Office365 & SharePoint Intranet Microsoft Partner Valto

How to use Office365 to Deploy the Best Sharepoint Intranet

This is the ultimate step by step guide on how to build a SharePoint Intranet, Planner, Teams, Yammer and more!

For many years SharePoint Intranet has been the premium solution for deploying an Intranet across many enterprises, this tool was quite often out of the reach of many smaller businesses due to the cost and administration time taken to keep it running. Today we have SharePoint Online which is included in many business Office365 subscriptions including Office365 Business Essentials/Premium and E1 to E3.

Office365 also brings a range over other tools including Planner, Skype for Business, Yammer and the newly added Office365 Teams. These tools combined with SharePoint provide an exceptionally strong package to build a company portal / intranet. One of the biggest challenges is how Office365 can be pulled together to build an intranet solution and what’s the best way to roll it out.

Step 1 – Plan Your Intranet Project

The first and most important step in the process

The first step in any successful intranet project is to gather the requirements from your organisations employees this should include everyone from Managing Directors, Department Heads and all employees. Valto recommend brainstorming sessions in the organisation by team / department to identify the key requirements for an intranet project. This brainstorming process should include desires for an intranet such as a communication / news area, templates and key processes including any manual workflows that include email, word and excel steps.

Once the requirements have been gathered they need to be translated into which solution would work best within Office365 this may include Workflows, Forms & Document Libraries within SharePoint or organising tasks in Office365 Planner. This is the point where an organisation may call on a SharePoint specialist who will be sent the initial brainstorming documents and start reviewing the requirements in preparation for a Workshop.

The workshop typically takes the form of a day on site with the key stake holders for the Office365 SharePoint Project in which the brainstormed requirements have been translated into an agenda to discuss each of these by department or process one by one. During the workshop the SharePoint specialist will fully realise the requirements and understand how the business works while translating each requirement into an Office 365 solution where appropriate. Not all requirements work perfectly within Office365 and other packages may be better suited such as an ERP, the SharePoint specialist is trained to understand what works well within Office365 and what doesn’t to guide your organisation down the correct path.

The workshop covers each of the requirements and builds a structure for Office365 & SharePoint this will include the top level sites that are required such as departments, client areas, etc. identify reusable workflows such as manager approvals, understand on a high level how proceses per department are being handled and if these may suite better for a workflow solution where time savings can be made, network locations of files that should be migrated during any project (this could include a full file server migration.) and permissions that will be required for each site.

An example of the spreadsheet we create following the workshop can be found below,

Parent Name Order Type Legal Hold Archive Review Workflow Collect Signatures Workflow Manager Approval Workflow Network Location Permissions
Home 1 Top Level / Site Collection
News 1.1 Blog All Company
Links 1.2 Promoted Links All Company
Clients 2 Top Level / Site Collection
Client 1 2.1 Sub Site X Sales Only
Documents 2.10 Sub Site X Z:Client DocumentsClient 1 Sales Only
Reports 2.13 Document Library
Document Library
Client 2 2.2 Sub Site Z:Client DocumentsClient 2
Documents 2.21 Document Library Sales Only
Reports 2.22 Document Library Sales Only
2.23 Document Library
Meeting Minutes 3 Top Level / Site Collection
Executive 3.1 Sub Site Exectuive Team Only
Documents 3.11 Document Library E:Exective Exectuive Team Only
Calendar 3.12 Calendar Exectuive Team Only
Links 3.13 Links Exectuive Team Only
OneNote 3.14 OneNote Exectuive Team Only
SMT 3.2 Sub Site E:SMT SMT Team Only
Documents 3.21 Document Library SMT Team Only
Calendar 3.22 Calendar SMT Team Only
Links 3.23 Links
OneNote 3.24 OneNote

The example above shows how a structure for SharePoint could be built the following key information is displayed,

  • Parent = This shows the top level site that would be created any any items underneath it.
  • Name = A relevant name for each of the areas such as Meeting Minutes > Calendar
  • Type = This is the best Office365 Solution for this type of information
  • Legal Hold / Archive / Review Workflow / … / = These are requirements that have been picked up during the workshop that can be reused elsewhere. Legal hold as an example means the data stored in this area should be kept for 7 years and the Manager Approval Workflow is a standard workflow that assigns a task to someones manager such as when they submit a holiday request or change a document.
  • Network Location = This is where files are currently stored in a file share or other service such as Dropbox that need to be migrated as part of an ongoing project.
  • Permissions = This identifies what permissions will be required on each of the areas such as All Company would be everyone who has access to Office365 or Sales Only. These groups are defined on a separate worksheet along with the members.

One of the many challenges with rolling out SharePoint especially the 365 version is making sure it’s architecture has been defined correctly. Having one document library leads to trouble due to the 5000 item limit and having many folders nested inside a document library can mean path limits are reached. Our SharePoint Specialist factors all of this into the build to ensure you don’t run into problems in the long term and have a sustainable intranet solution.

Along with the mapping spreadsheet a workshop report document is also created that contains the following,

  • Departmental Findings
  • Recommended Phases
  • Road-map
  • Timelines

In the next part of this blog post we’ll cover building a SharePoint intranet solution once you have the requirements and the best methods to ensure success and keep costs down.

Step 2 – Office365 & SharePoint Intranet Branding

Out-of-the-Box, Advanced Branding & 3rd Party Offerings

In the previous post, we covered gathering requirements and planning for a Office365 & SharePoint Intranet solution. The next post in the series covers branding which is a very important consideration for any intranet. Branding gives companies the opportunity to display their look and feel along with any core values and messages to staff. There are also several options that can suit different requirements, business needs and budget. Below are some of the options available to you.

Office365 Branding

Within the Office 365 Administration Page we have some basic options that allow us to manipulate the top-level bar of Office365 to suit your colours and add a logo. An example the Valto Office365 Navigation can be seen below,

The options (Settings > Organization Profile > Manage custom themes for your organization > Edit) give the following options when changing the colour scheme.

SharePoint Branding

Using the Out-of-the-box branding options for SharePoint we can change the following,

  • Logo
  • Background Image
  • Fonts
  • Colour Schemes

Below is an example of a simple Out-of-the-box branding for SharePoint.

Using the OOTB “Pick a look” we can also select a number of pre-built options or modify one to suit your requirements.

SharePoint Advanced Branding

More advanced branding can be achieved by enabling the Publishing Feature within SharePoint which allows users to deploy their own custom master pages and CSS to completely alter the look and feel of SharePoint. One of the risks with this method would be if Office365 change any classes or functionality in future updates that could break your branding.

Publishing Sites / Master Pages and CSS

Valto Branding

Future Development Options

SharePoint Modern Team Sites

Microsoft are currently working on new features within the SharePoint Look & Feel that are providing much more advanced and modern features. They are work in progress but in the future may provide a strong and attractive offering for no additional fees. The new modern Team Sites include interaction with Yammer, Activity Feeds, PowerBI and more.

More options will be deployed in the future a big request at the moment is page layouts and the ability to have multiple columns for data. An example of the new modern team sites can be found below.

3rd Party Options

3rd Party offerings allow you to completely tailor the look and feel of your Office365 & SharePoint Intranet Site but these solutions are an additional cost from your Office365 Licensing which can incur additional monthly costs.

BindTuning

BindTuning have a unique offering providing fixed one off pricing for a multiple selection of themes and additional Web Parts that can be purchased on a Per User / Per Month cost basis. An example of a branding with BindTuning can be found below.

Live Tiles

LiveTiles is an Office365 solution that integrates with many of the Office365 tools including SharePoint, PowerBI, Yammer and more. LiveTiles is based on a per user / per month license cost.

Bespoke Branding

The final option is to have your branding built to specification by a SharePoint Branding specialist. Typically, you may have a design drawn up by your design agency with assistance from a SharePoint consultant to guide them on the core design principals. This bespoke branding package can adapted to a Office365 & SharePoint Intranet solution that can be deployed across your tenant.

If you’re looking to brand your Office365 & SharePoint Intranet and would like one of our experts to contact you please get in touch or leave a comment below.

The next post of our blog series will cover Applications and how to roll-out your Intranet to ensure adoption and getting the most out of your investment.

Step 3 – Office365 & SharePoint Applications

Leave Request, Starter Leaver, Employee Directory and More!

Part of the roll-out for SharePoint and improving adoption would be to include applications that are applicable to the workforce. When Valto roll-out intranet solutions we typically include at least one application that applies to all intranet users to ensure they have a purpose for accessing the new intranet on a regular basis.

As well as giving your employees a reason to utilise your SharePoint intranet these applications can provide huge time savings and efficiencies guaranteeing your return on investment.

Some of the example applications that are relatively easy to roll-out and often a purpose in all organisations can be found below,

News

News areas are perfect to display for staff members especially on the homepage and within team areas. As part of the implementation of this solution processes should be put in place to ensure that content is being updated regularly. Examples of this would be as follows,

  • Company or CEO News area that is updated once a quarter.
  • Regular Team News that is updated once a month and rotated between each department.
  • Company announcements such as upcoming IT downtime or finance news.
  • Employee News such as promotions, charitable events, etc.

There are a number of ways to implement news within SharePoint which can be found below,

  • Announcements List
  • Blog Posts
  • Article Pages
  • Modern Team Sites News

One of the simplest solutions from the above selection is the Blog Posts as this allows you to create and edit news stories directly within Word which makes publishing stories much easier for staff members.

An example of a Modern News site can be found below,

Office365 & SharePoint Intranet News

Leave Request

Another easy to implement solution within SharePoint would be a Leave Request application that allows users to submit holiday, sickness and personal time off requests. Utilising a number of built in functionalities such as the user store containing user details and manager information, SharePoint lists and calendar functionality an effective easy to use Leave Request System can be deployed.

Office365 & SharePoint Intranet Leave Request

Office365 & SharePoint Intranet Leave Request Form

Starter / Leaver Form

A starter / leaver form system can be implemented that can fulfil several purposes for example,

  • Used internally prior to new starters joining to notify various departments utilising workflows, that a new starter will be joining and to prepare a Health and Safety Induction and inform IT to create the required users.
  • Upon starting the new starter can continue filling the form in to update information such as personal contact details, next of kin information, bank details etc. This form could also be updated on an ad hoc basis to inform people when these change.

Office365 & SharePoint Intranet New Starter Form

Employee Directory & Delve

Enhancing the in-built Delve functionality to provide a simple employee phone directory that shows a searchable page with key information such as,

  • Full Name
  • Department
  • Skills
  • Contact Information

Expenses

If you already have an expense form this can be uploaded as a template within the SharePoint intranet and a workflow attached that automatically submits to that person’s manager.

If you don’t have an expense form something could easily be developed using any or a combination of the following tools,

  • Excel / Word Document
  • SharePoint List
  • Power Apps
  • SharePoint Workflows
  • Flow

Custom Forms and Automation

Many organisations have many different form requirements and capabilities using SharePoint and the built in alerts and workflows many applications can easily be converted to intelligent forms including the following,

  • Health and Safety Forms including Accident Reporting and Risk Management
  • ISO Processes
  • Policy and Procedures Management
  • Visitor Log Book
  • Project Management

Using SharePoint to replace traditional paper or word based forms can save vast amounts of time for staff members.

A good example of the time savings that can be made would be as follows. If you’re organisation has a paper based or word based Health and Safety Accident Reporting whenever an accident is reported someone has to transpose this information into a spreadsheet to provide reporting, to notify relevant people and departments that this accident has occurred would also involve manually informing them via email or calls.

By developing a SharePoint form users can submit accidents which will automatically notify the relevant people and update any required reporting perhaps in Excel or using PowerBI. Automating these steps often provides huge time savings to allow staff members to work on other more important tasks.

3rd Party Applications

There are many 3rd Party applications available within the SharePoint Store that can perform the same functionality as above. There are many good applications available however there are also many poor ones. When making any decisions about which applications to utilise ensure you’re checking the reviews and utilise the free trial to ensure the app fits your need.

Rolling Out

Valto help roll-out your SharePoint Intranet and applications by using our workshop process. Valto can help identify you staff member’s requirements and provide a road-map with recommended phases to deploy SharePoint including applications such as those covered in this blog post.

Read more about our SharePoint Services and see how we can help you successfully rollout your SharePoint project. Contact Us and one of our SharePoint specialists will be in touch to assist you further and answer any questions you have.

Final Steps

If you’re looking to brand your Office365 & SharePoint Intranet and would like one of our experts to contact you please get in touch or leave a comment below.

The next post of our blog series will cover Applications and how to roll-out your Intranet to ensure adoption and getting the most out of your investment.

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