Plan an intelligent SharePoint intranet - SharePoint in Microsoft 365 (2024)

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Microsoft SharePoint offers a wide variety of options and tools to create intranet sites for your organization. Moving your intranet to SharePoint in Microsoft 365 might take a while, particularly if you already have extensive intranet content. In this article, we look at how to plan a new SharePoint intranet with a focus on quickly bringing sites online and getting a return on your investment.

We cover how to:

  • Understand your key organizational priorities
  • Understand your audience
  • Plan for governance
  • Review your current intranet
  • Identify and prioritize your business initiatives
  • Identify one key scenario to prototype and pilot
  • Launch the pilot and engage with your users

With SharePoint, any user can create highly functional intranet pages quickly without the need for writing code or other difficult customizations. These sites look great on any device or screen and provide deeply engaging experiences for your users.

If you're currently using SharePoint Server for your intranet, you'll find SharePoint in Microsoft 365 to be easier to work with. Responsive, dynamic pages are easy for anyone to create, and the requirements for IT to build and maintain custom solutions are much less.

As a first step, to see examples of what's possible with SharePoint, we recommend that you review the SharePoint look book. The look book provides various examples about how to include news, events, resources, and personalized content in SharePoint sites that anyone can create and maintain.

For an understanding about how the different component parts work together, review the Guide to the Modern experience in SharePoint.

For inspirations and demonstrations on adopting the intelligent intranet, visit the The intelligent intranet - Microsoft Adoption.

In the following sections, we look at how to find the best starting point for your SharePoint intranet and how to prioritize the different intranet solutions that you may need for your organization. Keep these references handy as you work with your stakeholders - they can help you get the most value and best time to value for your intranet solutions.

Understand current business goals and key stakeholders

The most successful intranets don’t just look good, they're primarily focused on helping people get work done and often on promoting engagement. The look book can help inspire you to think about how your content might appear, but your business outcome goals are important to understand what content and functionality are most important for your users and your organization.

All organizations have important strategic goals that drive behavior and investments. If you want to be sure that your intranet is successful – and gets the right level of funding – you need to ensure that it's aligned with these goals. You can also use these goals to help prioritize your intranet initiatives. Unlike many technology projects, an intranet project is never 'done' because your organization priorities and interests will change over time. But, at any given time, you want to focus on the intranet initiatives that are most closely aligned with your organizational priorities and key business stakeholders.

In addition, take a look at recent employee satisfaction survey data. A good way to become more informed about the information and tools that your employees need are to look at the pain points identified in these surveys.

Understand your audience

A good place to start thinking about your new intranet is what it is like when the intranet is in place. What will people be able to accomplish? How will they start their day? What will people say about the intranet? One potentially helpful exercise to frame the overall objectives for the intranet is to engage your key intranet stakeholders in a cover story exercise. This is an exercise in imagination. The purpose is to think broadly about an ideal future state by imagining a magazine cover story about the new intranet, including the key headlines, sidebars, and quotes from users.

With the end in mind, it can also be helpful to create personas for your key users. A persona is a fictional but realistic description of a typical intranet user (for example, new starter/new employee, knowledge worker, field worker, sales rep, people manager, or content author). You’ll want to do some research to engage with people who represent these different personas to understand their information requirements. You can’t build an intranet without an understanding of the people for whom you are building it. Site owners alone aren't enough – their perspective is what they want to publish. That is often not the same thing as what their users want to consume.

Think about governance

If your users complain that search isn't successful because too much irrelevant content is discovered, this can indicate a governance problem. Before you think about your new intranet project, think about how you'll govern the architecture and the content. These are decisions that are a lot easier to make and enforce if they're decided early in your intranet project. For example, you'll want to think about:

  • Who can provision new sites and when they're provisioned, what is the process to ensure that sites are discovered in navigation or as key bookmarks in search?
  • Do you want all sites to follow a similar pattern so that users can easily find key content as they move from site to site?
  • Who is accountable and responsible for the content on sites? How often does content need to be reviewed?
  • Is content management for intranet sites in the performance goals or job descriptions for people with edit or owner permissions?
  • Does intranet content need to be retained based on your retention policies or classified based on its sensitivity?

You don't need to make every governance decision up front, but if you don’t have a plan for how you'll govern your new, intelligent intranet, it can quickly become a wasteland of information that fails to achieve your critical business goals.

Review your existing intranet

Your current intranet may be composed of sites from different business groups, such as HR, IT, Facilities, Engineering, and others. As a first step to planning your new SharePoint intranet, we recommend taking an inventory of your existing sites and meeting with the owners of each to determine their business outcome goals for new sites. Take stock of where your content is located and how much content you would need to move when creating a new intranet site. Look at your current content to understand if it's current or needs to be updated prior to moving to a new site. It’s not unusual to find a migration strategy where existing content is left behind. You don’t have to migrate anything – you may find that it's more effective to create new content that is optimized for the modern SharePoint experience rather than migrate existing, out-of-date content to the new location.

As part of these meetings, you can identify the business needs that are addressed by each existing site as well as any requirements you might have for new sites.

In addition to meeting with current site owners, you may also want to convene a focus group of new employees. New employees are a key audience for the intranet and people who have joined the organization in the past two to three months can provide some valuable insights about what is missing or hard to learn in your current intranet, or resources they wish they had when they first started. They may also provide you with some valuable ideas from the organizations where they previously worked to help you think about new and important capabilities to incorporate.

Think of this step as an opportunity to learn. You're learning about what is important to your users and to the business. You'll use this information to identify initiatives for your intranet.

Identify initiatives

Using the information you gathered during your research, work with your key intranet stakeholders to identify initiatives that reflect your organizational priorities – and any barriers that might exist when you're implementing them.

While you may ultimately implement solutions to address all of the identified initiatives, prioritizing which project to do first will help you achieve early success and user engagement as efficiently as possible.

Review each initiative you have identified for the following criteria:

  • Does it solve a real problem?
  • How many people will use it?
  • Can it be built in a reasonable time frame?
  • What's the return on investment?

Analyze each initiative for its positive impact on your users with respect to the ease of implementation. A high impact initiative that can be built with a minimum of customization can be an ideal first project.

Consider plotting your business initiatives on a grid, like the following, and review with your intranet stakeholders and IT department to choose the best option to start with.

Plan an intelligent SharePoint intranet - SharePoint in Microsoft 365 (1)

To help decide which initiative to address first, work with the business leaders for that area to work out the objectives for the solution, who will be responsible for driving success in this area, and the metrics that you'll use to measure success. Don’t just focus on system metrics. Think about actual business impact. For example:

InitiativeKey contentBusiness ownerSystem success metricBusiness success metric
Educate employees about benefits (Benefits site)- Announcements
- Training videos
HR- News post views
- Training video views
Help requests are reduced by x%
Weekly news post by a senior leader- Streaming events
- Formal training
Engineering- Training content produced for all aspects of coding excellence
- Monthly streaming events
Training completed successfully by x% of engineering staff
Foster positive employee agreement about company strategy (Executive Leadership Viva Engage Community)News posts
- Streaming events
- Viva Engage conversations
HROngoing monthly activity posts by leadership and comments by employees- Viva Engage conversations show positive sentiment
- Comments addressed within 24 hours – "no question/comment left behind"
- x% increase in employee satisfaction scores for executive communications
Improve timeliness consistency in proposal development (Marketing site)- Company business value slides
- Proposal templates
Marketing- Slide downloads
- Sales team alignment
x% reduction in the time to create proposals

Choose pilot scenarios

Work with the owner of each scenario to determine what an ideal solution would look like to them:

  • Who are your visitors?
  • What do the visitors to the site want to accomplish or learn?
  • What tools or technology do they use today?
  • What information do you want to promote?
  • What tools or technology do you want visitors to use to accomplish their key tasks?
  • Who are the champions who will help them transition to the new site or solution?
  • How will you know if your solution is successful?

For example, create a table like the following to list business scenarios that you want to address with intranet sites across your organization:

As an...I need to...So that...I know this is successful when...
EmployeeUnderstand and be able to update my benefitsI can take advantage of a key lifecycle benefitHelp requests are reduced
EmployeeLearn about how to use the self-service benefits portalMake updates on my ownHelp requests are reduced
HR employeePromote the use of the self-service benefits portalI can spend more time working with employees on unique benefits questions and scenariosAll of my employee interactions are about individual critical scenarios

From the high priority scenarios, identify which ones meet these three key criteria:

  • Can you build a prototype quickly (a few days)?
  • Is there a committed sponsor?
  • Is there enough up-to-date content to demonstrate key capabilities?
  • Is there a specific audience for a pilot?

After you have compiled this information, create a design brief to help map out the user journey about how you want the site to operate. For example:

User journey componentDescription
ScenarioLeadership site: One-stop site for employees to hear from company leadership, learn the company's goals, and hear the latest news from customer meetings and industry events.
UsersAll company employees.
ValueIncrease employee awareness and alignment with company strategy and business initiatives.
User journey- News post is sent to the company announcing a leadership Q&A meeting
- Allan goes to the leadership portal to watch the event live
- Allan uses Viva Engage to ask a question at the meeting
- Allan shares the recording link with coworkers.
Metrics- Live event views
- Event recording views
- Viva Engage engagement
Stretch goals- Continued Viva Engage engagement
- Improving employee sentiment (survey)

Choose solution components

SharePoint offers various building blocks that you can use to create an intranet:

  • Communication sites - Use communication sites to share news, reports, statuses, and other information through various templates and web parts.
  • Home site - A home site is a communication site that you set as the intranet landing page for your organization.
  • Hub sites - Use hub sites to organize related sites and teams and centralize news, search, and content management.
  • SharePoint news - Use the news web part to post important or interesting stories, announcements, people news, status updates, and more that can include graphics and rich formatting.
  • Viva Engage - Use Viva Engage to connect with people across your organization beyond the boundaries of projects, functions, and departments.
  • Dynamics 365 Customer Voice - Use Dynamics 365 Customer Voice to create custom quizzes, surveys, questionnaires, registrations, and more.
  • Stream - Use Stream to deliver live and on-demand meetings, events, and training.

For the scenario that you've decided to build, choose the components that you'll need to use to meet the site's business objectives. We recommend creating a rapid prototype, and granting access to your key stakeholders. This provides a substantive framework for further discussions and revisions of the design.

At this stage, we recommend that you involve your help desk so that they're prepared to answer questions after the site rolls out to a larger audience.

For best practices for launching an intranet site, review Creating and launching a healthy SharePoint portal.

Roll out the pilot

When the prototype has evolved to a point where you want to share it more broadly, you can roll it out to a pilot group, or even to the whole organization. User adoption is a critical part of success for a new intranet site. To drive site usage, we recommend that you use down both a top and bottom up approach:

  • Recruit executive sponsors who can ensure that the intranet project is funded, and can help message the importance of the new site to others in the organization.
  • Empower champions throughout the organization to promote the new site on a grass roots level.

Other things you can do to drive success include:

  • Have launch events and communications campaigns.
  • Provide formal training.
  • Hold regular office hours where users can ask questions.

As the site rolls out and more users engage, watch your success metrics and make adjustments as needed to drive more engagement and user satisfaction.

When the site is on its way to success, take stock of any lessons learned in the process and proceed on to the next intranet project that you want to undertake.

Related articles

SharePoint look book

Plan an intelligent SharePoint intranet - SharePoint in Microsoft 365 (2024)


How to setup SharePoint in 365? ›

Create a SharePoint Online site
  1. Sign in to
  2. Select the Microsoft 365 App Launcher. ...
  3. Select + Create site.
  4. Select whether you'd like to create a Team site or a Communication site.
  5. Name your site, give it a description, select privacy settings, and then select Next.

Should you use SharePoint as an intranet? ›

In our view, it offers the most flexible option for an intranet and the most value, particularly if you are using other Microsoft tools like Yammer or Teams that can be integrated into it. If you're on Office 365 then a SharePoint Online intranet is pretty much a no-brainer as the licence is included.

How does SharePoint integrate with Office 365? ›

If you're using Microsoft 365, you can create a site from the SharePoint start page, and it automatically creates a Microsoft 365 group. If you create a Microsoft 365 group in Outlook or People, you automatically get a team site in SharePoint in Microsoft 365.

How do I create a SharePoint plan? ›

Click New and then Plan at the top of the page. If you want to create a new plan, enter a new plan name under Plan name in the pane on the right., and then click Create. If you want to show an existing plan, click Use an existing plan and then select the plan you want to use in the box under Select an existing plan.

How to build a SharePoint intranet site from scratch? ›

Select + Create site on the SharePoint start page. Select whether you'd like to create a Team site or a Communication site. Select the template that you want to use to create your new site. Select Use template to begin creating a site from your selected template.

What does SharePoint do in Office 365? ›

SharePoint and OneDrive in Microsoft 365 are cloud-based services that help organizations share and manage content, knowledge, and applications to: Empower teamwork. Quickly find information. Seamlessly collaborate across the organization.

How do I get SharePoint on Microsoft 365? ›

Sign in to SharePoint
  1. Go to, and sign in to your work or school account.
  2. In the upper left corner of the window, select the app launcher > All apps > SharePoint. Tip: If you don't see the SharePoint app under All apps, use the Search box near the top of the window to search for SharePoint.

What is an intelligent intranet? ›

Integrate Technologies and Empower Users

Your intelligent intranet serves as a hub that allows your teams to easily communicate and collaborate. Microsoft technologies including Yammer, SharePoint, and Stream can be integrated into your intelligent intranet to further facilitate that collaboration.

What are the features of SharePoint intranet? ›

It typically includes features such as news and announcements, document libraries, team sites, social collaboration tools, and custom applications tailored to the organization's needs. SharePoint intranets help improve employee engagement, streamline communication, and enhance productivity.

What is the downside of SharePoint? ›

SharePoint has many features, extensive customization, and various uses within a single company. While this makes it a powerful tool, it can also result in challenges with long-term use. Most companies use customization features to get the most out of SharePoint but risk erasing those customizations during updates.

What is the difference between SharePoint and SharePoint 365? ›

Microsoft 365 is the consolidation of several applications, including SharePoint, while SharePoint is an individual platform that allows you to manage and share your files with members of your company, and create an internal intranet.

How do I explain SharePoint to users? ›

Organizations use Microsoft SharePoint to create websites. You can use it as a secure place to store, organize, share, and access information from any device.

How to configure SharePoint in Office 365? ›

  1. Configure Microsoft 365 for SharePoint hybrid.
  2. Sign up for Microsoft 365.
  3. Register your domain with Microsoft 365.
  4. Assign a UPN domain suffix.
  5. Synchronize user accounts with Microsoft 365.
  6. Assign licenses to your users.
Jan 25, 2023

How much does it cost to build a SharePoint intranet? ›

To be safe, we recommend adding a buffer of 30% to the cost estimates given to you by your contractor. This brings the total for an average custom-built SharePoint intranet with 10 customizations to $40,000 (plus 4,000 per any additional medium complexity customization).

What is the difference between intranet and Internet in SharePoint? ›

The internet is a public network accessible to anyone, while intranets are private networks accessible only to authorized users within an organization. Extranets are private networks that allow external parties to access certain parts of an organization's intranet.

How do I organize SharePoint online? ›

Create folders For many files that can be grouped in a particular way, folders are an option. Folders can help people to scan and manage files in a familiar way. SharePoint provides a tree view that people can use to navigate sites and folders, similar to the way that they work with folders on a hard disk.

What is the alternative to SharePoint intranet? ›

Potential alternatives to SharePoint include ClickUp, Glasscubes, Huddle, Samepage, Liferay, Nuxeo, Confluence, Source by IC Thrive, Jostle, G Suite, ClearPoint, Redbooth, and Slack.

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