I often get asked what should go on the company’s Intranet and this question may seem simple however there are two ways of looking at it. Let me make a distinction between the statements “what should go on the intranet” as opposed to “what can go on the intranet”. Organisations that are newly implementing SharePoint as an intranet are usually asking about the latter instead of the former and IT staff are usually the first to respond with the statement “anything and everything”. They are right; as SharePoint is like a box of Lego pieces with various shapes and colours.
Above: Sample intranet design
As for the statement “what should go on the intranet”, I believe this is where the business drivers should become apparent. The intranet should be implemented to either solve business problems or to increase efficiency and the manifestations of these will differ between organisations based on several factors:
- The dynamics and the structure of the organisation
- The industry it belongs to
- And the regulatory requirements it must comply with
Just because you can do everything in SharePoint doesn’t mean that you should. This is where the executive vision and strategy becomes really important, as the intranet should be one of the tools that serves is delivering the organisation’s objectives. Examples of high level objectives include:
- Improve the ability to share and exchange information across the organisation
- Improve the “time to talent,” the speed with which new employees become productive
- Reduce the overhead management costs on projects
Following that in the process would be examples of strategic informational goals like:
- Improving collaboration with internal staff, project teams and external stakeholders
- Creating a centralised searchable repository on three levels of the organisation
- Organisation Wide (policies / procedures etc)
- Business Units (HR / Marketing etc)
- Project Teams
- Creating traceability and accountability for documents and records (version control, audit, history, records management)
My advice to you is never try to solve all your pain points at once. I personally favour the approach of identifying the top 3 pain points today and understand how they are preventing the organisation from reaching its strategic goals. Solving the top pain points for the organisation will most likely be solving user pain points as well and thus encouraging them to use SharePoint instead of opposing it. Furthermore, you want to avoid jumping straight into SharePoint without having an implementation plan. As a minimum it should cover things like:
- An information architecture: what and how documents will be organised?
- Which out of the box modules are going to be used and by who?
- Who will actually support each group of SharePoint users and how will it be done?
One common aspect to intranets that organisations overlook is the design. There is nothing appealing about having the default out of the box template for users to navigate. In summary: if you don’t provide your users with an easy and appealing way to find information they will never use it and it will become the retirement home of documents. The following are some tips you may want to follow in your intranet design are:
- Choose relevant company images for banners and not stock photos
- Choose the right font, line length and line height
- Don’t have an overwhelming number of navigation options
- Never expose too much information in one page
- Develop a visual hierarchy of what you want the user to focus on
For more information about the SharePoint intranet, click here.