An organization’s intranet is the digital resource that connects users with decision makers, broadcasts a company’s vision, and helps spread the company culture. When done right, a strong intranet provides answers, routes questions, distributes updates, and shares corporate news and happenings required by users to do their jobs efficiently and effectively. 

But, building a successful intranet isn’t trivial. Without the right guidance, organizations find themselves building and deploying intranets that are not well adopted, feel crowded or overly complex, and have too much or too little information to make them useful.

These are some common mistakes organizations make when building and deploying a SharePoint intranet.

1) Not Designing the SharePoint Intranet with the Audience in Mind

Out of the box, SharePoint is designed to be shaped and molded into almost anything an organization needs.  But, an effective and efficient intranet can only be shaped with the input and feedback of its most important stakeholders – the users.  The design and functionality of a SharePoint intranet must fit what makes sense to the users, and not just what decision makers think makes sense strictly from a design perspective.  Ultimately, if the users don’t intuitively understand the intranet or it complicates their work and lives, users will quickly find reasons not to use it.

2) Not Planning for Search

An intranet is of little value if users are unable to quickly find the documents and information they are looking for.  Organizational structure and hierarchy can only go so far and aren’t typically enough to help users find content that is deeply nested in that structure – especially if the users did not define the structure.  And while SharePoint will natively search content within the most common document types, relying only on this type of unstructured search usually leads to an overwhelming volume of irrelevant search results.  Thus, to assist users in finding content more easily, an organization needs to consider and define the metadata that should be added to the intranet to support finding content not just by keywords but also with the aid of organizational taxonomy.  Planning for and building in metadata will also enhance the users’ ability to filter and sort in libraries and lists throughout the intranet.

3) Not Having a Collaboration-Driven SharePoint Governance Plan

Decision makers and intranet planners need to set the tone and rules for how users should and will use any intranet.  Not providing content owners and users direction on what they should or should not do on the intranet is a recipe for the creation of an unwieldy and ultimately less successful system.  An intranet governance plan must include guidance on what, where, and how information should be published on the intranet.  And, given that intranets are also used heavily for collaboration between users and teams, an effective governance plan must also instruct users on the best practices for sharing documents and content they control within the context of department and project structures defined in the intranet.

4) Not Refreshing Content Regularly on Your SharePoint Intranet

An intranet can be the indispensable information pipeline that connects users to all aspects of what is happening and changing within an organization.  But, all the aesthetic design, incorporated feedback, and guidance are worthless if the intranet content isn’t regularly maintained. When content changes are not frequent enough, user cease to trust the intranet as the primary source for up-to-date information and they simply stop using it.  Why should a user bother to look at the intranet if the content they saw last week or last month on the home page hasn’t changed?  A successful intranet requires a commitment to keep content fresh and relevant to the users.

5) Not Providing Users Training on How to Own the Intranet

Successful intranets are not static sites.  It takes content owners and users to make edits, upload documents, and create new pages to keep an intranet fresh and relevant. But, it isn’t enough to assume that because users have used a browser that they will figure out how to create, draft, approve, and publish pages on an intranet.  Or, that users will figure out how to upload and tag documents because they use Facebook.  The reality is that users have varying sets of skills and some feel more comfortable with technology than others.  Thus, decision makers and business owners should not assume that users will just figure it out but instead plan for appropriate training and ongoing support to instruct and show users how to use and take advantage of the intranet investment an organization is making.  Only with an appropriate training strategy will an organization realize the return on investment they seek.

6) Not Enough or Too Much Emphasis on Design

Intranets need to be visually appealing to draw users in and keep them engaged.  But, branding is an exercise in balancing value and cost.  Too little branding and users lose interest.  Too much branding and the cost of implementation begins to climb.  When it comes to design and branding, SharePoint is quite flexible and allows for a range of options.  However, understanding what a design will take to implement requires the eye and experience of a SharePoint expert to achieve the desired results at the right price.

7) Not Considering How the Intranet Platform is Evolving

These days, it isn’t a stretch to suggest that if an organization is building an intranet, they are likely building it on a cloud platform like Office 365 and SharePoint Online.  This has many advantages for organizations but there are also some points that don’t get much consideration.  One such aspect of building an intranet on a cloud platform is that organizations don’t have complete control over how and when the platform evolves.  Organizations can find themselves dealing with platform changes that break their intranet and send users scrambling for support.  Thus, it is imperative that organizations building cloud-based intranets have a partner that uses the technology and understands deeply how it is changing and can advise an organization on how to take advantage of upcoming changes and how to mitigate changes as the platform evolves.

Designing and Deploying a Successful SharePoint Intranet

An out-of-the-box SharePoint intranet includes a myriad of features and structures that can be shaped to support whatever a company needs.  But building a successful intranet isn’t a trivial exercise.  Decision makers may know what they want to see in their intranet but may not know how to best achieve the results they seek on the SharePoint platform.  This article describes many of the common mistakes we’ve run across in our many years of helping clients build on the SharePoint platform.  It is our goal to help clients avoid these mistakes and maximize value from their investment.  Let us show you how General Networks can partner with you to help you succeed in creating your intranet.

Contact us today to schedule a SharePoint consultation.