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How To Ensure SharePoint Online Aligns With Your Business Needs


There’s more to a successful intranet implementation than buying the right technology product. Before you move forward with any intranet solution, such as SharePoint Online, make sure to understand what your organization is seeking to gain from the technology investment.

Start by contextualizing the problem and solution. It’s one thing to have a big list of requirements for your intranet, such as “we need SharePoint for content management.” What that document means might be well understood at the time it’s being drafted, but what about three or six months into the implementation.

If you frame these requirements in the context of a specific problem, it’s easier to state the reason for the requirements by mapping them to business objectives and audiences. Your requirements should answer these three questions:

  1. What type of person wants to solve a problem?
  2. How are they solving the problem?
  3. How does this match the business objective that we’re trying to accomplish?

Instead of saying “we need content management,” you’re outlining a scenario: an administrator who needs a better system to ease their content management burden.

This scenario or usage-type process also helps to weed out assumptions that could lead to misunderstandings and conflicting solutions. Now, you’re ready to assess how well SharePoint aligns with business problems, and in a strong position to assess SharePoint’s capabilities in terms of your needs and goals.

SharePoint is a massive, feature-rich platform with vast capabilities, but you need to be clear about whether SharePoint is able to solve your particular problems out of the box, or if you’re going to need to augment the platform with customization.

What companies want from SharePoint varies wildly. In some situations, an out-of-the-box solution might be a good solution, after testing to make sure it meets your needs. Other organizations want to augment SharePoint significantly to integrate with their existing business systems. In either case, user experience (UX) research is the key to not only choosing better solutions, but also for setting realistic expectations for the technology.

A lot of people make the jump to using SharePoint Online, only to become frustrated when they realize that it has a number of highly specific technical and architectural limitations. Some of these limitations make it difficult to integrate effectively with external line-of-business systems, such as time-tracking solutions or an ERP system. SharePoint on-premises has its own set of limitations.

Here’s where having a good consultant is so important. Perhaps you could augment SharePoint to solve the business problem, or choose a hybrid solution, where some of the platform resides on-premises and the rest is in the cloud. Or maybe your solution can’t be accomplished completely in Office Online applications.

It’s the consultant’s job to educate you about those limitations and help you make decisions that are in line with your UX research and business objectives. But you have to start by understanding your organization’s needs and how it hopes to benefit from an intranet implementation.

Learn more about the keys to a successful SharePoint Online implementation by downloading our free e-book, “Designing A User-Centered Intranet For SharePoint Online”.


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