Intranetters meeting - May 2015

Intranetters...not intraknitters!
Last month I was lucky enough to bag a ticket to attend the latest Intranetters meetings. Intranettters meeting are informal gatherings of intranet managers and other information professionals, during which the group are usually given a tour of a couple of intranets. Or in the case of this meeting a tour of an intranet and then a look at how an intranet was built from a design agency's perspective.

I've written about Intranetters a number of times in the past, but my most recent blog post was in March 2015, when James Robertson talked about "How design thinking is transforming intranets" In this edition of the Intranetters we were treated to a tour of the new Sovereign Housing Association intranet.

The first thing I will say that having briefly looked at their website, it looks very similar to their intranet. This is no doubt deliberate and they're probably build on the same application (SharePoint). Anyway back to the intranet tour and their journey.

So their new intranet was built using SharePoint Online/Office 365. I don't believe it was a hybrid e.g. a combination of SharePoint on-premise and in the cloud, but I could be wrong. Significantly the intranet had been designed for "mobile first" and very much with mobile users in mind. This is because a lot of their workforce don't sit at desk, but still require access to the intranet, so have been given phablets. This is the first time I had heard this term being used, apparently they are a combination of phones and tablets, so it makes sense that they are being used by mobile workers.

In addition to designing the intranet for a mobile audience first, they were also using agile development techniques to build the intranet. This meant that the intranet was built in small increments and that the project team could continue development whilst parts of the intranet were being built.

So what functionality did the intranet contain? Well there were definitely some interesting features on the homepage and within the search. On the homepage they had a MyAlerts placeholder as well as a MyQuicklinks placeholder. I'm not a fan of Quicklinks, given that someone could just use internet favourites instead. The intranet homepage also incorporates feeds from Yammer, which are being used as noticeboards and places where individuals can have conversations about specific topics.

Other interesting features they had built into the intranet, included the following:

  • The ability for individuals to edit their own Office 365 profiles
  • The addition of an extra vertical within search called FAQ's (again I'm not sure about this as most FAQ's tend not to be FAQ's but questions managers think people will ask!)
  • Our Library - a single place to find policies and procedures, which could be filtered by business area and document type
  • Manager portal - A site which includes everything that a manager might need access to

Overall I was quite impressed with their intranet, especially as they had tried to as much as possible out of the box, with minimal customisation and it looks like with only a few relatively basic page templates.

However perhaps the most interesting quotes came at the end of the presentation, when the intranet manager said the following:

"We were trying to deliver a good user experience despite SharePoint" and "It was more work trying to deliver using Office 365"