Build it yourself or get a SharePoint Intranet in a box

Aug 15, 2017

Leave it to IT or get a ready to go SharePoint Intranet?

Perhaps you are considering a new Intranet, and wondering if you should check out an “intranet in a box” solution, or have your internal team build it instead. Having built numerous intranets from scratch and also implemented our ready to go Intranet Injio across the globe, I have been on both sides of the fence many times over.

Here are some things to consider:

Leaving the Intranet build to Internal IT

Internal IT can be like some handymen, they take on everything. This is a good mindset to have, as these days IT are expected to know about telecommunications, video streaming, web development…. the list is endless. Sometimes however handymen bite off more than they can chew, attempting to fix a plumbing problem, or installing electrical wiring for a new room. When the toilet is leaking or when the trip switch keeps going off when you plug in the toaster, you realise you should have asked for specialised help.

It’s no different when it comes to SharePoint Intranets. Sometimes IT have a look at SharePoint – yep, we can create sites, add documents, content and calendars. We have this down, don’t worry about a thing. In one way this is completely true, and IT are more than capable of delivering a basic Intranet. However it’s usually not that simple.

More than once we have received emergency calls from “SharePoint gone wrong” implementations. One stands out in particular. An IT consultancy had an opportunity with their largest client to deliver a SharePoint solution. The consultancy didn’t have deep SharePoint experience, but figured they could manage it themselves with some external help, how hard could it be? They spent months building the solution, and with just a few days before the client launch, the solution collapsed in on itself. It was a disaster. Nothing worked, and it turned out that Microsoft had removed functionality from SharePoint that completely destroyed the way they had built the solution. Microsoft weren’t responsible, as they had planned to pull this functionality out for over a year and had it clearly on their roadmap.

It’s not enough to figure out what’s in front of you, you need to know what is coming, and especially on Office 365 where the rate of change is extraordinary.

Some questions for IT

This list of questions is not meant to be used as a weapon against IT, but is simply a reality check for what is involved in creating a decent SharePoint Intranet. You don’t know what you don’t know.

  • Do they have deep SharePoint expertise?
  • What quality solutions have they previously done?
  • Do they know Front-end languages – Jquery, javascript, AngularJS, HTML5, CSS?
  • Do they know SharePoint Solution Architecture?
  • Do they know Graphic Design?
  • What is Governance planning?
  • What user adoption strategies will be used?
  • Do they have UX skills and experience?
  • Do they have deep Office 365 knowledge and experience?
  • Do they have comprehension of the Office 365 roadmap and how it might affect the intranet?
  • Are they good at asking the right questions and translating business needs to solutions?
  • Do they have Information Architecture expertise?
  • How about SharePoint Search strategy and configuration?
  • Ask to see Document Management expertise (folders does not cut it)
  • Does anyone have forms and workflows expertise?
  • How about dashboards expertise?
  • Can they provide integration with other applications
  • What ideas or skills do they have with personalisation
  • What is content targeting and how can it be achieved?

And critically – do they have anything prepared already? Our Injio SharePoint Intranet in a box has taken 4 years to create and continues to be developed and improved. How long will it take IT to create something of the same quality?

Intranets can include

  • The ability to adjust for all devices, desktop to mobile
  • Communications hub with multiple ways to share information
  • Events modules
  • Personalised links and documents
  • Staff Directory, potentially with badging
  • Projects Centre
  • Knowledge Base
  • Ticketing Solution
  • Yammer integration
  • Media gallery
  • Integration with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn
  • Open roles

And more and more..

By the time IT complete the intranet, it will be out of date. Which brings me to:

Maintenance and Enhancements

What is IT’s plan to maintain, support and further develop the Intranet? In my experience, IT departments are so under the pump, when one project is complete, 4 more are waiting to take its place. IT will barely be able to support the solution, never mind develop it further. 3 years later, the Intranet is out of date, it’s time to build a new one.

With an Intranet in a box, if there is a solid road map you can expect continual improvements. With Injio, we ask our clients which new features they would like to see on the road map. They get the improvements they want, at a fraction of the cost of development. Internal IT time costs money too.

An opportunity to learn

Often the core misunderstanding is down to lack of specific experience in SharePoint projects. People can have a lot of IT knowledge, then see SharePoint and think they understand it. This is like seeing a wonderful meal created by a world class chef. You can taste it, identify the ingredients and discuss what you like and don’t like about the end result. But unless you have years of training, you will find it impossible to produce such a meal, especially in a limited time. It’s no different with creating an awesome Intranet.

Internal IT have a fantastic opportunity to learn from experts and have an experience of delivering a comprehensive Intranet solution. Engaging in the project, talking to business users about their needs and challenges and understanding the solution designed by the experts, IT stand to learn a lot. They can then manage the solution, make changes, understand how it works and learn from the way it is technically developed. This all helps to understand Office 365 and SharePoint in a much deeper way.

If you are lucky enough to have a proactive IT department who actually wants to build an intranet, first say THANK YOU for being so helpful. But then it might be a good idea to really look at what is involved and introduce them to the concept of a ready to go intranet. Once they realise the benefits, they will be right on board.

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