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August 05
Things to Consider When Implementing SharePoint as an Intranet

​We are in the Information Age. Most workers spend the majority of their day using technology to communicate. With the amount of information that is thrown at your average employee on a daily basis it can be difficult for them to know where to go for accurate and pertinent information. An official intranet can help users find the information they need if it is set up properly. There are many questions that must be answered when developing an intranet, this article will provide an overview of some important questions to consider up front.

What is the intent of your intranet?

There can be many intended uses for an intranet. Helping define exactly what an intranet should and should NOT be used for will guide future decisions. Do you want this to be an open forum for employees to discuss topics and interact with each other? If so consider implementing some of the social features of SharePoint. Do you want this to be a way to push official information to users? If so you may want to limit the amount of discussion boards and ways that users can provide unofficial information.

Will external users need to access content on your intranet?

Depending on the version of SharePoint allowing external access may be a significant undertaking. It is important to determine whether or not external users will need to access an intranet. What content would external users need access to? Is there anything external users should specifically be blocked from accessing? Given the nature of intranets it is doubtful that external users would need access to HR and Finance information but there may be forms they would need to access.

What groups or teams will have their own site?

A common approach is to have a site for each department within an organization. Are there other groups that don’t fall under a specific department but would still need to contribute content? Will every department need to have an intranet site?

Are these groups ready to put in the required time?

Everyone is busy at work and taking the time to define exactly what is needed for a site may not be a priority for people. Taking time to explain what will be needed from a department and how it will benefit them will help make our implementation as smooth as possible. If a department has a period of the year when they are normally very busy you should plan around that. If a department is resistant to the idea of putting in the required work you may want to put them in a later phase so they can see the successes of other departments.

What is the scope of each phase?

SharePoint is capable of many cool and useful things but biting off too much from the beginning can be overwhelming. Keeping an intranet implementation simple and growing into a more complicated implementation is a great idea. Also consider which departments will be included in each phase, as mentioned above some departments may benefit from being in a later phase. Will you offer workflows to each department? If so will you try to leverage the out of the box workflows or will you create custom workflows?

How will you handle the site navigation?

Navigation can make or break an intranet implementation. If users don’t understand or are overwhelmed by the navigation they will not have a good experience with the site and will not use it to its fullest extent. If the navigation is set up in a way that users connect to and understand they will be able to intuitively find what they are looking for. A common recommendation is to have a global navigation at the top of the page and a contextual navigation on the left of the page. The global navigation will be the same on every page on the intranet giving users a consistent experience. The left hand navigation should be related to the site the user is on, this will help users find content that may not appear on the landing page of a department site.

How many page layout templates will you need?

The answer to this question will, to a large extent, come from your site navigation. It is recommended that each department site have the same page layout for their landing page. This gives users a consistent experience while navigating the intranet. They will always know where to look for contacts, announcements etc. if each site has the content in the same spot. There may be the need for other page layouts depending on the organization.

What is the bare minimum amount of content each site will need?

Coming up with a list of content that each site should contain will help set the scope and expectations for the people contributing content. You can create a checklist that will help a department prepare for their new site. This list of content should, at a minimum, cover all of the areas that will be included on the various page layouts. If each department landing page will include things like Contacts, Events, Announcements and links they should be populated from the first day a site is made available on the intranet. The needs of each department will vary, it is important to set expectations for the minimum amount of content needed while allowing for the flexibility of additional content and functionality.

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