All About SharePoint Intranet Portals

Close your eyes and think back on all the organizations you have worked at in the last 5 years; can you recall any of those not having intranet portals of their own?

Be it a private company, public office or school, chances are your organization has some kind of intranet portal if you worked in a modern office setting.

But why has intranet become such an integral part of the modern workplace? What is behind the rise in popularity?

What is an Intranet Portal (And Why is it So Hard to Define Them)?

Before we delve into the issue further, let’s see how we can define the term “intranet.” According to PC magazine encyclopedia, Intranet means:

An internal website (intranet) that provides proprietary, enterprise-wide information to company employees as well as access to select public websites and vertical-market websites (suppliers, vendors, etc.).

Clearer now? Not really? Well, you’re not alone; an intranet is, by nature, something quite hard to define. The reason behind it is simple: all portals are unique. There is no identical portal in the world.

This is because all companies are unique in their own ways. Even similar-sized companies from the same city/region in the same industry have very different requirements for their job to be done. One organization may be heavy on team-based work and require a lot of document sharing among the team, while others might have a more individual-based workstyle and not need much document sharing.

Some companies rely on social function to cultivate communication among employees, while others may not use it at all because it is not necessary. And that is totally fine! But different workstyles, cultures and mindsets all require different intranet portals.

One could argue that there is no “fits perfectly fine for every single company on the planet” intranet portal. If you are tasked to build one, the biggest challenge would be to evaluate which kind would best suit the needs of your specific organization.

Common Purpose and Functionalities to Realize it

Having said that, there ARE basic functionalities which are commonly used across intranet portals. Let’s investigate each category to see how they work:

Better Communication – Organizations often seek out an intranet portal in hopes of being able to effectively engage their employees.

Content for business comes in multiple forms – from HR/Corporate Communications for dissemination of company-wide news to inter and intra-department announcements.

Simplification of communication allows for efforts to be directed to more value-and-profit-driven matters and issues.

Information Sharing Enhancement – This is crucial within teams, within departments, and within the company. With so many methods of sharing, documents often get lost within employee inboxes. In addition, team members typically each work on their own version of a document stored on their individual devices.

Utilizing a common document repository which allows for co-authoring (such as SharePoint) reduces the likelihood of that happening and helps to maintain a single master document. Using SharePoint also means that you’re able to do a quick search and locate the requested document much faster.

Social Functionality – This functionality is mainly utilized to increase interorganizational engagement. Yammer discussion boards allow for company-wide discussions to take place on a publicly accessible platform, thereby increasing transparency and allowing employees from different offices to weigh in/discuss on the same page.

For instance: A recent project we deployed for one of the largest banks in Asia integrated photo and post-sharing functionalities which allowed the Marketing/HR team to conduct employee engagement campaigns.

Best Practices

So, you’ve gotten management buy-in to revamp your intranet portal. What’s next?

No portal will be successful without input from your end users. In the project we deployed for INPEX Corporation, a survey was conducted to understand what information was important to users and should be featured in the portals. The key to a successful portal is to build the intranet with your end users in mind.

Intranet Portal Best Practice #1: Understand Pros and Cons of Cloud, On-Premise and Hybrid

Is your portal based on cloud, on-premise or hybrid? Each one of them have strengths and weaknesses, and you need to choose wisely to make the most out of the platform.

A key concern NTUC First Campus faced during their evaluation of intranet was the limitations of an on-premises intranet. Even organizations that share the same characteristics (ie: size, region, industry) will have different ways of conducting business and interacting with employees. Organizational needs differ, and it is therefore important to identify the core functions each individual intranet is to serve.

Intranet Portal Best Practice #2: Easy to Navigate User Interface

Navigating the intranet should not be difficult. Your users are already well-versed with interfaces from a multitude of different platforms in the current digital landscape. Simplify their experience through clean and consistent designs that, while attractive, are similar to what they are used to.

Enabling the users to take advantage of the modern/digital workplace is also a key component in designing the intranet portal. With work happening anytime, anywhere, it is important for the intranet to be accessible and easy to navigate from any device (smartphone, tablet, and PC).

Intranet Portal Best Practice #3: Well-Thought-Out Plan to Maximize User Adoption

intranet

What is the best way to encourage users to actually utilize an intranet portal other than making it useful and convenient to use? Even the best intranet portal page sporting heavy investments will not be successful without contributions from the users.

Include links to systems such as expense reporting, HR tracking and learning management systems to streamline the user experience. Seize the opportunity to introduce/re-launch company-wide platforms to increase employee interaction. On top of using it as a channel for business-related activity, integrate apps such as Instagram and make them the go-to pages for every employee.

Intranet Portal Best Practice #4: Personalization for Employees to Increase Relevance

Not all information will be relevant to every employee. In fact, getting pelted with irrelevant information every day could lead to employees unknowingly disregarding important information in their inbox.
To prevent this, personalize what each member will see and make it work for them. A simple way to do that is to include frequently visited links on the homepage for easy access. In the portal deployed for NTUC First Campus, AvePoint developed a bilingual intranet which displayed content in either English or Mandarin based on the user’s AD.

Wrap Up

With the increased number of digital threats, digital natives entering the workforce, and the push for digitalization, it is important that your investment stays secure and relevant. Give your team bandwidth to do what they do best: creating internal buy-in, involving business stakeholders, and managing change. Let AvePoint support the rest.

Considering a revamp of your intranet portal? Schedule a chat with an AvePoint representative today.

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