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Internal Comms vs IT: The Great SharePoint Debate

Internal Comms vs IT: The Great SharePoint Debate

Internal Comms and IT teams are often on opposite sides of the SharePoint debate. IT want to make use of the licence they’re already paying for, keep everything under one roof, and don’t understand why Internal Comms teams can’t just get on with it. Internal Comms sit in the other corner, trying to make best use of a tool they didn’t choose and wandering when they can get a proper intranet platform.

So, we gave both parties a seat at the table to hash it out in The Great SharePoint Debate.

Representing IT, Alex Graves – Chief Visionary Officer here at Silicon Reef.

Representing Internal Comms, Carly Murray – Internal Communications Director at The Surgery.

We put SharePoint to the test over five rounds to see which team came out on top.

Here’s a quick recap, or watch the full video here.

Round 1: Complexity & Functionality

Internal Comms said…

Internal communicators are often left to figure SharePoint functionality out by themselves, without enough support from IT. Many comms folk are working in small teams, without the luxury of a dedicated channels or intranet manager.

SharePoint may be easier and more intuitive than before, but the burden still falls to IC to work it out. The new features and improved functionality almost don’t matter, because there isn’t the time or resource to understand them.

IT said…

A lot of negativity around SharePoint comes from legacy versions. It used to be really clunky and wasn’t designed for Internal Comms. But now it’s easier than ever. Even for those working in small teams.

It is common for IT teams to do the technical setup, then throw it over the fence to IC with little support. Without additional support, it can be tricky for Internal Comms teams to take it to the next level.

Umpire’s verdict: It’s ITs responsibility to make sure internal communicators have enough support and education to make the most of SharePoint. Otherwise, it can be complex and overwhelming, and IC don’t have the time to figure it out.

Score: Internal Comms 1 – 0 IT

Round 2: Look & Feel

IT said…

Internal Comms teams often struggle to understand the art of the possible with SharePoint. Keeping up with the latest tools and updates is outside of their responsibility, and so the awareness of what’s possible isn’t always there. In those cases, IC teams do struggle to take their site beyond a basic Microsoft template.

If IT and IC work together, it can produce much better results. Or, to go a step further, working with a specialist can help take SharePoint design to the next level.

Internal Comms said…

Internal communicators want their intranet to look great, but they don’t have the time to faff around. Making SharePoint look and feel engaging should be easy. IC teams want to be self-sufficient, and don’t want to rely on IT or a partner to help with designs.

Umpire’s verdict: SharePoint can look great, it can be engaging – and IC really want it to do that. But, without understanding the art of the possible, it’s hard. If IT, or specialist partners, work harder to explain what’s possible with SharePoint, internal communicators can be a lot more self-sufficient.

Score: Internal Comms 2 – 0 IT

Round 3: Who’s It For?

Internal Comms said…

What is SharePoint? An intranet? A document library? Where do Viva and Copilot sit? Internal Comms teams struggle to keep up with all the new tech, and so the gap between IC and IT grows.

There’s a lack of clarity about what all the Microsoft tools are, how they work together, and how they’re relevant for communicators. SharePoint doesn’t feel like it’s designed for internal communicators.

From an employee perspective, it feels restricted to desk-based workers. IC teams need a platform they can reach desk-based and mobile workers.

IT said…

SharePoint wasn’t designed for internal communicators. But, Microsoft are pivoting. Since the release of Viva, Microsoft are championing employee experience – which involves IT, IC and HR. Since then, Microsoft products have shifted to accommodate Internal Comms’ needs.

SharePoint has become more of a Swiss army knife. It’s an intranet, and a document library, and with tools like Viva, SharePoint can also do lots of other things.

With that, SharePoint has also become more accessible to frontline workers. Using Viva Connections, SharePoint intranets can be brought into Teams. Plus, Viva Connections can personalise content based on employees’ location or department.

SharePoint has evolved to become a platform that’s designed for everyone.

Umpire’s verdict: SharePoint has evolved. Using SharePoint and Viva, organisations can create a fully integrated employee experience platform. Internal Comms teams shouldn’t rule it out because they don’t understand it. It’s time to lean in, try to understand, and collaborate with IT to get it working.

Score: Internal Comms 2 – 1 IT

Round 4: Governance

IT said…

An out-of-control intranet happens when there’s a lack of control. If you don’t have the internal bandwidth to manage your content with site owners, it’s worth speaking to an external party. They can help you get it under control and offer you tools and guidance to help you manage it long-term.

To really get control, organisations should have a governance committee that has representatives from IT and IC. It can’t be left to one group on their own.

Internal Comms said…

Internal communicators hate the word governance. No matter what rules and regulations are put in place, you always end up with an intranet that’s out of control. For it to work, you need the time and resources to really be on the ball with it. Which many internal communicators don’t have.

Umpire’s verdict: Governance is everyone’s responsibility. It’s important that the content and topics being communicated are up to date, accurate, have the right context. We can’t step away from that. And we can’t blame the tools, either. It needs a collaborative effort from everyone to stay on top of governance.

Score: Internal Comms 2 – 2 IT

Round 5: Copilot & AI

IT said…

Copilot is your AI assistant. It uses data from within your business to help you work smarter and faster. Whether it’s “Hey Copilot, which topic is generating the most conversation around the business”, or “Hey Copilot, give me three ideas for this new campaign”.

Using data and information from within your business means Copilot can give you more specific information than other AI assistants like ChatGPT. It’s also more secure, by keeping everything under one roof.

Copilot for SharePoint is the next one to be released, and that’ll help internal communicators with their SharePoint tasks. IC teams will be able to use Copilot to help with tasks like page design and creation, using existing documents for design inspiration. That’ll go a long way to help Internal Comms overcome their SharePoint barriers.

Internal Comms said…

Lots of internal communicators are already using AI tools like ChatGPT. It’s a great way to get a head start on content creation or ideation. IC teams want to spend more time being strategic, and less time being stuck in the doing. Experimenting with AI is a great way to do that.

Copilot will give internal communicators an even greater head start. Rather than going out to the web to search for answers and ideas, Copilot will search internally. All the campaigns, news stories, intranet pages, Town Halls that already exist can be used to generate new content – something that web-based AI assistants can’t do.

For SharePoint specifically, Copilot will help take away some of the more technical tasks that communicators struggle with.

Umpire’s verdict: For Copilot to work, both teams need to talk to each other. It’s not just a case of switching it on. IT and IC need to work together to understand the use cases and the parameters. It’s incredibly powerful technology, and the responsibility can’t sit with one team.

Score: Internal Comms 2.5 – 2.5 IT

Watch the full video below…

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