SharePoint & Microsoft Resources

SharePoint Intranets Shouldn’t Make Your Eyes Roll

By Alex Graves, Chief Visionary Officer

SharePoint Intranets Shouldn’t Make Your Eyes Roll

Recently, I spent the day in a room full of internal communications professionals and much of the day went as expected – conversations about employee experience, storytelling, best practices and things to avoid. But, when the word “intranet” came up, I noticed something I didn’t expect.

Eyes started rolling and you could almost sense a visible wince of pain. Especially if the intranet in question was SharePoint.

I’ve spent most of my career helping organisations with SharePoint intranets, so it may surprise you that I understand why. We’re not naïve to the fact that SharePoint has a poor reputation with the internal communications crowd.

This hilarious poll from Joanna Parsons sums it up brilliantly. The fact that more people would rather eat a jar of mayonnaise than use SharePoint is very funny – but also concerning.

A poll showing that people would rather eat a jar of mayonnaise than use SharePoint.

Many of the frustrations come from functionality. Microsoft didn’t design SharePoint for internal communicators. So, even simple tasks like creating and sharing content can be harder than it should be.

The good news is, Microsoft is listening. With SharePoint Online, the modern SharePoint experience is already a huge improvement. And, in the last year, Microsoft has been actively looking at how to solve internal communicators’ pain points. Viva Amplify, for example, should go some way to addressing internal comms’ needs.

But that doesn’t solve all the challenges.

Another huge issue comms teams face with SharePoint is how it looks. Traditionally, SharePoint design has been a massive weakness. Even basic branding, applying your company fonts and colours, has been a mammoth task.

But that’s no longer the case. SharePoint design has come on leaps and bounds. If you have the right tools in your toolkit, you can make SharePoint look pretty special. When you combine improved design with new features and integration with other Microsoft tools, it makes a great intranet solution.

My worry is that internal comms teams won’t reap the benefits of what SharePoint can offer. The opinion that ‘SharePoint sucks’ is so deep-rooted that one of two things tends to happen:

  1. IT departments mandate building the intranet on SharePoint, and internal comms teams resign themselves to a mediocre intranet.
  2. Comms teams opt for a third-party intranet platform that ends up disconnected from other company tools.

But your intranet doesn’t need to be mediocre. It doesn’t need to be disconnected. You can keep IT and internal comms happy. And it is possible in SharePoint.

And the first step to doing that? Good SharePoint intranet design.

Why Looking Good is the First Step to a Successful SharePoint Intranet

When intranets were first introduced, we didn’t care about how things looked. We were too busy being impressed by the brand-new technology.

Now, it’s a different story. Every aspect of our lives incorporates design. How many of us can say that we’ve never chosen a bottle of wine because we liked the label?

And it’s not because we’re vain or shallow. We’ve become products of our environment. Our phones, smartwatches, TVs – the things we rely on every day have had millions of pounds spent on good design. They look good, they’re easy to use, and they do what we need them to do.

So when we log on to an intranet that can’t use the right shade of company brand blue, of course there’s a disconnect. We’re measuring the digital experiences we have at work with those we have in our personal lives. And unfortunately, the digital workplace often doesn’t measure up.

First impressions matter, and if you’re losing employees at the first hurdle your engagement will always suffer.

How to Build a Business Case for a Modern Intranet

A practical guide to help internal communicators secure budget and buy-in for a scalable, flexible, collaborative intranet.

Front cover of the guide to building an intranet business case

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