SharePoint is known to the masses as a cloud-hosted collaboration software tool that sits within the Microsoft Office 365 product suite. Since its inception over twenty years ago, SharePoint has amassed over 190 million users across the globe especially in the newly developed hybrid office to get organisations working smarter, not harder wherever they may be working.
When users come to open their SharePoint application on their chosen device (we are not limited to desktop anymore), they are doing so as their organisation’s tech-bods have developed their SharePoint investment to create platforms such as a company intranet, content management system or even to automate workflows. Not only do these developments increase productivity and maintain set business practises but it also opens up a whole new world of possibilities of collaborating with colleagues in real-time across the globe.
We haven’t kept our heads in the sand, we do listen when our clients say that their main criticism about SharePoint is that they don’t like the look and feel of the application. Most briefs come with the speculation that they don’t want their new SharePoint application that is being developed by our team to actually look like a SharePoint application. We want our clients to make the most out of their existing investment into the product suite with our recommended out of the box (OOTB) options without them having to increase their spending with the purchase of additional add-ons.
Below we have covered our favourite OOTB features available within the SharePoint Modern application so that will help drive better internal communication and collaboration.
Personalisation has strengthened within SharePoint with each update release. A key tool that allows users to build their own AI-driven, personalised company intranet homepage is Microsoft Graph. This plug-in platform can connect multiple Microsoft services, users, and devices. This clever little tool may have little customisation available and requires users to engage fully to enrich the Graph AI-driven personalisation, but the payoff is worth it.
An organisations intranet homepage can be made up of several plug-in components that can be targeted and personalised towards the user viewing the site. All users can make use of each component on the page, but the information that they see will be relevant to the work they are doing.
For example, the site features detailed below can be set up to ensure that relevant information for the site is pinned to the user’s SharePoint intranet homepage and prioritises search results based on previous activity. This places user adoption and community management at the heart of a successful platform. The homepage of an intranet can contain the following key components:
Hero News Component: Can be positioned as a key focal point of the intranet homepage. This can be targeted towards New Articles recommended for the user based upon previous activity with prioritisation applied to the organisation’s corporate news.
Personal Feed: A feed personalised towards the user, displaying a variety of relevant information such as upcoming events and document modifications relevant to their department or country. The relevance is driven by the Microsoft Graph application.
Frequently Accessed Sites: Allows quick access to the user’s most accessed sites along with displaying an overview of recent changes.
Targeted Links: These could be key documents, useful links, and recommended apps. Driven by a list curated with audience targeting for each item to display relevant information for specific user groups on the homepage.
Using the features mentioned above will harness several OOTB technologies and approaches within your company intranet to drive employee engagement and increase communication across teams.
The homepage of your intranet are the core pages for users to find information relevant to them across the business. They should have an overview of their projects, be able to view company news and announcements at a glance, find information about other areas of the business or search for information.
The best SharePoint components and configurations you could use is to utilise the SharePoint theme – you can change the look, brand the site using your organisations brand guidelines. ‘Change the look’ gives site owners the power to select the look and feel of the site and components by selecting the colour scheme and how elements of the page, such as the header and footer, appear.
Your organisation's branding on the page will supplement the general look and feel of the platform to provide both functionality and form, abiding by the Office Fluent UI guidelines (Microsoft’s design system). All custom components throughout the intranet structure are built to inherit the theme from the main site they are placed on. For example, if the company colours are used on the main intranet homepage, the following components will inherit the company colours, typically as accents.
Having a focus on the design of the intranet will keep the page high performing, whilst also being clean and attractive to those using the site. A clean interface enables adoption as the users can find what they are looking for, meaning that they can enjoy the experience of the site in the knowledge that they can efficiently continue their work as well as improving their AI Graph suggestions previously mentioned. Employees would see an intranet branded with their organisation's colours and feel connected to the wider company.
It is important to make sure that nobody using your SharePoint application is left out. Accessibility is something we are asked about by our clients on projects more and more frequently for an inclusive environment. Microsoft’s More Accessible Mode is no longer an option that a user must manually turn on if needed, within SharePoint Modern these features such as screen reader are built-in. For an optimum experience, it is recommended that your SharePoint application is used on Internet Explorer.
You can find out more about creating an accessible experience within a SharePoint site here.
The primary method of business process integration we suggest would be Microsoft Power Automate. This is a workflow tool that integrates into SharePoint, Microsoft Teams, Outlook, and other Microsoft applications allowing access to external tools. This means that Power Automate gives you a high degree of flexibility when it comes to integrating your business processes.
Many business processes will be configured using a list or library, utilising metadata to capture information and save the state of a process. For more general FAQ and support, Microsoft QnA Maker provides a great platform to help employees find quick answers. Utilising the Bot Framework, employees will be able to ask questions as part of a conversation and QnA Maker will decipher the required response even if it is not an exact match to the question in the database. The Bot can be built to work directly in Microsoft Teams which will be accessible to all employees whether they are on desktop or remote.
Another example of a function would be Leave Requests within HR. This can be configured using a main SharePoint list to capture the user’s requested dates, the user’s e-mail and the date the request was input into the system.
A Power Automate flow can be configured to trigger when a new item has been added to the SharePoint list. This item may then check the ‘User’s Leave’ table which stores the number of days allocated holiday for the user and the number of days remaining. If the requested dates are within the allocation, the request will need to be approved by their Line Manager. A query will be made from the flow to check the user’s manager via the user’s profile properties. An approval request will then be sent to the manager for approval. Once approved, the requested number of days are subtracted from the User’s Leave table item and updated, dates may be added to a holiday calendar and then a notification e-mail is sent to the employee to confirm their dates have been approved. Clever!
These automated processes will drive efficiency within the business and streamline workflow. Employees will spend less time on manual, repetitive tasks, allowing them to focus on client satisfaction.
Imagine a world without SharePoint, we wouldn’t be able to work from anywhere in the world, share documents within or outside an organisation securely, have everything save in one place, gain access from various devices, or collaborate with hundreds or thousands of people if they wanted to!
The ability of SharePoint is not to be underestimated!
Wanting to find out more about how Ntegra can help you with your SharePoint integration, internal communication or updates? Contact Us Here.