The TUC's SharePoint Intranet
I’ve been working with the TUC on the development of their new Intranet. It’s just been launched and is developed entirely in SharePoint.
The TUC uses the Microsoft 365 platform as their core business software, for example, for email and document management. A key part of this offering is SharePoint online - a powerful document management and file storage facility.
SharePoint can be complicated to set-up and migrating from a traditional, server based, file system to SharePoint is a hefty project. It also requires training and support, as it’s quite different for users who aren’t familiar with working in the Cloud.
What SharePoint does provide is a great tool for working collaboratively that can be tailored to meet the needs or an organisation. It’s also very easy to access, pretty much any device with a web browser can be used.
SharePoint vs Content Management Systems
I’ve developed websites and intranets on various different software over the years, so it was interesting to see how well SharePoint can be used for creating Intranet. The main difference is how the actual ‘build’ works. It’s much more like building a website with Lego than a usual Content Management Systems (CMS). There can be very little control over the detail, but at the same time web pages can be create very quickly.
An example of this is the graphic design. The default set-up comes with a small selection of ‘responsive’ graphic designs. These can’t be changed much beyond a choice of colour, but the fundamental design is of a good standard and can be deployed easily. It means that SharePoint Intranets will often look the same, but it does make deployment quicker.
Similarly, when building pages, there is no coding, HTML or Style Sheets. Instead, SharePoint uses ‘Web parts’. These are a selection of the building blocks that can be easily deployed to build pages, but with very limited configuration options.
This approach to development has advantages and disadvantages. A decent looking Intranet can be deployed relatively quickly, with easier ongoing maintenance, but this is balanced against a lack of control over the finer details.
Information Architecture and Microsoft 365 integration
Where SharePoint really excels for Intranets is the integration across SharePoint and Micosoft 365. Using the powerful inbuilt Information Architecture tools allows for some advanced functionality.
For example, key resources can be published on the Intranet while still existing in their relevant SharePoint site, reducing the duplication of content and making publishing easily accessible. Integration with other Micosoft tools like Stream and Forms is also easy. Automated workflows can be created as well. For example, on the TUC intranet, I created a automated process to automatically archive old news content, with the frequency depending on the type of news and with manual overrides for authors, all controlled by a daily automated workflow.
If your already using SharePoint for document management, then the integration makes is a great platform for a standard intranet. It is improved significantly in the last few years and as it already comes with Microsoft 365, it’s cost effective. Just be aware it’s not a website system – the downside will be a lack of control over the details. Adding functionality not provided out of the box is difficult.