Tuesday, 22 June 2010

SharePoint, Intranets and webinars, oh my......

Apologies for taking so long to write about this, but last Thursday (18th of June) I took part in an Intranet Benchmarking Forum webinar as a panelist.

The webinar was an "open to the public" event of the IBF SharePoint Special Interest Group (SIG) and it was timed to coincide with the release of a new IBF report on SharePoint 2010. The report was written by my good colleague Martin White of Intranet Focus Ltd, and myself and the other panelists, Michael Sampson and Richard Harbridge and varying degrees of input. It's an excellent report (IMHO) and you can purchase a copy from the IBF.

Michael posted his thoughts about the event on his blog much more promptly, finishing his article with this statement: "Don't get pushed into doing unnatural acts with SharePoint because Microsoft or your Business Partner thinks you should. It will take time ... and money ... and thought. Spend it now, or spend it repeatedly over the next few years."

Truly excellent advice that I agree with wholeheartedly ! However I want to return to a question which Martin does address in the report, but which was also asked by attendee's:

Where does SharePoint 2010 fit with my intranet ?

Well its a good question, but unfortunately there is no one size fits all standard answer (oh come on now, there never is !). The question has to be examined in context, and reflected upon by asking follow up questions about your current intranet, and what your aspirations for further development of your intranet are.

For a start, what is your organisations definition of 'intranet' ? I have tackled that question before in this posting: What is an intranet anyway?

There are various intranet maturity frameworks available, but this is a good one based on original Avenue A | Razorfish work from some years ago: The Intranet Maturity Framework - so where does your current intranet sit with respect to this framework ? And perhaps more to the point, where do you want to be ?

I ask this question because its a good way of mapping your requirements to SharePoint 2010 feature sets. So for example if your a:
However in some ways this is an overly simplistic view of things. When I was working as an intranet consultant for Prescient Digital Media, I had clients that did not take an holistic "intranet ecosystem" view of things. To them the 'intranet' was the internal corporate web site, run by Communications, with a focus on news articles, and maybe navigation and search. Their MOSS2007 installations were often run by a different department and were under a different governance structure and day to day management regime because they were "collaboration". Finally they may well have had small scale digital dashboards already, based on web tool kits provided by their data warehouse or Business Intelligence product vendors.

This is what I mean by "it depends on your context" ! So we are back to what do you define as the intranet, and what do you want to do with it ? (See this excellent presentation on SlideShare by James Robertson of Step 2 Designs "The four purposes of an intranet" for some ideas!).

As I have said many times before on this blog, start with your requirements - this links to Michael's closing comment which I quoted above, don't let IT push you into using SharePoint 'Sites' WCM for your 'corporate intranet' layer just because SharePoint has been procured to fulfill the collaboration requirements, or the dashboard-ing requirements. One size does not fit all, and shoe horn-ing parts of your intranet into SharePoint "because we have it" is no recipe for success.

However to be pragmatic, SharePoint might meet 75% to 80% of your requirements, in other words it may be "good enough" even if its not perfect. You may find an integration with an existing WCMS, or a third party add on takes you up to the 90% to 100% mark !

So to summarize - "how does SharePoint fit with / fit into my intranet" - I don't know, nobody does actually. It's up to you to do your requirements analysis and then decide upon the fit based on research or the help of vendor neutral consultants.


Kevin Cody said...


Very sensible advice!

OK so I'm a vendor of an alternative/complementary product to Sharepoint. Although it is based on the same MS technologies I often come across the "we've got lots of Sharepoint licenses so we must build our intranet on that" objection. So I certainly agree with your advice about not shoehorning requirements into whatever product IT has bought license for. In fact I list it as pitfall #1 in a eBook I created about why intranets fail (http://bit.ly/aj3UOR).

The Intranet Maturity Model & Four Purposes of an Intranet were great references too. I intend to use them!

Great post.


Jed Cawthorne said...

Kevin, many thanks for your comment, I really like this tag line from your site:

"....and the best intranets reflect a deep understanding of the processes that they’re enabling."

Exactly ! Shiny, sexy technologies are never the answer :-)