It is true that SharePoint has reigned supreme as an intranet portal for well over a decade, and even today it holds a big chunk of the market share with about 400,000 businesses and over 75% of Fortune 500 companies using it as a collaboration and productivity platform.
Until 2012, SharePoint had to be installed on-premises which meant investing in high-end servers to support and manage data, and since it didn’t meet the requirements of most companies, out-of-the-box; companies had to depend on highly qualified SharePoint professionals to customize it and integrate it with their business systems – making intranets one of the most expensive IT investments.
Technology has progressed rapidly in the span of six years. The world today is about digitization, cloud transformation, robotics and analytics. Market trends and competition have altered business needs and work goals.
Enterprises are moving from legacy systems hosted on their servers to the cloud. Further, users are expecting corporate intranets to mimic the experience they get from the apps they are accustomed to using daily – to communicate, share, buy goods, watch movies, etc.
A ready to go, cloud-based Office 365 (now renamed Microsoft 365) intranet is an easy and affordable SharePoint intranet alternative, as it is not complex, can be quickly implemented within your Microsoft Office 365 environment and provides a modern experience that engages your employees.
Businesses and workplaces across the globe are changing and so are the technology expectations of its users – mobility, personalization, collaboration, and easy access to information being at the top of the list.
What’s wrong with my SharePoint intranet?
There are many organizations that are still using their age old, trusted, 100% customized SharePoint intranets; and they are working out just fine. So, why do they need to upgrade?
Well, for one, being stuck with a legacy SharePoint intranet can be suicidal for businesses in this new world. Secondly, Microsoft is not going to provide any updates to the old installations anymore, so your users are going to be stuck with the old look and feel and features which were modern may be 10 years ago, but not anymore.
Microsoft is heavily investing in new technologies like business automation, mixed reality, and AI and the modern intranets are infused with these components. If you like to keep in step with new trends and technology, it is time for an upgrade.
We know it is not human to want to re-engineer something that is already working, but here are a few more reasons why you need to shift from your comfort zone.
Cloud offerings are becoming the norm
The biggest change that has taken place in recent years is that majority of intranets have moved from on premise servers to the cloud.
Enterprises have understood the benefits of cloud offerings and prefer to host their intranets on centralized off-site servers that result in low costs, less dependency on IT, more data safety and low energy consumption.
Moreover, modern, cloud intranets offer more flexibility, anytime, anywhere availability to employees leading to increased productivity and efficiency.
Users’ expectations have changed
Based on a current population survey by Pew Research Center, more than one-third of the workforce are millennials. Today’s workforce is accustomed to interacting with chatbots like Siri and Alexa which give them access to a load of information by asking simple questions.
The modern, technologically advanced workforce is not impressed with an old-style intranet with static pages where content consists of boring IT updates and stale news, and where collaboration just means multiple employees taking turns accessing and updating a document.
Today’s users expect their intranet to be a launch pad that brings together all the tools they need to do their jobs, helps organize tasks and projects, creates project and sales reports with a click of a button, offers robust search that delivers the most relevant information fast, and much more, while offering a fun and entertaining experience.
There is a shift in the communications style
A traditional SharePoint intranet offers top-down communication, which can only be initiated by the management team, during the course of a stipulated work day.
Enterprises that have adopted modern intranets are becoming more decentralized, flexible, collaborative and social. Work doesn’t happen for continuous nine-hour period at these companies.
Their employees work flexible hours, from various locations, and like to always stay connected so they can respond to emails, review documents, or answer questions no matter where they are physically. And they enjoy the flexibility of using different devices – a desktop, tablet, or phone.
Modern SharePoint intranets offer easy publishing capabilities making it possible for anyone to create and share intranet content irrespective of seniority level or their designation in the organization.
And everybody can access news and information from anywhere, at any time and can also comment on it and participate in discussions of their interests.
Purpose of an intranet has changed
Legacy SharePoint intranets were meant to serve few purposes such as publishing internal news, communicating organization’s general procedures to the employees, and serving as a repository for documents.
These days intranets serve many purposes, which include delivering content, being a key communication tool, enabling collaboration, supporting culture, and creating efficiencies through supporting business activities, among other things.
If an intranet is not able to fulfill these needs it is going to fail to engage users and be valuable for any business.
Technology affects employee engagement
An old, slow, SharePoint intranet that has a bunch of static web pages, with outdated information and an unfriendly interface is very off-putting. Employees would rather not visit your intranet at all and instead substitute it with modern apps that can make their work easier.
Users tend to engage more when your intranet serves content that is relevant and useful to them. Further, your intranet can entice users to visit often with rich and personalized content such as videos, pictures, a social feed, recognition stories, etc., and with the tools they need to do their work – all on one unified platform.
If your SharePoint intranet doesn’t offer these capabilities, you surely need to plan an overhaul.
What a modern intranet on Microsoft Office 365 offers?
Microsoft Office 365 Intranet provides a modern experience – focuses more on people, employee productivity and offers user-friendly tools that enable employees to participate and interact with each other with features similar to that of social media and other leading desktop/mobile applications.
Let’s look at some of the features it offers:
1. Communication Sites
Communication Sites is a great platform for publishing news and visually-rich content. With a modern editing experience, it is easier than ever to add content and a wide range of content formats are supported including videos, forms, charts, eBooks, etc.
2. Hub Sites
Hub sites, like a modern intranet’s home page, can be a gateway to pull multiple communications from closely related sites dynamically, bringing together related projects, binding related assets, and presenting common activities while also adding a consistent branding across all sites.
3. Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Office 365 Teams, built on top of Microsoft Groups, is a chat-based workspace which supports team collaboration via voice and video calls and integration with other Microsoft Office 365 services. It is used for communicating with colleagues in real time, requiring an instant response.
The main purpose of Teams is to bring together other Microsoft Office 365 application like the Office suite (Word, Excel, PPT), SharePoint, Power BI, etc. to deliver more relevant and intelligent to the users.
An enterprise social network tool which is optimal for sending ideas and communications that don’t necessarily require an instant response, like brainstorming or sharing news. It also provides the capability to attach files to a post, use hashtags to make posts searchable and create groups/teams for collaboration. All this functionality makes Yammer ideal for managing small internal projects.
5. Skype for Business
Skype for Business is an audio, video and instant messaging application that enables you to easily connect with colleagues and business partners via calls, meetings, and screen sharing.
6. OneDrive for Business
It is ideal for storing files and sharing them easily with internal as well as external staff or clients. It also makes it easy for you to find, share, and collaborate on all your files in Microsoft Office 365.
Although a SharePoint intranet might still be a compelling solution for many enterprises due to its attractive features that fit some of their business needs, it is difficult to customize.
SharePoint is hard to work around, difficult to brand, looks unattractive, and is not user friendly; and it takes several years of expertise to be able to build and develop custom features based on unique business functions. This makes it a time consuming and expensive option.
One of the most affordable alternatives is to enhance your current SharePoint with a ready-to-go intranet with an attractive look and feel, ease of use, and many added features not available on a basic SharePoint site.
Further, if you look for a custom solution, an intranet-in-a-box can be a perfect fit. These are well-designed, user-friendly, attractive, and installed and set up for use in a matter of days.
If you need help with your research and wish to look into some ready-to-go products to augment your SharePoint, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.bizportals365.com