SharePoint Modern allows the creation of attractive, mobile-optimised pages for internal communications, department information and project teams. Communication and hub sites are easy to spin up with useful web parts like maps, videos, calendars and buttons as well as theme templates to keep the design consistent. Viva Connections helps to bring a SharePoint intranet into Teams on desktop and mobile via the app.
For some organisations, this is plenty. For others, there are still gaps that make out of the box (OOTB) SharePoint inadequate as an intranet solution. The fact is, SharePoint was not originally designed to be an intranet so trying to use it for this specific purpose will require a fair bit of time and SharePoint knowledge.
Despite all the feature advances, SharePoint and Viva Connections remain a complex platform to build and run an intranet on once it reaches any kind of size. - Clearbox Intranet and Employee Experience Platforms 2022
Here are some areas to consider before building an intranet on SharePoint OOTB:
While SharePoint Modern allows for a certain level of branding, it is limited to logo, some colours and navigation. Consistent application across a whole intranet is not possible without additional software. You can choose just one theme colour which is then extended with one shade + white & dark for a palette of four. Organisations with more comprehensive branding requirements will need to extend this capability.
SharePoint Online lets you edit the top and footer menus of a hub site, and the navigation bar on all associated hub sites. You can add, edit or remove links on the left-hand menu of a Team site and even target navigational links to specific audiences. SharePoint OOTB also offers a very basic mega menu.
Search is one of the most important parts of the intranet experience. SharePoint search is very good, however at the moment you can only use a very limited set of filters and the display is very plain, which does little to assist users to refine their results.
SharePoint’s people search is adequate for locating one person but if you don’t know who you are looking for, it’s difficult to filter results by skillsets or project history for example.
SharePoint OOTB Search Results
Information-heavy intranets will require a more customisable search experience with knowledge bases and search centres that present an integrated search experience with information from external content sources.
Injio for example offers custom filters, design/ layout options and results can be sorted based on different criteria for example ‘most recently updated’. There is also a sophisticated preview option to check out results without having to open the document, below:
4) Targeting & personalisation
Intranet adoption and engagement really come down to one thing: relevance. SharePoint Online news pages can be targeted to present stories tagged with metadata topics and can be integrated with Active Directory but administrators cannot target news or updates to certain user profiles, limiting relevance. For example if you wanted to present an article to those in the Finance department or people in Tasmania or only managers, you would have to ask IT to set up a specific M365 Group for Finance (or Tasmania or Manager).
Users are also unable to optimise their own experience. With an enhanced SharePoint intranet product there could be the opportunity to target content by user profile criteria and for users to save links, documents and contacts in their own personal section, boosting productivity as well as engagement.
Additionally, while SharePoint OOTB integration with Microsoft 365 is excellent, there is no single view dashboard providing interactive summary cards of all your applications, like Injio.
5) Social Connection
SharePoint’s main offering on this front is Yammer, and while it has many benefits (See our recent Yammer blog post) and can be presented in Teams, there is a general lack of social integration. SharePoint features comments and reactions on pages but the overall experience is fragmented. Missing social features that may drive greater engagement include a staff member spotlight, employee recognition, embedded Teams chat and site-wide social reactions that help people feel seen and connected.
6) Content Automation
Everyone is busy and often tasks like updating the intranet get pushed to the bottom of the pile. SharePoint does not offer automated content updates like specialised intranet platforms and there are limited opportunities to create notifications, often relying on – gasp – email. A platform designed specifically with internal communications in mind will have multiple, targeted options for priority announcements and notifications as well as content automation tools such as automatically triggering a spotlight on the home page when a new employee is created in Active Directory.
There’s no doubt about it, SharePoint Online is a powerful, flexible platform that supports attractive pages and integrates well across the Microsoft 365 ecosystem. It is probably enough for a smaller organisation needing a basic intranet to publish news and surface content.
A sophisticated intranet product - like Injio - built on SharePoint leverages Microsoft features, security and roadmap while delivering a consistent, branded UX and an integrated social experience across all of the intranet features.
SharePoint is not a ready-to-run intranet, it is a platform on which an intranet can be configured and there will be costs involved... In some cases, other products… will be easier to live with in the long term. - Clearbox Intranet and Employee Experience Platforms Report 2022