An intranet is key to keeping your people informed, engaged and connected, so you want to make sure you’ve got a reliable tool that meets all your requirements. SharePoint is the intranet tool of choice for around a quarter of a million organisations worldwide. It provides not only some of the most sought-after content services but also the added benefits of all the other Microsoft 365 applications that run alongside it.
If you’re looking for an intranet solution that’s straightforward to set up, you may well be considering a SharePoint out-of-the-box (OOTB) intranet – a great decision. Choosing SharePoint means you can get started quickly, but you should also consider all the possible requirements you may have before you get to work on your project, from functionality to look and feel. Let’s take a look at how you can overcome five challenges of implementing an OOTB SharePoint intranet site.
1. Can I only use basic components when designing a SharePoint intranet news site?
One of the first things you may come across when setting up your OOTB intranet is display limitations across your news and content. Of course, there are ready-made components in SharePoint, which makes creating a new site to display company news and communications fairly easy. So if your requirements are basic, this won’t be a problem.
However, an OOTB solution won’t give you all the answers if you:
- want your intranet to be tailored to your brand;
- have a variety of content that needs personalisation or targeting on multiple dimensions;
- find that your basic requirements are going to evolve as your launch gets closer.
If you can’t get this from an off-the-shelf product, you might need to build it from scratch. You’re then reliant on a team of developers creating and managing technology solutions for you, potentially bringing risk, delay and dissatisfaction to your project.
The good news is that with these basic components, it’s very easy to get started. While the functionality limitations exist, they do make for an easy-to-use tool. You could get going on your site after spending just an hour or so of familiarising yourself with the system.
2. How can I search for people in SharePoint Online without a directory page?
Now you have an extensive and informative stream of the latest news, another requirement for most of our Fresh projects is a people-search function. Having the ability to search your people directory enables your users to make connections and find the most relevant expertise, especially if they can’t have that conversation face-to-face due to hybrid ways of working.
The challenge with an OOTB SharePoint intranet is that there is no page-based search for the people directory that you can add to the global navigation. Any colleague search must be done via the main global search bar at the very top of your page, with no ability to filter and sort results. Typically on an intranet, you’d expect to find a page-based version of the directory with a separate search function, but this is not part of the OOTB solution.
However, the main search bar can bring up a colleague’s contact information, so you can use it as part of the overall search experience in SharePoint Online. You can perform the same searches and access similar results using data from Active Directory once you know that this can be done from the main search bar.
3. What are the page layout options when designing a SharePoint out-of-the-box intranet?
Looking more into the structure of the site brings us to the third challenge of an OOTB SharePoint intranet: page layout and formatting.
Beyond the homepage, there aren’t a lot of options when designing a SharePoint intranet site. You can create new pages and add posts, but they will primarily have the same look and feel. If you need to create informational pages with documentation or links, you might find they start looking a lot like your news pages.
There is a benefit to the layout and formatting of an out-of-the-box SharePoint intranet site, however. The functionality of the content management system (CMS) has greatly improved in the last couple of years with innovation from Microsoft.
Along with the powerful, easy-to-use editing functions, version control and comparison tools, there are third-party integrations that we can implement at Fresh that can expand the options available to you. So, bear in mind that while your SharePoint intranet site is highly configurable, you might need to look beyond the out-of-the-box functionality to add depth or creativity to your page layouts.
4. How can I avoid content duplication across an OOTB SharePoint site?
When we delve deeper into the all-important content management functionality, we come across another challenge: duplication and excess content. With the system being so easy to use, content can quickly pile up when a large number of people are adding to the site.
Take the example of posting a quick link to a brand-new expenses platform. Someone will post this to the homepage then make sure it’s added to the HR sites, the finance pages and maybe even some other policy pages. This one link has been duplicated across all these pages, likely by different users who might not even realise this is a problem.
Now, when the time comes that you need to update this URL, all these separate entries must be manually updated because the “write once, use anywhere” concept requires additional development and planning. If you happen to have a log of all the pages it has been used in, this might make things easier. But this is rarely the case, especially when you have a lot of people in the organisation creating content.
It’s not all bad news, as this does in fact show the vastness of the SharePoint CMS’s extensibility options. There is a variety of web parts that can be used across any page, in addition to Power Apps, forms and lists. All of this offers you the ability to create a central store of content that can be used again anywhere once you step outside of the box.
5. What OOTB SharePoint intranet analytics can I access?
As you can see, a SharePoint OOTB intranet is suitable for a perfectly well functioning site if your requirements are basic. The problem is often that your requirements expand once you get into the intranet build. This is where we get to our fifth challenge.
The capability of OOTB SharePoint intranet analytics is included but only at a hub, site or page level. So, if you want to see the bigger picture across hundreds or even thousands of pages, as can often be the case when your requirements start expanding mid-project, it’s going to take a lot of manual work.
There are some useful features in OOTB SharePoint intranet analytics, but it does take additional integrations and some development work to get more comprehensive insights across your entire site. This can become complex, but you can stick with the basic analytics if you only need simple charts and tables.
It’s therefore possible to create a SharePoint intranet out of the box, but your requirements are likely to increase. At Fresh, we know all about these challenges and have consolidated the solutions into our products that extend and simplify your SharePoint intranet.
An intranet is rarely a “one and done” project that ends after your roll-out. That’s actually when the hard work starts. To find out more about how Fresh can help overcome the challenges of creating a SharePoint intranet out of the box, sign up to our exclusive webinar with Fresh Product Director David Bowman on Tuesday, 19 July.