How to select the best SharePoint intranet-in-a-box product?
It is no secret that the landscape of intranets has changed, and SharePoint has evolved as a full-blown intranet tool over time. The online SharePoint intranet in-a-box product has grown rapidly because it is a readymade solution to grow and improve the digital workplace in an agile manner, without requiring big budgets for traditional intranets that need a large team of developers.
What is an intranet-in-a-box?
An intranet-in-a-box is basically a set of templates and functionality that enhance the SharePoint experience and enable businesses to bring about a digital revolution. The intranet in-a-box solutions coupled with SharePoint and Office 365 (now renamed Microsoft 365) help the organizations to boost employee collaboration, adoption, engagement, productivity, and overall business efficiency.
Why do you need a SharePoint intranet-in-a-box?
The purpose of intranet-in-a-box is to help businesses focus on their core tasks without spending most of their time in operational tasks and processes. An intranet-in-a-box is a customized business solution that deliver results through added functionality, adaption of users, high level of customizations, and much more.
To learn more about Microsoft Office 365 intranet-in-a-box, read this: 9 big benefits of an intranet on Microsoft Office 365
Before researching and comparing intranet-in-a-box solutions that are available, it is important to assess your needs and think about the problems you are trying to solve. Think about the reasons to adopt an intranet solution and the business results you expect to achieve today and in the future.
SharePoint is a widely used intranet platform but despite this fact, it still has usability issues that needs to be fixed to provide a user-friendly intranet solution. You may be on SharePoint and although SharePoint is a popular intranet platform, out-of-the-box (OOTB) SharePoint does not offer customized features. Moreover, custom intranets are complicated to implement and take way too long to design and develop. Also, new updates in the SharePoint environment could break your customizations of out of the box intranet solution and require you to redevelop them which would require you to have SharePoint experts on your team.
We at BizPortals 365 know what really makes the difference. Here are the top 6 things you should consider in a SharePoint intranet-in-a-box solution:
1. Does the solution integrate with SharePoint natively?
Non-native intranet-in-a-box products interact well with SharePoint and plug-in as a separate application to store their content on SharePoint. Since intranet and SharePoint are two separate systems, the updates launched by Microsoft are not immediately available in a non-native intranet. You might have to wait for the new features to be updated in your system. Considering the volume, frequency and speed of updates sent by Microsoft Office 365, there are chances you might miss out on many new Microsoft Office 365 features.
On the other hand, SharePoint intranet in-a-box reside within the framework of SharePoint; and integrate directly. Since this allows more interactions between the platforms, all the changes or updates are integrated seamlessly and immediately. You can also use all the standard SharePoint features and your employees get one unified, seamless experience.
2. Is the product available as SaaS? Is Hybrid deployment possible?
A SaaS-based product provides many benefits right off the bat. Some notable benefits are:
- High adoption and seamless integration: SaaS intranets are known for their high adoption rates and their seamless integration capabilities. SaaS products eliminate the need to pay heavy implementation costs, and the need to learn the technology that they are based on. They also offer improved efficiency, lower risk, and a substantial return on investment to businesses.
- Extended business value to customers: SaaS intranets have a fixed subscription price which makes their cost and service predictable and well organized. It doesn’t incur any ongoing maintenance cost and provide opportunities for the company to deploy their corporate budget towards core business objectives.
- Dynamic scope for innovative experimentation: With SaaS, businesses get an opportunity to check the scope of the product and how well the software will be able to fulfil their business requirements without the risk of paying large amounts upfront for a traditional software license.
- High Convenience: Unlike the traditional implementation systems which can take months and sometimes even years; SaaS intranets can go live in a few weeks. SaaS intranets are adopted by companies worldwide for their convenient pricing (usually determined on the active number of users), quick implementation, less dependence on IT and reduced operational overheads.
- Work anywhere: SaaS intranets are accessible from virtually anywhere the internet is available, allowing businesses to tap global markets. It is a secured place to store the information that needs to be accessed dynamically. Since it is a cloud-based system, you are free from all the hassles related to IT infrastructure and maintenance.
- Hybrid: A hybrid intranet uses both on-premises and cloud services to deliver an integrated solution. In effect, it combines a private traditional system with a publicly hosted cloud instance, sometimes offering the best of both worlds. Although the SaaS model is considered reliable, secure, and advantageous for most businesses, some companies might still need hybrid deployment.
3. Is it user-friendly?
An intranet in-a-box solution should be technologically mature and offer advanced features like automation, analytics, AI, and bots; but it should still be simple in its design, easy to get around, and able to drive adoption instead of driving users away. Most effective intranets are the ones which are easy to navigate and used by folks who are less tech-savvy. Also, department managers and consultants with little SharePoint expertise should be able to manage the intranet solution.
4. Does it offer customization and integration?
Most intranet-in-a-box vendors will assure you that their product is a perfect fit for your business, and that it will solve most of the problems you face, but you must do your due diligence. You know that all businesses are not created equal and that they all don’t have the same challenges. Your business has unique requirements that could warrant the need for customizations and integrations with 3rd party solutions. It is a good idea to be upfront about it and ensure the solution offered by the vendor offers:
- Custom corporate branding
- Flexibility to change the layout of widgets on every page
- Integration with Microsoft Office 365 tools
- Integration with your line of business applications
- A cohesive and unified experience
5. Is the intranet-in-a-box solution responsive and functional on mobile devices?
Mobile solutions are critical as they help businesses bridge the location gap. They have become the norm and are helpful in making work available from anywhere with just an internet connection. An intranet solution that is accessible via a mobile device can greatly improve collaboration among team members that are spread out; either due to working remotely or from offices in different countries.
Many intranet-in-a-box solutions that claim to be responsive may have just a few sites or functionalities that are mobile responsive. It is good idea to walk through the product and analyze it in its entirety so you can make an educated decision. Make sure the solution functions as expected across sites, pages and content on various mobile devices and on multiple operating systems, browsers and apps.
6. Does the product have a roadmap for the future?
Most intranet vendors will have a product roadmap considering the existing technology trends, market conditions, engineering constraints, and the value proposition of the organization. Product roadmaps provide a quick insight into the current state of the product and it helps you have clarity on how the product will develop in the future. It helps you discover gaps (if any) between your expectations and the product vendor’s plan.
Your Business, Your Choice
Companies that build a foundation on digital solutions are more likely to gain valuable advantages such as better profits, faster growth, new market entries, and engaged employees. To determine the best office 365 or SharePoint intranet-in-a-box for you, it is important to evaluate the business value it can deliver to your business and ways of empowering your users. A fully scalable business solution like BizPortals 365 stacks up well against the competition because of its extended level of customization, user-friendliness, quick implementation and affordability.
Schedule a demo with us today to explore new ways of increasing business productivity.