what’s in front of them?

Many organizations rely on search to help users find documents, but do nothing to improve it. Is your search contextual? Is content being searched for specific enough? What about draft content or duplicate sources? What about old and irrelevant content?

Here are few approaches to designing better document management systems:

1.       Turn data into information as early as possible. It’s easy to create a document library and drop forms in Excel format into the library, but now the data in those Excel sheets is not readily available until someone opens the file.

Perhaps a better solution is to offer users enter the data in a structured way using a list, CRM system, or an app.

Now that data is safe but you can also report on it, draw pretty graphs, search with variety of filters and tools. I’m not suggesting you should convert every document into a list or an app. Simply identify those high traffic, high value types and automate them. The effort you’ll spend will pay off each time your users interact with the structured data.

2.       Retire obsolete content. Why, you ask? Isn’t storage cheap? Yes, the storage is cheap but not the time your users are going to spend looking for something useful in a whole pile of not so useful, old content.

You don’t have to delete things right away. With SharePoint you can set expiration workflows which will automatically archive and eventually delete content passed their set expiration. You can even have SharePoint send you a report of expired content before you decide on what to do with it. So if those are business expense receipts you’re keeping for the 10th year – it’s time for them to go.

3.       Know your user’s workflow and design the system accordingly. Does your user’s day start with working on documents from yesterday or last month? Perhaps create views to help them see most recently accessed or worked on documents. Perhaps you need a “manager view” to separate some features used mainly by managers and not overburden the interface with too many filters and buttons.

If part of the workflow is for your users to fill in a form and attach a document, help them out by putting related functions together. Minimize button clicks, new browser sessions, tabbing and switching. If it doesn’t seem intuitive for you, and you built it, it probably won’t feel intuitive to others.

4.       Eliminate useless features. Just because something is cool it doesn’t mean it’s helpful. With constant overload of new features in the product it’s important to only introduce the ones that will help your users. Think what’s usable, intuitive, simple, and easy to find.

Best part of all, most of the tools are there out-of-the-box so there is very little configuration investment involved.

What are your thoughts?

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.


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.