How User Experience, Governance and Information Architecture Can Increase your SharePoint ROI
Microsoft’s SharePoint is one of the most successful enterprise-level collaboration platforms in the world. In its 14 years of existence, Microsoft reports that SharePoint has grown to more than 100 million users in the world. When properly utilized, SharePoint provides organizations with a secure, customizable, and easily managed platform for a variety of solutions. Crafting an effective intranet is among SharePoint’s most valued uses. Carefully crafted intranets can greatly aid with internal collaboration and communication. And few successful businesses can imagine operating their business without the aid of an intranet. This success comes with a cost. To implement an intranet effectively requires significant time, effort and resources. While investments of effort usually bring dividends, some businesses are not satisfied with their return on investment (ROI) from SharePoint intranets. What I hope to show are the methods by which businesses can maximize the ROI of their intranets, both before and after implementation.
Avoiding Intranet Pitfalls with SharePoint or Office 365
Implementing a SharePoint intranet requires significant resources. This applies equally to SharePoint Server on-prem or Microsoft Office 365 in the cloud. Cloud implementations, while not having the same infrastructure needs as an on-prem implementation, still need to adhere to the same set of principles and best practices.
Planning for a Successful SharePoint Intranet
Thorough planning lies at the base of any successful intranet implementation. Key parts of this planning include User Experience, Information Architecture and Governance.
Information Architecture refers to the structure of the site, the navigation scheme and the security model. Governance refers to the written guide that outlines the maintenance, support and administration of an intranet system. SharePoint intranet governance is important because it fosters consistency in communication within the SharePoint intranet. When users, developers and management are aware of the administration of the intranet through clear governance; management becomes much more accessible. Unnecessary changes or mismanagement is prevented when businesses adhere to governance plans.
Information architecture refers to the structure of a site, and the navigation and security model of the site. One aspect of information architecture is taxonomy. SharePoint taxonomy is the information infrastructure underlying intranet sites. Ordered taxonomies help users quickly navigate and understand sites. Taxonomy determines how information in a site is labeled, and how such information is discovered from internal searches. An intuitive taxonomy allows users to easily find information either through search or navigation. Thus, taxonomy is the difference between information quickly found, and energy wasted in clicks and time. It is worth reminding users here that taxonomy and governance are necessary in SharePoint intranets implemented both on-prem or in the cloud. Just because cloud computing does not require the physical infrastructure of on-prem implementations does not mean the same planning principles no longer apply.
User Experience for SharePoint ROI
The next piece is User Experience. User experience is an important piece of any intranet set up. It addresses whether the intranet is easy to use, pleasant to use, and useful to the company. For any site to be successful, it needs to address both the usability of its user experience and user interface. Interfaces need to be attractive, intuitively navigable, and simple to read. Sites, whether in a SharePoint intranet, or publicly facing site; are only as valuable as their users find them. If usability is poor, and design inefficient, sites will not bring benefit.
SharePoint Intranet for the Whole Business, not just IT
Finally, businesses should pay attention to who is managing the company intranet. Developing an intranet can be a massive project that affects nearly every aspect of a business. Decision makers cannot simply delegate to the IT department. Upper management needs to be involved for SharePoint intranets to succeed. Increased investment from executives means that management has a stronger stake in the company intranet.
Businesses looking to increase the ROI on their intranet should increase activity and support among upper management, especially budget decision makers. Executive sponsorship (Upper management support) is a key driver of success in IT projects.
What Businesses Can Do to Boost their ROI from SharePoint
As I’ve outlined here, businesses can improve their ROI on intranets by increasing their efforts in planning (particularly in governance and taxonomy), user experience and executive sponsorship of their SharePoint project. When businesses provide their SharePoint implementations with the requisite resources, they will unlock their intranet’s true potential to help their business.