We have been working with clients for many years to assist them in building an intranet experience that meets the needs of their users.
Sometimes, this work requires that our team build a new intranet from scratch, while other times, it’s modernizing a legacy intranet that no longer meets the needs of the users.
The Vision for a Modern Intranet
As a part of our process, we sit down with users and executive management to learn more about the vision for the intranet. This part of our process is critical to delivering an experience that delivers the outcomes that users expect.
Over the last several years, a common request is an intranet that is more personalized. Essentially, users are asking that a visit to the intranet will connect them with specific content that is specific to their interests. Interestingly enough, this is the promise of Microsoft SharePoint Home Sites.
The Promise of SharePoint Home Sites
Microsoft announced in May that the SharePoint experience is evolving and that the Home Site will be a place every user can start their day. The information that is most important to the user will surface on the Home site, making it easy for the user to find the things they are most interested in.
While Office 365 was designed to deliver a very integrated user experience, users often seem overwhelmed by the broad suite of applications that make up the Office 365 suite. It seems that the Office 365 experience felt like “point-solutions” and while there is a lot of integration across the applications, users find themselves struggling with where to begin. Home Sites is Microsoft’s answer to this challenge.
Microsoft Home Sites: What to Expect
We are excited about what we’ve seen. While we don’t expect Home Sites to roll-out until Q3, we’ve seen demonstrations of the solution and have read several tech bulletins published by Microsoft. Here are the benefits of Home Sites and what you might expect based on what we’ve learned about the Home Sites experience.
More than just the SharePoint Start Page
When Microsoft introduced users to the SharePoint Start Page, it felt like a very customized user experience. The Out of the Box SharePoint Start Page is powered by graph intelligence and helps users find tools and resources in Office 365. Alternatively, SharePoint Home Sites is the organization’s top portal. Home Sites presents users with a unique, user-specific collection of the news, content, conversations and video that is important to them. In addition, the experience and landing page reflects the organization’s voice, priorities and brand.
Not to be confused with a Hub Site
A SharePoint hub is used organize sites with a shared theme, navigation, search and news. A hub site brings together related sites to roll up news and activity, and to create cohesion with shared navigation and look-and-feel.
A home site serves as the top level portal with unique functionality like responsive design on mobile, organizational news, tenant wide search, integration with SP start page, etc.
We have written other articles about SharePoint home sites. You can learn more here, in an article called, “Introducing SharePoint Home Sites“
More than a Communication Site
Creating a “Home Site” will be easy for organizations that want to upscale the users experience with Office 365. Essentially, a Home Sites is a modern Communication site, leveraging a SharePoint template called ‘Organization Site’. The result is a modern, elegantly designed SharePoint page. The web parts on the page, including the default settings, are designed to create immediate results.
A user-centered experience
Think of your SharePoint home site as a personalized intranet experience with all of the most important work surfacing on a single page. The Office 365 navigation bar can be configured by the tenant admin and once users click on the company logo at the top of the page, users are directed to the home site. In the coming months, the home site experience will extend to mobile users. Mobile users will have a “home” button in their SharePoint mobile app that will take them to the home site.
While many different user experiences in SharePoint have been touted a “landing site”, home sites unleash the most user-centered SharePoint experience to date. Home sites enhance the Office 365 experience by engaging users and by highlighting your brand and organizational messaging. In addition, users can use megamenu navigation to connect users to content that is stored in internal SharePoint sites and hubs.
At this point, organizations are limited to one home site per tenant. Your SharePoint administrator will need to use PowerShell to elevate your preferred SharePoint communications site be your organizations home site. The PowerShell elevation command will:
- Make the site an official organizational news site
- Set the site search scope to be tenant-wide
- Enable 1-click site access via the SharePoint mobile app home button
- Connect the home site to your SharePoint start page
Have a SharePoint Strategy
While we won’t see SharePoint home sites until Q3, it’s a good idea for your organization to plan how SharePoint will be used across your organization. We can help you in developing a plan and roadmap for SharePoint and work with you to create a strategy for using SharePoint as a platform for collaboration, workflow optimization, application modernization, and as an intranet. Contact us to learn more about SharePoint and Sharepoint home sites.