Intranets are an essential business tool that give personnel across different locations instant access to information and the ability to collaborate on projects. When well designed, they can streamline business processes including HR, training, and sales which improves operational efficiencies.
While different departments and staff have different requirements, all members of an organisation, from junior staff to the board benefit from a SharePoint intranet as long as their needs are considered during the development process.
Developing an intranet that meets the needs of a business properly can be a major project with long term effects on productivity, efficiency and staff retention. In many cases the intranet may have a long lifespan and evolve over time with incremental updates that meet the changing needs of the business.
The key requirements for an intranet service to be judged a success are:
- It is tailored to an organisation’s needs
- Flexible enough to reflect changes in the business as it evolves
- Is cost effective to implement
- Is well adopted by staff to reflect the investment made
In organisations of all sizes, SharePoint is the leading platform for intranet for multiple reasons, the most notable one being its close integration with the rest of the Microsoft Office Suite, and the familiarity that it brings.
From a developer’s perspective, the ability to extend the core functionality with apps and custom development makes SharePoint Online highly flexible.
To achieve these key requirements with a robust and reliable platform, many organisations choose to work with a specialist SharePoint intranet design company like igroup.
Using an external company to develop your intranet brings challenges, including the communication of needs and the management of expectations. with this in mind, and the importance of this type of cross business IT investment, it’s important to choose the right partner for delivery.
Finding an Intranet Design Company
The first step in choosing an intranet design company for your project is to have clearly defined goals and an assigned budget to work with.
As with most projects, organisations will typically need to follow set procurement processes to ensure the selected partner offers value and should be able to agree SLAs that meet the needs of the business. This usually means choosing a number of potential partners and issuing a brief to them that outlines the project goals.
However, this isn’t always the best approach.
A traditional tender process does not always fully establish the business needs or set an appropriate budget for the project ahead of briefing potential suppliers. As projects progress, needs may evolve change and the delivered solution can vary from the initial plan. As a result, the final project costs can be higher than originally expected.
With large projects like a SharePoint intranet, it is better to run an additional procurement stage before issuing a brief under which you use experienced SharePoint consultants to run workshops throughout the business to give a third party view on what the core requirements across different business areas are. This can be used to build a Specification for the project that is more considered and useful in the procurement process.
Structured workshops ahead of issuing a brief should generate a project plan with all of the core elements required to establish the specification that will be followed. At igroup we typically create a MoSCoW style roadmap detailing the requirements:
- Must Have
- Should Have
- Could Have
- Won’t Have
This approach can be tailored to reflect efficiencies in the development phase and be used within the budgeting process so that additional resources can be added to the plan to allow additional features.
With a clear understanding of what your intranet needs are, the selection process will become more streamlined and you will be able to assess potential partners based on how well they are able to realise your goals.
These are the factors you should consider:
A partner who specialises in your industry or who works with companies of a similar size, should understand your needs and have processes in place to create efficiencies in developing your intranet.
A company that has typically worked outside your space will have to spend more time learning your industry or scale, which will increase the length (and potentially the cost) of the project.
To get more reassurance about partner experience, ask to see case studies that cover similar projects to understand how they progressed.
With remote working increasing, location is less important, but Teams calls are no substitute for face to face meetings and workshops where key goals are outlined.
There will be various milestones in the intranet development programme where it’s important to meet face-to-face with the developers and discuss progress or changes that need to be made to the overall plan.
You ideally want to work with a company which has development staff that are based in the same country as you so that meetings can be arranged flexibly, unhampered by language barriers or time zones so that the lines of communication are clear.
SharePoint is a complex piece of technology and working with it requires a degree of specialisation. Choosing a Microsoft Gold Partner with specific competencies related to SharePoint is no guarantee that the project will be trouble free, but it usually means that issues that arise during the process can be handled and overcome.
One of the most important parts of any tender process is meeting the people that you will be working with. Major IT projects often involve a degree of stress, particularly as deadlines approach, so working with a partner that you can trust and rely on is important.
Getting to know the team at your development company means that you have a more thorough understanding of their working processes which means that the combined approach can be more collaborative.
Alongside Case Studies from past projects, you may also want to ask for references for those clients to understand how the relationship worked and how well the project met the client’s goals.