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Before You Start Looking for a New SharePoint Intranet

The decision has been made, your company will be getting a new intranet. And leadership made you responsible for finding options and researching vendors. The first, obvious step is to go google intranets and see what options are out there. Well, I'm sorry to say that that's not exactly true.

You'll find a lot of features advertised and see capabilities you were not aware intranets had. So many that it is easy to get lead astray from what your organization actually needs. 

Start with the Strategic Goal

The absolute first step should be determining the strategic goal. Ask yourself this question:

What do you need your new intranet to do for your company?

This isn't referring to the site's individual requirements and functionality. We're talking about what the intranet's high-level strategic goal should be. For example:

"The intranet needs to help increase employee engagement"
"The intranet needs to support or remote and hybrid work environments"
"The intranet needs to be the main work space for our employees"
"The intranet needs to be a resource pool for our employees"
"The intranet needs to let us perform, monitor, and alter operations."

Having an answer to that question is the most important part of planning a new intranet. Unfortunately, it's also the most overlooked. Organizations that don't keep this goal in mind through the entire process may end up with a grab-bag of intranet functionality that doesn't accomplish any one thing effectively. The end site becomes bloated with a bunch of features that don't necessarily fit together and won't effectively satisfy the needs of the organization.

And if you don't have an answer to that question, it's nearly impossible to determine the success of the site since there won't be any metrics to judge it by.

So the from the outset, condense the company's requirements for its intranet down to a single sentence. This gives you a basis to compare everything.

Business User Goals

Once you have that key strategic question answered, you are close to beginning the shopping process. But we're not quite there yet.

Representatives from the various company departments need to be emailed and asked to meet. You might have the overall strategic goal of the organization mapped out, but now you need input from individual stakeholders. You need to know what each business segment requires from the new intranet.

Keep in mind questions like "what is their role in the overall strategy," or "on a high level, how should the new intranet help them carry out their jobs and add value to the organization?"

Try to avoid taking down notes on specific functionality, however, and focus more on higher-level, abstract points.

Why Only High-Level?

Why do we keep making the point to keep the questions and answers broad at first? Why not get very detailed?

Well, for one, intranets are an investment, Time, effort, and resources will be spent to both develop and maintain. By keeping requirements less detailed, you leave open the door to more solution options. This gives you the freedom to tailor solutions to your needs without having specific requirements pigeon-holing you one way or another. This, in turn, helps to reduce redundancies and prevent feature clutter. And over time both of those increase maintenance costs and make the site harder to navigate which lead to the effects outlined in our articles Is Your Intranet Hurting Your Company and 7 Warning Signs of Employee Disengagement.

It's imperative to focus in on what exactly your organization needs and will use. That way your search is made easy with clear goals kept in mind as guides, but with the freedom to compare many options. This freedom is key to protecting you against getting upsold, having costs spiral above estimates, and getting lost in the sea of useless features.

When you're ready to start your search, check out our Intranet Buyer's Guide to help guide you through the plethora of options out there!

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