Post by Morten Fritsch
Intranet: Why untie the Gordian knot when there’s a better way
2018 December 7th
Strong arguments are hard to come by. The same is true of the question: Intranet – why make it more cumbersome than absolutely necessary?
Still, one of the arguments I hear is, “We have just reinvested in our software solution, and it is simply too cumbersome to re-saddle.”
Whether or not that’s a good argument is a matter of debate.
For yes, there was definitely a time when a software solution was needed if you wanted an intranet that could do more than just inform you of the canteen’s weekly menu. But things have changed over the years…
Which is why the goal of my post is to shed light on what has happened with the development of the intranet, what is hidden of value in a standard intranet, and how you can get the most out of your investment (let me just reveal that it is not an add-on solution!).
So, let’s get to that.
The three phases of the intranet
You can talk about 3 periods within the intranet:
- In the early years of the intranet, SharePoint was a platform that provided the framework for custom development and code. Like the other major platforms, there were not many standard features in SharePoint, so everything had to be coded from scratch. There were never twoidentical intranets—but compared to today, it is probably also one of the few advantages. Because it was at once expensive to develop, difficult to implement, and almost impossible to maintain.
- The period of custom development and code was replaced by a long period in which “Intranet-in-a-box” was the new standard. A sea of providers developed basic packages as add-on solutions that could be built quite simply on top of the relatively scraped intranet bottom from the major platforms.This has served as a really good solution for many years. However, it is worth noting that there has often been a need for special adaptations, which is a bit contrary to the idea of buying a ready-made solution. The companies that have implemented a cloud solution with an add-on on top face another challenge: It is impossible to keep up with all the ongoing updates such as Microsoft comes with. In practice, this means that the add-on solutions are never completely updated. The risk is that standard functionality in SharePoint Online cannot be used because they are not supported by the 3rd party provider.
- Within the past year, we have entered what we might call the 3rd age of the intranet. There has been a fairly significant shift, and the large platforms have opened their eyes to the great potential of offering customers a coherent standard solution, which is not a “stand-alone” intranet but an integrated intranet that utilizes all parts of O365. Today, Microsoft is at the forefront and has equipped Office 365 and SharePoint Online with valuable features launched with the aim of creating “the modern workplace.”New features are constantly being added, and because it is cloud based, an Office 365 intranet is always up to date. In this way, Microsoft with the cloud has introduced a whole new way of thinking about the intranet. For what we at the beginning of the intranet’s creation was to develop and later buy as “Intranet-in-a-box”, you now get by default.
How do you get the most out of your intranet investment?
Given the development we have seen, there is no doubt that “standard” is the new variety. A standardized intranet is not just easy to handle—it’s good business.
If we look a little at the alternatives, there is “custom built” that can give you a completely unique intranet. This is clearly the most expensive solution… and is there really reason to believe that you need an intranet that differs significantly from the needs of similar companies? There is also “Intranet-in-a-box”, where you get a package solution with good functionality. On the downside, however, there is complicated maintenance, lack of synchronization in relation to updates and a relatively large passive expense for software maintenance.
Looking at the three options, a Standard Intranet stands out. I would be lying if I said there were no expenses. It’s there, of course.
But rather than a large start-up investment or passive maintenance expense (which does not cover upgrades), the cost of a standard intranet is an investment that actually provides value in terms of optimizing and leveraging new features for the benefit of efficiency.
My experience, however, is that it can be difficult to let go of long requirements specifications that are exhaustively based on everything you can in the old plus a little new. It takes a little more of intranet owners to recognize that the intranet is no longer just their domain but is actually a platform that can facilitate much more than good design and news!
The value of an intranet is greatest when you have users who are engaged in and through the intranet. When you just give it an extra thought, it makes good sense that the value of an intranet is greatest when it is used for the exchange of knowledge, and when it clearly provides improved collaboration. That it then at the top means better utilization of investments already made in Office365 is just a bonus.
Quite briefly, it can be said that the new intranet standard will have far more stakeholders. It is not just about internal communication and HR initiatives. It is a platform that can do so much more.
In order to create a bridge between stakeholders in the organization, it is therefore important to create a common understanding of:
- The value of an intranet seen in the context of what the user really wants
- What you can do with SharePoint Online and all the features made available in O365
- The consequence of deviating from the standard, and a consideration of it is outweighed by the expected value
How to hit the ground running with a standardized intranet?
At Delegate, we have chosen SharePoint Online as the only intranet we implement for our customers. It makes sense because it provides immediate value.
Our approach is to offer intranets by subscription. It fits well with the licensing model our customers are already used to from their Microsoft solution, and then it makes it easy to get started quickly with a simple and user-friendly intranet.
The advantage of choosing the intranet as a subscription is that you are guaranteed continuous development from Microsoft and continuous implementation of Delegate. The subscription package includes advice, basic setup of the intranet as well as monthly visits to help with all the new features that the races are coming to the platform as well as clarification of current use.
The monthly service is thus not a cost which ensures that your solution works today or for the “next version”, but an active subscription which aims to ensure that new functions or products that Microsoft releases can be implemented quickly and efficiently.
If you have needs or ambitions that go beyond Microsoft’s functions, the package can be used as a starting point, so that a common foundation is quickly established for verification and definition of your needs.