Five reasons SharePoint makes a good intranet platform
Communication throughout organisations can be a complicated beast and needs to be fostered to ensure that everyone feels like they are part of the team. Microsoft Teams does a good job at enabling real-time communication, but where SharePoint excels is with a more sustainable method of communication by being a great platform for an intranet.
An intranet was traditionally an internal “website” where communications could post news, updates, events, and more to disseminate information throughout the organisation. It has now grown extensively in terms of its importance, as well as the expectation of its capability. No longer is it seen as just a platform for one-way communications, or only available when sat at your desk working. It has now become a key part of the organisation and a single source of truth for most organisational resources.
SharePoint, within Microsoft 365, creates an amazing platform to build an intranet. Whether that is using the Microsoft-provided components to create a basic SharePoint intranet, or whether you use a product such as Powell Software to create an enhanced SharePoint intranet, you can really get some key benefits by using SharePoint.
1. SharePoint is Secure
Everything with SharePoint, within Microsoft 365, is sat behind layers of authentication, ranging from simple username, password, and multi-factor authentication, to access based on geographic location or device type through the use of conditional access policies.
Once we are through the front door, we then have the security that is applied to the site, the library, the folder, or even to the individual content item itself, meaning that even though we have access to the platform, we don’t necessarily have access to the content. This is very much down to the site or content owner to apply additional security and permissions to secure the data in a way which is needed for the organisation.
One of the best things about the security within SharePoint, though, is that inaccessible content is hidden away from the users. This is called security trimming. Everything in your SharePoint intranet, from displaying data to searching then honours those permission to make sure that the content is only viewable, or editable, by those who have the rights.
2. Data Sovereign
In the world of rich data, GDPR, and other protective legislation, the location where the data is stored is key. There are two ways to look at sovereignty, the first being that is it somewhere that you have control over the data. The second is which country it is stored in.
When your intranet is hosted in SharePoint, that is where you data will also reside. You will break down your various areas into different SharePoint site, each with their own lists and libraries storing all of the data and content which is being displayed on the pages. As a user, you can physically see where all of this data is, and assuming that you have permissions, you could go into these repositories and see the physical rows or files.
Microsoft have also now decentralised a lot of their key services out to sub-regional data centres meaning that, for the most part, our data can be hosted within our own country. This is certainly the case for us here in the United Kingdom, where over the last several years our SharePoint services have migrated from the European data centres in Dublin and Amsterdam to UK-based data centres.
3. SharePoint is mobile-responsive
We now live in a world where we expect our data to be as mobile as we are, with us wanting to be able to access our content any time, anywhere, on any platform which we have available. This could mean the normal desktop type of experience that we use on our computers and laptops, to the smaller devices such as mobile phones.
When we are developing websites or intranets we often have to give thought to how our content, pages, sites etc are responding to the different sized screens which could be used. This clearly becomes an issue when we are relying on non-technical users to maintain content for us.
SharePoint, however, maintains a number of designs and components which are designed to be completely mobile responsive, meaning that the content developers simply have to be concerned with the page content rather than being overly concerned about how the page renders. With SharePoint being easily accessible through a mobile browser, or through the dedicated SharePoint app, it means that our mobile workers can still have a great experience of accessing and consuming content.
4. No complex data structures
Any data which is stored in SharePoint is stored in one of two different types of data structures. A list or a library. While for those completely unfamiliar with SharePoint might initially be confused by the terminology, when you understand it, the method of storing content is really simple. Anything related to a physical file goes in a library, and if it is a simple row of data then it goes in a list.
A list could be used for any types of content which are not requiring a physical file to be created, such as an event. This is similar to the way that Excel spreadsheets work which brings in the ability for the less technical users to be able to create new data tables with relative ease. Where files are required, even pages, they are stored in libraries which have a synergy with folders which are used to from our normal file storage mechanisms.
Lists and libraries operate in a very similar way, so once users have mastered on they can use the other. They can then start to make even more out of the structures by creating views of the data as well as applying more in terms of formatting. Everything in SharePoint is designed to be used by non-technical users, so everything can be achieved through the SharePoint user interface.
5. Integration with other services
One of the biggest advantages to creating the intranet within the Microsoft ecosystem is that you have a large number of apps and services that have some level of interoperability with each other. For example, your intranet could have embedded forms from Microsoft Forms to build engagement, or could be displaying conversations from Viva Engage to build social interaction.
There are also ways that content from the SharePoint intranet can be displayed within other services, such as using Viva Connections to display the intranet in Microsoft Teams, or the Viva news digest which users can receive daily.
There are also ways of bringing in more and more functionality through the use of Power Apps and Power Automate, so a SharePoint-based intranet can be an extremely powerful tool.
There are a lot more benefits to using SharePoint as a platform than what we have spoken about here, but we can go into those in future blogs. My conclusion though is that, when used correctly, SharePoint is a great platform to build your internal communication and intranet platform.