SharePoint Online Intranet Best Practices

Configuring a SharePoint Online Intranet is a huge undertaking. If done incorrectly, your SharePoint intranet could turn into a disastrous mess. We have provided some SharePoint Online intranet best practices that will prepare you for the process. In order to ensure a high user adoption rate, it is important your intranet is clean and user-friendly. Our consultants have extensive experience in Microsoft SharePoint and shared some insight about SharePoint intranet essentials.

Start with Storyboards & Process Flow Diagrams

A great way to visually articulate the look and functionality of the intranet is through storyboards and process flow diagrams. Rather than immediately starting by launching the intranet and making changes along the way, you will want to prepare by creating these visual aids.

 

Storyboards

Before you begin developing your SharePoint intranet, you will want to create storyboards that mimic the look and feel of the site. These storyboards will allow you to visualize the site before the site is fully developed. Additionally, you can use applications, such as Microsoft Azure, to create storyboards. However, some knowledge is required to use the application. Alternatively, you can draw up the site on a whiteboard or even a piece of paper. Storyboards allow you to make design changes before any code is written, thus, minimizing time wasted.

 

Process Flow Diagrams

One way to determine the functionality of the intranet is through process flow diagrams. This step takes a lot of time as well as expertise. Process flow diagrams serve as a visual representation of the business processes that will take place within the intranet. Different shapes are used to represent different business activities, such as approving a request or completing a task. These are then used to configure and develop the intranet to function properly.

Understand SharePoint’s Different Features

SharePoint Online offers a variety of different features. Below are some of the different features that frequently confuse users. 

 

Sites vs. Site Collections

A site collection is exactly what it sounds like: a collection of several sites. Please note that you cannot add quick links to a site collection. A site contains different web parts such as document libraries and task lists.

 

Sites vs. Subsites

Your only site, or non-sub-site, will likely be your intranet homepage. You may think of your intranet as a diagram, with the homepage at the top of the diagram and all subsites linking off of it. You may have subsites for different departments, such as HR or Finance. Furthermore, you may choose to organize your sites differently, for example, by accounts.

 

Document Libraries vs. Folders

Document libraries work well with SharePoint. Therefore, we recommend using them. Each site should contain document libraries. One way to organize document is through folders or metadata.

Come up with Logical Permission Levels

On SharePoint, siite admin users can control permission levels to each site, thus, ensuring only applicable users can access and edit particular sites. The concepts that we feel are most important to understand when setting up permissions are inheritance and groups.

 

Inheritance

All sites and site collections inherit the permissions settings of the top-level site unless you configure unique settings to lower-level sites/libraries. However, we recommend NOT assigning permissions

 

Groups

We recommend organizing permissions by groups so that all members in a given group have the same permission.

If Migrating, Clean up Files First

Our CEO, Puneet Gangal, shared some thoughts on migrating to SharePoint. “Think of SharePoint migration as moving into a new house – it’s the perfect time to get rid of everything you do not need and organize everything you do need. If you just move everything without cleaning it out, it will just remain a disorganized mess.”

 

There are many ways to approach this. One option is to ask an employee from each department to go through files and determine which ones they need. This, however, may not work in all cases. Another option is to migrate all files as “read-only” on a duplicate site. In this case, in order for a user to edit a file, they first must migrate it to the new SharePoint site. These are just two of many approaches we have seen clients take.

Be Aware of Check Out Function

The site admin has the option to set up the check-out function. All this means is that in order to edit a file, a user must first check it out. While the user is editing the file, he or she is the only one who is able to edit the file. Once the user is finished editing the file, he or she must check the file in. At this time, the user is prompted to write a “check-in comment”. For more information on SharePoint’s check-out function, see our blog post on The Ins and Outs of SharePoint Check Out.

These are just a few of the factors you should be aware of when configuring your SharePoint Online intranet. SharePoint Online is a fairly complex system. However, it does have a wide variety of capabilities. When set up properly, a SharePoint intranet can be a beautiful, user-friendly platform that keeps employees engaged and organized. If all of this seems a bit too overwhelming for you to take on independently, feel free to reach out for some assistance from one of our SharePoint consultants.

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