9th May 2016
As a business tool, intranet is essential. It gives personnel across different locations instant access to information and the ability to collaborate on projects and when it’s constructed well, it can streamline many business processes including HR, training, and sales to improve operational efficiencies.
Although different departments and staff will have different requirements, every member of an organisation, from junior staff to those on the board can benefit from an intranet as long as their needs are considered carefully during the planning and development process.
Developing an intranet service that meets the needs of a business properly can be a large, intensive project and one that has long term effects on productivity, efficiency and staff retention. In many cases, the lifespan of the solution is considerable as long as incremental updates following the initial launch are implemented to ensure that it continues to meet the changing needs of the business.
The key requirements for an intranet service are that it’s tailored to an organisation’s needs, flexible enough to reflect changes in the business as it evolves, is cost effective to implement and that it’s well adopted by staff to reflect the investment made.
In both large and small organisations, SharePoint is the leading platform for intranet for a number of reasons. Most notably the integration that it provides with other software in 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 highly flexible.
In order to achieve these key requirements and deliver a platform that is robust and reliable, many organisations choose to work with a specialist SharePoint intranet design company like igroup.
Working with an external company to develop your intranet brings challenges, including the communication of needs and the management of expectations. Given the importance of these types of project, it’s important to choose the right partner for delivery.
The first step in choosing an intranet design company to work on your project is to have a clear understanding of your top line goals and an assigned budget to work with.
As with most projects, organisations will typically need to follow set procurement processes to ensure that the selected partner offers value and SLA that meet the needs of the business. This usually means choosing a number of potential partners using Google or Microsoft PinPoint 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 a project progresses, needs can change and the solution that is ultimately delivered may be significantly different from the initial project briefed. 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, and build a specification for the project that reflects those needs.
Conducting structured workshops ahead of issuing a brief should generate a project plan that includes all of the core elements required and establishes the specification that will be followed. At igroup we typically create a MoSCoW style roadmap detailing the requirements:
The beauty of this approach is that it can be tailored to reflect efficiencies in the development phase and be used as part of the budgeting process so that additional resources can be added to the plan to accommodate additional features.
Things to Look for in a SharePoint Intranet Design Company
When you have a clear understanding of what your needs for the intranet are, the selection process can 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:
The safest option is always to choose a design or development company which has prior experience in delivering projects of a similar scale to yours.
If you choose a partner who specialises in the same industry as you or who works with companies of a similar size, you can be confident that they will be able to 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 that your partner has appropriate experience, ask to see case studies that cover similar projects to understand how they progressed.
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 fairly complex piece of Microsoft 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 in most cases it means that any 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. A major IT project can involve a degree of stress, particularly as deadlines approach, so it’s important to be working with a partner that you can trust and rely on.
Getting to know the team at your development company means that you have a more thorough understanding of working processes across both organisations and can be collaborative and productive in your approach.
Ask to see Case Studies from past and present clients to see how well the relationships worked and discuss the working process that was used. Compatibility between organisations is important in any major IT project.
Call now on 0207 099 0632 to speak to a member of our team