A guide for intranet managers: 5 simple tips for reviving an ailing SharePoint intranet
A SharePoint or Office 365 intranet is an incredibly powerful tool for driving collaboration and boosting productivity in your organisation. Without proper guidance, management, and time investment however, it can quickly be abandoned by users in favour of workarounds that help them to just get things done.
There are many reasons users disengage from an intranet, ranging from frustration and reluctance to change, to poor user training and a lack of best practice guidance. Whatever the reason your users aren't engaging, we have tips to help you get your intranet back on track. Here are five simple ways to revive your intranet, and make it a tool your teams love to use.
1 - Renew the Focus on Getting Things Done
The most common reason employees disengage with corporate intranets is because information is either hard to find, out of date, or both. If your intranet doesn't offer the easiest way for your teams to get their work done, they'll find workarounds, jeopardising both the security of your data and the unifying impact of your intranet.
If your employees aren't using your intranet, then it may be time to review and assess its usefulness to identify ways to improve.
- Review your intranet's design - Does your intranet's design support the way your teams are using it? Is navigation clear? Are sites, pages, and information easy to find and get to? Is the information being displayed relevant to your users, or just cluttering their digital work space?
- Consider using Search Web Parts - Search Web Parts are an out of the box feature in Office 365 that let you display the latest dynamically updated information in an engaging way. Search Web Parts can be used to quickly and easily surface important information to relevant users, such as financial reports, news bulletins, meeting minutes, programme updates, and much more.
- Add calendars - Use team, company or department calendars in your intranet to keep your employees up to date with corporate events, and help them manage team resources. In Office 365 you can display and overlay up to 10 SharePoint calendars at once, so it's an ideal way to keep your teams informed.
- Update existing calendars - An empty calendar on an intranet page is a clear indication that the content is out of date. Make sure you calendars are being used and dynamically updated to keep your teams informed and make your intranet a hub for finding out essential information.
2 - Get Your Users Involved
The success or failure of your intranet relies entirely on user adoption. People want to be productive and will embrace tools that make their working lives easier. An Office 365 intranet is an incredibly powerful productivity tool, so if your users aren't engaging with it, you need to engage with them and understand why.
The reason for lack of adoption is often as simple as users being unsure of best practice, being afraid of getting something wrong, finding the system too complicated, or being unable to access the information they need. They know what they need to get their work done, so take the time to ask for feedback.
- Gather feedback on a regular basis - If your staff are involved in the ongoing development of your intranet, they will be more invested in its success and far more willing to adopt and use it. To make this easier, you can ask Champions within your organisation to gather feedback from their department and teams and share it with your intranet manager.
- Give clear training and guidance - Make sure your intranet usage policies and best practices are being communicated clearly across your organisation, and that your users receive relevant, up to date training.
3 - Carry Out Refresher Training
It is often the case that SharePoint intranets are deployed, and the message is communicated to the business that the intranet will become the organisation's shared space for collaboration and communication, but then no further explanation or training is offered to show how this should be done or managed. This leads to user confusion, uncertainty, and reluctance to use the system for fear of making mistakes.
People fear what they don't understand, so it's important to make your intranet accessible to your users through regular communication and training.
- Make your intranet usage policy readily available - Publish it on your intranet in an easy to find location, and consider including short "How to..." style videos covering essential functions like uploading and sharing documents, version control, and using Search.
- Ongoing training - The most effective way to ensure that your intranet is being managed and used properly is to train Champions within your organisation who can then train users in their own teams/departments. These Champions are down in the nuts and bolts of their department's daily working, so they know what it is their users need to know, and can train them accordingly. Champions can also pass training on to new starters/movers, and collate and communicate helpful feedback to the intranet manager. This will ensure that up to date best practice is communicated throughout the business and will encourage users to adopt the intranet way of working as a useful business productivity tool.
4 - Review Your Governance
Effective governance is critical to the success of your intranet. It must be clear to your users what to use, when to use it, and how to use it properly. Organisations, excited by the "new and shiny" releases for Office 365/SharePoint, often roll out a plethora of features to their users, but offer no clear guidance around best practice usage, which leads to confusion and frustration. By outlining and communicating clear intranet governance guidance, you can reengage your users and boost adoption.
- Educate users about governance - Clarity is essential in securing user engagement. You must clearly communicate that governance is about best practice, not policing. If your users feel restricted in what they can do, or governance has become an obstacle to carrying out their day to day tasks, they will find workarounds and even come to resent the intranet. Clearly and regularly outline your intranet best practice guidance, and consider creating self service 'FAQ's', 'Hints and Tips', or 'Simple Guide to Intranet Usage' areas on your intranet.
- Create a scenario map - Make it easy for your users to work out what to do by surfacing a scenario map on your intranet. This should show your users which features to use and when e.g. when to use a SharePoint team site vs. Office 365 Groups. Best practice guidance that is easy to find is easy to follow, so make it easily visible to all your users.
- Create a change management team - An intranet is not a single project, it is a continually evolving tool that adapts with your organisation. By creating a team of business champions who can continually review intranet usage, report user feedback, and assess departmental requirements, you can ensure the continued usefulness and adoption of your intranet.
- Implement a site creation policy - A common intranet governance issue comes when multiple users need and create the same site, leading to mass reduplication, site sprawl, and very confused/frustrated users. Implementing a site creation policy and request form, means that you can review which sites are needed/ask for and why, and advise users as to whether the requested site already exists. Governing sites in this way makes your intranet more manageable, but also reduces user frustration, and helps your teams work more efficiently. The less frustration and the greater the benefit, the more enthusiastic the adoption.
5 - Consult an Expert
External consultants have an advantage over your in house team when it comes to managing and improving your intranet. They will have years of experience, specialised technical expertise, and an in depth knowledge of what makes a successfully adopted intranet. Rather than spend valuable time researching best practice, common pitfalls, and available features, consider partnering with a consultancy that has implemented intranets many times, and knows exactly what they are doing.
Partnering with a technical consultant will help you to fill skills or knowledge gaps in your in house team, and give you on demand access to expert best practice guidance.
Let your partner work on what they do best, so that you can focus on doing what you do best.
Business Cloud Integration Ltd offers Cloud, SharePoint and Office 365 consultancy in Cambridge and across the UK, delivering solutions that increase company productivity, streamline and automate business processes, and simplify and enhance collaborative working.
Business Cloud Integration Ltd specialises in the design, implementation and support of Microsoft SharePoint Online or hybrid SharePoint scenarios. We help our clients to create Intranets, project portals and external sharing portals that engage employees and encourage communication and collaboration between both internal and external users.